Thanks to Jenny Nield (Report), Stewart Westsmith (Demonstration), Nicola Simpson, David Parker, Claire Balla (Photos), Michael Main (Host)

The purpose of this meeting was to introduce Stewart Westsmith, our seasonal bee inspector (between April and October), and for him to demonstrate how to carry out a disease inspection on a colony. Last year he inspected 1100 hives. David Parker and Michael Main opened the meeting by thanking everyone for attending despite the weather. (In fact this turned out to be quite good, warm with a hint of damp air near the end, not a return to the heavy downpour we had at the beginning – see photo below.)

Throughout the meeting, due to Covid and the local EFB outbreak, only Stewart and Michael handled the frames and any equipment during the inspections.

Quoting Stewart’s opening comments:

“We’ve had an increase of EFB in areas in Surrey which we never had before, so it’s obviously more important to be aware of checking your hives for signs of EFB and of course AFB, recognising it and being able to then have the confidence to say whether it is FB or getting it analysed. What I’m busy doing at the moment is finding cases, diagnosing them, treating them and making sure it is not spreading out of that area. This has been my whole summer.”

Stewart stressed the importance of hygienic practice throughout the apiaries particularly if you have multiple sites. Here is the list of the items he mentioned on a few occasions: boots, gloves, (disposable is better), jackets, tools and a bucket of washing soda solution to clean all tools between each hive, which is highly advisable (4.5 litres water to 1 kilo soda crystals). He uses wire wool in the soda solution to clean the tools between each hive.

Stewart has several clean suits to change into for every Apiary. He sprays his car with anti-bacterial solution and at home he sprays door handles and everything he touches, very mindful of potential spread.

He uses a plastic sandwich bag around the smoker. The puffer on smokers is sometimes difficult to scrub down, hence a bag that can be taken off and replaced with a new bag is good hygiene.

He stressed the importance of beekeepers registering their  hives on Bee Base and keeping the record of  hive numbers up to date. It is a big help for the inspectors as if there is an outbreak, they can contact all beekeepers within a 3 km radius of it or more.

Stewart then went on to inspect 2 hives that Michael had prepared.

When it comes to FB disease inspection, the only sure method is to shake the bees off each frame, looking out for that one cell that has any signs of disease. It only takes one cell to show us.  And you can’t always see it with bees on the frame. The best way is to shake them off.

If found early enough, the bees can be saved, if not, it’s destruction and sterilisation of the equipment. The first step is to inspect the hive from the outside.

Make sure the hive looks ok, not damaged from woodpecker or other. Check underneath the floor of the hive, to see if there are dead bees about, this gives an indication of what’s going on inside the hive. If there’s a mass of dead bees at the front it could be an indication of starvation, varroa, poisoning or chronic bee paralysis, among other things.

Also it’s good to see what the bees are bringing in, pollen on their legs is a sign of brood in the hive.

You don’t have to see all the signs, 1 or 2 is sufficient to alert you.

Generally, EFB is found on unsealed brood, but can be found in sealed. AFB is mostly in sealed brood.

When looking for EFB some signs are an uneven or patchy brood pattern, dead and discoloured larvae in uncapped cells, twisted lying unnaturally in the cell, in some circumstances larvae may die after capping; sometimes there is also an unpleasant smell.

If a hive has any of these signs, the apiary must be put on stand still, (nothing allowed off the site). When results are verified, and the infested hive is cleaned, treated or destroyed by burning, the stand still order will be cancelled.

Stewart emphasised that if you have concerns at any time, do please take pictures and email them to him, as this can be a quick way of finding out if your bees require further investigation. Email in Contacts List.