Nutrition Management for European Foulbrood (EFB) Recovery in Honey Bees

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2018: $11,995.00
Projected End Date: 05/01/2020
Grant Recipient: Michigan State University
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, feed/forage, probiotics
  • Crop Production: beekeeping, pollinator health


    Michigan is the second most diverse agricultural state, supported by commercial beekeepers who provide crop pollination. However diseases such as European foulbrood (EFB) threaten the wellbeing honey bee colonies and the beekeeping industry in Michigan and other regions. EFB is a bacterial disease that affects the larvae, often killing them, which can ultimately lead to colony mortality. EFB can also negatively affect colony size, which has economic implications for beekeepers through depressed pollination contract prices and honey production. While the link between EFB and nutrition has not been well established in a field-realistic setting, understanding it is an essential step in making management recommendations for beekeepers. Therefore, this study will evaluate the relationship between EFB recovery rates and nutrition to determine best management practices for mitigating these effects. To do so, it will analyze the effect of supplemental feeding management and probiotic use, as compared to traditional in-hive management on EFB recovery speed. This will be achieved by tracking the recovery rates of infected hives under six different in-hive treatments, including a control (untreated), antibiotics (traditional), antibiotics and a plant-based supplement, plant-based supplement, pollen-based supplement, and probiotics. This research will be conducted in Michigan during the summer feeding period immediately following blueberry pollination. Results will provide beekeepers with best management practices to optimize colony recovery and advice on the necessity of supplemental feeding. To evaluate the adoption potential of the management suggestions made through extension to beekeepers, I will administer surveys to assess change in knowledge, awareness and attitudes. Additionally, I will assess intended change in management as a result of extension. Finding treatment alternatives to antibiotics could be more environmentally sustainable and affordable for beekeepers. Furthermore, because the FDA began mandating veterinary prescriptions for bee antibiotics in 2017, this is a particularly relevant issue. Additionally, disease pressure on the beekeeping industry will have broader implications on national pollination services and the food system. Not could EFB cause social and economic tension between growers and beekeepers, as decreased pollination availability increases demand and price, but it could also affect food quality and price for society as a whole.

    Project objectives:

    I will communicate with beekeepers through meetings, articles, extension, and email newsletters to increase knowledge related to EFB treatment, including A) resources to accurately diagnose EFB, B) EFB management costs (economic and environmental), and C) nutrition and supplemental feeding effects on EFB. This information is expected to facilitate changes in skills and attitudes for nutrition-based management, initiating two main action outcomes. First, beekeepers will more accurately field-diagnose EFB, decreasing unnecessary, costly management. Second, beekeepers will practice evidence-based in-hive management practices to treat EFB. 

    Understanding the economic and social inter-dependence of the beekeeper-grower relationship is essential to maintaining reliable stocks of colonies and stable pollination contract services and prices. Through extension presentations and resources, blueberry growers will gain a better appreciation for the economic and environmental consequences of their support of honey bees. Growers adopting stress-reduction practices may reduce the incidence and/or severity of EFB. Supportive practices include night spraying, planting flowering strips, and carefully selecting hive drop sites. As a result of this awareness, growers may alter their practices to support the beekeeping industry on which they rely.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.