Maintaining a healthy honey bee population is crucial for food security and preservation of the natural ecosystem service of pollination. European foul brood (EFB) is caused by the bacterium Melissococcus plutonius and is a disease of honey bee brood, which leads to their death. Symptomatic infections of the larvae include the infected larvae losing its internal pressure, becoming flaccid, before ultimately dying and degrading down to just a dark scale in the brood cell. This lethal effect on developing individuals has led it to be considered one of the most significant diseases of honey bees worldwide and responsible for substantial damage to the beekeeping industry. In the UK, EFB and the relatively rare disease American Foul Brood (AFB) are the only microbial bee diseases considered so harmful that their detection requires immediate notification to the authorities. Upon notification, disease status will be confirmed and if necessary, hives will be destroyed to prevent further disease spread. So far this year (Jan-Aug 2019) 547 hives have been found to have EFB and 388 have been destroyed as a result.
The effects and trends of EFB in UK honey bees. EFB causes infected larvae to lose internal pressure, become flaccid, die, and ultimately degrade to a dark scale (A). Based on data from the National Bee Unit (B), incidence of EFB disease is ever present in the UK, and compared to last year, this year has seen an increase in detection and ultimately in hive destructions. Data for 2019 is still being compiled so is greyed out. Compared to 2018, there is a similar number of hives screened already in 2019 (30,392 in 2018, 29,452 so far in 2019).