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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Chemistry Research

Title: Potential for population growth of the small hive beetle Aethina Tumida (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae) on diets of pollen dough and oranges

item Arbogast, Richard
item Torto, Baldwyn
item Teal, Peter

Submitted to: Florida Entomologist
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/27/2010
Publication Date: 6/7/2010
Publication URL:
Citation: Arbogast, R.T., Torto, B., Teal, P.E. 2010. Potential for population growth of the small hive beetle Aethina Tumida (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae) on diets of pollen dough and orange. Florida Entomologist. 93(2):224-230

Interpretive Summary: The small hive beetle is a native of Africa where it is considered a minor pest of honey bees, and until recently it was thought to be limited to that continent. However, it was detected in Florida in 1998 and by 2004, it had spread to 30 states. It now poses a major threat to the beekeeping industry of the United States. The beetle enters bee hives where it lays eggs and multiplies rapidly, feeding on pollen, honey and bee brood. It contaminates honey, causing it to ferment, and eventually destroys the hive. ARS scientists at the Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology in Gainesville, Florida, have found that small hive beetles are capable of population growth on diets other than bee products. This and earlier findings that this invasive species occurs in woodlands near which there are no managed honey bee colonies, has serious implications. Its ability to survive and multiply in the absence of honey bees will facilitate its spread and help maintain reservoirs for re-infestation that may be difficult to eradicate, thus hindering efforts to manage populations in apiaries. This information will be of use to scientists in developing better methods for controlling this pest that will directly benefit beekeepers.

Technical Abstract: The small hive beetle Aethina tumida Murray, is an African native that has become a serious pest of honey bees in North America and Australia. The beetle is capable of rapid population growth on pollen, honey, and bee brood. It is also capable of feeding and reproducing on various kinds of fruit, but its ability to sustain population growth on diets other than bee products has remained unknown. We examined this question by observing A. tumida on two diets: pollen dough (inoculated with a species of yeast carried by the beetle) and orange. Age-schedules of survival (lx) and fecundity (mx) were constructed for each diet and used to calculate the intrinsic rate of natural increase (r), which was in turn used to calculate other demographic parameters. The results showed potential for population growth on both diets (r > 0), but the potential was less on orange (r = 0.0631) than on inoculated pollen dough (r = 0.1047). The calculated multiplication per generation on pollen dough was nearly double that on orange and the generation time was shorter by more than a third. Survival of A. tumida populations on oranges, or any other alternative diet, in a given environment would depend on the value of r relative to the strength of environmental conditions opposing population increase. The ability to use alternative diets (fruit, possibly fungi, or other food resources) would confer an adaptive advantage upon beetles dispersing over a landscape in which honey bee colonies occur as small, widely scattered patches.

Last Modified: 10/16/2017
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