It seems I could be the cleanest beek in the world and still get AFB from the other guy who has hives one mile away from me.
This is true, and in theory terramycin would prevent your hive from becoming infected.
Is it a roll of the dice whether you treat or not?
No, not a roll of the dice, a rational decision based on a good understanding of the issues.[/quote]
And why do people say once you treat with tm you must always do so? Is it because without treatment I would noticea mild outbreak of AFB but if I treat and then stop treating I could by then have many spores and not know it so when I stop treatment I could have a major outbreak?
I don't it's so much noticing a mild outbreak, but rather if you start treating when you have an infection, some bacteria will already be in spore form and not be killed by the antibiotic. Then, when you stop treating, the infection reappears.
Many people are in the dark about antibiotics. For years after its discovery, doctors gave you penicillin to treat every sniffle, the flu, stomach ache etc. Patients demanded it and no one knew that each does gave the bacteria a chance to develop resistance. Some farmers still give it in feed and in shots to their livestock. No antibiotic is 100% effective, so some bacteria always survive. The more times bacteria are hit with it, the more you kill off the susceptible ones and encourage the growth of the resistant ones.
So now, nearly every bad bacteria out there is resistant to penicillin. (Well, some have actually lost resistance because we don't use penicillin much, but that's another story). The cumulative effect of overusing antibiotics is this: Hospitals all over the world are struggling against some nasty bacteria that are resistant to almost every antibiotic known to man. There are still a couple of high-power antibiotics that will kill some. But the recent scare about the guy with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis that made national news is pretty scary to me. Some TB is almost unstoppable.
In my opinion, as beekeepers we are foolish to dose bees with antibiotics when they are healthy because all we do is give the AFB bacterium (P. larvae
) the opportunity to become resistant. To me, it makes the most sense to approach managing AFB this way.
Don't treat as a preventive. If you get an infection, move bees to brand new frames and foundation in a clean, disinfected hivebody. Give them an empty frame of drawn comb to deposit honey from their gut. Remove this frame after a day or two. Treat these bees with terramycin to clear out any live bacteria they may carry. Burn or otherwise heat disinfect the contaminated equipment. (See my post yesterday on heat disinfection. I think frame parts could be done effectively in a home oven.)
The medical community is slowly learning that to combat things like surgical infections and ventilator-associated pneumonia (things folks thought we can't prevent) requires more than one approach for the best outcome. Dealing with AFB is no different.
That, however, is a lot more work than feeding bees a steady diet of antibiotics, which is why we'll probably get multi-drug resistant AFB sooner or later.
I wish there was more funding for research into effective methods for disinfecting hives or hive bodies. I'm especially interested in the notion that polystyrene hives have a smoother surface and thus fewer place to hide, which might make them easier to clean with lye solution. I would love to see real scientific studies on this.