May 5, 2009

Thousands Of African Bees At Risk For Disease

Hundreds of thousands of South African bees are in danger of contracting a disease affecting hives and harming fruit and vegetable farming, an industry expert announced Tuesday.

The only way to save the bees from the American Foul Brood disease is by setting fire to the infected hives. Nevertheless, since the disease has not affected the hives in the past 150 years, South Africa does not have quarantine guidelines for the insects.

"It is extremely serious because it is a very contagious disease ... not only for honey but for agriculture. We need to use bees for pollinating fruit trees and vegetable crops," said John Moodie, head of the Bee Industry Organization.

The extraordinarily contagious bacterium, newly introduced to Africa, has spread to the southernmost tip of the Western Cape.

200 hives are currently affected, and the industry is in anticipation of aid from the agricultural department before burning hives.

"New laws have to be promulgated; it's taking too much time. We need logistical inputs, money. Every day creates a bigger problem," Moodie said to AFP.

"We need those regulations so we can start taking action".

It is assumed the disease entered the country via honey, which by regulation must be irradiated to obliterate spores when entering the country.

The disease is not dangerous to humans.