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Detection and control techniques for the Small Hive Beetle Aethina tumida (Murray); (Coleoptera, Nitiduluidae) - HH3225SHB

The honeybee is an important pollinator of both crop and wild plants, and beekeeping an integral part of the rural economy. It is essential for the Defra bee health programme to develop and put in place effective contingencies to protect the UK beekeeping industry. (Defra’s Objectives 1 and 4). The introduction of the small hive beetle Aethina tumida (SHB) would pose a major threat to the long-term sustainability and economic prosperity of UK beekeeping and agriculture through disrupting pollination. The recent report of the detection of the SHB in Australia increases the risk of introduction as thousands of packages of bees have been imported into mainland Europe over the last 2 years. The arrival of the beetles has already had a devastating effect on the honeybee industry in the USA (estimated economic damage in 1998 alone was $3 million) with 30,000 colonies lost in Florida alone in the first 2 years of the infestation. If the SHB became widely established in the UK there would be no chance of eliminating it and it would cause similar economic damage. In addition to the threat to honeybee colonies there are reports of the ability of the SHB to destroy bumble bee colonies thus posing an additional threat to biodiversity. It is therefore important to establish reliable methods of detection and control prior to the introduction of the SHB into the UK.

Scientific context
The SHB was identified as a potential threat to UK beekeeping in project HH0818SHB. It belongs to a family of scavenger beetles and is native to Africa, where it is widespread in at least 18 countries, most recently confirmed in Egypt. Adult beetles are able to locate and enter bee colonies where they lay eggs in irregular masses in hive crevices or brood combs. Both larvae and adults preferentially consume bee eggs and brood rather than honey and pollen. The larvae hatch in 2-6 days and mature 10-14 days later, at which point they leave the colony to pupate in the soil close to the hive entrance. Adults hatch out in approximately 3 weeks and the cycle begins again.

The SHB was first confirmed in Florida, USA, in May 1998 and is now established in 29 US States. It is well able to survive in the colder climates of the United States, e.g. Minnesota, and has recently been confirmed in Manitoba in Canada. The SHB has also recently been found in Australia (October 2002) where the infestations were well established and some colonies were on the point of collapse. In the USA the beetles reproduce effectively and aggressively in colonies of European honeybees, develop great numbers of beetles, and cause massive damage to honeybee colonies and colony death through consumption and destruction of the brood nest. In heavy infestations, all the brood is consumed and destroyed; and it is estimated that a single frame containing bee brood can produce up to 20-30,000 larvae per hive. Honey contamination and spoilage occurs as a result of beetle defecation in the combs, which subsequently ferment.

The SHB can be easily transported and introduced to the UK in:
a) imported bees, package bees and bee equipment (beetles are able to survive for up to 2 weeks without food or water) or swarms in containers/freight. Australia exports huge numbers of package bees overseas, including countries in the European Union (France for example).
b) imported goods such as fruit, as it has been shown that it can survive and reproduce on a range of fruit for over two months.
c) soil material as it pupates in the soil, it can easily be introduced in soil with imported plants or heavy machinery.

The aim of this project is to provide the basis for the development of a contingency plan for the detection and control of the small hive beetle in the UK. It will aim to identify where opportunities exist to develop suitable detection and control methods.

Scientific objectives
1. To identify pheromones or baits that could be evaluated for use as lures in traps to detect beetles in the UK
2. To identify potential methods of control which could be used in honeybee colonies in the short term, e.g. pesticides, and longer term, e.g. biological control
Project Documents
• Final Report : Detection and control techniques for the Small Hive Beetle Aethina tumida (Murray); (Coleoptera, Nitiduluidae)   (155k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2002

To: 2003

Cost: £8,000
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Central Science Laboratory
Bee Health              
Fields of Study