It’s the most serious brood disease of honey bees in NSW, but to an untrained eye it is impossible to detect.
American Foulbrood is a fatal and incurable bee disease that poses serious risks to the state’s honey industry.
NSW accounts for almost 45 per cent of the nation’s honey crop, contributing $36 million to the state’s economy per year.
But the total value of honey bees to Australian agriculture is estimated at up to $6 billion a year, because they pollinate crops.
The number of hobby and amateur beekeepers has risen in recent years, and so too has the need to educate new hive owners about AFB.
Bega Valley Amateur Beekeepers Association biosecurity officer Fay Steward is urging all beekeepers to inspect their hives in October, which NSW Department of Primary Industries has declared AFB Awareness Month.
“Your hive can look healthy, but if you don’t know AFB, you don’t know what to look for,” she said.
Ms Steward speaks from experience. She was forced to destroy her hives when they tested positive for AFB.
“Having to kill off your bees is an expensive and disheartening process,” she said.
“It just goes to show experience is no indicator of whether your hive will get infected or not.”
Ms Steward discovered two of her hives were infected after using a free AFB test kit developed by the Amateur Beekeepers Association and DPI. The test kit is available to every beekeeper registered in NSW.
Ms Steward said the DPI’s $60 fee deters some beekeepers from registering, and scrapping the fee would mean more registrations, more hives tested and more robust biosecurity.
She believes there is undetected and unreported cases of AFB in the area posing a risk to the wider beekeeping community.
Neglected hives are a major concern, as they are targeted by robber bees which then carry the AFB virus back to their healthy hives.
Registering hives is compulsory under the Biosecurity Act, but it is difficult to know how many hives are unregistered.
Ms Steward said the novice beekeeper needs to be just as diligent as the commercial beekeeper.
“Keeping hives at home is so much fun, but it is so much more enjoyable when you have the right knowledge and you know you are doing the right thing by your neighbours,” she said.