Welsh bees threatened by deadly disease American Foulbrood

Bee hive
Image caption The chief bee inspector for Wales said it was vital keepers let authorities know how many hives they have

Concern has been growing over the spread of a deadly disease among the Welsh bee population.

American Foulbrood (AFB) is a highly-infectious disease which is caused by spore-forming bacteria transferred to the bees through infected food.

It is described as the most widespread and destructive of all the bee brood diseases with no cure.

If detected the whole hive including the bees and honey have to be destroyed.

Image caption Gruffydd Rees says destroying his hive was one of the hardest things he’s had to do

Gruffydd Rees, who has been keeping bees for almost 10 years at Dryslwyn, Carmarthenshire, said he was devastated by the loss of one of his hives last week.

“I’ve had training in spotting disease and infection, so I knew straight away that something wasn’t right,” he said.

“It was a really strong colony but I could tell there was a problem.”

Mr Rees said destroying the hive was was one of the hardest things he has had to do.

He added: “I had to wait until it was dark so that all the bees were back in the hive, pour in a can of petrol to kill them then burn the hive and all the frames.”

Cases of AFB have been recorded in the UK for many years, but figures suggest that new cases are on the rise.

According to the UK government’s BeeBase database there have been 14 new cases in Wales so far this year compared to three in 2018 and 26 the year before.

Some of the highest numbers have been recorded in Pembrokeshire.

Beekeepers are legally obliged to notify the authorities if they suspect they may have a case.

Image caption Frank Gellatly is Wales’ chief bee inspector

Frank Gellatly, chief bee inspector for Wales, said it was vital beekeepers let authorities know how many hives they have and where they are located.

But Paul Eades, a member of Pembrokeshire Beekeepers Association, said anyone keeping bees commercially or privately should have to register their hives.

“Disease like AFB can spread quickly within an area,” he said.

“We’ve been concerned about a number of new cases in Pembrokeshire this year and feel that Welsh Government should be making it compulsory for all keepers to register their hives.”

The Welsh Government said the issue of registration is under review by the European Union and the result of that “may require all beekeepers to register with the government, however details are still to be established”.

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