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The specialist international beekeeping organisation

Honey bee health & welfare

Bees can suffer from diseases, pests or other problems that can either kill them or make them unproductive. This subject section will concentrate on the problems, pests, parasites, predators and diseases of the two main hive bee species, Apis mellifera and Apis cerana. These honey bees have been widely researched, their diseases and difficulties are best known and they are of significant economic importance. These honey bees can be kept as managed species by people for financial benefit because they live in predictable, long term colonies while the value of their pollination services for natural systems and agricultural and other crops often has an even greater value than the honey the bees produce.

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 Animals can only be productive when they are healthy and in good condition so it is important for beekeepers to be able to recognise the various threats to bees and to know how to overcome different problems if they are to collect a good crop of honey.

Bee diseases have been around as long as the bees themselves.A bee colony has many features which make it an ideal place for bacteria and fungi to breed. There are many thousands of individuals crowded together and the centre of the honey bee's nest is kept at a warm, constant temperature even when outside temperatures are very high or low, while the practice of food sharing that helps the bees to communicate, can also, quickly spread infection. It is a tribute to the sophistication of the honey bees' behavioural, immune and chemical systems that they are sick so rarely.

 

Image Primo Masotti  maso101@libero.it

 As well as diseases, other pests and predators affect the survival of bees and the practices of beekeepers should prevent predation and invasion of the hives by pests. Beekeepers can also aid the welfare of the bees with observant husbandry, vigorous queens and plenty of forage. Also helpful in disease control is planning apiary layouts to minimise robbing and drifting bees as well as selecting strains of bees less susceptible to disease.

Diseases and pests are not the only problem that bees face. Habitat loss, cultural change and pollution are all serious threats to the survival of all types of bees.


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