The Small Hive Beetle
February 1, 1999
is NOT too cold for this new "critter", nor is Maine, Ohio or Minnesota (who
has already filed or special exception to treat).
I remember those days of 1984 when tracheal mites were first found in the
U.S., and the reaction of many beekeepers. Most ignored the announcement,
some said "so what", some bought more Terramycin, some stop buying packages
two states tried to stop trucks of bees from entering their highways or banned
bees from out-of-state, others said "my bees
are healthy and are not moved from their safe home so they will be OK", and
a few of us who had listened long and hard to the
scientists went to chemical houses, bought menthol, and treated our bees.
Even in spite
of the heavy losses by tracheal mite infection during the next 3 years, in
1987 beekeepers reacted the same way with the appearance of the varroa mite!
We all know that many thousands of colonies have been sacrificed to man's
pay attention to the bee experts, the scientists, or the extension people;
and persisted in believing that time worn-out philosophy that
"it won't happen to me".
my crusade of attempting to "Upgrade Havers into Keepers", I am writing this
article early to put you on the alert that the small hive beetle is a real
killer of bees and whole apiaries can be wiped out in a very short period
of time, "overnight" is the
word used by the Florida Dept. of Agriculture.
I will try to
summarize my knowledge about the beetle that was learned by spending
hours in Nashville at the American Beekeeping Federation's Convention listening
to highly skilled beekeeping investigators
who have been researching this new beetle for the past 8 months.
Some of the very
prominent investigators included: Dr. Shimanuki
of Beltsville Lab; Drs. Wilson & Eischen of Weslaco Lab; Laurence Cutts
and David Westervelt, State Apiarists of Florida; Jim
Baxter of Weslaco Lab; and Jack Thomas of Mann Lake Ltd. plus numerous others
who presented their findings to the meeting of the Honey Producers Assn. meeting
which was held earlier in the week at Baton Rouge, LA.
I spent a lot
of personal time with Florida's #1"beetle" man, David Westervelt and Dr. Bill
Wilson, who was sent from Weslaco Lab to investigate the resistant varroa
mite and got heavily involved with the hive beetle. It is interesting that
David Westervelt comes from a migratory beekeeping family, so he has great
knowledge about bees and the movement of bees.
Before you lose
interest in my long-windyness statement about this devastating pest, let me
tell you how your colonies in Maryland,
Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, or any other area are going to get this beetle.
It can fly, estimated
up to 5 miles, it very happily lives
in a bee colony or just among bees like migratory hives, pollinating hives,
"nuc" hives, or packages. Although in
emergency, the adult beetles will
eat cantaloupe or other fruit, they prefer HONEY or POLLEN, and the larvae
burrow through the comb of both super frames and brood frames to get it, thereby
destroying the bee brood.
The beetle larvae also may burrow into
the ground near colonies to pupate. In tests, beetle larvae have survived
being frozen for 0 days at -5 degrees, and upon warming became adult beetles.
Hence, beetles traveling in a colony of migratory, pollinating, nuc or package
bees can come into your state this spring or summer, drop off into the ground,
pupate, and fly to some resident colony of bees, maybe YOURS!
Aethina tumida Murray, is known as an apiary pest in South Africa,
where it is called the small hive beetle. With total difference of honey bee
species in South Africa other than our European types, the normal habits of
their bees, notably absconding
rather than building up to a
large population and then swarming, the hive beetle is considered an annoying
pest rather than a
devastating colony killer. The
adult beetle is broad, flattened about 3/16" - 1/4" long, dark brown to nearly
black in color, has 6 legs, and
can scurry away to hide rather quickly.
Unlike our bees, the gestation period
of the small hive beetle is weather dependent and highly
variable, from 38
to 81 days. Hence, you can see that the population can be EXPLOSIVE in the
warm months of May through September,
with each female laying 1000's of eggs.
In 1998, beetles were found in
Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina
and scattered reports of sightings
in several other states.
The effect upon a beetle by DISTURBING
A BEE HIVE is most unusual
and surely works AGAINST a beekeeper. After the beetle "takes up residence"
in a particular bee hive, it seems to coexist rather well without much breeding
and multiplication, but when
that colony is DISTURBED perhaps
by a beekeeper's inspection or move by truck, the beetles suddenly mate and
shortly thereafter the colony
is overwhelmed by the increased number of beetle larvae eating
through the comb and brood to the demise of the
as interesting is the speculation that beetles are attracted to disturbed
colonies, i. e. leaving an undisturbed hive where they
coexist with the bees there and fly to a disturbed hive and mate resulting
in a sudden reproduced increase in beetle
Quoting a paragraph from the SpeedyBee:
"In the field, the researchers noticed that
hives which were intensely manipulated one day would be seen succumbing to beetles
the next day. It is thought that a strong, stable colony is able to stay abreast
of the infestation and eat/kill the
emerging beetle larvae; however, in the wake of intense manipulation, the colony
becomes disoriented for a period,
during which the beetle population overcomes the bees.
To "put icing on the cake", a beekeeper
had an infestation of beetles in his honey house and the larvae had crawled
to the soil outside of the house, pupated, and emerged as adults to perpetuate
and spread a heavy infestation of
beetles over a large area!
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT? Many chemicals
have been tried to kill the beetles without damage to bees, and to
date, only one has been found - cournaphos,
an organophospate. The EPA has ALL organophosphates under review
due to the Food Quality Protection
Act which means EPA is highly resistant to release any organophosphate for
any use unless a very special need exists and the use of that chemical is
HIGHLY CONTROLLED. Scientists at
Weslaco Lab had found that Cournaphos
will kill the Apistan resistant varroa mite. Hence, Bob Crawford,Commissioner
of the Florida Dept. of Agriculture appealed to EPA to use Cournaphos in Florida,
colonies troubled with resistant
varroa mites and/or SMALL HIVE BEETLES. All other states will have to show
just cause in their filings. Maryland State Apiarist, Bart Smith, told me
in Nashville, that Maryland will file
quickly because we now have varroa mites resistant to Apistan in Anne Arundel
Only one commercial
firm, Mann Lake, Ltd. of Hackensack, Minnesota is licensed to sell Cournaphos
strips and their cost will be from
$1.7S - $2.40 each, dependent on quantity purchased. These strips will not
be available for "open purchase", but
only by permit. The strips are NOT used like Apistan strips. Since Hive Beetles
like to HIDE and are very mobile,one
strip is to be put under the ends of the top bars, both front and rear of
the hive, and the 3rd strip is to be
placed UNDER CARDBOARD at the front entrance to the colony.
Staying "true to form" of "letting the chips
fall regardless of where", I want to say that certain beekeepers(Know-it-alls)
abused the use of Miti-Cur a few years ago, causing the manufacturer to withdraw
it from sale.Miti-Cur strips contained
Amitraz which, effective on both tracheal and varroa mites, was a fine mite
chemical, and I hated to see it
taken off the market. This was caused by the "back yard good-old boys" trying
to play "scientist" who figured if
10 was a good dose, then 50 would be better and 5 times faster, and they killed
their bees and then had the GALL to sue the manufacturer claiming "defective
chemical". Rather than waste money
in court defending Miti-Cur, the manufacturer simply removed Miti-Cur from the
DON'T LET THE SAME THING HAPPEN
I end this long epistle by saying: Now beginning
my 66th year of beekeeping, I have seen many things, both good and bad, come
and go; but our stomachs need the food secured by honey bee pollination, and
my mind has been
often blessed by the Joys of Good
Beekeeping. So, just as one "climbs a mountain just to get to the top", let
us all try to Upgrade our thinking
from beeHAVER to beeKEEPER!
George W. Imirie
Certified Master Beekeeper