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  • Writer's picturePatrick Dawkins

The Club Drilling Down on AFB with the Foster Test

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Our beekeeping clubs add value to the apiculture industry all across New Zealand in a variety of manners, and one of the most common ways is through increased American foulbrood (AFB) awareness and detection. At the Whanganui Beekeeping Club they have come up with a plan, by embracing new technology, to try get on top of the disease.

Whanganui club stalwart Neil Farrer says it’s not uncommon for club members to visit his property with hive frames for him to assess due to their concerns of AFB infection. So, the club’s secretary/treasurer has come up with a plan to “cut right through that”.

Sampling of hives for qPCR testing for AFB is made easy by dnature’s Foster Method, using this long swab which is run through the entrance of the hive. Whanganui Beekeeping Club members will be out with the test kits in the coming month.

Over the next month club members will be taking swab samples of their hives using dnature Diagnostic and Research’s Foster Test method, which will then be sent to dnature's Gisborne lab for qPCR testing. The test allows AFB infections to be diagnosed, even if there are no clinical symptoms for beekeepers to pick up on.

“Whanganui city in particular, but our wider district too, is a constant AFB threat. A lot of hives have been burnt over the past two or three years,” Farrer explains the motivations for the project.

“So, I though the best way to attack it is for everybody to test their hives, see if spores are present and whether there is a serious risk. We will probably nail it down to one or two spots, and I am fairly certain I know where that is, but this will prove it. It will also give people peace of mind to know their hives do not carry spores.”

If all club members participate it will be about 50 beekeepers sampling around 200 hives in areas such as Whanganui suburban and surrounds, Marton and north/west to Waverley and nearby valleys. The most efficient manner to test is in collations of 12 samples. For some beekeepers, such as Farrer, these can all come from one beekeeper, but for others with small hive holdings it will be a matter of collating samples into geographic areas as best they can.

At a testing price of $140 for 12 samples it will cost beekeepers $11.66 per hive, with the potential for the club to subsidise financial members.

Once testing has been completed, any positives returned will leave beekeepers with two best courses of action Farrer explains.

“One is to test those 12 samples individually, which is quite expensive. The other is to put those hives into isolation and monitor them over winter and into spring. If AFB is there, that is when it will show up.”

Initially Farrer had hoped to organise AFB sniffer dogs to visit hives to try to detect AFB spores, with the club having been among those contributing finances to the keeping and training of Pete Gifford’s canines in Manawatu. However, with the AFB Management Agency showing limited interest in furthering the use of the dogs, they have been practical and come up with a new plan.

“That would have been brilliant, but it isn’t happening. So, it’s this instead,” says Farrer.


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