A Whanganui beekeeper who has destroyed five hives affected by deadly American foulbrood disease has been distressed by the sound of dying bees.
He said the insects are first doused with petrol, and the petrol fumes kill them.
"You hear a really loud buzz, it's like the bees screaming out and crying. It eats at me. It's awful," he said.
When the bees are all quiet he pulls the frames out of the hive and carefully burns them in a pit.
The man is in his first year of commercial beekeeping and has 220 hives. He doesn't want to be named because it could affect his later sales of starter hives and honey.
But he said having a hive affected by the deadly foulbrood was a bit like miscarrying a baby.
"No one wants to acknowledge having had it and yet everyone out there has had it."
Beekeeper Cyril (not his real name) has hives spread from Bulls to Maxwell, north of Whanganui. He said the area immediately around Whanganui had the biggest concentration of overwintering beehives and the highest incidence of American foulbrood (AFB).
As a new beekeeper, he thought the disease would never affect him, though he knew others who had it.
Then, during the past two months, he had three text notifications from the national foulbrood management group to say the disease was confirmed within 3km of one of his apiaries.
Next he found ropy, brown bee larvae in one of his hives. The larvae should have been white and watery and seeing the disease gave him the "heebie-jeebies".
He's since had to destroy five hives. For the first one he just dug a hole and burned the whole thing, then covered it up.
Since then he's burned only the honey frames from affected hives. He's managed to keep the boxes, bases, lids and crown boards by disinfecting them - dipping each in a drum of paraffin wax heated to 160C for 10 minutes.
Only one of the destroyed hives had valuable honey. It was a thriving hive with about 80kg inside, which would have made great food for overwintering bees.
The total cost of his losses is about $2500. But he said it was lucky the disease had happened in winter, when most hives have little honey and he can still build up bee numbers before spring.
About 10 per cent of bees can die over winter through starvation or being robbed by other hives.
"You get a little bit battle hardened to it. It's not the end of the world," he said.
AFB spreads easily and Cyril is now more aware of hygiene - spraying bleach on his gloves and hive tool between apiaries.
The Wanganui Beekeepers' Club is holding a foulbrood recognition course at the Mosston School Hall at 7pm on June 14.
"Hopefully we can eradicate [AFB] from the area."