AFB, Sweat & Toil

Well, today is a scorcher here in Maryland and it is only Monday. The temperature is supposed to reach the low hundreds by Thursday. It makes me want to jump into a pool of ice rather than step into my bee suit and head out to the field. I had the intention of going out to the field first thing this morning around 8:30 but I got a little backed up in the lab and didn’t end up making it out until after 11. I was going to pick up an AFB ridden frame so I could take a picture of it with the new GigaPan rig.  For the next 21 days I will be taking a picture of an AFB and a Chalkbrood frame to see how they progresses over time. When the progression is over I will be sending the images off to have them made into a time lapse movie. We are pretty excited to see how the image will turn out.

Check out the photo  by clicking the link below. You will notice the spotty brood pattern and goopy brown substance (dead larvae) in the bottom of the cells, characteristic of AFB.

AFB is considered one of the most devastating brood diseases as it spreads rapidly, transmits easily and is resistant to most chemical treatments. It has a very distinct, rotten smell, hence the name FOULbrood. The disease is caused by the spore forming bacteria Paenibacillus larvae and affects only larvae 2 days old or less, however older bees can also carry the disease. Signs of AFB infected colonies are evidenced by the capped brood darkening in color and beginning to moisten. The capping begins to sink and the workers bees try to clean them by opening the cells and the diseased, dead larvae dry up creating a dark brown scale that adheres tightly to the cell wall. When one larva dies over 100 million spores can be released, so you can see why the disease is so deadly and practically impossible to treat.

While only the larvae die from the actual disease the entire colony suffers as fewer and fewer larvae survive. If the colony does not die, it may seriously weaken. Older bees can carry disease spores by inadvertently carrying the spores when they clean the contaminated cells. AFB can also survive dormant in old frames, hives and honey for up to 40 years, so it is never a good idea to gain hand-me-down equipment.In addition, AFB


spreads from colony to colony when robber bees eat contaminated honey and take it to other hives and apiaries.  Treatments include two different antibiotics Terramycin or Tylan; however many beekeepers to choose to burn their hives because the disease can be resistant to antibiotics and chemicals.

I had picked the frame on Friday and planned to begin the 21 day image progression the following Monday, but I ran into a problem on Monday morning. I got the frame back to the lab and noticed that it looked much different. It appeared the bees had cleaned out the frame and there were no more brood, only scales. Well, that wasn’t good. And so that is when I suited up on a quest to find another frame that would be show a good progression. Along with another coworker I began to look through the hives in the USDA designated AFB yard. Man, it was hot. I don’t know what it is about a bee suit, but I swear the second I put it on I begin to sweat. Not just a little, I am talking buckets. Have you ever sweated heavily while wearing a bee suit? I think of it as sweating through a screen. You know when you get a window screen wet and the water sits in the holes? Before I knew it my suit veil was filling up like a wet screen and blocking my field of vision and I was fumbling around like a delirious sailor. The sunglasses I chose to wear that day were also filled with sweat droplets further clouding my vision. Oh gosh, this is embarrassing. Drip, drip, splash. Sorry bees, oh no that’s not rain, it just me sweating on you. Don’t mind me. I tried to ignore my heavy sweating and every time I had to talk to my coworker I pretended that no one noticed my wet veil and that it hid my dripping face. This is totally normal, just sweating. A lot. Wait why is no one else sweating? What is going on?! I tried to brush the sweat that was burning my eye. What was I doing, I was wearing a veil three inches from my face.  Duh.  Ahhh! So much sweat in my eye I thought my contact is going to fall out. Let me tell you I couldn’t find that frame fast enough!

I wasn’t out looking for a frame too long before we found a good one and I was able peel off the suit and change my clothes so I could get started with the imaging. Since that day I have tried to be ready for the heat complete with a thug like bandana, shorts and a big t-shirt that make me look more like a high-school hoodlum than a girl who is going to work bees, but whatever it takes to stay cool, right? I am not playing any games with this weather! And when I have to go and put the frames back at the end of the day I don’t wear a suit, just a veil and gloves. It’s no sweat. Pun intended.

Look Mom! No Suit!

Written By: Jennie Stitzinger

Jennie Stitzinger has written 55 post in this blog.

In the summer of 2010 I walked in to the Penn State Agricultural Sciences building to inquire about a job a friend had mentioned to me. I was a poor college student, I needed to pay my summer rent, I was offered the job and I took it—I had no idea what I was in for. Fast forward a little over a year and I was kneeling on rocks and mud, in the cold, northern California rain, surrounded by dairy cows and hundreds of hives while Africanized bees were pinging off my bee suit. With a degree in Community Development from Penn State University, I never thought in a million years I would be working with honey bees upon graduation, but I guess life sure has its surprises. Now a member of the University of Maryland Diagnostic team, I work on many different aspects of BIP and the National Honey Bee Survey. Whether it is field work, traveling, report writing, crunch time projects, or larger missions, I am most likely working on it. What is my favorite part of the job? Working on an awesome project that has impact and is helping beekeepers around the country, learning more about honey bees than I ever thought I wanted to know, and giving me experiences I never thought possible.