Controlling European foulbrood with oxytetracycline
Advice for beekeepers
What is Oxytetracycline (OTC)
Oxytetracycline is a ‘prescription animal remedy’ product and is the only treatment approved by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to control European foulbrood (EFB), a bacterial disease affecting honey bee brood.
OTC must only be applied to brood nests in powder form. In the past, OTC was administered to bees via sugar syrup. Today, OTC product labels have the following restraint statement: “DO NOT USE as a wet treatment of bees”, prohibiting this practice which increased the risk of unacceptable chemical residues occurring in honey. The maximum residue limit (MRL) for OTC in honey is 0.3 parts per million.
Veterinary practitioners are the only legal suppliers of OTC. Beekeepers are required to show the veterinary practitioner a current Certificate of registration as a beekeeper so they are informed of the number of hives kept and can supply the beekeeper with the correct amount of OTC to treat their brood.
What are the OTC products registered for use?
Only the following four products are registered for treatment of European foulbrood disease in honey bees:
- CCD OTC 10 soluble powder
- CCD OTC 100 soluble powder
- Tetravet 100 soluble antibiotic powder.
Does my veterinarian need evidence of EFB before supplying OTC?
Yes. OTC is a ‘prescription animal remedy’ product; therefore, your veterinarian will need to confirm that EFB is present in one or more hives in your apiary.
Evidence may be supplied by one of the following ways:
- inspection by the veterinarian of EFB infected brood comb
- provision of a certificate from a DEDJTR apiary officer after inspecting comb with EFB diseased bee larvae
- provision of a laboratory report confirming EFB from a bee larval smear. ;Refer to Note 1 below for details on the submission of samples.
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 if I cannot supply evidence of EFB?
Yes, but you will be asked to provide evidence of EFB to the vet as soon as possible during the season by one of the methods in point 3 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 (See note 2 below). 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 specific 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.
A Treatment of bees or beekeeping equipment record keeping template is available from the Agriculture Victoria website, agriculture.vic.gov.au/chemicaluse (under ‘Veterinary chemicals’ > Recording veterinary chemical use’).
Should I test for EFB ahead of beekeeping season?
It’s recommended not to wait for beekeeping season to commence before treating EFB affected broods with OTC. If you see evidence of EFB in your bee brood and think you will need to treat the brood with OTC, obtain evidence of the disease early by submitting a larval smear for laboratory confirmation. This evidence can be then supplied to your veterinary practitioner, who will supply you with OTC.
(i) In Victoria, Gribbles Veterinary offer a laboratory service for the diagnosis of European foulbrood by larval smear only. Beekeepers can send samples to:
Veterinary Sample Reception
Gribbles Veterinary Pathology
1868 Dandenong Road
Clayton VIC 3168
For information on fees for these diagnostic services, contact Gribbles directly on 1300 307 190.
Contact an Agriculture Victoria Apiary Officer
Joe Riordan – Senior Apiary Officer (Rutherglen)
Phone: (02) 6030 4516 or 0417 348 457
Daniel Martin – Leading Apiary Officer (Bendigo)
Phone: (03) 5430 4621 or 0428 752 449
Jessica Millar – Bee Biosecurity Officer (Swan Hill)
Phone: (03) 5036 4810 or 0447 245 558
- Agriculture Victoria: Samples for laboratory diagnosis of diseases
- Agriculture Victoria: A guide to the field diagnosis of honey bee brood diseases
- DPI NSW: European foulbrood of honey bees and its control
- RIDC: Treating European foulbrood in Australian honey bees
- Agriculture Victoria: Diseases of bees