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  • Writer's picturePatrick Dawkins

The Foster Method™: A Game-Changer in Beekeeping’s War Against AFB

  ADVERTORIAL:  dnature   

New Zealand beekeepers have had the benefit of using the Foster Method™ to assist in identifying American Foulbrood (AFB) in beehives since 2021, when dnature diagnostics and research released the ingenious swab eDNA test to the industry. Now, following publishing of dnature’s work in the Journal of Apicultural Research, the international scientific community has caught up with what Kiwi beekeepers have learned over the last three years – the Foster Method™ is not only a quick and easy test for AFB, but accurate and with the potential to save beekeepers much strife and money.

While dnature technical director John Mackay is proud to have the ingenuity and research of their lab peer-reviewed, published and therefore accepted by the scientific community, it’s seeing the Foster Method™ in practice and reaping tangible benefits to beekeepers which he says brings the most satisfaction.

“We have had numerous instances of beekeepers using the Foster Method™ to identify AFB-infected honeybee colonies before clinical symptoms present themselves.” Mackay says.

“This allows them to focus attention on individual hives or apiaries, and remove what would otherwise be a super-spreader from their operations.”



A recent example was a concerned beekeeper who conducted two inspections on an apiary a week apart and was not able to identify any infected colonies, but at the completion of their second visit they took a couple of minutes to run Foster Method™ swabs (provided by dnature) along the entrance of each hive. They sent them off to the lab and just a few days later were contacted and informed that the composite sample had high levels of AFB detected. From there, the decision was made to conduct further tests on individual hive samples and one hive only was found to be the culprit. The beekeeper revisited the hive out of curiosity and, sure enough, visual symptoms had begun to present.

Collecting a sample using the Foster Method is quick and easy, simply swab the entrance of each beehive you wish test – you don’t even need to open it.

“With the knowledge provided by the Foster Method™, this hive – which otherwise could have caused widespread infection to not only their own beekeeping operation, but neighbouring beehives – was destroyed,” Mackay points out.

So, should more beekeepers be embracing such a quick, easy – and now widely-accepted accurate – method of detecting the scourge that is AFB? Mackay is not in a hurry to tell beekeepers how to do their job, but the Foster Method™ certainly has its uses he says.

“It depends on the beekeeper’s circumstances. If they suspect they have more AFB in their hives, this method is excellent at detecting it without occupying a lot of beekeeper-time. If they want to put their mind at ease when releasing hives from quarantine, then whole apiary swabs are again excellent, and not at all costly. Also, when buying beehives and/or beekeeping equipment and wanting to ensure AFB levels are low, I think the Foster Method™ is a no-brainer and could save serious costs and heartache in the future.”

Any beekeepers wanting to explore use of the method should call dnature’s lab and discuss the best ‘plan of attack’ Mackay says, that way they can map out what needs testing, likely costs, and any further action required following either positive or negative test results.

While the genesis of the Foster Method™ (which is named after Tairāwhiti beekeeper Barry Foster who was instrumental in its development) came before Covid-19 hit the world, the pandemic made the use of swab testing more common, taking what was initially a “left-field” idea to swab beehives and make it more understandable.

Barry Foster demonstrates the Foster Method of hive sampling in this YouTube video.

“From a beekeeper’s perspective, there is nothing complicated about the process, and test results can be turned around in a couple of days. The best way to start is by picking up the phone, or emailing, to discuss whether it is worth us sending out a test pack of swabs. There’s no obligation, but any beekeeper wanting help identifying AFB in their hives, or equipment – whether that’s one hive or tens of thousands – should probably get in touch with us to at least discuss what the Foster Method™ can offer. We can then determine if, and how, we can help prevent an AFB problem from getting worse, and eliminate it altogether,” Mackay says.

dnature can be contacted via phone: 0800 362 887 or email info@dnature.co.nz

The full published article on the Foster Method™ can be viewed online here.

Video: Want to see how easy it is to get the Foster Method™ process underway? Watch the quick video from the apiary… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHoKNfDPXsw


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