American foulbrood (AFB) is the most serious disease affecting honey bees in New Zealand. AFB infects honey bee larvae causing the larvae to die. Each infected larvae produces 2.5 billion spores. These in turn infect other honey bee larvae until the hive collapses and dies.
There is no cure for American foulbrood. Spores from infected hives are very resistant and can survive for over 35 years.
AFB is predominantly spread from hive to hive through beekeeping practices including the exchange of brood, honey, pollen and hive parts between hives, or allowing the hive to become weak so that it is robbed by strong hives nearby.
American foulbrood is readily controlled by regular hive inspection, destruction of diseased hives by burning, and limiting the exchange of brood, honey, pollen and hive parts between hives. These disease control practices are most effective when consistently implemented by all beekeepers in a region/country – as this will ensure that no beekeepers hives are acting as a reservoir of infection for neighbouring hives.
In 1997 New Zealand’s beekeepers agreed to regulations in the form of the National American Foulbrood Pest Management Plan to ensure that all beekeepers had legal obligations to control AFB. Monitoring and auditing beekeeper compliance with these regulations is funded through a compulsory levy set at $15.17 per apiary and $20.00 per beekeeper. This funding is used to protect beekeepers hives from AFB by:
- Ensuring that beekeepers are aware of their responsibilities to control AFB,
- Providing information and advice on how to control AFB, and
- Inspecting hives in AFB ‘hotspots’ to identify and destroy hives that may be responsible for infecting neighbouring hives.
A description of how levy funding is spent is detailed below:
Identifying and registering apiaries – $141,000
- Administration of Annual Disease Returns
- Two aerial surveillance flights
Monitoring and auditing beekeeper AFB elimination – $434,000
- AP2 inspection of 2% of apiaries
- Testing 60 RMP honey samples
- Administration of Certificates of Inspection
- Agreeing Disease Elimination Conformity Agreements
- AFB Counselling
- Laboratory testing of suspect AFB samples
Cross-programme support – $30,000
- Apiary Database/ApiWeb application
- Review of Levy Order
Governance, management administration and communications – $401,000
- Management and Administration
- Accounting, audit, legal, insurance and banking
- Management Agency Office and telecommunications
- Communications, including April and October issues of The New Zealand Beekeeper journal
- Levy Collection