DEFRA, Disease, Destruction
It's bad news. We have an outbreak of European Foulbrood (EFB). 3 of my colonies have tested positive: Mab, Storm and Titania.
EFB is a bacterial infection which weakens and kills bee larvae.
It's too late in the year to do a shook swarm, which is the best cure. That method is only likely to succeed in spring or early summer when the colonies are in their growth phase. At present they are shrinking. The colonies of Storm and Titania were judged too small to survive until spring, so the National Bee Unit (NBU) has ordered their destruction by fire. Mab's colony are worst affected by the EFB but, despite that, they are a strong colony and the NBU has prescribed antibiotics to help keep the infection at bay until April when the Bee Inspector will return to do a shook swarm. Fingers crossed for their winter survival.
Meanwhile we're waiting for genetic test results which might link the infection with other known cases, to possibly indicate its origin. Did the bees catch it here in the new apiary? It is evident that there are other honey bee colonies living very close by, since many foragers came to the garden in winter, and three swarms spontaneously arrived - neither swarms nor winter foragers usually fly far. But Bee Inspectors are discreet and don't tell you where other apiaries are nor which of them are infected. In the worst case, there could be infected bee colonies living very close, which are not registered and which therefore escape official inspection and remain a reservoir of disease. Alternatively the Mab colony might have caught the infection in the orchard and brought it here with them undetected before it spread to Titania and Storm in the neighbouring hives.
I'll write more about the disease and destruction later, when the rawness of the immediate horror has passed.