Sustaining apiculture worldwide has been threatened by bee diseases and unexplained colony losses. African honeybee populations seem healthier and no major losses have been reported despite the presence of all the major pests and diseases. The scattered colonies in the large wild population of the continent might ensure slow pathogen spread and thus protect the unmanaged colonies in comparison with the concentration of colonies in managed apiaries. Beekeeping and trade in bee products is responsible for spreading many diseases throughout the world. The recent outbreak of the bacterial disease American foulbrood (AFB) in South Africa is a matter of great concern. Despite a growing number of apiaries testing positive for AFB, no major colony losses have been reported yet. This could be based on higher disease resistance of African honeybees, but such a trait might not persist if pathogens accumulate in the hives. In the first part of this article we review what is known on the history, biology and epidemiology of AFB as well as the control methods available. We then argue that given the particular context of honeybees in Africa, protection policies need to be put in place to ensure that African honeybees remain healthy.
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Vol. 19 • No. 3