It Takes a Village to Raise Brood - Part 3

Thursday 8 June 2023

Now that some common pests and diseases have been identified and there is a better understanding of how some of these live and spread within a honey bee hive, it is time to apply some practices to effectively suppress the issue or prevent future infections. This week’s blog will discuss prevention and treatment, with a focus on integrated pest management (IPM), to ensure the honey bee brood is healthy and strong.

It Takes a Village to Raise Brood - Part 3

Stressors to honey bees can have a negative synergistic effect with pests and diseases, resulting in their introduction or spread in honey bee colonies. These stressors include, but are not limited to, old or unhealthy queens, food shortages, unfavorable environmental conditions, or even poisoning. These issues, along with pest and disease pressure, can be reduced with an integrated pest management (IPM) approach. An IPM approach includes cultural, physical, biological, and chemical control measures. The most effective IPM plan uses a variety of these measures together.

Selecting honey bee races that show better hygienic behavior to improve resistance to pests and diseases, rotating frames to reduce pests and disease presence, identifying early signs of pests and diseases, ensuring apiary biosecurity, and preventing robbing and drifting are preventative measures that can be used for most pests and diseases. For more information on seasonal best management practices, please check out ATTTA’s spring, summer, and fall management factsheets, as well as the comb rotation factsheet. Following are some IPM practices that are used, in addition to these preventative measures, to control some common pests and diseases in honey bees.

American Foulbrood (AFB)

Apiary hygiene, early detection, and prompt action are cultural control methods used to stop the spread of AFB. When a colony is suspected or identified to have AFB, it must be reported by law to the appropriated authorities, usually your provincial apiarist. Unfortunately, due to the high risks of AFB, the colonies and hive equipment must be destroyed. This is the only physical control method for AFB. Metaphylactic use of oxytetracycline (OTC) is the only permissible chemical control for managing AFB.  This would be done in consultation with a veterinarian through a Veterinary Client Patient Relationship

European Foulbrood (EFB)

A useful cultural control for EFB is ensuring that larval feeding is adequate. Supplemental feeding of sugar syrup and pollen substitute can be used to ensure adequate amounts of feed. This may also ensure that the brood nest and nurse bee numbers are proportional for feeding brood. If the infection is not severe, it is possible for the honey bee colony to suppress EFB on its own. If the infection is severe, then colonies and equipment eradication may be used as a physical control method. Antibiotics, such as OTC, may be used as a chemical control method, again in consultation with a veterinarian.


Maintaining a strong healthy honey bee colony can be an effective cultural control method for suppressing chalkbrood infections. Supplemental feeding when nectar and pollen is low, maintaining proper ventilation so there are no fluctuations in moisture and temperature, and requeening can be used to maintain strong healthy colonies.

Varroa mite on honey bee brood (OrkinCanada©2023)

Varroa Mites

Beekeepers can create a break in the brood rearing cycle as a cultural method to slow the growth of varroa mite populations. Physical methods, such as screen bottom boards, can be used to directly remove varroa mites. Varroa mites are highly attracted to drone cells, so plastic foundations of drone cells can be placed in a hive, to trap varroa mites, and the frame can be removed, when capped, and frozen to kill any varroa mites. Synthetic and organic miticides are used as a chemical method to suppress varroa mites. Label instructions must be followed to ensure that the colony is properly treated, to prevent the accumulation of chemicals in honey bee hives, and to prevent potential resistance in varroa mite populations. Please check out ATTTA’s factsheet on varroa mite management options for Atlantic Canada for more treatment options and information on how to apply treatments.

Written by John MacDonald, ATTTA Seasonal Apiculturist -

Connecting with ATTTA Specialists

If you’d like to connect with ATTTA specialists or learn more about our program, you can:

Pernal, S.F. and Clay, H. (eds). 2013. Honey bee diseases and pests 3rd Edition. Canadian Association Professional Apiculturists, Beaverlodge, AB, Canada.