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Small hive beetle
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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Coleoptera
Family: Nitidulidae
Genus: Aethina
Species: A. tumida
Binomial name
Aethina tumida
Muray, 1867

The small hive beetle (Aethina tumida) is a beekeeping pest.

The small hive beetle, Aethina tumida was first discovered in Florida in June of 1998 and has now been found in seven other U.S. states, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and Minnesota. To date, the beetle has not been found in Virginia, but the movement of migratory beekeepers from Florida may have transported the beetle to other states. Recent findings also indicate transport of the beetles in packages.

The small hive beetle can be a destructive pest of honey bee colonies, causing damage to comb, stored honey and pollen. If a beetle infestation is sufficiently heavy, they may cause bees to abandon their hive. Its absence can also be a marker in the diagnosis of Colony Collapse Disorder for honey-bees. The beetles can also be a pest of stored combs, and honey (in the comb) awaiting extraction. Beetle larvae may tunnel through combs of honey, feeding and defecating, causing discoloration and fermentation of the honey.

Life history Edit

Aethina tumida was previously known only from the southern regions of Africa where it has been considered a minor pest of bees. The life cycle information is known primarily from studies in South Africa. No detailed studies have yet been conducted in the different regions of the U.S. where the beetle has been found.

The small hive beetle is a member of the family of scavengers or sap beetles. The adult beetle is dark brown to black and about one-half centimeter in length. The adults may live up to 6 months and can be observed almost anywhere in a hive, although they are most often found on the rear portion of the bottom board of a hive. Female beetles lay irregular masses of eggs in cracks or crevices in a hive. The eggs hatch in 2–3 days into white-colored larvae that will grow to 10–11 mm in length. Larvae feed on pollen and honey, damaging combs, and require about 10–16 days to mature. Larvae that are ready to pupate leave the hive and burrow into soil near the hive. The pupation period may last approximately 3–4 weeks. Newly emerged adults seek out hives and females generally mate and begin egg laying about a week after emergence. Hive beetles may have 4–5 generations a year during the warmer seasons.

Damage to colonies and stored honey Edit

The primary damage to colonies and stored honey caused by the small hive beetle is through the feeding activity of the larvae. Hives and stored equipment with heavy infestations of beetles have been described as a mess. A summary taken from various reports of damage caused by these beetles is listed below:

Larvae tunnel through comb with stored honey or pollen, damaging or destroying cappings and comb. Larvae defecate in honey and the honey becomes discolored from the feces. Activity of the larvae causes fermentation and a frothiness in the honey; the honey develops a characteristic odor of decaying oranges. Damage and fermentation cause honey to run out of combs, creating a mess in hives or extracting rooms. Heavy infestations cause bees to abscond; some beekeepers have reported the rapid collapse of even strong colonies.

Control Edit

The small hive beetle is considered a secondary pest in South Africa, and, as such, has not been the subject of major control efforts. The beetle is most often found in weak or failing hives and rarely affects strong hives. However, differences in the housecleaning traits of the bees found in South Africa and the U.S. may mean very different responses to the beetles. Some early reports from Florida and South Carolina suggest the beetles may be more damaging there than in Africa. PDB (paradichlorobenzene) has been used for protecting empty stored combs. Coumaphos bee strips (Bayer Corporation) have been approved for use in hives for the control of small hive beetles in some states under an emergency registration.

The most effective control against small hive beetle is maintaing colony strength. Coupled with minimizing empty frames of comb, this will all but eliminate the chances of colony failure.

Distribution Edit

Sources Edit

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