Keepers urged to be on the lookout for deadly disease

A common test for AFB is to insert a matchstick into the dead brood and if there is a ‘rope’ AFB could present. Image: Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright

Beekeepers have been urged to look out for discoloured brood and dead larvae, both symptoms of NSW’s most serious brood disease of honey bees, American foulbrood (AFB).

The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) today declared October as AFB Awareness Month – a month-long campaign dedicated to educating beekeepers across the state about the fatal and incurable disease.

DPI Manager Plant Biosecurity Prevention and Preparedness, Dr Chris Anderson, said the aim of the campaign is to prompt all NSW beekeepers to check their hives this October.

“Any hive can contract AFB and the disease can decimate an apiary, resulting in severe impacts not just for the individual, but across our primary industries,” he said.

“We hope that AFB Awareness Month not only increases awareness of AFB, but also promotes best management practices throughout the commercial and recreational beekeeping industries.”

The theme for the month is ‘Inspect, Test, Notify, Act’, prompting keepers to get on the front foot with monitoring their bees on a regular basis.

“If NSW beekeepers suspect that one or more of their hives is infected, DPI offers a testing service for diagnosis,” he said.

Initial infection of AFB showing a few cells which are sunken and have chewed through cappings. Image: Doug Somerville, NSW DPI

“They can also pick up a field diagnostic AFB test kit from beekeeping supply outlets, or give the DPI Biosecurity Helpline a call on (02) 9741 4790 between 9am to 5pm on NSW business days to discuss symptoms.”

Dr Anderson said the disease is a notifiable disease under the NSW Biosecurity Act 2015, which means that once detected, beekeepers must legally notify DPI within one working day.

“Beekeepers can and should regularly take action to minimise the potential danger of AFB in their colonies, and the DPI website offers a range of tips for doing so.”

If you suspect your hive is infected with AFB, call the Biosecurity Helpline on 02 9741 4790 between 9am to 5pm on NSW business days or complete an online form at any time.

For more information on AFB, its symptoms and best practices, visit

AFB Awareness Month is a joint initiative between NSW DPI and the Amateur Beekeepers Association NSW​, the North Shore Beekeepers Association, NSW Apiarists’ Association and Steritech with generous support from Hunter Valley Apiaries.

Reproduced from a media release by New South Wales Department of Primary Industries

Media contact: Laura Hutton (02) 6024 8837 or 0427 652 088