Abandoned beehives can be breeding grounds for a deadly disease

Guest column: What’s all the buzz about abandoned beehives?

Capital Region Beekeepers Association lays out problems associated with American Foul Brood, found in abandoned beehives

It should be the end of a sweet season for local beekeepers, but instead a disease sweeping the southern tip of Vancouver Island threatens their hives and all the bees in them. Members of the Capital Region Beekeepers Association are guardedly checking their hives for signs of a disease called American Foul Brood, a bacteria that does not affect humans but can cause rapid death and ultimately a collapse of the hive and all its resident bees.

American Foul Brood (AFB) is present throughout North America and parallels its European cousin found, as expected, in Europe. After two hives located in south Oak Bay were tested and confirmed by the Provincial Lab to be infected by AFB, they  were sealed and buried under special permit at Hartland landfill.

For beekeepers, there are only two choices when the disease is found at this time of year: burn the hive and all its contents, or seal it in plastic and bury it. The beekeeper then has to start over again with a new hive and bees in spring.

The first sign of the disease was in Oak Bay and within days more hives near Deep Cove in North Saanich were discovered. In both cases, inexperienced beekeepers did not recognize the signs of disease until the hives were dead. It was left to CRBA club members and the Provincial Bee Inspector to confirm the diagnosis: AFB.

What the average person may not know is that honeybees can fly up to five kilometers from the hive in search of nectar and pollen.  If they discover a hive that has collapsed from disease, they will rob the hive of the remaining honey and carry the food and disease back to their own hive.

Said Catherine Culley, CRBA president, “If beekeepers find a dead hive, or indeed have an old dead hive on their property, they need to close it up immediately to keep bees out.”

CRBA members can help with collecting samples of the diseased honey cells and the club has a special permit ensuring Hartland staff buries the infected hive equipment deep underground.  Carolyn Hissen has taken on the issue for the club.  Her task has been hampered by beekeepers who quietly go about their business unknown to club members or even their immediate neighbours.  “What we don’t know is where all the hives are and we don’t have a way of contacting everyone”, said Hissen.

With many unknown apiaries near the sources of disease, tracking and eradicating these outbreaks will take the collective effort of all local beekeepers.

They each need to do a thorough late season check of their hives. If a beekeeper is unsure they can call the CRBA or send an e-mail to the club (beehealth@capitalregionbeekeepers.ca) to arrange for assistance.

The CRBA will make sure the brood disease is reported to the Ministry of Agriculture and collected samples may also be sent to the Ministry for testing (BCMA – Apiculture, 1767 Angus Campbell Road, Abbotsford, BC V3G 2M3). At this time there is not a bee inspector designated for the Island, so beekeepers can contact Paul van Westendorp, the provincial apiculturist (Paul.vanWestendorp@gov.bc.ca) and he will arrange any necessary inspections.

Bill Fosdick is a member of the Capital Region Beekeepers Association.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria traffic stop yields drugs, case full of weapons

Police seize firearms, swords and flares

Colwood hosts pandemic recovery roundtable discussion

Attendees must RSVP for virtual meeting on May 29 from 1 to 3 p.m.

Suspect taken into custody after allegedly attempting to steal a dinghy in Sidney

The incident happened Wednesday morning near Beacon Wharf

Sooke council approves new funding for chamber of commerce

A $16,000 service agreement to be created

Long wait to reopen is over for Sidney gym

Owner of Sidney’s Anytime Fitness expects safety measures to be in place for some time

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

POLL: Do you agree with the provincial government’s decision to increase the minimum wage?

B.C.’s lowest-paid workers will be getting a few more dollars to try… Continue reading

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

As SD84 schools look to reopen, Kyuquot and Zeballos opt out

Schools in Tahsis and Gold River will open on June 1, with 30 per cent students expected to come in

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

CMHC sees declines in home prices, sales, starts that will linger to end of 2022

CMHC said average housing prices could fall anywhere from nine to 18 per cent in its forecast

B.C. Paralympian named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Three-time world and Paralympic gold medalist Sonja Gaudet is part of 11-member class

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Most Read