How To Treat European Foulbrood in Honey Bees

Part of being a successful beekeeper is learning how to identify, prevent, and treat a wide range of diseases. Honey bees face many threats from viruses, parasites, and other disease-spreading organisms. One such threat is European foulbrood, a disease that spreads from the bacterium Melissococcus plutonius. Like American foulbrood, this disease contaminates a hive’s food supply, targets the brood, and lives on and spreads from beekeeping tools for a long time. The more you know about European foulbrood, the better your chance of preventing and treating it in your hives. To help you keep your colonies safe, here’s our guide on how to treat European foulbrood in honey bees.

Start and Spread of European Foulbrood

As mentioned above, European foulbrood is a bacterial disease. It spreads when the bacteria contaminate a hive’s food supply. Nurse bees unknowingly feed the brood this contaminated food, allowing the bacteria to infect the young larvae and begin multiplying in their guts. As the bacteria multiply, they compete with the larvae for food, often causing the larvae to starve to death before nurse bees can cap them within their cells. Nurse bees will then clean the dead larvae from the brood cell and pick up the bacteria in the process. In this way, the disease continues to spread to other larvae throughout the hive.

Signs and Symptoms of European Foulbrood

European foulbrood has a few symptoms that you should be on the lookout for. Check your hive’s brood cells for imperfections, such as patchy cells and unhealthy larvae. Uninfected larvae will be a pearly white color. Larvae who are currently infected or have died from the disease will be a yellow, brown, or dark brown color instead. Infected larvae will also appear twisted, melted, or rubbery. Unlike American foulbrood, you will often find victims of European foulbrood in uncapped cells. European foulbrood also doesn’t cause the spores or the rotten, sulfurous odor that come with American foulbrood.

How To Treat European Foulbrood in Honey Bees

Preventing and stopping the spread of the disease is a key part of keeping your honey bees safe from European foulbrood. This disease is more common in stressed or unhealthy hives, so monitor your honey bees’ health, and do what you can to help them thrive. Proper sanitation practices are also vital, especially since the bacteria can linger on your tools, hive supplies, and other beekeeping equipment for years. You can treat European foulbrood with Terramycin. It’s also a good idea to use a testing kit to verify that you are dealing with European foulbrood and not American foulbrood or some other type of infection.

How do you deal with European foulbrood and other diseases in your colonies? Share your advice and experience with us in the comments below!

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