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Help is needed to protect our local bees from serious disease threats

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Tuesday 13 August 2013

An appeal is being made to the public and businesses to help with limiting the threat from bee larval disease called Foul Brood. Beekeepers are also encouraged to adopt good husbandry practices which help in the control of these serious diseases.

There has been a lot of publicity recently regarding the dramatic decline in European honey bee numbers. Various causes have been implicated including the run of adverse weather, pesticides, Varroa mite and the decline in suitable foraging areas due to intensive farming.

Guernsey bee numbers are coping quite well and it is noticeable that our farming is non intensive and managed with a strong emphasis on protection of the environment and wildlife (plants and animals). However, it is important that we maintain the good health status of local stocks.

One potential local risk to bee health, and consequently bee numbers, is the introduction of the serious bee larval disease called Foul Brood. Foul Brood is a general term which actually covers two diseases, namely, American Foul Brood (AFB) and European Foul Brood (EFB). Their names bear no relation to their geographical distribution because they occur worldwide including the UK. These bacterial diseases are subject to statutory control in Guernsey and any outbreaks would result in the destruction of the colony and the hive.

Guernsey is free from both diseases although there are outbreaks in the UK and AFB is still evident in Jersey.

The bacterial species responsible for both diseases can survive in honey and since both diseases are worldwide in distribution all honey sources are potential sources of the disease. Contaminated honey has no human health risk but serious consequences to those bees finding the source during their foraging. A common potential source is unwashed honey containers particularly those left outside catering establishments. It is important that all honey containers are washed thoroughly before being recycled or binned.

It is most important to keep these highly contagious brood diseases out of local bee stocks. Help from the general public and the catering trade would be most appreciated in order that we keep our local bee stocks fit and healthy for local honey production and pollination of local crops.

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