The Small Hive Beetle
The Small hive beetle (SHB), Aethina tumida, is an invasive species originating from Africa which has proved to be a serious pest of honeybee hives in the USA and Australia. The SHB has been made notifiable within the European Community (Commission Decision 2003/881/EC)
More detailed information may be found in the NBU advisory leaflet The Small Hive Beetle – A serious new threat to European apiculture, the World Organisation for Animal Health OIE chapter on Small hive beetle or on the European Reference Laboratory's (EURL) advisory leaflet.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published an extensive report which details methodologies on SHB diagnostics, visual inspection in a colony and beetle mitigation through traps, chemical and husbandry methods is available here.
View a short video clip of Small Hive Beetle larvae and beetles in laboratory conditions.
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The small hive beetle is indigenous to Africa, and therefore widespread across the continent, particularly sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2002, it was reported in Itay-Al-Baroud, Egypt, and subsequently in a number of apiaries along the Nile Delta. However, a latter extensive apiary survey could not confirm its presence and no SHB damage to bee colonies has been reported since then.
Confirmed in Australia (2002), and is now present in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. It is considered endemic in those States.
In the USA SHB was first found in 1996 and the species formally confirmed in Florida in 1998. The beetle is now established across continental USA, all 48 contiguous states having found positive finds.
Detected in Canada in 2002 (Manitoba), 2006 (Alberta and Manitoba), 2008 (Quebec and Ontario), 2009 (Quebec), and 2013 (Ontario).In Ontario, (the most southern point) has an established SHB population with movement restrictions in place on colonies and apicultural material out of the region. It was also confirmed in Quebec (2013).
Mexico (2007) – SHB is established in at least eight states of Mexico, especially in the tropical states (e.g. Yucatan). In such areas, infestation levels can be extremely high with hundreds or even thousands of adult beetles found in a single infested hive.
Jamaica (2005) – Low impact to date.
Hawaii (2010) – Devastating impact on the local beekeeping industry; in particular on the queen rearing industry.
Cuba (2012) – A. tumida is currently present in the provinces of Villa Clara, Cienfuegos, Matanzas, La Havana, Mayabeque, Artemisa and Pinar del Rio and expected to extend to the whole country.
El Salvador (2013) – A follow-up survey in December 2014 detected SHB in only 68 out of 1700 hives suggesting a localised outbreak to date.
Nicaragua (2014) – reported in Rivas, currently unknown if established or localised.
Brazil (2015) – In March 2015, a swarm of honey bees (Apis mellifera) was captured and held in the apiary of the Beneficial Insects Laboratory, Department of Entomology and Acarology of the Graduate School of Agriculture "Luiz de Queiroz ", University of São Paulo (USP). Days later, 20 adult females of the small hive beetle were detected in the crate containing the captured swarm. No larvae were found and no apparent damage was observed in the hive. At the beginning of the investigation, the apiary included 6 hives of honey bees (Apis mellifera) and 40 stingless bee hives. The remaining hives showed no presence of beetles.
Portugal (2004) – SHBs were intercepted in a shipment of queens from the United States into Portugal in 2004. All colonies in the destination apiary were destroyed and the surrounding soil treated with insecticide.
Italy (2014) –On September 11 2014, the Italian Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, National Reference Laboratory for Apiculture (IZSV) confirmed the first detection of the presence of Small hive beetle (SHB) in South West Italy, in the port city of Gioia Tauro. A second outbreak was confirmed in Rosarno, approximately 1 km from the first infested apiary on September 17th 2014. In this outbreak, 4 colonies were found to be infested. Since then further infested apiaries have been confirmed. Further details will be made available as the situation evolves on the IZSV website or the ANSES European Union Reference laboratory for honey bee health website. confirmed in Calabria and in Sicily. Contingency measures currently in place with the aim of eradication of the SHB from Italy.
03/08/16 - The first outbreak in Cosenza was discovered in the framework of the surveillance for Aethina tumida carried out in Calabria region in an apiary composed of 12 nuclei. This outbreak is around 100km north of the initial protection zone. SHB has been found in four apiaries within a 3km radius all belonging to the same beekeeper. Clinical controls are being carried out in other apiaries in a 1 km radius zone from the primary outbreak with negative results so far. Epidemiological investigation is under way to ascertain the path of introduction in the primary outbreak.
03/03/17 - Commission Implementing Decision was published. It extends control measures on Calabria until the end of March 2019 while the safeguard measures on Sicily are lifted as a result of 2 years of surveillance without finding any cases of Small hive beetle since the initial outbreak. It is important that all beekeepers practice 'safe sourcing' of bees and ensure that all import guidelines are adhered to in order to help mitigate risks of an exotic pest incursion in the UK
Since the beetles discovery in Italy, urgent measures are now underway to assess the extent of the outbreak, complete tracings (sales and movements of bees from the area), with the intention to eradicate and control spread in line with EU legislation and safeguards. Measures include that in all apiaries where the beetle is found colonies are destroyed and all soil surrounding the hives in the apiaries is ploughed in and treated with a soil drench.
Since 2011, there has been a substantial level of imports of package bees and queens from Italy into the UK. The NBU is arranging for further inspection of colonies belonging to these beekeepers.
Philippines (2014) – Managed colonies of introduced European honeybees were confirmed severely infested in Lupon. Control measures are currently being undertaken, e.g. prohibiting inter island movement of bees.
Currently neither Aethina tumida nor Tropilaelaps spp. (see separate section) have been found in the United Kingdom. If either were introduced they could potentially cause major damage in certain parts of the UK or Europe, if they became established. Both parasites are statutorily notifiable under EU legislation. The small hive beetle is now confirmed present in Italy, but not so far elsewhere in Europe. Tropilaelaps mites are currently thought to be absent.
The NBU Inspectorate carries out each year a comprehensive risk based surveillance programme for these pests in At risk apiaries or zones, such as around ports, airports, container depots. Beekeepers are strongly encouraged to monitor their hives for their presence, all the more important now that SHB has been confirmed in Italy. Suspect samples can be sent to the NBU laboratory for diagnosis. In addition to support this contingency planning and preparing for the arrival of identified exotic threats is an integral part of our work.
Defra’s website includes a completed risk assessment on small hive beetle which can be found here
Defra have also completed a risk assessment on the potential for small hive beetle to be associated with produce and other plant products from Italy, click here
Work is ongoing to develop a lure for monitoring the Small Hive Beetle, see poster.
For further information please see the 2010 article in Biologist: Small hive beetle, the next threat to British honey bees (pdf)
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