Bucket of American Foulbrood puts Eugene bees in peril

EUGENE, Ore. - A deadly honey bee disease is looming over honey beekeepers south of Eugene near Loraine Highway.

A mysterious white bucket of spilled honey was found a couple weeks ago near the corner of Loraine Highway and McBride Road.

Steven Merwin discovered it when walking out to get the paper near his home.

"There were all kinds of gooey stuff there," Merwin said.

Merwin recalls seeing honeybees by the hundreds swarming around the honey for days.

"I mean it was like a swarm," Merwin said. "I think bees from all over the neighborhood were coming down thinking they had a free lunch."

The honeybees had picked up all of the honey within a matter of days.

However, that mysterious bucket of honey tested positive for American Foulbrood - deadly honeybee disease.

"This is an absolute worst case scenario," said Morris Ostrofsky, a retired beekeeper in Eugene.

Ostrofsky had taken a sample of the honey and sent it off to a lab to be tested.

The beekeeper of 44 years said typically only one percent of untreated hives wind up with this disease.

"In the 44 years that I've been keeping bees, I've seen it twice," Ostrofsky said. "It primarily impacts the developing bees, hence the name American Foulbrood."

Ostrofsky said it can wipe entire hives at a time and be extremely costly for the average beekeeper.

"They can cost around $200 so it's expensive," Ostrofsky said. "If you have 100 hives, it can really build up quickly."

Ostrofsky said bees can travel up to 5 miles a day for a rich source of food. He is urging all beekeepers within a 5 mile radius from the corner of Lorane Highway and McBride Road to monitor their hives.

He said any of them could have been exposed to the contaminated honey.

Ostrofsky added that beekeepers should watch out for a variety of symptoms.

The American Foulbrood symptoms include perforated cappings in the frames, stringy honey that resembles rubber glue, and a "foul" smell coming from the honey that may smell like a chicken house.

While the disease could heavily impact beekeepers economically, Ostrofsky said the loss of money is not the ultimate blow.

"It's really an act of love, so it's more than just a financial loss," Ostrofsky said. "It's really a loss of something that you really care about."

Ostrofsky said the disease is not a threat to people in any way, but it is a very serious threat to honey bees.

The retired beekeeper said he would like to hear from anyone who has hives that may be contaminated by the honey.

Morris Ostrofsky can be contacted at (541) 685-2875.