Honey super swapping
Honey supers are the pieces of equipment that are most frequently swapped between hives.
How honey super swapping spreads AFB
The colonies they come from are often not checked (or not checked thoroughly) for AFB when the honey is removed, especially if the potential for robbing means the honey must be removed quickly. Also, care is often not taken to ensure that the extracted (wet) frames are returned to either a) the box they were in, b) the hive the box was on, or c) the apiary where the honey was produced.
Study of AFB spread from honey supers
A trial was conducted to determine the importance of wet honey supers in the spread of AFB.
Twenty supers of honey were collected from colonies with light AFB infections. Most of the supers came from colonies with less than five larvae/pupae exhibiting clinical AFB symptoms. These infections are of the type a beekeeper might miss.
The honey was extracted and the supers and frames put onto 20 AFB-free colonies the next spring. The 20 colonies were placed in an apiary with a further 20 colonies that did not receive such supers.
There were no obvious symptoms of robbing when the supers were placed on the colonies. However, samples of bees taken from each hive two days later all tested positive for AFB spores, including those from the colonies that did not receive AFB supers. Four (20%) of the colonies that didn’t receive wet supers, and nine (45%) of the colonies given infected honey supers, developed AFB infections.
Honey supers a major factor in the spread of AFB
Extracted honey supers are probably the major factor in the spread of AFB in New Zealand. Because of this, the proper inspection of hives when the honey is taken off, and the effective control of the subsequent movement of those supers within a beekeeping outfit, are essential parts of any programme to control the spread of the disease.
Placing infected extracted honey supers on hives is probably the most common way of spreading AFB.