Be able to recognise AFB
Beekeepers should take advantage of every opportunity to be trained in hive inspection techniques and refresh their knowledge of brood disease symptoms. This would seem to be obvious advice for new beekeepers, but it can also be just as important for long-established beekeepers.
Experience has shown that beekeepers with little or no AFB in their outfits can lose their ability to make differential diagnoses of brood diseases because they do not have the opportunity to periodically see AFB in the field. This is especially the case in larger beekeeping outfits with staff.
Training options available
One of the best opportunities to obtain training and refreshers in AFB inspection is to attend AFB Elimination Field Days held by local branches of the NBA. These workshops allow newer beekeepers to learn from those who have been working in beekeeping for a longer period of time. They also provide an opportunity for all beekeepers to trade experiences and techniques used in AFB elimination.
Another good opportunity to obtain training is to attend an AFB NPMS Management Agency-sanctioned course in AFB recognition and destruction, and to take the competency test required for Approved Beekeeper status under the AFB NPMS. Beekeeping businesses should use these courses as a means of providing staff with a basic understanding of AFB identification in a structured learning environment.
Keep your knowledge of AFB current
It is also a good idea to retain one or two frames showing AFB symptoms for future reference. To retain these frames, a permit must be obtained from the Management Agency. Wrap the frame in newspaper (for absorbency), and put it in a large plastic garbage bag secured with a twist-tie or tape to exclude moisture. The wrapped frame should be kept in a freezer (to control fungal growth) and removed several hours before use. The frame should be clearly labelled so it is never replaced in a healthy colony.
A good time to look at these frames is at the beginning of the beekeeping year, just before the first inspection round. Scraping cappings off, looking at cell contents, checking for scale, and performing the ropiness test, all help to “get one’s eye in” after the winter period. Freezing AFB reduces the degree of ropiness.
Large apiaries can be at increased risk of AFB
It is also important that a training programme is carried out for beekeeping staff. Beekeepers in charge sometimes delegate AFB control to their staff without giving them adequate training or auditing their performance. This can result in large outbreaks of AFB. Staff should also be aware of the company’s disease elimination conformity agreement (DECA) as this determines how hives are inspected for AFB, how records are kept, and how AFB infected hives are dealt with.
Ensure that you and your staff undergo a regular training programme to refresh your AFB diagnostic skills.