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Chalk Brood

( Article under review ) Signs in the colony Adult bees will tear down the cappings of the dead larvae to reveal the chalky white mummies. These lie along the length of the cell and often take on the hexagonal pattern. The bees remove the mummies from the hive and they can often be seen on the hive floor and outside the hive. The mummies are usually found scattered throughout the brood nest and can reach high numbers. ’Mummies’ on hive floor The disease often appears in a peak in the late spring/early summer as the colony expands and the brood outnumber the bees. This is because there are insufficient bees to maintain the temperature and control the ventilation (CO2 build-up). Care needs to be taken to differentiate chalk brood from mouldy pollen but this is usually concentrated around the periphery of the brood nest and tends to be a different colour. Diagnosis This is done by the typical appearance of the larvae Spread Chalk brood spores are sticky and will attach to the comb and bees as they remove the infected larvae. They are also readily transmitted by robbing/drifting bees. The beekeeper can also spread the disease on hive tools and comb transfer. The disease is considered to be endemic in Britain but levels of infection will vary from colony to colony. The beekeeper has to aim to keep the infection level down. Control There are no fungicides available for the larvae and spores on the bees and combs are unreachable. Combs can be fumigated with acetic acid but heavily affected comb should be destroyed. Viable spores will still be present on the bees and may be present in honey stores. In severe cases re-queening from a disease free colony is recommended. Because of the temperature/ventilation aspect of the disease it is more likely to occur in small colonies or nuclei. Ensuring that there are sufficient bees will reduce the risk. Some strains of bee are more resistant and queens from these should be selected as part of an integrated breeding policy Cause: Ascosphaera apis, a fungus. Effect: Chalkbrood disease affects only the brood. The diseased larvae are usually found on the outer edges of the brood nest. Workers, drones, and queens are all susceptible to the disease. Symptoms: The affected larvae are usually found on the outer fringes of the brood area. Brood cells can either be sealed or unsealed. Diseased larvae are stretched out in their cells in an upright condition. Typically, larvae dead from chalkbrood disease are chalk white, hence the name chalkbrood. Sometimes the diseased larvae can be mottled with brown or black spots, especially on the ventral sides. The color variation is from the brown to black color of the fruiting bodies (spore cysts). Transmission: The spores of Ascosphaera apis are ingested with the brood food provided by the nurse bees. The germination of the spores and proliferation of the fungus covers the larva with a white mycelium. Spores of Ascosphaera apis remain viable for years. Consequently, the infection source could be present in the cells used to rear brood. Chalkbrood appears to be most prevalent in the spring when the brood area is increasing. Chalkbrood normally does not destroy a colony. However, it can prevent normal population build-up when the disease is serious. No treatment is presently available for the control of chalkbrood. The disease usually disappears or is reduced as the air temperature increases in the summer.

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