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Introduction to bio-security and apiary hygiene
Bio-security is by far our greatest potential problem as a group. This is because we will be using bees from one or more colonies and moving them to other sites followed by further movement and creating drones which will mate with others' new queens.
Queen rearing is the most risky of all beekeeping activities in terms of spreading disease and exposing colonies to importation of disease from colonies and other third party apiaries.
Good apiary hygiene should be taken as read and all members should be familiar with and implement the guidance set out by the NBU in particular the following Fact Sheets are most relevant:-
Guidance note number and title:
- 3 Second Hand Equipment (use guidance here for all your own equipment as well)
- 4 Containing Disease: apply principles as required to mating apiaries
- 5 Replacing Old Comb, especially for mini-nucs and breeder colonies
- 6 Apiary Hygiene and Quarantine
- 26 EFB control (principles in here need to be applied to queen rearing colonies and mini-nucs).
- 31 Disinfection
- 32 Plastic Hives (principles here to be applied given mini-nuc use and use of polystyrene hives)
also refer to BBKA guidance L012 Apiary Hygiene
Disease: Site Risk Assessments
Each site, whether the mating apiary, or especially those which are used for queen rearing should be assessed for identified risks associated with that site’s characteristics and monitored for diseases outbreaks within the locality
This requires all participating member’s sites to be registered on Bee Base as a matter of course, including all those of participating members of organisations involved with B4. (CBIBBG, BipCo, Paradise Park, Heligan, Paignton Zoo, Eden, Duchy Nurseries).
All beekeepers should be vigilant for disease, however, where beekeeping activities are exposed to potential exotic importations there should be greater caution with inspections and bee movements. Paignton Zoo and Paradise Park could be exposed to exotic fauna and flora that could be a source of exotic contamination, for instance, small Hive Beetle. Movements of bees out of these sites should be assessed for exotic contamination first and regular monitoring undertaken and recorded
Members involved in these sites should enquire over the source of fauna and flora and specialist feed or exchange breeding programmes in operation so as to be aware of the potential sources of contamination which may inadvertently bring exotic pests in. Members close to airports, ports or estuaries used for moorings or nurseries, garden centres should also be vigilant.
For the mating apiary only mini nucs to be used no standard frame nuclei other than the donor drone colonies.
Bio Security when creating mini-nucs
- All components to be cleaned and sterilised before use and in-between batches of queens
- No re-use of frames and wax from previous batches/years i.e. new wax for each batch of queens
- Source colonies for the bees priming the nucs to be checked for disease first and donor colonies and apiaries recorded for each mini-nuc
- Breeding colonies to be regularly checked for signs of diseases
- Once queens mated, then a minimum of two brood cycles (preferably three) should be allowed to develop, so that both adult and all stages of brood can be assessed. Bees and brood in the mini-nucs to be checked for disease before removal from mating apiary. Apply usual protocols if notifiable diseases found, they can crop up in small colonies too.
- UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE MATING MINI NUCS TO BE BROUGHT INTO MATING APAIRY WHERE BROOD IS PRESENT OR ON COMB THAT HAS HAD BROOD REARED (exceptions only allowed for breeding source drone nucs and only only from those inspected by site manager prior to importation)
- Do not use unknown swarms for priming mini nucs/apidea, they may draw comb well but you do not know what they have.
- Grafting procedures should ensure all components are sterilised first i.e. frames, cell cups grafting equipment and tools incubator frames etc. before use
- When grafting preferably use royal jelly from the rearing hive if not from a clean colony in the breeding mating apiary - do not import royal jelly into an apiary. NB many grafters use no jelly, some use plain water. Experiment to find what works best for you.
- Check all grafts for signs of disease at open early stage and ensure each graft has been given sufficient Royal Jelly by the bees.
- Check newly emerged virgins for physical impairments and destroy those with any abnormalities
- Check for black queen cell virus amongst non-emerged cells and do not rear from those exposed to the virus
- Ensure incubator breeder colony is free from varroa: treat if necessary; remove honey as required by treatment regime
Records for Batches of Queens
The following key information should be recorded:
- Donor queens origins
- Date of batch
- How many grafts taken
- How many successful
- How many emerge
- How many mated
- How many culled & reasons
- How many good queens produced (NB approximately 1 in 10 queens are likely to be what you really want
- All queens to be numbered by disc
- Treatments needed to be recorded either by batch or individually
Colony and Progeny characteristics
- Queen/Colony records
- Record characteristics of the progeny, morphometry etc. and DNA where applicable
- Natural Cell Size - sizes of worker and drone brood cells produced naturally can be recorded on Mini-Nucs easily
- Colony Cohesiveness - how mini colonies thrive build up etc.
- Usual recording systems for inspections (Do we need to unify these?)
Sharing Mating Apiaries
When sharing Mating Apiaries ensure all aspects of your beekeeping follow best practice for bio-security as defined by the group and the NBU. Individual members have the final say over the use of their apiaries.
All mating nucs brought in need to have the following information on them
Beekeeper ref : initials
Source colony for bees and Apiary
Source colony for queen
Ideally no newly mated queens and their mini mating nucs/Apidea should be moved from the mating site until 1 brood cycle to allow for assessment of potential disease. Once inspected to be visibly clear of notifiable diseases this to be logged.
If any member suspects they have a notifiable disease outbreak, statutory notification of Bee Inspectorate is required. Members are also obliged to inform members of the group as well, so that extra vigilance can be applied to participating members and partners to avoid spreading diseases.
In line with best practice if a quarantine apiary is required it is the member’s responsibility to seek appropriate license for relocation of bee stocks and equipment.
Ideally the mating site Apiary manager to inspect all mini-nucs before being removed to give the all-clear on any diseases or the owner to certify the unit is clear.
Selling or Distributing Queens Nuclei
DO NOT SELL QUEENS NUCLEI IF THERE ARE ANY CONCERNS OVER NOTIFIABLE DISEASES IN ANY OF YOUR APIARIES UNTIL THE BEE INSPECTOR HAS GIVEN YOUR OVERALL OPERATION THE ALL-CLEAR
WHERE THERE ARE CONCERNS WITH DISEASE iN YOUR PATCH CONFIRM IF THE BEE INSPECTOR IS HAPPY FOR YOU TO SELL QUEENS AND NUCLEI etc.
Information to be recorded when selling bees and Queens.
- Record batch of queen and number
- Source of mating apiary
- Use sterilised queen cages
- To whom it was sold: their address etc
- Date sent
- Purpose e.g. amateur/professional/research
- Provide advice on queen introduction and or a copy of the guidance note from BBKA B9 Queen Introduction
When selling Nuclei record same information as for queen sales and adhere to the best practice note L014 produced by the BBKA Standard and Guidance Notes for Nuclei
Comeback Any member who knowingly exposes other members to risk from
This guidance to be reviewed by B4 Team and members of Cornwall Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders' Group and BIPCo as required. Comments welcome.
Prepared by R.D.Dewhurst.