Sterilization of beehive material with a double inductively coupled low pressure plasma

Priehn, M, Benjamin Denis, Aumeier, P, Kirchner, W. H, Peter Awakowicz, Leichert, L. I

JOURNAL OF PHYSICS D-APPLIED PHYSICS Volume: 49 Issue: 37 Article Number: 374002 DOI: 10.1088/0022-3727/49/37/374002 Published: SEP 21 2016


American Foulbrood is a severe, notifiable disease of the honey bee. It is caused by infection of bee larvae with spores of the gram-positive bacterium Paenibacillus larvae. Spores of this organism are found in high numbers in an infected hive and are highly resistant to physical and chemical inactivation methods. The procedures to rehabilitate affected apiaries often result in the destruction of beehive material. In this study we assess the suitability of a double inductively coupled low pressure plasma as a non-destructive, yet effective alternative inactivation method for bacterial spores of the model organism Bacillus subtilis on beehive material. Plasma treatment was able to effectively remove spores from wax, which, under protocols currently established in veterinary practice, normally is destroyed by ignition or autoclaved for sterilization. Spores were removed from wooden surfaces with efficacies significantly higher than methods currently used in veterinary practice, such as scorching by flame treatment. In addition, we were able to non-destructively remove spores from the highly delicate honeycomb wax structures, potentially making treatment of beehive material with double inductively coupled low pressure plasma part of a fast and reliable method to rehabilitate infected bee colonies with the potential to re-use honeycombs.