No more foulbrood cases in Kangaroo Island hives

Bee hives in the aftermath of the 2019-2020 Kangaroo Island bushfires. Photo Island Beehive
Bee hives in the aftermath of the 2019-2020 Kangaroo Island bushfires. Photo Island Beehive

There has been no more detection of the disease American foulbrood in Kangaroo Island bee hives.

But honey producers are cautious because bees are dormant this time of year, which would have slowed any spread of the disease.

Beekeepers on Kangaroo Island back in May were asked to remain vigilant following a single detection of foulbrood in hives on the Island.

AFB is a notifiable bacterial disease that kills honeybee brood, resulting in the weakening and eventual death of affected hives.

Peter Davis of Island Beehive said additional tests of hives had not detected any more cases, but any spread of the disease may not be known until spring.

PIRSA inspectors had visited bee-keeping operations for inspections and make sure "everyone stuck to the rules".

Been keepers were advised to keep their hives tidy and to plug up any holes to prevent neighbouring bees conducting raids and robbing honey, potentially spreading the disease.

Mr Davis said the detection of the disease highlighted the importance of biosecurity, as it was likely the bacteria arrived in honey or contaminated beekeeping equipment.

Beekeepers optimistic

About 30 per cent of Kangaroo Island beehives were lost in the summer bushfires, and while surviving hives are being maintained, the mass loss of vegetation has meant recovery will be a slow process.

Read the full report from the Stock Journal: Apiarists hopeful of better outlook

With no bee products allowed onto KI, apiarists are having to rebuild numbers from remaining hives, using flowering resources that have been severely depleted.

Peter Davis, who owns Island Beehive, based in Kingscote, lost 500 hives in the fires said it was a struggle to find suitable sites for bees on the island, with the most heavily vegetated areas having been lost.

"A lot of the new sites we've put bees on didn't have a lot of productivity so the hives actually went backwards," he said.

The SA Apiarists Association raised $75,000 to help provide and send inverted sugars and pollen supplements to KI apiarists, which Mr Davis said would be fed to try to optimise production in existing hives.

He said vegetation burnt out in fires on KI in 2007 had only just started to be productive areas for hive placement in the past few years, and he expected a similar timeframe following the 2019-20 fires.

He said it was vital that controlled burning was to occur in the future, to mitigate vegetation clearance if another fire was to occur.

Throwing another spanner in the works, a honey sample returned positive for American Foulbrood on KI earlier in the year. There has been no formal identification of the disease, and thorough checking of hives is under way to in an attempt eradicate the disease before it spreads.