Honeybee Disease Day 2017

A Foul Day in Berg Apton?

The advertisement read: “This is a unique opportunity for beekeepers interested in disease to look at both AFB and EFB almost one-to-one. Beekeepers will hone their skills in the visual recognition of these diseases and enhance their beekeeping knowledge. It is a valuable skill to possess especially as in this area we have our own unique strain of EFB”.

With Peter Sunderland taking the initiative, the National Bee Unit issued a disease licence to allow Peter to display “live” disease combs to beekeepers, which allowed them to be inspected at the the Iceni Microscopy Study Group’s July 2017 meeting in Bergh Apton Village Hall.

We wish to thank the Seasonal Bee Inspectors, for supplying fresh disease combs (it is harder to study “old” combs). The combs represented what you would see in your own hive, making them an excellent education tool.

Peter lives in a high foulbrood area. His exposure is made more challenging by beekeepers in the local area scandalously taking the view that it is the bee inspectors’ job to deal with disease! He set the scene, explaining the principal differences between the two foulbroods, emphasising how contagious are the bacteria, how difficult it is to kill them and the importance of hygiene. Sylvia Pettitt, until recently a bee inspector herself, followed making similar points.

After a sandwich, we inspected the combs – for bio-security in another room with closed windows; the light levels here could have been better. The idea was that we should identify the diseased cells, record their position on a prepared grid and then compare notes; while this didn’t really work, it was good to be able to handle the frames and have an expert point out what to look for. The lesson learnt on the day was that we must spend time and discussion on recording defects on the combs and discuss the findings afterwards in greater detail. Hopefully there will be another disease day at some time.

We then used the diseased larvae to make slides, using nigrosin, a ‘negative’ stain that stains the background rather than the subject, and a smear technique to obtain a really thin film. Since the two bacteria are very small, they must be viewed at x1000 using an oil immersion lens; with light microscopy, this is almost at the limit of what it is possible to see.


All too often, when using the standard mountant, Practamount, a Canada Balsam replacement, it is difficult to get the slides home safely as it may take weeks for it fully to set. Here, Peter had a supply of Depex (or DPX), used to make blood slides, and this sets quickly.

Not at all ‘a foul day’ but an excellent foulbrood day in which its aims were certainly achieved.

The Iceni Microscopy Study Group has received numerous congratulatory emails from attendees, stating that they found the session very interesting and worth while. From the Iceni’s committee’s point of view, we regard the guests who attended the disease day as disease sentinels (people who can identify disease for themselves and others, spread throughout Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. The establishment of such trained individuals could lead to early detection of EFB and AFB, thereby helping the bee inspectors control the spread of disease. The bee inspectors in the Eastern Region do a marvellous job of controlling disease when they are alerted they spring into action, in this context we should like to thank Keith Morgan, Regional Bee Inspector for supplying the AFB disease frames David Burns for the EFB frames (all fresh). David Burns has promised a cameo talk at our next disease day. We would also like to thank Jeremy Quinlan for his photography and for writing this article. We hope to use the same team of people next year to put on an improved version of the disease day.