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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Gainesville, Florida » Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology » Chemistry Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #338517

Research Project: Insect, Nematode, and Plant Semiochemical Communication Systems

Location: Chemistry Research

Title: Survival and reproduction of small hive beetle (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae) on commercial pollen substitutes

item Stuhl, Charles

Submitted to: Florida Entomologist
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/9/2017
Publication Date: 12/1/2017
Citation: Stuhl, C.J. 2017. Survival and reproduction of small hive beetle (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae) on commercial pollen substitutes. Florida Entomologist. 100(4):693-671.

Interpretive Summary: The European honey bee is crucial in their role as pollinators for agricultural crops in the United States. Approximately one third of our foods rely on honey bees for pollination. Pollinators are critical to our Nation’s economy, food security, and environmental health. Honey bee pollination adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year, and provides a foundation to ensure our diets are plentiful with fruits, nuts, and vegetables. The honey bee population has been in decline over the past decade. A major pest of the honey bee, the small hive beetle, Aethina tumida (Coleoptera: Nititulidae) has had a major impact on pollinator health in North America. This sub-Saharan Africa native emerges from the soil and seeks refuge in honey bee hives. Adult beetles and larvae cause destruction by consuming honey bee eggs, brood, pollen and honey. The female can lay an abundance of eggs in her lifetime and can live for many months. When food resources for the honey bee are absent, it may be necessary to supplement their diet. Supplementing the honey bee diet may help the colony survive by sustaining brood rearing and colony development, such as comb building. Nectar can be substituted with a sugar solution. Commercially available protein substitutes are available to complement pollen in the honey bee diet. A good honey bee pollen supplement is one that is readily consumed. If a large quantity is placed in the hive and not consumed rapidly, beekeepers may also be feeding the small hive beetle. The small hive beetle can exploit the pollen substitutes, where it will feed and reproduce. In a laboratory study, we investigated the effects of providing small hive beetle with prepared commercial pollen substitutes. The overall aim of this research was to examine the potential effects of commercial pollen substitutes on the survivability and reproductive success of the small hive beetles. Small hive beetle adults were provided with 7 individual commercial pollen substitutes and allowed to freely feed and oviposit over a period of 30 days. Our results indicated that he beetles can utilize the pollen supplements for survival and reproduction. One commonly used pollen supplement allowed for the production of as many as 7700 larvae. Collectively, these results support the hypothesis that commercially available pollen substitutes can enhance the pest beetle population within a hive if not utilized correctly. Our research objective was to gain knowledge and disseminate this information in regards to current cultural practices in honey bee husbandry and better management of small hive beetles.

Technical Abstract: An assay was developed to investigate the small hive beetle’s (Aethina tumida) potential for survival and reproduction when providing artificial food resources in managed European honey bees (Apis mellifera). Supplemental feeding is done to maintain the health of the hive, initiate comb building, expand colony numbers and promote pollen foraging. To complement the honey bees’ protein requirement, commercial pollen substitutes are available. Small hive beetle will exploit the pollen substitutes when placed in the hive. Adult beetles were provided with 7 different commercial pollen substitutes and allowed to freely feed and oviposit over a period of 30 days. Beetles that survived the longest on the treatments did not necessarily produce the most larvae. Bee-Pro showed the greatest survivability, but produced one of the lowest larval numbers. Pollen patties produced the most larvae, but the adult survival was low. This result may be due to the larvae utilizing all of the food resources in a short amount of time. Four of the seven treatments allowed for 70% or greater beetle survival for the entire assay period. This study suggests that the protein supplement needs to be readily consumed by the honey bee colony if it is to be effective for pest control.