Master Beekeeper since 1982 and still enjoying the buzz.

Preditors and Diseases

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Bears

Mice, skunks, and shrews can be more than a nuisance to bees, especically during the winter when the bees are vulnerable. Wire screens can be made as effective deterants.

There are a number of mites and bacterial dieases that we have to be aware of and treat the bees for early in the spring and fall each year. The treatments are not complicated - don't let the long unfamiliar diease names scare you away from beekeeping. Keeping your bees healthy will pay off in the long run. Talking to beekeepers will help you understand more, and lessen any concerns you may have.

Diseases of Bees

Like all animals, bees get diseases. Most beekeepers will find Varroa mites (Varroa jacobsoni), tracheal mites (Acarapis woodi) and Nosema (Nosema apis) in their hives on a regular basis. These problems are considered to be the basic diseases that must be suppressed so that the bees can keep them at bay. While infections such as foulbrood (European and American) need to be prevented. European foulbrood (Melissococcus pluton) can be treated with success and does not usually, if caught early, mean loss of a colony. American foulbrood (Bacillus larvae) on the other hand is vicious and since Terramycin is not a cure, colonies are sometimes burned to prevent the spread.

Less stressed diseases that are not as destructive, if caught early, include Chalkbrood (Ascosphaera apis) and Sacbrood. Chalkbrood is often present in colonies that are exposed to dampness for prolonged periods of time and beeyards that have been known to have it before. Sacbrood, being a virus, appears on its own and does not have any sort of chemotherapeutic agents for its control.

Wax moths and ants can be problems for weak colonies. There probably have been no instances were ants have killed colonies; at least were I live. Ants' can be a nuisance to the bees and the beekeeper when trying to work with the colonies. Wax moths (Galleria mellonella) only really becomes a problem when the colony's population cannot remove the wax worms (wax moth larvae) from the hive. These worms consume and completely destroy the comb leaving a filthy mess. Strong well-managed colonies can take care of both of these problems.

A new problem facing many beekeepers is the small hive beetle (Aethina tumida). This nuisance produces a worm similar to the wax moth larvae that destroys the comb, which ultimately produces a slimy mess. These worms complete their final phase of development in the soil beneath the hive were they then emerge as a beetle to start the process over again. The beetle is very hard for the bees to remove from the hive making the problem worse. New treatments for this problem are being developed and cleanliness is of the utmost importance so that the beetle does not have idle comb to breed in. It is thought that the beetle may not be able to complete the metamorphosis in anything but sandy soil, which hopefully would limit the regions it could thrive in.

Just for the reader's sake I would like to mention some other pest that present no real problems but are just fun to read about. The bee louse (Braula coeca) is often mistaken for mites because they congregate on the bees especially the queen. There are also several different spiders, birds, toads, frogs, insects, and mammals of all kinds that feed on adult bees and larvae. Most of these are generally not found in the same place but rather in different parts of the world.

Below are a list of medications used to treat/prevent the listed diseases:

Terramycin -- Used to prevent both American and European foulbrood.
Fumidil-B -- An antibiotic used to treat Nosema.
Apistan and CheckMite Strips -- Used to treat Varroa mites.
CheckMite Strips -- Also used to treat the small hive beetle.
Menthol Crystals -- Used for the control of tracheal mites.
Strong Colonies -- A good cure for almost all ills.

Below are pictures of common diseases:

Varroa Mites, the most common problem here in the U.S., are tiny creatures that attach themselves to the bees and larva.

Chalkbrood is a type of fungus that kills the larva. You will notice the dry fungi in the cell.

Sacbrood kills the larvae causing the heads to appear out of the cells.

American foulbrood kills the larvae, turning them into a sort of "goo". The dead larva has a glue pot smell.

 

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More information can be found at: www.ontariobee.com
For understanding the applications of medications and working with honey bees, this will all be covered in the hands on work shops starting April 2006. If you are unsure about bee diseases, the goverment provides a bee inspector service to all regions. The bee inspectors are very knowledgable and will give you the advice you are looking for. Also they will provide inspections when requested. Please note bees should be registered and insured through the Ontario Beekeeping Association. Approximatly $115 per year.