Use of sniffer dog in detection of American foul brood in beehives

The State of Queensland acting through the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

  • Project code: PRJ-004482

  • Project stage: Closed

  • Project start date: Wednesday, June 1, 2011

  • Project completion date: Sunday, March 31, 2013

  • National Priority: HBE-Improve understanding of nutrition best practice and disease interaction


This project will involve having a dog trained to successfully detect the presence of American Foul Brood (AFB) in bee hives. AFB is a lethal bacterial disease that affects the brood of honey bees in the larval stage of development. The infected larvae die and decay in their cells, then form a scale that the bees cannot or will not remove, rendering the cell uninhabitable. This scale releases infectious spores that can then be transferred by bees, honey, hive material or beekeeping equipment. These spores are invisible to the naked eye. The decaying brood however has a unique odour. It is this odour that the dog will be trained to detect. The dog would be trained to search an apiary and indicate any hive that has the odour of AFB. The hive would then be inspected and samples taken for testing. This process would be far more economical because it could be done in a fraction of the time of visual inspection which involves looking for what could be just a single cell in an apiary. The average human inspector can inspect 45 hives per day, compared with sniffer dogs that can screen 100 hives in 45 minutes. AFB is usually not found until the infectious scale has formed because it is then that it looks the most different from European Foul Brood and Paenibacillis alvei. Not identifying AFB until this stage means that cross infection may have already occurred. If the dog can detect AFB in its early stages it would greatly reduce this cross-infection occuring. This would result in far less hives being destroyed.


Honey Bee

Research Organisation

The State of Queensland acting through the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

Objective Summary

To have a quick, reliable way of detecting AFB that is user friendly and affordable.