COLONIES of honey bees in Scarborough could be under threat from a killer disease.
Several outbreaks of European Foulbrood have broken out across the region in the last three months - with one instance in the Burniston and Cloughton area earlier this year.
The bacterial disease can cause the deaths of bee larvae by starving the cells of the still-growing bee larvae, and can be spread unintentionally by beekeepers.
The case in Scarborough was identified in April and has now been cleared. However more cases were found in both Copmanthorpe and Thornton-le-Clay in May, one case was found in Church Fenton in June, and four outbreaks were identified in Selby last month.
Peter Chapman, training manager at the Scarborough and District Beekeepers’ Association, said: “We did have one instance this year, but we’ve been reasonably lucky in this area.
“We did have a spell of American Foulbrood a couple of years ago. That’s the really nasty one - the spores can actually lie dormant for up to 20 years.”
Mr Chapman explained that European Foulbrood is a bacterium which affects the gut of the developing larvae, competing for food.
This stops the brood developing properly and eventually kills the larvae off.
Any beekeepers who suspect that their hive may be affected are required, by law, to report it.
To get rid of European Foulbrood, beekeepers need to carry out what is known as a “shook swarm”.
This involves having a new hive by the side of the affected one with new frames in and shaking the bees into it, then burning the old frames.
Mr Chapman said: “You don’t use the bees, just the frames with the brood in.
“If left untreated it would kill of the colonies and spread to others.”
He added that everyone who is registered as a beekeeper is regularly checked by an inspector, usually once every couple of years.
Tom Robinson, of the Yorkshire Beekeepers’ Association, has kept bees in North Yorkshire, from Sheriff Hutton to Brayton, for 23 years, but has not been affected by the outbreak.
He said: “Once an outbreak is identified, a standstill order is issued by the National Bee Unit, so the owner cannot move their colonies or hives.
“Seasonal inspectors went into the apiary, but as far as I know, only one person so far in a village in the Selby area has reported an affected colony.”
The Scarborough beekeeping group currently has around 50 members, with 10 new ones joining this year.
Mr Chapman said: “It’s good to see new coming into beekeeping. The interest is definitely increasing all the time.
“I would definitely recommend it as a hobby and it’s a good idea to join a local group in your area.
“Hives can be quite expensive to set up, but you can make some money back by selling your honey!” Go to www.scarboroughbeekeepers.co.uk