MG Spotlight

Honey Bee Information For The Lowcountry

Honey Bee issues have been in the spotlight here in the Greater Charleston area recently. Dorchester County has been in the news regarding Honey Bee die-offs from mosquito control spraying. Below is important State-wide (non-Extension) Honey Bee information from Jennifer Tsuruday, Apiculture Specialist for Clemson University, and resources. 


American Foulbrood (AFB)

Background: AFB is a bacterial disease that causes the death of developing bees. It is highly contagious because the spores can survive for many years and the recommendation is to burn contaminated equipment and bees. Understandably, it is a major concern for beekeepers; however, antibiotic treatment is more of a band-aid (NOT a cure) - once you stop treating, the infection will usually return because of the spore bank in the hive. Additionally, the overuse of antibiotics has resulted in resistant strains of AFB. Selectively-bred strains of honey bees have been developed by the bee lab at U MN has bred strains of bees that are very hygienic to dead developing bees (bags of spores).

Situation in SC: In late June, a beekeeper in Greenville County called Regulatory Services for an inspection of his troubled bees. Four of his five colonies tested positive for AFB (Regulatory sends samples to the USDA bee lab in Beltsville, MD) and were burned. In July, another beekeeper, approximately one mile from the first case, had one hive that tested positive and was destroyed. At the end of July, a positive case occurred in Spartanburg County and was destroyed. Regulatory Services sent out notifications to local bee clubs after each incident.

It is not uncommon to have some cases of AFB pop up each year. It's a little concerning that there were two cases within a mile of another but without more data points, I would not consider this a cluster of AFB, which would be a worry. We encourage beekeepers to have their hives inspected if disease is suspect.

Testing: For disease testing, beekeepers can contact their local apiary inspector (who may take samples to send to the USDA bee lab in MD):

For more information about the diagnostic services that will be performed by the USDA:


Bee Kill Investigations

Background: It should not be surprising that pesticides, especially insecticides, can have negative effects on honey bees; however, the situation is complex and requires more than an email to address. Bees can forage several miles from their hive but can typically find food within a 2-mile radius (8,000+ acres) so it can often be difficult to prevent accidental pesticide exposure. Clemson’s Department of Pesticide Regulation conducts investigations when a beekeeper suspects a bee kill (dead hive or hives with several hundred dead bees at the entrance) due to pesticides. Their job is to ensure that pesticides are being used properly and safely with regards to the label and that bees were not killed as the result of irresponsible pesticide use.

Mosquito Control: Given the important human health implications of the Zika virus, mosquito abatement programs are facing a difficult task – keeping humans safe from Zika but also trying to prevent accidental bee kills. The recent rains have been good for the landscape but can lead to pools of standing water that can function as mosquito breeding areas. Beekeepers should be some of the biggest advocates of larval control of mosquitoes – the fewer biting (adult) mosquitoes, the lower the likelihood of sprays and treatments. Beekeepers and homeowners can check the DHEC website for ways to eliminate breeding grounds and can use larvicides to reduce the development of adult (biting) populations.Bacillus thuringiensis israelensisis one of the best larvicide options to use around honey bees because it is very target-specific (insects in the family Diptera like mosquitoes, blackflies, fungus gnats). Please encourage beekeepers to contact their local mosquito control office to get on their beekeeper notification list, if existing. They can also sign up for Clemson's hive mapping program but note that this is a voluntary program and does not guarantee participation from pesticide applicators.

Bee Kill Investigations: Beekeepers who suspect a hive loss due to pesticides and mosquito treatments should contact their local Dept of Pesticide Regulation inspector. Please also see their letter to licensed pest control operators regarding mosquito control. ** The Dorchester County Call Center for bee kills related to the recent aerial spraying is now open. Please call 843-832-0393 for additional information or to report a loss related to mosquito spraying.