Saturday, August 7, 2010


Sheri and I have been in Boone, North Carolina in the Appalachian mountains, over 3,000 feet above the heat wave across America. We’ve had pleasant highs in the 80s and lows in the 60s. Jealous? :)
We are attending the annual EAS (Eastern Apicultural Society) conference where beekeepers from all over gather to listen to the brightest minds talk about bees. The most qualified researchers show up to tell us what they have found even before the information is released in publications (but don’t tell anyone). Lesson79jSpeakers included: Keith Delaplaine, Clarence Collison, John Skinner, Ann Harman, David DeJong, Medhat Nasr, Zachary Huang, David Tarpy, Gary Reuter, Debbie Delaney, Jeff Harris, Jon Zawislak, Kim Flottum, Dennis vanEngelsdorp and so many more!
Lesson79g We enjoyed the conference and took in some sights around the mountains too. Our youngest son Christian, who is almost 3, is a great lover of trains. Lucky for him, just outside of Boone there is an old western park, with a real steam locomotive that you can ride through the mountains. He loved it!
Lesson79h At the Tweetsie Railroad there is a chair lift to carry folks up the mountain to another level of the park. Just after we made it up and got off, the electricity went out, stranding others on the chair lift. It was only out for less than 10 minutes, but many of us were starting to wonder how all those people were going to get down. Christian loved the chair lift too.
My focus, however, was to take two more tests for the master beekeeping certification. So at night I was studying hard, memorizing and cramming! On Thursday I took the written and lab tests. The written test took me 3 hours to take and the lab test took 3 hours as well. Thursday night through Friday the suspense was thick! Did I pass? Finally late Friday, after all the tests were graded, I found out I had passed and I’m now an EAS certified Master Beekeeper. 4 of us were certified this year. There are about 127 EAS certified master beekeepers.
lesson79fHere I am at the awards banquet with Dr. Clarence Collison who is head of the master beekeeping program. I would encourage beekeepers who teach classes or speak often on bees or are state inspectors to consider this certification. Click here for more information.
I met some more great people at EAS, made new friends and caught up on news from old friends. I want to tell you about two people in particular. I met a Mike Church. He introduced himself to me having identified me from these lessons online. He was just the nicest man. Though I didn’t get to spend much time with Mike, the little times we did exchange conversation I always walked away encouraged. Mike will definitely be someone I will want to spend more time with next year when the conference is in Rhode Island. Pleasure to meet you, Mike.
The second person I always enjoy hanging around with is a fellow master beekeeper, Jon Zawislak. I met Jon last year at EAS in New York. Jon works for the cooperative extension service, division of agriculture in Arkansas. He has a much more impressive title but I can’t remember it. He’s basically Arkansas’ best bee guy in my opinion. Jon is lots of fun to be with and he knows his bugs!
Speaking of bugs, let’s talk about bees.
Who wants to talk about disease and pest? No one wants to see problems in the hive. But let me say that most of the time hives do not experience most of these problems that we’ll examine. If it happens to you, do not despair. Most of these problems can be adequately handled. Sometimes they can be prevented through proper management skills. Other times they can be remedied with intervention from the beekeeper but if the hive perishes, the beekeeper can always try it again next year with greater knowledge and wisdom.
So, do not take the information from this lesson and become a hypochondriac on behalf of your bees, fearing that your bees have everything I’ve mentioned. Maybe you’ll never see these problems. So relax. But, I do want to help you hone your beekeeping skills so you’ll be on the look out so that you can either prevent most problems or quickly remedy them once you see a problem.
LESSON 79: PESTS & DISEASES PART 1: European Foul Brood
First, let’s talk about European Foul Brood or EFB. It’s called this not because it is from Europe but because most of the early research identifying the disease was conducted in Europe.
I’m excited about teaching on EFB because it is on the increase. Why? Inquiring minds want to know.
In our state of Illinois there have been more reports this year. EFB is not the most serious of brood disease. American Foul Brood is the most serious and that teaching is coming later. For now, realize that if you get EFB you do not have to burn your hive. You can solve this problem and I have a few tricks up my sleeve that you won’t believe are so easy to resolve. They are proven!
So let’s talk about EFB:
Lesson79a What is it? It is a disease of the brood known as a bacerium called Melissococcus Pluton. It’s more common during the moist conditions of spring. Minimal cases of EFB are usually unknown to the beekeeper because it can clear up once conditions are dryer and a nectar flow starts. So it can come and go between inspections.
However, often EFB worsens and the first red flag to the beekeeper is spotty brood (because brood is not being sealed) and much of the larvae is twisted, discolored.
Lesson79dBy discolored I mean off-white to brown. Click on these images for a closer look. Healthy larva is very moist and pearly white. However, EFB infected larva can be off-white to brown.
Lesson79c Another identifier is that the trachea (breathing tubes) of the bee are much more predominant looking. This picture shows how visible the breathing tubes are.
To most beekeepers the most obvious and noticeable characteristic besides spotty brood is twisted larva.

Lesson79b Twisted larva is not normal. Normal larva remains flat on the bottom of the cell as it matures to the point of the cell being sealed. But notice in this picture how the larva is twisted.
Years ago, I place some hives in a wooded area not realizing it flooded in the spring. Some hives had water touching the bottom boards for weeks at a time. All of these hives developed EFB. This year, I placed a hive in a perennial garden that had a thick bed of mulch. Mulch is put in gardens to hold moisture. I knew this, but didn’t think it’d affect the hive. But in the spring it developed a slight case of EFB. Moisture is an enemy to the hive. So how does a hive develop EFB? By being placed in an air stagnant area where there is too much moisture or the genetics of the hives are not all that resistant to EFB.
Prior to the 1850s, beekeepers in America kept Apis Mellifera Mellifera, better known as the German Black Bee. But, many felt it was too aggressive, and susceptible to EFB. In 1859 the Italian Bee (Apis Mellifera Ligustica) was imported into the US. Beekeepers loved the Italian bee because it was more resistant to EFB but more importantly, it was much more gentle than the black bee.
However, even Italian bees can get EFB when conditions favor it’s growth, which brings us to our next question…
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF EFB ON YOUR HIVE? The larva starts to die, thus greatly reducing population build up, especially in the spring when you need it most.
What do you do when you see EFB in your colony? Send a sample to the Beltsville, MD bee lab for a proper diagnosis or be very confident in your own diagnosis. Ready for a trick up my sleeve? One of the fastest ways I’ve knocked it out is by collecting a swarm, and simply shaking the swarm into the EFB hive after killing the “EFB queen.” This huge surplus of young bees from the swarm go to work cleaning up the disease, and within a few weeks there is no signs of EFB. Of course you do not have to have a swarm. Simply remove the queen and replace her. The break in the brood cycle usually gives the house cleaning bees time to clean things up, unless the hive is extremely weak in numbers. Remember, the more you hone your beekeeping skills, the more value you’ll place on collecting swarms.

Another option is to treat your EFB hive with an antibiotic, but since I am opposed to using chemicals in the hive, and since I fear EFB developing a resistance to antibiotics I would not suggest this option, but it is usually effective.

Do not think that you can treat American Foul Brood with an antibiotic. You cannot and should not. But you can treat EFB. Keep this difference clear in your mind. Requeening and moving the hive out of a moist area and into a drier one is your best approach.
I’ll be talking more about pests and diseases, but I’ll be breaking them up into future lessons. Now, in our next lesson, we’ll be looking at various feeders, and their pros and cons. Fall and winter is coming, so we’ll be looking over the best ways to give your colonies the nutrition they need. That’s our next lesson!
Thanks for joining us today, and remember when you purchase your beekeeping equipment, bees and queens from us, it keeps food on our table, so we appreciate your business. To place an order, check out our website at
Be sure to listen to our Beekeeping Podcasts by clicking here. Until next time, remember to bee-have yourself!
David & Sheri Burns, 14556 N. 1020 E. Rd, Fairmount, IL 61841
(A special thank you for the EFB pictures from