StonebroodStonebrood is another fungal disease that affects the honey bees. In spite of being a minor and less encountered disease it should be not overlooked by beekeepers since it stresses and weakens the bee families making them prone to other more dangerous bee diseases. It is considered that the fungus named Aspergillus Flavus is the pathogen agent causing the stonebrood disease. The spores of Aspergillus Flavus might be present within a bee family without causing damage to it.
The disease is spread outside the hive by drifting, robbing or swarming honey bees. Beekeepers also transmit the disease through their beekeeping tools or by moving combs that contain Aspergillus Flavus in hives inhabited by healthy families.
SymptomsLarvae that died because of this disease are mummified like those that have died because of chalkbrood. However, the stonebrood disease makes the infected individuals green or yellow. The spores are more numerous in the vicinity of the head of the infested larvae. The fungus forms a sort of green ring near the larva head. The mummies are solid, hard to crush and they do not have the sponge appearance typical for the chalkbrood disease. In the end the pathogen fungus comes out from the integument of its host and creates a fake skin. The dead larvae are removed from the cell combs by the adult bees. It is not uncommon to find green mummified larvae on the hive floor or at the entrance of the hive.
Control and treatmentThe disease is not difficult to identify. Diagnosis can be put by inspecting the frames where the brood lives and the debris find on the hive floor. If the honeybees are gently pushed aside it is easy to spot the cell containing larva that died due to stonebrood infestation. The fungi that cause the disease might affect humans. For this reason it is advisable to destroy the heavily infected combs and honey that comes from infected hives should not be sold for human consumption. It is believed that the fungus causing stonebrood can trigger respiratory diseases in both humans and animals.
There is no chemical treatment for Stonebrood. Thus, prevention is the only solution to have healthy, stonebrood-free colonies. The hives and all the beekeeping tools must be clean so as to prevent infestation. The dead larvae must be removed and the combs that are severely infested must be taken away. The hives have to be well ventilated and equipped with new frames that also have a new foundation. It is not advisable to let bees pass the winter in an over-crowded hive. If bees do not produce enough honey they should be given food supplements. Hygiene is the key for having healthy bee families and the only available method to fight Stonebrood and other bee diseases.
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