Beekeepers Warned About Foulbrood

The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station sent a letter to registered beekeepers Tuesday (July 28) warning that there is widespread potential for a disease that affects honey bees in the state.

Louis A. Magnarelli, chief entomologist, said that the Station's bee inspector is working diligently to determine the extent of the infection of foulbrood and "We are also using aggressive measures to quarantine apiaries and to control infections…but the situation may worsen".

Infections have been confirmed in Cheshire, Colchester, Durham, Lebanon, Middlefield, Middletown, Norwalk, Old Lyme, and Portland since July 1, 1997. In addition, frames reported to be from Brooklyn, Canterbury, Lisbon, Norwich, Preston, Sprague, and Windham were tested at the Experiment Station and were found to have foulbrood.

Magnarelli said that a beekeeper notified the Experiment Station that some of his bees appeared to be dying. Tests of 35 frames showed 34 to be infected with foulbrood. The beekeeper is cooperating with the Experiment Station's efforts to inspect all colonies that may have come in contact with his bees.

Foulbrood is a bacterial disease that can kill infected colonies, especially those that have been weakened by mites or other causes. When an infected colony is found, either when it is brought to the attention of the Experiment Station or is found during routine inspections by Ira Kettle, the Experiment Station's bee inspector, the infected colonies must be destroyed by burning.

"The letter is a precautionary measure," Magnarelli said. "Although we find foulbrood every year, it is more widespread than usual. We want beekeepers to notify us if they suspect foulbrood in their hives so we can inspect them on site."

"There are 555 beekeepers registered in Connecticut and the bee inspector can only do random checks unless beekeepers notify us of problems," Magnarelli said. "In addition, we suspect there are beekeepers in the state who are unaware of the requirement for registration whose hives are not inspected and who will not receive this letter warning of foulbrood. We urge any unregistered beekeepers to contact us to register."

Honey bees are most important because they pollinate fruit crops and many flowering vegetables. "Without honey bees orchards would produce far less fruit and the yields of many vegetables would be lower," Magnarelli said.

Bees purchased out of state may carry foulbrood. Therefore the law requires that shipments of honey bees originating in other states be accompanied by a state-issued certificate verifying the good health of the bees. If there is no certificate, the bees cannot be transported or sold unless inspected by the Experiment Station.

Foulbrood may also be spread at or between apiaries by adult bees drifting from an infested hive to another hive or by equipment that has come into contact with an infected hive, Magnarelli said.

In 1995-1996 70 colonies in 13 towns were found infested. In 1996-1997 26 hives in five towns were found infested.

Any beekeepers with questions may call Magnarelli at (203) 974-8466 or Carol Lemmon, Deputy State Entomologist, at (203) 974-8474.