Reported AFB Incidence is Up, but is it a Bad Thing?
EDITORIAL: PATRICK DAWKINS
Argh American foulbrood (AFB), that ongoing scourge for beekeepers. Once I sunk my teeth into writing this month’s lead story on beekeepers exiting the industry, the topic of hive abandonment and the associated AFB risk naturally came up. Thus, the Management Agency offered some really good advice for all beekeepers (whether they are abandoning apiaries or they have the remaining neighbouring hives) in Reducing the AFB Risk of Abandoned Hives – the Responsibility of All Beekeepers.
That story and the issue of abandoned hives with the potential to spread disease points to what I believe will be a very interesting year or two in our nationwide goal of reducing the incidence of AFB by 5% every year. Between the 2021 and 2022 reporting years that goal was met with dismal failure, with the latest 2021/22 Annual Report of the Agency detailing 3422 reported cases of AFB, as compared to 2526 in the 2020/21 report. That’s a jump of 35%!
Guiding the Agency’s thinking is the knowledge that of the 10 DECA holders experiencing the largest increase of reported AFB, eight had “new ownership, management, or staff in 2021/22, and the new personnel were detecting high levels of AFB in beehives that were not reported by their predecessors”.
Another contributing factor identified by the Agency is the requirement (as of March 2022) that honey exported to China be free from AFB spores. This appears to have contributed to some increased vigilance and reporting.
The AFB certainly appears to be there, but the verdict is out on whether we are simply getting better at identifying and reporting it, or the incidence is increasing … or both.
Any way you want to view it, with the likelihood of more abandoned apiaries ahead of us, the potential for the hive disease to spread further and wider is there. Therefore, I recommend you read our aforementioned story because it will truly take an effort from the entire industry if we are to prevent the spread – beekeepers going out of business need to do so with consideration for those who remain, the remaining beekeepers must not only be vigilant in their own AFB management practices but also in informing the Agency of abandoned apiaries, and the Agency itself appears to have its work cut out for it.
The numbers in the next annual report will tell us how we’ve done…