Oxytetracycline to control European foulbrood

Beekeepers can obtain the antibiotic oxytetracycline hydrochloride (OTC) from a vet. Your vet will request evidence of European foulbrood (EFB) in your hives at some stage.

Oxytetracycline (OTC)

Oxytetracycline (OTC) is an antibiotic prescription animal remedy. It is the only treatment approved by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to control European foulbrood (EFB) — the bacterial honey bee brood disease.

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'.

A 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 vet. A current certificate of registration as a beekeeper is required so that the vet has a guide as to the number of hives you keep.

OTC products

Only the following four 4 products are registered for treatment of European foulbrood disease in honey bees:

  • Broodmix
  • CCD OTC 10 soluble powder
  • CCD OTC 100 soluble powder
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Because OTC is a prescription animal remedy, your vet will need to confirm that EFB is present in one or more hives in your apiary.

Evidence may be supplied by:

  • inspection by the vet of EFB infected brood comb
  • a certificate from an apiary officer who has inspected a comb with EFB diseased bee larvae
  • the provision of a laboratory report confirming EFB from a bee larval smear

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.

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 or sample submission options for these diagnostic services for these diagnostic services, contact Gribbles directly on 1300 307 190.

Your vet can supply you with enough OTC for spot treatment of EFB infected hives throughout the season.

However, if OTC has already been dispensed to you without evidence that EFB was present in your hives, you must provide evidence of infection.

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. Records must be kept for 2 years.

When you visit your vet to obtain OTC, bring your previous chemical use records.

Your records provide evidence of how you have used OTC in the past. They also provide support evidence to the vet for dispensing more OTC. They help the vet obtain a better understanding of your particular beekeeping methods.

Keep your records in a format that suits you (hand written, computer generated, using record books or as part of a quality assurance program).

The only requirement is that they contain the specified information, are clear, accurate and available upon request.

Download the record keeping template: Treatment of bees or beekeeping equipment (WORD - 198.1 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 (they may use good management practices).

If you see EFB in a bee brood and you need to use OTC, 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 get OTC at the beginning of the next beekeeping season.

Other resources

Further information

If you require further information or assistance, please contact the Customer Service Centre on 136 186 or email: honeybee.biosecurity@agriculture.vic.gov.au

Page last updated: 22 Nov 2023