By David Coyle, Ph.D.
There’s been a lot of attention given to pollinators recently, especially native pollinators—which include bees, wasps, flies, beetles, and several other organisms—but also those species used commercially. Yes, I’m talking about European honey bees, (Apis mellifera). Their colonies are often moved great distances and are essential to produce many food crops. Like ’em or not, European honeybees are a critical spoke in the agricultural wheel.
Unfortunately, as with any commercial species, there are pest issues. Varroa mites and colony collapse disorder are probably the two problems that most folks are familiar with, but a new article published in March in the open-access Journal of Integrated Pest Management profiles another pest: the small hive beetle (Aethina tumida).
Small hive beetles can cause millions of dollars in damage annually to honey bee hives, say the authors of the article, Virginia Tech’s Morgan Roth, James Wilson, Ph.D., and Aaron Gross, Ph.D. Native to sub-Saharan Africa (and first observed in Florida in 1998), this invasive species feeds on honey bee eggs and larvae as well as the honeycomb and pollen. Larval frass results in increased growth of a fungus that causes fermentation and creates a slimy substance in the hive. A single female beetle can lay up to 2,000 eggs, so populations can increase very rapidly.