How beekeepers can obtain Oxytetracycline for the control of European foulbrood
This page provides details on how beekeepers can obtain the antibiotic oxytetracycline hydrochloride (OTC) from a veterinary practitioner.
At some stage the vet will request evidence of European foulbrood (EFB) in your hives.
This antibiotic is a prescription animal remedy and is the only treatment approved by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for control of the bacterial honey bee brood disease European foulbrood (EFB).
OTC is applied in powder form to the brood nest of hives. Application of OTC in sugar syrup was practiced in the past, but OTC product labels now have the following statement: "DO NOT USE as a wet treatment of bees".
This change is because wet treatment can cause residues that exceed the current maximum residue limit (MRL). Food Safety Australia New Zealand has set an MRL of 0.3 parts per million of OTC in honey.
OTC may only be legally supplied by a veterinary practitioner. A current Certificate of registration as a beekeeper will be required so that the vet has a guide as to the number of hives you keep.
Only the following four 4 products are registered for treatment of European foulbrood disease in honey bees:
- Tetracin 10 soluble powder
- CCD OTC 100 soluble powder
- Tetravet 100 soluble antibiotic powder.
Does my veterinarian need evidence of EFB before supplying OTC?
Yes, because OTC is a prescription animal remedy, your veterinarian will need to confirm that EFB is present in one or more hives in your apiary. Refer also to the next section.
Evidence may be supplied by one of the following ways:
- inspection by the veterinarian of EFB infected brood comb
- the provision of a certificate from an apiary officer from the department after inspecting comb with EFB diseased bee larvae
- the provision of a laboratory report confirming EFB from a bee larval smear.
In Victoria, Gribbles Veterinary does not offer a laboratory service for diagnosis of European foulbrood. Beekeepers can send samples to the NSW State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Menangle, NSW.
Enquiries about this matter should be directed to (02) 4640 6327.
Full details of sample preparation and submission are contained in the NSW Department of Primary Industries Primefact 895: Samples for disease diagnosis (PDF 319 KB).
It is best that you supply a sample from each apiary. However, because of the nature and spread of EFB, the vet may be able to supply OTC for all your apiaries based on a sample from one apiary.
Can my veterinarian supply OTC even if I cannot supply evidence of EFB?
Yes, but you will be asked to supply evidence of EFB to the vet as soon as possible during the season by one of the methods described above.
This will allow beekeepers to apply an early season blanket treatment of colonies before EFB symptoms are evident (for example, prior to almond pollination in north-west Victoria).
Can my veterinarian supply me with enough OTC for spot treatment of EFB infected hives throughout the season?
Yes. However, if OTC has already been dispensed to you by the veterinarian without any evidence that EFB was present in your hives then you must provide evidence of infection.
Do I need to keep written records?
Yes, it is a requirement of the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Regulations 2007 that written records be made within 48 hours of treating hives with OTC and that the records be kept for two years.
When you visit your vet to obtain OTC, take any chemical use records you have made previously.
This will provide evidence of how you have used OTC in the past and provide additional evidence in support of dispensing more OTC. They also help the vet obtain a better understanding of your particular beekeeping methods.
You may keep your records in a format that suits you (e.g. hand written, computer generated, using record books or as part of a quality assurance program).
The only requirement is that they contain all the required information, are clear, accurate and available upon request.
Download the record keeping template: Treatment of bees or beekeeping equipment (WORD - 310.5 KB)
Don't wait until the last minute
Not all beekeepers have a problem with EFB in their bees and not all beekeepers choose to use OTC to control the disease.
If you need to use OTC and if you see EFB in a bee brood, submit a larval smear for laboratory confirmation so that you can supply evidence of the disease.
If you do this in the autumn (for example), you will have evidence to obtain OTC at the beginning of the following beekeeping season.
If you require further information or assistance, please contact the Customer Service Centre on 136 186 or email email@example.com.
- Diseases of Bees - Agriculture Victoria
- A guide to the field diagnosis of honey bee brood diseases - Agriculture Victoria
Prepared by George Downing, Principal Veterinary Officer Plant and Chemical, Russell Goodman, Senior Apicultural Officer and Cynthia Kefaloukos Apiary and Plant Pests and Diseases Officer.