Destruction Protocol for
Honey Bee Colonies Found with American Foulbrood (AFB)
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American Foulbrood (AFB) is a bacterium that affects and is fatal
to the developing bees in a colony. The spores are highly contagious
and easily spread by bee-to-bee contact or with the use of infected
tools or bee equipment. Inspectors appointed under the Bees Act
may order the disinfection or destruction of bees and beekeeping
equipment infected with AFB. Below is a detailed protocol for destroying
honey bee colonies afflicted with AFB.
Cleaning Gloves, Hive Tool and Smoker
A beekeeper's gloves, hive tool and smoker are unlikely to carry
sufficiently large numbers of spores to be a major factor in the
spread of AFB. Nevertheless, when an AFB hive is found, precautions
should be taken to appropriate beekeeping equipment hygiene.
- Scrape excess propolis and wax off the wooden parts of the smoker
bellows with a hive tool.
- Scrub the outside of gloves with soapy water containing household
bleach (250 millilitres per five litres of water). The soap will
not destroy spores on the gloves, but it will help to remove materials
such as wax, propolis and honey that might contain significant
concentrations of spores.
- Scrub the bellows and base of smoker with the same soapy water.
- Scrape all propolis off the hive tool.
- Scorch the hive tool by putting it into the smoker and pumping
on the bellows to produce a flame or flame with a small propane
Closing Hives with AFB
- Block the entrance to the hive with dirt or crumpled newspaper.
It is also important to seal all the cracks in the hive, since
bees will use these cracks to fly out during the killing process.
Cracks can be filled by covering with duct tape or by pushing
small pieces of newspaper into the cracks with the end of the
- Hives infected with AFB are usually closed and destroyed either
in the evening, or during rainy weather, when the bees are not
flying. This is done to avoid field bees from the AFB hive flying
into neighbouring colonies and possibly spreading the disease.
Killing AFB Colonies
Remove the lid of the colony when bees are not flying and sprinkle
diesel fuel over the entire cluster of bees in the colony. It may
be necessary to split the chambers and add diesel to the lower chamber
as well. The volume of diesel fuel used will depend on the size
of cluster to be killed. Recommendation:
- 300-500 millilitres. of diesel fuel for one-two storey hive;
- one litre of diesel fuel for three-four storey hive.
Close the colony by replacing the lid firmly on the hive so the
bees do not escape for a minimum of 10 minutes. It is important
to remember that the diesel fuel is put into the hive to kill the
bees, not as a fire accelerant. There is sufficient wax in the combs
to fuel the fire.
Check to see if all the adult bees are immobilized. If additional
treatment is needed, repeat with sufficient diesel fuel to wet the
remaining adult bees.
Burning AFB Colonies
- Obtain a fire permit from the local authorities.
- Dig a hole that will contain the fire and will also ensure
that any infected material not completely destroyed by burning
will be buried so that foraging bees will not find it. The site
should be far enough away from healthy hives and fences or buildings
to avoid accidents, since beehives burn very vigorously and flames
can reach two-three times the height of the stack. Windy conditions
should also be avoided and especially swirling winds around sheltered
apiaries. It is also very important to clear the surrounding area
of any combustible material, since the fire, once under way, will
become very intense.
- The hole should be about one metre (three feet) in diameter
(or larger if there are several hives to be burned) and at least
30 centimetres (one foot) deep. The bottom should slope to provide
a sump for unburned, infected honey so that it does not choke
- The diseased hive should then be carried to a position nearby
the hole, about three metres (nine feet), but far enough away
so that the hive does not ignite once the fire gets under way.
Care should be taken to avoid dropping dead bees or honey on the
ground. If practical, the complete hive should be carried into
position in the hole. Otherwise, individual boxes can be brought
to the site one by one in the upturned lid.
- It is also very important to take safety precautions should
the fire begin to get out of hand. A fire extinguisher is recommended,
and a shovel and water should always be within easy reach.
- To start the fire, it is best to use rolled up newspaper and
a few dried twigs to create a small blaze. Once this is under
way, two frames should be chosen that are relatively free of honey.
These are propped up against each other in an A-frame over the
blaze. The fire will begin to melt and then ignite the beeswax
in the frames, and the flames and heat will intensify. The fire
can then be fed several frames at a time, taking care to ensure
that the fire does not become too intense.
- It is important not to put whole boxes of frames onto
the fire. If the frames are still soaked with diesel fuel, an
explosion can occur, with the potential to cause both injury and
accidental fires. Diesel fuel should never be used to accelerate
- If, for whatever reason, diesel fuel-soaked material must be
ignited, a diesel fuel trail should be made leading about two
metres from the hole containing the material. A screwed-up piece
of newspaper should then be lit and placed at the end of the diesel
fuel trail. Diesel fuel-soaked material in a hole should never
be lit directly, since if the operator is leaning over the material,
the diesel fuel vapour trapped in the hole will create an explosion
which could lead to serious injury.
- Burn all combs (including combs with honey) in the colonies
identified with disease.
- Frames with honey should not be put onto the fire all at once,
and should be put around the edge of the fire rather than on top
of it. Full frames of honey can sometimes douse the flames. As
well, the honey may not completely burn unless there is sufficient
other material to fuel the fire.
- Burn all bottom boards.
- Lids and floorboards can be angled into the pile on the edge
of the hole. A wind tunnel should be left to assist burning.
- Burn any other parts of the colony that have diesel fuel on
- It is very important to supervise the fire as long as it continues
to burn. This may take two-three hours for a one-two box hive
and four-five hours for a three-four box hive. When the fire has
burned down to embers, the remains should be fully covered with
all the soil removed from the hole and the grass sod replaced
- All other parts that do not have diesel fuel on them (boxes,
inner covers, hive lids and queen excluders) must be well flamed
with an open flame (propane torch) before allowing exposure to
honey bees again.
There is only one organization that will irradiate equipment in
Ontario. Contact Steve Bowman at 905-432-1106 in Whitby, Ontario
and he will make arrangements with Steris Isomedix Corporation.
- All honey should be extracted prior to irradiation of equipment.
Use a specially designated small extractor, that is not used for
the regular honey operation, for this purpose.
- Containers used for extracting honey should be labelled with
"honey contains AFB".
- Frames with AFB, frames with no honey, boxes, inner covers
and hive lids are acceptable for irradiation. Also send smokers,
coveralls and gloves to irradiation.
- If irradiation is a viable option, the combs must be removed
from the colony without the use of diesel fuel.
- Set up the bottom board from the colony and put an empty box
on it that can be burnt.
- Select at least three combs from the colony to be destroyed
and hang them in the empty box. Use the cull equipment to allow
the bees to cluster in the empty box.
- Allow the bees time to cluster within the box.
- Destroy the bees as above by burning the bees and bottom boards.
- Put the equipment that has not been exposed to diesel fuel
in plastic bags and cardboard boxes and seal as instructed by
Steve Bowman. Maximum weight per container cannot exceed 22 kilograms
(50 pounds). It is important that healthy bees do not have access
to any contaminated equipment.
- Ship the sealed containers directly to Steve Bowman in Whitby
- Steve Bowman will ship the equipment directly back to the beekeeper
once irradiation is complete.
- The beekeeper shall retain a copy of the irradition certificate
supplied by Steris Isomedix Corporation and the irradition certificate
shall be made available to the bee inspector upon request.
- All irradiated equipment must be clearly marked as irradiated
before being put back into use.
For more information, please contact:
Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
Food Inspection Branch
1 Stone Road West, 5th Floor NW
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 4Y2
Tel: (519) 826-3595 Fax: (519) 826-4375 Toll Free: 1 888 466-2372
This InfoSheet is provided for information purposes only. The
Government of Ontario does not accept any liability for any damages
or injury that result from use of or reliance upon it. Individual
circumstances will dictate that you seek your own advisor or expert
to determine the appropriateness of the information in this InfoSheet
for your situation before making any decision regarding personal
protective clothing and equipment or any protective or precautionary
measures, procedures or policies. Use of this document does not
relieve employers and workers of their respective obligations.