Hackney bee keeper warns ‘wash out your honey jars’ or risk spreading fatal Foulbrood bee disease

Bumble bees on a globe thistle. Picture: Tony Mott

Bumble bees on a globe thistle. Picture: Tony Mott - Credit: Amanada Hayes

An apiarist has warned restaurateurs and recyclers to thoroughly wash out all honey containers, or risk outbreaks of a disease that can kill off whole colonies of bees.

Honey bees with red pollen. Picture: Tony Mott

Honey bees with red pollen. Picture: Tony Mott - Credit: Amanada Hayes

Amanda Hayes is also urging people never to feed spoonfuls of honey to bees on their last legs, because that could also spark an outbreak of the highly infectious and destructive American Foulbrood.

Its spores are extremely resistant and contagious and can last for more than 40 years in honey and beekeeping equipment. Once identified, all bees in the affected colony and all equipment must be incinerated under supervision of Defra’s National Bee Unit (NBU) inspectors.

Last season the NBU issued several alerts for American and European Foulbrood – another deadly notifiable disease – within 3km of colonies in Amanda’s garden in Mapledene Road, Dalston. One was traced by inspectors to a restaurant where containers had not been cleaned out and were left outside with traces of infected honey, which honeybees had taken back to their hives.

Amanda, who sells her produce under the name Hackney Garden Honey, told the Gazette: “Bees are lazy little buggers sometimes and if they find some honey they think it’ll save them some work collecting nectar.

Amanada Hayes' apiary. Picture: Tony Mott

Amanada Hayes' apiary. Picture: Tony Mott - Credit: Amanada Hayes

“They eat it and take it back to the hive and the bacteria grow. It’s like measles or mumps.

“It’s distressing for a beekeeper and unnecessary. There is this feeling of a bit of shame that your bees have caught this awful disease.

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“There’s an old wives’ tale that says if you find a tired bumblebee, give a teaspoon of honey. It’s well intentioned, but it’s like: ‘Oh my god, don’t do that.’ It only takes one bee to go back with a mouthful of something a bit dodgy and in time it’s the whole colony that’s affected.”

She added: “Foulbrood are the only two diseases that cause bees to die immediately but foreign imported honey has all sorts of nasties lurking in it, and they can [contract] stuff like diarrhoea.

“It could be any member of the public who’s had a jar of honey who’s dumped it outside without washing it out. If you wash it out and put it inside a sealed plastic bag it’s gone. The loss of bees and their pollinating services is of great concern regarding food production and the health and enjoyment of the environment.”