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Bee diseases

10. September 2015. | Discussion

Bienen Krankheiten

Bees also can be affected with diseases which can cause substantial damage to bee brood and honeycombs. If the beekeeper does not treat the disease, honeybees would die. Following information is all that needs to be known in this regard.

Bee diseases of great importance

The most frequent bee disease called varroa, respective varroose, is widespread and mostly feared. Originating from India varroa mite is a parasite that harms adult bees as well as bee brood.  Owing to the world trade with bee material the mite has reached also Europe. Varroose causes large bee losses on a regular basis. To control it  is one of the greatest challenges of modern beekeeping. A healthy bee colony is capable of tolerating a certain number of mites without the consequence of infection. Bees infested with mites suffer from a deformity and sterility. If the beekeeper does not treat the colony against the mites, the number of infested bees will increase, which can result in dying out of the colony. The law on bee diseases stipulates that in the event of a disease outbreak the office veterinary should be immediately notified.

European and American foulbrood

Foulbrood is the most widespread bee brood disease caused by bacteria. Depending on the pathogenic agent it is made a distinction between the „bad one“, the American and the „good one“, the European foulbrood. For both diseases applies that the spreading of the pathogen can be caused by a material contaminated with the foulbrood spores, for instance by infested combs, beehive (or parts of it), beekeeping equipment, and especially honey. In case of an even slightest suspicion of the disease it is unadvisable to initiate switching a bee colony on a fresh set of combs. Likewise bees are not to be fed with external and most of all imported honey. The American foulbrood is listed as a compulsorily notifiable disease. The infested bee colonies, depending on the severity of contamination, must be whether destructed or the disease could be controlled by means of the building of artificial swarms (without brood). Contaminated material in any case has to be disposed or sanitized.


Nosema is a honeybee disease caused by single celled fungal parasites. The latter belong to the microsporidian. It invades mostly adult bees and is highly contagious. The spores are ingested with food, through watering places and while cleansing of the combs or other beehive parts. Small number of spores does not produce an infection. After ingestion the spores reach into the midgut of bees where they cause substantial deterioration of the intestinal epithelium.  As a result the metabolic performance of the bees is considerably reduced. Symptoms of the infection are yellow and brown sung spots inside the beehive as well as onto the combs. The outbreak of nosema is associated with unfavorable conditions such as bad weather or insufficient pollen supply, or inappropriate beehive location etc.

Bee disease prevention

First and foremost, bees’ health is affected by the living conditions and the environmental impact. A certain short-sightedness and unawareness have led to the situation that numerous bee diseases had spread out worldwide as a result of the import and export. Therefore, beekeeping material should be bought with great attention and due care. Local vets have to be notified of restricted areas where diseases have already spread out. These particularly endangered zones are to be avoided. Nevertheless, if a bee disease breaks out, depending on the severity, the beekeeper must take respective measures in order to protect the not infested bee colonies and prevent further spread of the disease. Often an emergency destruction of beekeeping material may be necessary.