One of the key factors affecting colony loss is the presence of multiple pathogen and parasite loads, as well as the background levels of their infective agents within hive substrates, such as: wax, pollen, honey. Many pathogens can survive in hive substrate for multiple years, so beekeepers must adopt management practices that minimize disease spread. In this article we will list key management practices that will help you prevent a disease outbreak in your operation and keep your queen breeders strong and healthy.
Boxes and Frames
Purchasing bees and used equipment
- Buy bees and used equipment only from reputable sources and inspect equipment before purchase.
- Check with your provincial authority if you can obtain a sale inspection report to confirm that bees and/or equipment are disease free.
- Contaminated equipment and pollen purchased from commercial sources should be irradiated to ensure bacterial spores are rendered non-viable.
- If importing from out of province, follow provincial and federal regulations. You must obtain a permit from the Provincial Apiculturist in order to move equipment and/or bees from one province to another.
- And don’t forget to register with your local provincial authority. Owning equipment, even without bees, requires registration.
Maintenance of beekeeping equipment
- Replace broken frames or boxes as needed. Always carry extra boxes and frames with you when visiting the apiary in case you need it.
- Regularly inspect colonies to identify diseases, pests, and equipment in need of repair.
- Scrape off burr comb and dispose of in a sealed garbage.
- Spread of disease can also occur by splitting strong infected colonies. When splitting colonies, inspect all frames and only use colonies that are healthy.
- Infected colonies are often weak and when food is scarce these colonies are robbed by nearby strong colonies. American and European foulbrood can be easily spread through robbing, as bees robbing weak infected colonies can carry the pathogen back to their healthy colonies.
- Beekeepers must monitor for signs of disease and remove all contaminated equipment from colonies. A disease can also be spread within an apiary through drifting of bees. It is a good management practice to remove sick/infected colonies from an apiary and isolate/quarantine all infected colonies in a common apiary, a hospital apiary. Hospital apiaries should be established at least 2-3 km from other apiaries. This practice will not only reduce the spread of the disease to healthy colonies in its original apiary, but also facilitate disease monitoring and treatment since beekeepers will no longer need to drive throughout their operation to inspect and treat infected colonies.
- Before reusing or storing equipment, make to clean and disinfect them properly. Equipment should be cleaned from any wax and, if needed, rinsed with warm water. But if you are looking for a deep clean option, equipment can also be sanitized using a 9:1 bleach solution.
- Store used bee equipment in a close off area, inaccessible to bees and pests.
- Remove all unused be equipment from bee yards ASAP.
- If equipment must remain in the open for a short period, close of the top and bottom of boxes with lids or bottom boards.
- And store empty honey supers and brood honey in an enclosed cool area with good air flow.
- Diseased frames can be removed from colonies as a form of disease management, without destroying colonies if infection is low.
- Old or infected frames should be disinfected or destroyed properly.
- Infected frames can be irradiated and reused, or burnt.
- If choosing to burn equipment, contact county for incineration of plastic frames and foundation.
- Boxes can be scorched and reused, or burnt.
• Keep track of where and when equipment was purchased.
• Record age of equipment and replace 20% of your oldest frames each year.
Tools and Bee Suit
Several bee pathogens and pests can survive on surfaces and spread via personal protective equipment and beekeeping equipment. Implementing the following biosecurity practices into your operation will help prevent this and keep your bees healthy.
Before going to the apiary, ensure you have a garbage bin or bag with you, a torch and fuel, and extra hive tools, bee suit, and gloves.
Biosecurity in between colonies
If a disease is present in a colony, switch gloves and sterilize hive tools before moving on to the next colony. And if the contaminated equipment was in contact if you bee suit, replace your bee suit as well. American and European Foulbrood are highly contagious brood diseases and can easily spread throughout a yard via hive tools, gloves and bee suit.
In between yards
Even if disease symptoms are not seen in a yard, it is a good idea to get in the habit of following biosecurity protocols. Gloves should be switched, and hive tools sterilized before going to the next yard.
If American or European Foulbrood is present, switch for a clean bee suit as well. Place dirty suits in a plastic bag and wash with bleach. Smoker surfaces should also sanitized.
To sterilize hive tools, scrape any wax, propolis, and honey off using another hive tool and dispose in the garbage. Scorch both ends of the hive tool with a blow torch or place it in a well-lit smoker.
Smokers can be disinfected by scorching the wooden surface of the bellow and wiping the surface with bleach water.
Honey Extraction Facility and Storage
Honey extraction and wax rendering facilities need to follow strict biosecurity protocols to ensure that the food processed in it is safe for human consumption. This article should not be used as a stand-alone guide of food safety, and proper handling and storage of feed supplement, chemicals, and medications. For a complete manual of good production practices, please visit the Canadian Honey Council website, www.honeycouncil.ca and download a free copy of the Canadian Beekeepers’ Practical Handbook to Bee Biosecurity and Food Safety.
Now let’s go over a few simple tips to maintain a clean facility and the basics of chemical storage.
Honey Extracting Facility
Where there is honey there will be bees. Remove unused equipment from in and around the facilities to avoid robbing. Bees will be attracted to the honey house and may be exposed to pathogens present in other bees or on equipment. Regularly cleaning of extraction building and honey spills will help you keeping the number of bees, and wasps, in the honey extraction facility low. Personal hygiene and the facility hygiene are very important in honey processing areas. All staff should follow basic personal hygiene practices and the layout of the facility should have a distinct separation from the processing area to areas that may introduce contaminants, such as washrooms, loading area and chemical storage. Ensure the facility has adequate supply of potable water for personal and facility cleaning purposes.
If multiple operations are using the extraction facilities, disinfect equipment between uses to prevent the spread of pathogens. All equipment should be accessible for cleaning, sanitizing, maintenance and inspection. Stainless steel or plastic equipment must be food grade and lead free. All equipment must be intact and not include signs of degradation that could negatively impact the food safety of honey products.
Avoid extracting honey from brood chambers as those have a higher chance of containing bee diseases.
Pests will also be attracted to the honey house. Buildings need to be design and maintained to prevent the entry of pests, and a pest management and control should be in place.
Storage areas should be monitored regularly to ensure inputs are stored correctly and its integrity. Frequent inspection, followed by appropriate pest control, will also reduce pest build-up and decrease risk of contamination. Different item categories, such as raw honey, feed supplements, medication and packaging materials, should be stored separately to reduce contamination of honey products.
All inputs should be stored under correct conditions to prevent contaminations. Chemicals and medications should be stored according to manufacture label directions to prevent degradation, which may result in reduced efficacy. When incorrect dose of treatments are applied to the colony, pathogen resistance may occur. Additionally, some treatments may become toxic to bees if not stored properly.
Dispose of used or expired chemicals and medications according to package directions. Do not leave treatments (used or unused) in bee yard and ensure treatments are removed at the proper time. Leaving treatments in for too short or too long may result in resistance development.
- Keep an inventory of treatments and use first in first out system.
- Record the treatment type and application date for each hive/yard to ensure treatment types are rotated and removed at the correct time.
- And, Record the lot number and supplier for treatment products.