Preventing spread of American foulbrood disease

Page last updated: Wednesday, 23 November 2022 - 2:39pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Points to note


While frames can be sent for irradiation, brood and wooden frames are difficult to clean properly so should be burnt. Wax-dipping of frames is not an effective method of decontamination.

Hive lids

Lids should be irradiated or burnt. The wax-dipping process increases their weight because the masonite component of the lids absorbs the paraffin wax. In addition, when wax-dipped lids are re-used, the trapped wax can melt and run down the outside of the hive in hot weather.

Hive bottoms

High-rise bottom boards, bottom boards and  internal grates made of masonite or wood should be irradiated or burnt.

Metal bottom boards can be decontaminated by irradiation, wax dipping or steam cleaning or by being dipped in 5% sodium hypochlorite and placed in boiling water for more than 10 minutes. Any metal contact with hypochlorite needs thorough rinsing otherwise it will corrode.


Where a pallet is used to form the entrance of a hive it should be decontaminated using a blow lamp/torch.

Queen excluders

Plastic queen excluders cannot be cleaned effectively and should be irradiated or burnt. Metal excluders can be cleaned and decontaminated by irradiation, steam or the use of sodium hypochlorite as for metal bottom boards.

Decontamination by irradiation

Gamma irradiation is an effective treatment for killing spores. The gamma rays penetrate cells and break down DNA strands so bacterial growth cannot occur. It leaves no residue and the bee equipment can be re-used immediately.

The hive boxes must be thoroughly cleaned on the outside (use a high-pressure hose) prior to being stacked into doubles or triples with the lid and base. The unit must  be double-bagged or shrink-wrapped so that it is sealed, then strapped tightly together. Each unit should not weigh more than 25kg. The units can then be stacked onto a 1200mm x 1240mm pallet. The height should be less than 2m and the whole thing not more than 1000kg. Beekeepers should clearly label each box for easy  identification.

The pallets must be transported to the irradiation facility in a bee-proof container. Contact Steritech for more information.

Contact information

Pest and Disease Information Service (PaDIS)
+61 (0)8 9368 3080