Storing dead AFB hives and contaminated equipment

It can be necessary to store equipment

Sometimes AFB hives need to be stored once the beekeeper has killed the bees. For instance fire bans may prevent the immediate destruction of infected materials. In such cases, it is very important that the hives are stored properly so that foraging bees do not have access to the diseased contents.

Best practice for storage

The hives must be stored inside a building. The building should ideally be bee-proof (honey house hot rooms, when not in use, are ideal). However, since sealing of all the gaps in a building is usually not possible (e.g. buildings made of corrugated iron), the hives themselves should be kept under a secure tarpaulin or black plastic sheet, with the sides of the cover secured tightly along the floor.

The entrance of every hive should be blocked with pieces of fibreglass insulation since mice will not readily chew this material out. Gaps between the supers should be sealed with newspaper or tape.

Marking infected equipment

Once the contents of the hives have been destroyed, it is important to keep careful track of empty boxes, lids, floor boards, feeders, etc. from AFB infected hives destined for sterilisation. It is a common practice to keep these materials stored until there is time in the beekeeping management schedule to carry out wax dipping or hypochlorite sterilisation.

The best way to identify these materials is to mark them with “AFB”, using a felt-tip marker or black crayon. This may seem like an extreme suggestion. However, unless the supers are properly marked, there is a chance that they will be incorporated into stacks of clean supers, especially when staff are unaware of the history of supers kept in a shed.

Pitfalls to not marking equipment properly

One beekeeper very carefully placed all his unmarked empty supers that had come off AFB hives, complete with their frames in a room in his honey house. When he had accumulated enough, he was going to burn the frames and sterilise the boxes. He had about 60 boxes in the stack when a new employee tidying up the shed added this stack to the stack of stored honey supers. Because there was no way to tell which boxes they were, it cost the beekeeper about 40 more AFB hives the next spring when he put the boxes onto clean hives.