In 2011, numerous bee colonies in the Bavarian community of Eichenau were infected by the American foul brood. After extensive control measures, the dangerous bee disease now seems to be defeated for the time being. However, the pathogens can still be transmitted decades after the actual outbreak, so that further occurrences in the region can be expected in the future.
The American foul brood is a bacterial breeding disease that affects the larvae of honey bees. The American foul brood is fatal to the bee larvae, whole bee colonies perish when the pathogens spread in the beehive. In Eichenau, the American foul brood occurred last year at an apiary with around 20 bee colonies. The countermeasures initiated immediately, however, have apparently been successful. During the most recent inspections, no traces of the American foul brood were found in any bee colony in the Fürstenfeldbruck district - the epidemic is therefore considered to have died out, reports the "Süddeutsche Zeitung".
Outbreak of the bee disease in 2011 After the notifiable animal disease was found in August 2011 at an apiary in Eichenau in the Fürstenfeldbruck district, the responsible authorities established a restricted area within a radius of one kilometer from the affected apiary. All beekeepers within the restricted area - a total of ten - had to ensure that none of their 60 bee colonies left the restricted area. No new peoples were allowed to be brought into the area from outside. The infested brood was destroyed, the old incubators boiled or burned with caustic soda. The clinically unsuspecting bees were moved to a disinfected new box. This was followed in autumn 2011 and spring 2012 by controls on the remaining bee colonies in the restricted area. The results of the last investigation were negative, so that the outbreak of the American foul brood in the municipality of Eichenau is now considered extinguished.
American foulbrood can break out again at any time However, the victory over the American foulbrood is by no means final, because the pathogens form so-called endospores, which remain in the infested brood comb for decades and can cause a new outbreak of the bee disease at any time. The endospores also get into the honey during processing, which contributes significantly to the spread of the pathogens. For example, the head of the Veterinary Office in Bruck, Bavaria, Hans Werner Merk, warned the Süddeutsche Zeitung against the spread of American foul brood through honey jars that were not rinsed out in the glass containers. The sweet smell of the honey jars attract local bees, which subsequently become infected with the American foulbrood, the expert explained. Merk therefore appealed to consumers to always clean the honey jars thoroughly before throwing them away. However, beekeepers are also asked to always close beehives that are no longer occupied, as the pathogens of the bee disease can slumber in wax.
Cheap honey as the reason for the spread of bee disease? The chairman of the beekeeping association for Fürstenfeldbruck and the surrounding area, Reinhard Biller, emphasized to the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" that the American foul brood can break out again and again in Germany, "as long as consumers prefer foreign cheap honey to local honey." The reason for this is that in In the United States, where a large part of the imported honey comes from, infested bee colonies are treated with antibiotics so that, despite the spread of the American foulbrood, they can fulfill their most important task - dusting the fields. However, antibiotics only help in the active growth phase of the pathogen, but not against the endospores. These are still present in the beehives and get into the honey during processing, where, according to the experts, they can survive for around a year.
The pathogens are then transmitted to other peoples via the empty honey jars. The American foulbrood generally does not pose a danger to humans, other living beings or adult bees, but the bee larvae usually do not survive an infection. Since the pathogens spread relatively quickly, whole bee colonies can disappear within a short time due to a lack of offspring.
Bees threatened by various factors In addition to the American foulbrood, numerous other risks threaten the existence of bees, particularly the Varroa mite, but also the growing pollution with environmental toxins. The Varroa mite is considered to be the main trigger of the epidemic bee death seen in Germany in recent years. The tiny parasites attach to the bees or their larvae and feed on their host. For the latter, this infestation often has fatal consequences. The associated dramatic decline in the bee population has caused concern among experts worldwide. Because bees have a significant influence on food production. If the bees are missing, fruit trees and fields are not pollinated, "the natural balance begins to falter," warned Reinhard Biller. (fp)
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