Sacbrood is caused by the sacbrood virus.

Age of brood affected

Sealed brood 7-10 days old and pupae.

Kind of brood affected

Worker larvae are affected by sacbrood. Sometimes drones may be affected.

Infection method

Nurse bees transmit the virus when they feed larvae with brood food from their hypopharyngeal glands.

The virus can survive up to 4 weeks in:

  • larval remains
  • honey
  • pollen.

Symptoms of sacbrood

Discoloured larvae. Larvae colour changes from glistening pearly white to:

  • yellow
  • grey
  • light brown
  • dark brown
  • mostly black.

Cell position. Larva lies fully extended at the bottom of the cell with its head raised towards the top of the cell. It can be easily removed without damaging the cell wall.

Dead larva skin changes to a plastic-like sack.

Body segmentation is maintained.

Odour. A putrid smell may be detected in advanced stage of infection.


Sacbrood is rare because adult bees can detect and quickly remove infected larvae.

Follow these steps to help a hive recover:

  • Re-queen with a young vigorous queen.
  • Introduce young, disease-free bees.
  • Move bees to better conditions with a good honey flow.
  • Feed bees sugar solution and quality pollen if supplies are low.
  • Pack bees down into fewer boxes
  • Replace combs.


Send a comb sample with brood in a waterproof container to:

Apiary Unit
Primary Industries and Regions SA
33 Flemmington Street
Glenside SA 5065
Page Last Reviewed: 23 Feb 2018
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