Roe Valley Beekeepers Association

Beekeeping Advice

Small hive beetle

The Small Hive Beetle (Aethina tumida)

On September 11th 2014, the Italian National Reference Centre for Beekeeping confirmed the first detection of the presence of Small Hive Beetle in South West Italy, in the port city Gioia Tauro.

The USA suffered tens of thousands of honey bee colony losses in the first few years after the Small Hive Beetle became established there. This pest presents another serious threat to honey bees on the island of Ireland that are still coping with the effects of the Varroa mite parasite and its associated viruses.

The Small Hive Beetle is a statutory notifiable pest of honey bee colonies across Europe. This beetle, which is indigenous to Africa, had entered the USA in 1998. Then in just a few years spread to Australia, Canada and The Carribean where it has proved that it can be a very serious pest of European honey bees and can also affect bumble bees. 

The adult beetle lays up to 1000 eggs that hatch into larvae, which devour wax, honey and honey bee brood devastating affected colonies. After pupation in soil near the hive, the adults emerge and can fly up to 8 miles in any direction in search of another hive. The beetles can survive the winter by harbouring in honey bee colonies. 

Safeguards are already in place to prevent the accidental introduction of Small Hive Beetle from imported fruit on which it can survive. For their part, beekeepers should avoid bee and bee equipment imports, as there is difficulty in detecting Small Hive Beetle in these items. Beekeepers are encouraged to propagate replacements from local stock in line with recent queen rearing programmes.

There is a now a serious risk of its accidental introduction into the UK and Republic of Ireland because there is significant trade in queens and bees from EU countries. This risk also extends to hive products such as beeswax and bulk honey. It is noted that while transfers from GB to NI are technically not classed as imports, purchasers have a duty to clarify the ultimate origins and health risks of such stock.

Ulster Beekeepers’ Association (UBKA) in common with the Institute of Northern Ireland Beekeepers, the Native Irish Honey Bee Society and the Federation of Irish Beekeeping Associations in Republic of Ireland represent beekeepers on the Island of Ireland. For many years these organisations have discouraged imports of bees into Ireland (both North and South) and they are now re-emphasising this policy to their members as a result of this increased level of threat.

It is imperative to be vigilant to prevent its introduction because once established it will be almost impossible to eradicate Small Hive Beetle.