Keeping your beehives free of disease

Page last updated: Wednesday, 23 November 2022 - 2:44pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

The protection of Western Australia’s economy, environment and people’s health by preventing the outbreak of exotic animal and plant pests and diseases is known as biosecurity.

Biosecurity also includes the eradication or control of those pests and diseases already present. Increasing standards of biosecurity will be needed to maintain market access and market competitiveness for agricultural products.

Beekeepers must adopt measures to minimise the entry and spread of harmful diseases or pests into their apiaries and to help safeguard their businesses.

Maintaining markets

Western Australia is free of a number of economically important bee diseases and pests present in eastern Australia such as European foulbrood. Australia remains free of varroa mites. Good biosecurity measures at national, state and apiary levels are required to prevent their introduction.

The absence of these diseases and pests is vital in maintaining international market access for Western Australian honey and apiary products.

Good apiary hygiene practices can protect a beekeeper’s business from endemic and exotic bee diseases and pests. This helps prevent the spread of diseases and pests from one beehive to another within an apiary as well as reduce the impact should they accidentally be introduced.

Beekeepers need to check their hives and apiaries regularly and report any notifiable or suspicious disease, pest or insect they might find.

Tips for keeping pests and diseases out

  • Decide on the biosecurity goals and standards you want to maintain. Write them down and act on them. Review and re-set these goals and standards on a regular basis.
  • Train staff and family about apiary biosecurity.
  • Restrict access to your apiary sites and extraction facilities. Erect a sign that advises others of your biosecurity requirements. Inform others that vehicles used for beekeeping, supers with combs and used beekeeping equipment, and beehive products are not permitted on your premises or near your apiaries. Turn away people and machinery that do not meet your standards.
  •  Know the signs of endemic and exotic bee diseases and pests and work with neighbouring beekeepers to reduce disease risks. Regularly check bees and beehives and report all diseases and pests and unusual signs or conditions. Consult an apiary inspector if the strength of a colony decreases.
  • Avoid placing your apiary in areas that have a history of American foulbrood or where there are neglected beehives.
  • Prevent swarming to reduce the spread of disease.

Keeping beehives healthy

  • Re-queen beehives regularly to stop them from becoming weak or dying out. Strong beehives are essential for preventing the development of diseases. Weak and dead beehives allow ‘robber’ bees, which may carry diseases and pests, to enter beehives.
  • Source bees and beekeeping equipment from disease free apiaries.
  • Make regular inspections of honey and brood frames for signs of endemic and exotic bee diseases and pests. Honey samples, bees and brood combs should be submitted for laboratory analysis on a regular basis. Any suspicious pests should be submitted immediately.
  • Use queen excluders to confine  the  brood cells to the brood box so they are not mixed with honey cells. American foulbrood, for example, should be easier to recognise and there will be less chance of frames from different beehives being mixed up during honey extraction.
  • Do not feed untreated honey products to bees as they may contain bacteria or fungi. Ensure pollen fed to bees is irradiated. As an alternative, use sugar syrup or pollen substitutes as they do not contain any beehive products.

Contact information

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