Bee health management

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Note: Most of the content was retrieved from the books "Beekeeping Manual for beginners" by Holeta Bee Research Center and the APIRE project [1]. and from "Advanced Beekeeping Manual by Ethiopian Beekeepers Association and Netherlands Development Organization (SNV-Ethiopia).[2]

Two main groups of diseases were described: the ones affecting the bee brood and the ones that affect the adult bees. If a beekeeper inspects a colony and observes a disease, the disease transfer from the sick to the healthy bee colony must bee avoided

To avoid disease transfer between colonies:

  • do not use the same equipment used for the sick colony
  • do not transfer frames from a sick to a healthy colony
  • avoid feeding honey or pollen from a sick colony to a healthy colony

Further reasons of transfer:

  • purchasing used equipment or colonies
  • splitting colonies that carry diseases
  • amalgamate sick with healthy colonies.

Chalkbrood A. apis is transmitted to the bee colony by food and water, or through contaminated equipment or infected queens or worker bees. Cold or humid conditions also increases the risk of getting infected with A. apis. If a colony which is affected by chalkbrood does not have enough food, disease control is difficult. If a colony is already infected, cleaning the hive can help to control the disease. Further, the equipment should be disinfected (e.g. with fire) prior to and after manipulating the affected colony. Do not use frames of that colony for other colonies. Strengthen the colony by supplemental food and change the position of the hive into an area with more sunlight. Requeening the colony is also an option. Heavily affected frames should be removed and exchanged by frames with wax foundation.


Nosema: N. apis affects adult honey bees. Infected bees crawl on the floor, the entrance of the hives and on the frames and some fall down, unable to move. Affected bees decrease their nursing activities. The brood and the queen get undersupplied. If the queen is also infected, the egg laying activity also decreases. Sick bees are often observable by a swollen abdomen and an odd movement pattern. To control the disease and prevent it, the colonies should get enough food by either transferring them to an area with more available forage or by bridging dearth periods with supplemental food. Place with too much shadow or high humidity are also sub-optimal. Optional, the queen should be replaced by a new one. In severe cases only, chemical fumigants (e.g. Fumagillin) can be used as a treatment for the disease.


Varroa: The varroa mite sucks the haemolymphs and fat bodies of bees. Affected bees lose weight, and in a consequence of the infestation, their legs, wings or both can become paralyzed-they become unable to crawl or fly. In Europe, special Acaricides are used to kill most of the mites, but so far no method exists that frees the affected colony 100% from the mite. Besides, the transfer rate between colonies is also high and therefore the re-infestation. If using a chemical substance, always follow the instructions! Another, method to stop the spread of the disease is to disrupt the brood cycle by preventing queens from laying eggs, or removing brood frames.


Ants: Beekeepers in area prone to ant attacks need to protect their bees:

1. hang the beehive with ropes or with other materials on trees or on poles (traditional hives).

2. attach a smooth metal sheet to the stem of the tree or pole (traditional hives).

3. plaster the hive stands with cone shapped smooth iron sheets or used inner tubes of a tyre

4. sprinkle hot ash around the hive

5. look for the ants' nest and kill the queen and eggs (in case of a severe infestation)

6. clean the hive area and keep the grass short.

7. do not dispose any honey or wax near the apiary-this attracts ants and other organisms.


Wax moths Adult wax moths enter the colony and lay their eggs into the hive. Empty hives or wax storage facilities without bees are a great opportunity for the reproduction of wax moths. The freahly hatched wax moth larvae start to destroying the wax structures in the hive. If a bee colony is not strong enough, such an wax moth infestation may lead to severe problems. In tropical regions, colonies that are too weak to counteract often abscond. Besides observing the adult moths, its pupae or larvae, an infestation can also be recognized through moth waste or their silken webs (funnels). Management tipps:

1. remove old and dark honey combs.

2. clean the hives of infested and in a consequence absconded bees; melt the wax.

3. do not discard pieces of wax around the apiary.

4. remove combs, severely infected by wax moths.

5. the colony should be as strong as possible to defend themself. Offer supplemental food in post harvest seasons.

6. remove super during food shorage seasons.

7. Remove any cracks in the hives.

8. To reuse hives that are contaminated by wax moths, dip them in boiling water and wash them thoroughly.


Honey badger Honey badgers eat bees and bee products. Its tail is covered with fine long hair making bee stings ineffective. Repeated attacks result in colony absconding.

Management options to controll the honey badger:
1. fence the apiarry 2. use of guard dogs to scare the honey badgers away
3. tie hives onto firm objects
4. hang hives (traditional) on a tree or on poles.


  1. Holeta (unknown date). Beekeeping Manual for beginners.
  2. Ethiopian Beekeepers Association & SNV (2011). Advanced Beekeeping Manual. Express Printers PLC, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.