Small hive beetles: can we stop the invasive honey bee pest?

An image of a honey bee, to demonstrate the bees at risk from the beetle pest.
© iStock/Antagain

The honey bee research association COLOSS have published an action plan to deal with the new introductions of the honey bee pest, small hive beetles, into regions previously free of them.

The action plan, titled “How to slow the global spread of small hive beetles, Aethina tumida”, was published in the journal Biological Invasions. It identified large gaps in the knowledge of the small hive beetles, and signalled an urgent need for further research to prevent the invasive species becoming an even more severe global issue for beekeepers and pollination.

The importance of raising awareness of small hive beetles

Small hive beetles are parasites who scavenge from bee colonies. They are endemic to sub-Saharan Africa but have become a globally invasive species. They can cause damage to wild bees and apiculture, and while it may be inevitable that they spread further, containment is required urgently to slow down the speed of their invasion.

Norman Carreck, from the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects at the University of Sussex, UK, said: “Early detection is most important. Only if an introduction is detected before the beetles manage to spread into wild honey bee colonies will it be possible to eradicate. To achieve this, we need to raise awareness and have to educate all stakeholders about the beetle’s biology and how to recognize it”.

Prof. Peter Neumann, the co-author and president of COLOSS, added: “Much about the biology of the small hive beetle is still unknown. We urgently need to address fundamental research questions to enable adequate solutions for this invasive pest.”

COLOSS

COLOSS is a honey bee research association. It was formerly funded by the European Union COST Programme (Action FA0803) and is currently funded by the Ricola Foundation – Nature & Culture, Veto Pharma, the University of Bern and the Eva Crane Trust.

While COLOSS does not directly support science, it coordinates international research activities globally. It aims to promote a cooperative research programme focused on transferring science research into beekeeping practice.

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