Diseased bees

Let me start by saying this is NOT about my bees! But some of our club’s new members have received EFB and possible AFB infected nucs. It’s a rotten way to start their beekeeping adventure. Not only did they get sick bees, but the supplier has been “mum” and offered no support, refunds or responses AT ALL.

As you know, it’s been a crazy season of swarms from my hives. I caught 10 (kept 8) but with all of these swarms, I was facing a conundrum…I knew I needed to condense the apiary down to a more manageable size (4 hives with a nuc) but to do that the queens would need to go away somehow.

First I thought I would remove the poorly performing queens…but they’re all doing pretty dang well, some better than others but none are so bad that I need to “off” the queen. I’m not a good queen killer so what was I going to do with all of these colonies??  Then my plan morphed to offering queens to those in our club that found themselves queenless and work the remaining frames into the main colonies somehow (I’d figure it out along the way).

Problem is the swarm colonies keep growing…

Then we started getting reports of EFB and the poor new beekeepers sounded so overwhelmed and unhappy. With the first report, I immediately offered a swarm to the beekeeper. Then a second beekeeper reported similar symptoms and before the state apiarist arrived to do the inspection, the bees absconded. So I offered a swarm to this beekeeper too.

You can’t treat for AFB–that requires burning of all equipment. EFB is treatable in the sense that the disease can be suppressed with Terramycin. There are varying reports of a colony surviving without developing symptoms after treatment. But wouldn’t you always be nervous that the honey and frames were contaminated? Think about how many times you move frames from hive to hive….  Supposedly you put the bees on all new equipment and treat them. Personally, I wouldn’t do it. I would always be wondering and I stress enough about my bees.

So I reached out to the first beekeeper and she brought me all new equipment, which I worked into one of the swarms. Since I run deeps and she uses mediums, I spent a few days thinking about how I was going to do this. I had a few ideas in mind but knew I would make the final plan once I got in there and saw what the colony was up to. I ended up cobbling together this:


So I pulled up 2 frames of open brood (deep frames) with the queen into the medium. But there needed to be space for the bottom of the frames to project, so I grabbed a large shim (I have several) and placed that over the deep. This of course leaves open spaces under her medium frames but there’s nothing for it. Did I mention she uses 8 frames and I use 10 frames? So I had to cover the open space on the side of my deep with a piece of wood and then place another piece on top to make sure it stayed put (to the left of her blue hive body). Talk about improvising.

Once her apiary is completely cleared of the infected hives and all equipment, I will give her these bees.

The orange colony above this “donation hive” is one of my swarms that built out 10 frames in one week so I gave it another box on top. This season has seriously strained my equipment.

My overall goal is to have 3 drawn supers for each strong colony when the nectar flow starts. I can tell you that the most eager comb builders are swarms…they need the comb for the queen to lay eggs and for food storage. Once I finish extracting, I’ll take an account of all my supers and see how much more needs to be drawn out.





  1. What a shame. Is it legal for suppliers to ignore customers like that where you are? I would threaten to out them on social media unless I got a refund/exchange. Let people know what their business practices are like.

    • Emily, You may or may not know that in the States northern beekeepers normally buy their bees from southern producers. So generally, if you live in the north your local bee suppliers order bees from package and nuc producers in the southern part of the country. They function as “the middle man.”
      Our state is the only one that has an AFB inspecting dog (and there are plans to train a second one apparently). All incoming nucs are inspected by the dog for AFB but EFB is not detected the same way. There have been changes recently on the federal level to prevent overuse of the antibiotic Terramycin so it is no longer available on the open market and must be prescribed by a veterinarian (most of whom know nothing about bees).
      Maryland has taken a proactive approach and assembled training videos for vets to assist them in diagnosing brood diseases that would require an antibiotic for treatment. Here is a link (I have yet to watch them myself but plan to soon) the training is on the bottom right of the screen:

      The issue is likely that the nuc and package producers used the antibiotic to suppress the disease in their apiaries and now that they can no longer do so, it will show up on purchased bees. Rusty and I had an exchange recently in her comments section and she explained it somewhat.

      As to the recourse available to the new beekeepers, I’m not sure what the options are. But needless to say, that middle man will not be getting any recommendations from us. They buy tractor trailer loads of these nucs and they don’t look at them–honestly, if I was offering to sell something like that I would want to know that my name as a business was protected. Also, they purported to sell local bees but apparently they shake bees into a box and add a “Maryland” queen. That doesn’t sound kosher to me and is misleading. Their website is vague on specifics.

      • Hmm, what a shame that truly local bees are hard to buy in your state. What prevents the middlemen breeding and selling their own colonies, or beekeepers starting out by getting a swarm? Is your climate a lot harsher than ours in Britain?

      • The colonies build up later in the season and thus local nucs would not be available until significantly later than southern packages or nucs would be. My bees swarmed in April and May, the last one I hived was May 25th. I checked it Saturday and it had built out all 5 frames in the nuc and each one was solid brood on both sides. I would say May would be the earliest that our area could make nucs available and this was after a fairly mild winter. Most years it wouldn’t be until June. I think the best hope for local nucs is for beekeepers to make overwintered nucs available–more expensive but ready to go and will produce a honey crop if the weather is favorable. But you really have to understand bee husbandry practices and ask the right questions of the beekeeper to know you are getting locally raised bees and that you will pay more for them. Not many seem to understand that yet….and price talks.

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