How To Identify And Deal With Bee Diseases
As a bee farmer, one of the greatest challenges you have to be prepared for is bee diseases. It might sound ludicrous because insect ailments are not exactly
widely discusses. However, just because they are not as famous as cattle diseases it doesn’t make them any less devastating.
The problem with bee diseases is that they act very fast and are often lethal. The fact that bees are tiny and in the thousands might also make it a bit more
difficult for you as the beekeeper to catch signs of the problem early enough to do something about it. To make your work easier, below is a comprehensive
guideline to help you identify and deal with bee diseases.
Common causes of bee diseases
As with many other animal diseases, bee diseases are mainly classifies based on the causative agent. In this case there are 5 key categories. Below are the 5
most common causes of bee diseases and examples of some of the diseases that they cause.
Fungus- Chalkbrood Disease
In this case, the adult bees are infected when they eat honey or other products contaminated with the fungal spores. The disease is passed on to the eggs and
manifests during the larval stage. Here, the larva die and undergo mummification which is the quickest way to identify this disease. With time, the colony
diminishes as the old dead bees are not being replaced by new and young ones. The best way to deal with it is by cleaning the hive and getting rid of
contaminated products as well as the dead larvae.
Protozoa- Nosema Disease
Unlike Chalkbrood disease, Nosema affects adult bees in which case everyone is vulnerable from the queen to the workers. The infection occurs when the bees
consume spores through their food. It manifests as extreme weakness with the bees unable to fly. They also have swollen and shiny abdomens from spore
germination within their gut. If the condition is not identified and dealt with, the bees die as drones and foragers are unable to fly out to find nectar and pollen
Viruses- Sacbrood Disease
The bees usually get infected through vectors. These are other insects that feed on the bee’s blood. As they do this they inject the viruses into the bees resulting
in the infection. As with the fungal infection, it is the larva that take the hit with this infection. When they die they change color and could be yellow, dark
brown or black. Unfortunately there is no cure for this bee disease. The only thing you can do is to keep the healthy bees well fed and protected from the
vectors. You should also replace the dead or dying bees with new and healthier ones to keep the hive functioning at optimum capacity.
Bacteria- Foulbrood Disease
This is caused when the bees ingest contaminated honey. The larvae die, lay flattened in their cells and decay with characteristic color changes from white and
yellow to dark brown. The caps on their cells are also usually sunken or punctured as opposed to the protruding ones on healthy larvae.
Parasites- Varroa Mites
These are external parasites and feed on both the blood and flesh of adult and larval stage bees. They may cause death either directly or indirectly by weakening
the bees. They have been shown to have a particular affinity to drones and foragers. This seriously affects the productivity of the hive as the mites render them
incapable of flying out to find nectar for food. Fortunately, these are easy to control with pesticides like Apistan being effective against them.
How to tell when your colonies are unwell
Now that you know who the culprits are, the next step is figuring out how they manifest their destruction on a large scale. This is important to understand as
some of the specific signs and symptoms are very easy to miss as they involve thorough inspection. However, there are a few very obvious signs that should get
you concerned for your hive’s health status. These include:
- Dead bees and larvae in or around the hive
- Abnormal looking bees with odd coloration and body shape.
- Reduced agility, strength and speed of worker bees.
- Unusual bee behavior including either extreme aggression or extreme docility.
- Reduced productivity in terms of honey production.
- Physical and visible signs of the pathogens including fungal spores and parasite sightings.
- Colony collapsing disorder where worker bees abandon healthy queens and abundant supplies.
7 ways to prevent bee diseases
So how do you protect your bees from all this destruction and despair? Below are seven tips and tricks to help answer this question for you.
Regular inspection of the hive
This might not prevent the infection but it will help prevent it from spreading to healthy bees. In this case, look out for dead larva in cells, any unusual odors,
discoloration on the bees and pretty much anything else that seems off.
Prevent hive invasion by wild bees
In this case, you need to invest in bee boxes with special entrance regulating features. These prevent invasion of the hive by infected bees from other colonies. It
could also help keep parasites out of the hive.
Minimize sharing of resources between colonies
In this case, honey is one of the most common ways through which bee disease pathogens are transmitted. In the event that you have to donate honey from one
colony to another, make sure you inspect the donor hive for any signs of disease or pathogens.
Replace old hive components after outbreak
This is especially the case with fungal infections. Replacing things like frames will ensure that you completely get rid of spores that could cause reinfection.
Chemical methods to deal with the causative agents
This usually works with fungi, bacteria and external parasites. In this case, all you have to do is to spray the chemical into the bee box while cleaning to
Keep the hives well ventilated
This prevents growth and survival of spores that will later on cause problems for the bees.
After all is said and done, bee diseases are a real threat that you cannot afford to ignore. With the information above, you should be in a position to understand
not only how to identify them but also how to deal with them and most importantly how to prevent them. That way, whether it is your first colony or you are an
extensive farmer with multiple colonies, you will be able to keep your bees happy, healthy and productive.