American foulbrood (AFB) detected in honey imports

The following American foulbrood report was issued today from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries:

“In accordance with para 1.2 of the import requirement for pure honey from Zambia to South Africa, the honey shall be sourced apiaries situated in a country or zone free from Paenibacillus Larvae (American foulbrood) Paenibacillus Larvae is a disease of concern for South Africa.

Upon arrival of the consignment of pure honey from the farm Musonda Chitalu and Forest Fruite LTD Plot 34, Zambia, the consignment was inspected and an audit sample was drawn and sent to the diagnostic laboratory of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) for analysis.

The Directorate: Plant Health received the laboratory report from the Directorate Inspection Services: Plant Health Diagnostic Services confirming the detection and identity of Paenibacillus Larvae on honey originating from the farm Musonda Chitalu and Forest Fruite LTD Plot 34.

Considering that Paenibacillus Larvae was detected from pure honey imported from Zambia all consignments of pure honey imported from Zambia shall be subjected to irradiation and all import permits will be withdrawn.”

What is American foulbrood?

BeeAware explains American foulbrood (AFB) as “ a fatal bacterial disease of honey bee brood caused by the spore forming bacterium Paenibacillus larvae. It is not a stress related disease and can infect the strongest to the weakest colony in an apiary. Infected brood usually die at the pre-pupal or pupal stage. Heavy infections can affect most of the brood, severely weakening the colony and eventually killing it. The disease is not able to be cured, meaning that destruction of infected colonies and hives or irradiation of infected material is the only way to manage AFB.

Although AFB is not highly contagious, bacterial spores can easily be spread between hives and apiaries through beekeeping practices such as through the exchange of equipment and movement of infected combs. Adult bees are not affected by AFB but can spread spores within and between infected and clean hives through robbing and drifting.

AFB spores can remain viable for over 50 years and are very resistant to freezing and high temperatures. Therefore, the only way to manage the disease is to stop infections from occurring through adopting beekeeping best management practices, and if an AFB outbreak does occur, quickly dealing with it before additional colonies become infected.”

Beekeeper and member of the Western Cape Bee Industry Association, Brendan Ashley Cooper lost 30% of his bees in an outbreak of foulbrood in 2009.

Controlling AFB into South Africa is crucial to the health of our honey bee colonies.  Most commonly countries with large commercial beekeeping will treat infected colonies with antibiotics which kills off an immediate outbreak.  However SA beekeepers are more inclined to avoid these given the dangers they represent.  His solution is to increase the pace of natural selection by killing any bees that show symptoms. This results in stronger bees, likely more resistant to foulbrood.“If we use antibiotics you mask the problem and the FBD (foulbrood) will evolve until it is drug resistant.”

With the impact of droughts and fires on our honey bee populations, we simply cannot afford to loose hives to AFB, which can be avoided by these stringent steps to control its access into South Africa. Support local and buy local.



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