Omaha beekeeper warns honey farmers of contagious disease killing bees

A beekeeper warns of Foulbrood disease in the Omaha area
A beekeeper warns of Foulbrood disease in the Omaha area
Published: Apr. 30, 2023 at 10:54 AM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Omaha area experts are warning of a contagious disease that is contaminating bee hives and killing their colonies.

It’s called American foulbrood. The disease is caused by bacteria created through cross-contamination. This is usually from keeping bees in used hives or using tools that aren’t sanitized.

Mark Welsch, a beekeeper of Elmwood Park Honey, was forced to get rid of approximately 50,000 bees this weekend.

“With this box of soapy water and a sprayer, I just took these frames one at a time and shook the bees into the soapy water killing them immediately,” Welsch said.

And he burned three of the five beehives that he bought from other beekeepers.

Welsch told 6 News he noticed the cappings of the hives were darker in color, which turned out to be American foulbrood.

“It’s a very contagious disease and it’s very dangerous to bees and I don’t want to spread anywhere.”

The disease gets into the larvae during the 21 days that an egg is forming into an adult bee.

“The bacteria get into the larvae’s gut and start eating it away.”

Welsch said the first sign a beekeeper’s hive contains the disease is by the irregular patchy pattern of the brood.

“Put a stick into a cell and pull it out slowly. You’ll see stringy brown stuff that people say looks like snot.”

The beehives he got rid of were hosted by Linda Lundeen. She’s a bee expert who hosts hives.

“There’s always new life with starting over so it will be better than it was before,” Lundeen said. “I think we’ve learned some lessons from this.”

Welsch emphasized that although this disease is not common in Nebraska, he warns other beekeepers to not buy used bee hives, but if they do always sanitize and maintain them well.