One has an advantage if the beekeeper can purchase brand new hive equipment, install package bees, and maintain them perpetually in isolation from other apiaries. This, however, is not always practical or realistic. It always makes good sense to practice sanitation practices such as washing hands and hive tools between apiaries, avoiding used hive equipment of unknown or suspicious history, and avoiding feeding bees honey from unknown sources.
It is possible to breed for bees that are genetically resistant to AFB and other diseases. One of the most important characteristics in bees is the so-called hygienic behavior, the ability to detect and remove from the colony abnormal cells of brood. Hygienic queens are available from nationally-advertised queen breeders. See advertisements listed in American Bee Journal , Bee Culture , and Speedy Bee .
Another tactic for preventing AFB and a similar disease, European foulbrood, is biennial treatments of the veterinary antibiotic Terramycin. It is fed as a mixture in either powdered sugar, sugar syrup, or in vegetable oil extender patties. For Georgia, Terramycin treatments are recommended for September and again in February. It is important to never feed Terramycin within four weeks of a nectar flow to avoid contaminating honey for human consumption.
There has been recent evidence in this country for bacterial resistance to Terramycin. One of the suspected causes for this development is the sharp increase in use by beekeepers of the medicated vegetable oil extender patty. Bees do not always consume the patties rapidly which leads to a situation in which antibiotic lingers in the hive for weeks or even months. Resistance was not a problem in this country prior to the widespread use of extender patties in the 1990s. For these reasons it is recommended that Georgia beekeepers remove all uneaten portions of medicated extender patties after patties have been in the hive for one month. Another antibiotic, Tylosin (brand name Tylan), is also available for use but one must follow the directions and measurements closely when mixing and applying to colonies.
AFB is regulated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, and infected colonies are normally burned by state inspectors [link: ]. As state budgets allow, beekeepers may be indemnified for these losses. The spores of the AFB bacterium are extremely persistent in contaminated comb and hive parts. Although resistant bee colonies may clean up visible signs of infestation, it is more typical for AFB to be incurable and essentially doom the colony. Beekeepers should never maintain a hospital yard in which they group AFB colonies together in isolation. Such yards simply serve as reservoirs of disease that will serve to contaminate apiaries for miles around. It is equally inadvisable to treat infected colonies with Terramycin. The antibiotic will simply obscure visible signs of the disease, but the symptoms will rapidly recur once the antibiotic is removed.