USDA Scientists Join Beetle Battle to Protect Florida's Bees By
The small hive beetle, a pest with a sweet tooth for honey, was found in the
United States for the first time in June in Florida. Scientists with USDA's
Agricultural Research Service are
traveling to the Sunshine State to plan surveys to determine the extent of the
An alert beekeeper in Florida detected the first infested hives in St. Lucie
County, Fla., on June 5. Florida state entomologists confirmed the identified
beetle as Aethina tumida Murray. To date, infested hives have
been found in the following counties: St. Lucie, Indian River, Brevard, Polk and
Until now, the insect had been found only in South Africa. There, the beetle
is considered a native species and healthy hives easily resist the pest, so it's
not an economic problem. But, even in South Africa, less populous hives are
susceptible, according to South African beekeepers consulted by ARS scientists.
Small hive beetle adults are about 5 millimeters long and shiny black.
Larvae are white and maggot-like. Honey bees can generally remove the beetle
larvae, but the adult has a hard shell so bees have trouble stinging it or
removing it from the colony.
The insects don't attack bees, but eat and contaminate honey, ultimately
causing bees to flee the hive.
The adult beetles lay their eggs in hive cells. That's why the ARS
researchers advise beekeepers to postpone placing extra combs on hives until
their bees are ready to use them.
ARS bee researchers from
and Weslaco, Tex., will be in
Florida this week to assist Florida officials in planning research on the
beetle's biology and U.S. bees' vulnerability. Today, they're scheduled to be
at the Florida Beekeeper's Technical Council in Gainesville, Fla., to brief
beekeepers about the problem.
Scientific contacts: Jeff Pettis, USDA-ARS, Bee Research Laboratory,
Beltsville, Md. Phone: (301) 504-7299, fax 504-8736,
Wilson, Weslaco Bee Laboratory, 956-969-5005
Lawrence Cutts, Florida Apiary