Marking hives with AFB

Best practice in marking hives

Whenever an AFB hive is found, it should be marked in an appropriate way so that it can be located again when it comes time to destroy the colony. A crayon or indelible pen should be kept in the beekeeping vehicle for this purpose.

Pitfalls of incorrectly marked hives

Scratching an “X” on the surface of a box is not recommended, since the marking may not be obvious, either at night when the hive is to be closed, or when the box is being handled by staff members. Most beekeepers can tell stories about AFB hives that were found, but not marked adequately. As a result, the whole apiary had to be inspected again when it came time to destroy the infected hive.

In one very frustrating case, a hive was found with just one AFB-infected larva. A piece of wood was placed on the top of the hive to mark it. The hive was in an apiary of 25 hives. When the beekeeper returned to the apiary to kill the hive, the wood had disappeared and the beekeeper could not remember which hive it was. It was too late in the day to do an immediate inspection, so the apiary had to be visited and inspected again the following day. Unfortunately no AFB larvae could be found. It was only after three further inspections of the whole apiary over the following three weeks that the hive was finally found and destroyed.

The best approach is to mark each piece of hive woodenware, that is likely to be salvaged, with the word “AFB” written in large letters. The mark should be big enough to be obvious, and bold enough so that it will last until the equipment is sterilised or burnt. It is also a good idea to mark two adjacent sides of all boxes, so that the mark can be more readily identified if the boxes are placed in a stack.

A crayon or indelible pen should be used to mark the lid and all boxes when an AFB hive is found.