Bee Diseases

It is the responsibility of every beekeeper to protect our honeybee - an essential pollinator of crops and wild plants. Bees are subject to certain diseases, both of the brood and of the adult and the beekeeper should be very vigilant to ensure that hygiene standards and good apiary management are maintained. There is the satisfaction of good animal husbandry knowing the bees are well fed, healthy and housed in dry hives safe from pests.

Hindering the spread of Disease:

  • Never feed bees honey from another source.
  • Arrange hives to reduce drifting and robbing.
  • Never leave supers open or frames out for bees to clean out. If you wish to dry combs return them to their own colony.
  • Routinely sterilise brood combs not in use with 80% acetic acid when the temperature exceeds 15 C.
  • Do not overstock an area - be content with 2/3 hives in an area with little forage as in so doing you are lessening stress, whereas in a good area up to 10 hives may be kept on one site.
  • During manipulation take care not to crush the bees, as this is one means by which nosema spores are spread as the house bees clean up the mess.
  • Do not exchange frames of brood or honey between colonies unless you are sure they are disease free.
  • Rear replacement queens from strong colonies, as in this way you are selecting for disease resistance.
  • Know the signs of foul brood and other diseases. It is good practice to devote at least one examination each year to look at the brood for any signs of abnormality. A good time to do this is when the colony is queenless or has a virgin queen. You will have to remove the bees from each comb as you look at it by shaking over the open hive.

Sampling for Disease:
The beekeeper should send samples of bees - in the case of adult diseases, and comb - in the case of brood diseases, for disease diagnosis. This is the only reliable method of disease detection. Currently there is a €5 per bee / comb sample; €10 per comb + bee sample from the same colony for this service. Cheques or postal order must be made payable to Dr. Mary Coffey. Send the samples to:

Dr Mary Coffey,
Bee Disease Diagnostic Services,
Oak Park,

In order to test for adult bee diseases, a sample of 30 bees is required. The sample can be collected in a match box by partly protruding the tray, holding it nearly flat over the bees, on the crown board or at the front entrance, and drawing it back with a sweeping movement. Bees can be killed by placing them in the freezer for 24 hours before posting. Label each sample showing apiary, hive number together with your name and address. On no account should plastic containers be used as the bees decompose rapidly in these containers.

If the beekeeper suspects any of the brood diseases are present in the hives then, the full frame containing suspect brood from the hives should be sent also in a paper container. The sample should contain sealed, dead and/or discoloured brood if possible. It would assist diagnosis if the cappings were not damaged (ie squashed in the post).

To conclude, the beekeeper should keep up to date with new developments especially in the control of varroa and when necessary treat with an approved product at the proper rate and for the appropriate time.

Beekeepers should familiarise themselves with FIBKA Policy on Foul Brood Disease and FIBKA Guidelines on Varroa Destructor.



Co. Waterford beginners course

Co. Waterford BKA will be holding their classes for beginners starting Tuesday 21st February at Coláiste Cathal Naofa. For more information and outline of course, click here

South Tipp Beginners' Course

South Tipp BKA are holding a beginners course in beekeeping starting Saturday 8th April. For more for information on registration and what will be covered, click here

Trees for bees

**ALL TREES ARE NOW ALLOCATED** Those of you who ordered tree saplings should have already received a confirmation email by now, if not, contact Eamon at his email address

Well Done Ryan!

A Junior member of the Lake County BKA, Ryan Nea, has made it to the All Ireland Science competition and came 2nd in his college with a device which alerts beekeepers when a hive is about to swarm.......Story and picture of the young chap is the LCBKA facebook page

Gorey BKA Beginners Course

Gorey BKA Beginners Course, run by Ben Harden NBD, starts on Tuesday 4th April and continues for 4 more Tuesdays, followed by practicals in the association apiary. Venue: The Teagasc Centre, Fort Road, Gorey. Time: 8pm. Duration: approx 1hr. Bee suits are available for the practicals if required. For further details contact the secretary Aine Roche at

Connemara BKA Beginners Course

The Connemara Beekeepers Association are holding their beginners course in beekeeping. The course will be run in the GRETB (VEC) building in Oughterard. It start on Tuesday, 21st Feb, at 7:30pm. for more info, or bookings, please contact Ken Figgis, our education officer. Email or phone 095 41092

Bee Research Project!

FIBKA are co operating with CIT to run a beehealth project to improve the genetic diversity of Irish honey bee stocks, funding needed either corporate or individual. Click here for more info!

Kilkenny Beginners Course!

It will run for the 4 Wednesday nights (15 Feb, 22 Feb, 1st March, 8 March) from 7.30 to 9.00 covering topics such as
Beekeeping Equipment, The occupants of the hive, The beekeeping year, honey harvesting and planting for bees and pollinators.

This will be followed a number of practical sessions during the rest of the year at our own Apiary and at other Apiaries where you will get first hand experience with colonies of Bees

Contact Jer Keohane for further details