Diseases – Bee Informed!

As a beekeeper you are responsible for your bees’ well-being and need to be aware of how to keep them healthy with adequate knowledge and tools to deal with any health related problems your colonies may encounter. There are four distinct disease categories which may affect your bees and some of these are “notifiable” to the authorities.  These diseases are indiscriminate and could show up anywhere at any time.


The effect of varroa.

If you keep bees on the mainland UK, it is safe to assume you have varroa mites in your hives.  There is increasing debate about the best way to manage the co-existence of bees and mites and you will need to learn how to treat for varroa in your hives if you want to become a successful beekeeper.

Brood Diseases 

– these are evidenced by the appearance of the brood as seen in a Chalk Brood infestation however the two most serious diseases are American Foulbrood (AFB) and European FoulBrood (EFB).  Both these latter diseases are notifiable.   If any beekeeper suspects they may have found AFB or EFB, the Regional Bee Inspectors are ready to be called out for support and to check the colonies in the apiary. If an outbreak has occurred, the Inspector will contact all the other apiaries in a certain radius to make sure there has not been a spread.


Adult Bee Diseases

– these are usually identified by behavioural indications such as signs of dysentery on frame tops or on the outside of the hive which may indicate the presence of Nosema.



– Viruses can attack at different developing stages and castes of honey bees, including eggs, larvae, pupae, adult worker bees, adult drones, and queens. Although bee viruses usually persist as inapparent infections and cause no overt signs of disease, they can dramatically affect honey bee health and shorten the lives of infected bees under certain conditions.  The most common viruses in the UK are Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) associated with infestations of colonies with the varroa mite, Black Queen Cell Virus (BQCV), Sacbrood Virus (SBV), Acute bee paralysis virus (ABPV) and Chronic bee paralysis virus (CBPV).

DEFRA maintain a national system of inspection and advice for beekeepers, called the National Bee Unit and their BeeBase website focuses on protecting and sustaining our valuable bee stocks by providing a valuable source of apicultural information and support.  CSBKA recommend and encourage their members to register with the NBU on their BeeBase database.