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The specialist international beekeeping organisation
CHALK BROOD IN ETHIOPIAPublished in Bees for Development Journal 78 March 2006 Desalegn Begna Rundassa Holetta Bee Research Centre EthiopiaChalk brood is a disease of honeybee larvae caused by the fungus Ascosphaera apis which causes the death and mummification of sealed honeybee brood and with the consequent weakness of the colony. It is widespread amongst honeybees in Europe and North America. In Africa the only report of chalk brood has been from Tunisia Heath 1985. The disease is spread by robbing drifting bees and by the normal practices of beekeeping Warhurst 1998. Ascosphaera apis produces sticky spores which are commonly present on adult bees and all surfaces within occupied hives. The disease develops only if the brood is physiologically stressed in some way for example chilling.In Ethiopia the existence of two adult honeybee diseases Nosema apis and Melpighamoebae mellifica and their distribution was studied and reported Gezahegn & Amsalu 1991; Desalegn & Amsalu 1999. Until now there has been no record on the existence of any honeybee brood diseases in the country. Materials and methodsStudy areas The survey transects and beekeepers to be surveyed were selected randomly. A survey was carried out around the Holetta area on beekeeper’s colonies and at Gedo demonstration site about 150 km west of Holetta. Experimental time and colony size Following the brood rearing season October 2000 to January 2001 276 colonies at 13 survey sites were inspected externally and internally for signs of chalk brood disease. Sample collection and laboratory diagnosis Colonies showing any symptoms of chalk brood: dead infected larvae left uncapped by nurse bees in the comb cells and mummies at the hive entrances on the hive floor and on the ground perpendicular to the hive opening were examined. From 13 apiary sites larval mummies were collected from eight apiaries that were found to display positive signs of the disease. Overall 240 black mummies of honeybee larvae from 48 bee colonies five per colony were collected. Each mummy was macerated separately in a sterile mortar with distilled water to prepare suspensions containing Ascosphaera apis from each site. The suspensions were filtered through fine cloth and the fungus was grown in the laboratory using Potato Dextrose Agar containing antibiotic to avoid any bacterial contamination on petri dishes. After eight days microscopic examination of the cultures was made to determine the size of the spore cysts and spore balls Spiltoir & Olive 1955; Skou 1972; Bailey 1981 Bissett 1988. Photographs were taken of the affected brood combs and fungus cultures. ResultsMicroscopic examination of the culture revealed that the range of the size of the spore cysts and the spore balls falls within the standard size described for Ascosphaera apis by Spiltoir and Olive 1955 see Table 1. From 13 inspected apiaries eight 66.7% were found positive to Ascosphaera apis Table 2. Out of 276 inspected colonies 48 17.4% were found tainted with chalk brood fungus. The prevalence of the fungus among the infected apiary sites ranged from 0-100%. All colonies infested with chalk brood fungus Ascosphaera apis have revealed the signs of the disease either externally or internally. The disease was particularly rigorous and widely distributed in the apiaries of Tesfaye and Mariam Table 2 which are owned by private farmer beekeepers and within 5-10 km from Holetta Centre. During the survey it was observed that much of the affected brood was drone brood during October.