One of our hives has European Foulbrood (EFB). That’s a bacterial infection (Melissococcus pluton) that kills off some of the bees before they’re born and weakens a colony. It’s considered a stress-related disease and moving hives can trigger it. It’s spread pretty much around the planet, is contagious between colonies and is a nuisance, but strong hives can recover on their own. If necessary, it can be treated with antibiotics, specifically oxytetracycline hydrochloride (OTC). Unfortunately the antibiotics can make their way into the honey so you shouldn’t extract honey for at least 8 weeks after treatment.
Identifying EFB can be a bit tricky as the symptoms aren’t really pronounced. The larvae curl up, change colour and/or look as if they have moved around in their cell. To be honest, I’d never have spotted it. But our apiarist, Bruce, made his living inspecting hives and identified EFB quickly and positively. Here’s a photo of the area he pointed out to me as proof of EFB. Judge for yourself if it’s obvious.
Bruce also decided it should be treated but he didn’t have the antibiotics or time to do it. So he dropped the OTC in our letter box with some simple instructions and left it to Frank and me to administer.
Yesterday we finally did. It’s a simple as could be. We just sprinkled a couple of tablespoons worth of the powder (OTC mixed with icing sugar) over the brood box (under the excluder). That’s it. The bees will do the rest by spreading the antibiotic around the hive as they feed and clean the brood.
Now we wait and hope the hive grows in strength, overcomes its bout of EFB and that no other hives become affected.