Identifying AFB symptoms is difficult
The incidence of AFB in any outfit can be affected by whether beekeeping staff can properly recognise the symptoms of AFB, and whether they can differentiate AFB from other brood diseases. Serious AFB outbreaks have occurred because staff fail to recognise symptoms of the disease, or have not been adequately trained and supervised. As with most jobs, showing someone once how to recognise AFB symptoms is not enough.
Differential diagnosis of AFB is a complex task, and even professional inspectors who routinely deal with AFB outbreaks, are often confused by symptoms that do not fit the classic descriptions.
Simple training refresher
Beekeepers employing staff should periodically audit the performance of staff members in AFB inspection and recognition. The most important time to check these skills is at the beginning of the beekeeping year, since AFB will not have been a priority for staff during the winter period. A good way of auditing performance is to issue them with an indelible pen or black crayon and have them put their initials and the date on the lid of any hive they inspect. Then when an AFB hive is found a check can be made of who inspected it last.
Recognise inattentive staff
Because abnormal brood is often present in beehives, a sure sign of inattention to AFB recognition is when an employee seldom (if ever) asks for a second opinion on disease symptoms from fellow workers. Employees should be encouraged to seek these second opinions whenever they are working beehives and examining brood. This is very important in colonies affected by varroa and showing clinical symptoms of parasitic mite syndrome.
Staff should receive regular training in AFB recognition and their performance at inspecting hives should be audited. Any hive suspected of having AFB should be confirmed by the owner or an experienced beekeeper within the company structure.