Queen bees with good hygiene to help beat brood diseases

Brood test: Rapid hygienic behavior testing should help limit pest and disease incursions.
Brood test: Rapid hygienic behavior testing should help limit pest and disease incursions.

Apiarists are being encouraged to test queen bees to see if their hives can find and uncap American foul brood.

The practice, developed by the Honey Bee and Pollination Program, is called rapid hygienic behavior testing and it should help limit pest and disease incursions.

Lindsay Bourke from Australian Honey Products in Launceston, Tasmania, explained his technique for testing bees for hygienic behavior in a “how-to” video.

“A bee with rapid hygienic behavior gets less American foul brood and they will also be set up to be able to detect varroa destructor compared to a bee that doesn’t have it,” he said.

“We all want queens who have less brood diseases, and they’re the ones that have rapid hygienic testing.”

In the video, Mr Bourke demonstrates step-by-step how to apply liquid nitrogen to the brood. This practice temporarily freezes the brood allowing a beekeeper to then test the percentage of cells the bees uncap.

Hive testing: Lindsay Bourke and his team from Australian Honey Products in Launceston, Tasmania, explained his technique for testing bees for hygienic behavior in a “how to” video.

Hive testing: Lindsay Bourke and his team from Australian Honey Products in Launceston, Tasmania, explained his technique for testing bees for hygienic behavior in a “how to” video.

“If 95 per cent of the brood tested is uncapped 24 hours later, then that indicates a wonderful queen to breed from,” Mr Bourke said.

AgriFutures Australia program manager for research and innovation, Melanie Bradley, said protecting industry biosecurity and bolstering healthy queen bee breeding lines is a crucial focus for industry.

“The honey bee and pollination sector is acutely aware that varroa is very much on our doorstep,” Dr Bradley said.

“Anything that can be done to ensure a healthy and profitable pollination sector must be considered.”

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