Treating without the use of antibiotics

If the colony is weak, it may not be worth saving so a judgment call must be made. As long is there is a good population of adult bees in the colony, the objective is to save the bees and get rid of the contaminated equipment. Remember that all honey in a diseased hive will have AFB spores and all the combs will be infected to some degree.

Equipment and supplies needed:

  • Hive body with frames of foundation cover and bottomboard.
  • Feeder with sugar syrup.

The clean equipment is set up near the diseased hive and all the bees from the diseased hive are shaken and brushed into it. There should not be any drawn comb in this hive. The feeder is placed on or in the hive and filled with sugar syrup at this time and the hive left for a week or so before it is checked. After the bees are removed from the diseased hive, all the combs are destroyed either by burying or burning or rendered for wax. It is very important to destroy all the infected combs. Any honey in these combs must never be given to honey bees as it contains AFB spores. The boxes, cover and bottomboard can be scorched with a torch to kill AFB spores and can be reused. An added precaution would be to paint them on the inside to seal any remaining spores away from the bees before reuse.

After a week or so the colony should have drawn some of the foundation and there should be brood in the colony. Three to four weeks after being shaken onto the foundation, new healthy adult bees should be emerging in the colony. At this time the colony should be examined carefully for disease. Usually if care was taken to eliminate all sources of AFB spores, the colony should be healthy and disease free but should be monitored periodically for disease for at least the remainder of the season.

This procedure works because you are removing the sources of AFB spores from the bees and making them produce wax with any contaminated honey they brought from the diseased hive. By the time they have larvae there should be no spores in the cells or brood food thereby breaking the cycle of infection in the hive. In using this procedure, care must be taken to remove all sources of AFB spores from the colony if success is to be expected.


American Foulbrood ropey test
American Foulbrood ropey test