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Bee colony tested positive on American foulbrood

Published on
July 26, 2021

The National Reference Laboratory (NRL) for bee diseases in the Netherlands has identified an outbreak of the infectious bee disease American foulbrood in colonies from a beekeeper in the province of Noord-Brabant. The bee colonies are being exterminated to prevent the disease from spreading. Outbreaks of American foulbrood are rare in the Netherlands.

What is American foulbrood?

American foulbrood (AFB) is a bacterial brood disease affecting honey bees and is one of the four notifiable bee diseases in the Netherlands. Beekeepers with a suspected case of the disease are required to report it through the animal disease notification portal (Dutch website). AFB only affects the larvae in the beehive. Adult bees are not infected by the spores of the bacteria. When infected with the disease, the honeycomb will have unevenly distributed and sealed brood cells with some concave cell lids. The cells will be filled with off-white or yellow-brown mucus threads and will have a glue-like odour.

How does the disease spread in bee colonies?

The disease is caused by the Paenibacillus larvae bacteria, which produces large quantities of spores in an outbreak. These spores can be distributed in various ways, including through the exchange of infected hive materials and through bee escapes and robbing. The spores are also very persistent and can remain latent in a bee colony for a long time.

How to combat American foulbrood?

Outbreaks are dealt with by beekeepers themselves, with the help of bee health coordinators, overseen by the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA). To support beekeepers in combating the disease, the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Health and Food Quality banned the movement of bee colonies within three kilometres of the site of the infection. This ban will be in place for at least 30 days.

Were there previous infections in 2021?

On 28 May 2021 the NRL for bee diseases identified an outbreak in a bee colony in the province of Groningen, the Netherlands.

Outbreaks of American foulbrood occur less than once a year on average in the Netherlands.

What's the role of the NRL for bee diseases?

The National Reference Laboratory for bee diseases in the Netherlands is a statutory research task carried out jointly by bee experts at Wageningen Plant Research (WPR, bees@wur) and veterinary researchers at Wageningen Bioveterinary Research (WBVR).