Here are some links to information on the “Small Hive Beetle” that is a threat to the populations of honeybees and possibly other bee populations in the UK. A work in progress, more information will be added later -WebBee
What Is the Small Hive Beetle (SHB)?
The Small Hive Beetle is a beetle that thrives inside honey bee colonies and it feeds on the grubs and wax inside the colony, it can rapidly expand and destroy a colony and its larve and adults can then live in the ground surrounding an Apiary making it very difficult to eradicate.
The DEFRA Small Hive Beetle information sheet is HERE
The Central Science Laboratory (Now FERA) Information sheet about Small Hive Beetle HERE
(A good information leaflet about the Small Hive Beetle life cycle.)
Where is it found?
The Small Hive Beetle is now endemic in large parts of the world including Australia and Africa, and now Italy.
The main threat to UK bees is thought to be from the Italian outbreak in Calabria, and although “Contained” it is not thought that the outbreak will not spread further; it is just a matter of time.
The current locations of the known Italian apiaries are HERE , mostly located in Calabria Italy (The Toe of Italy).
Its proximity to Sicilly and the lack of an initial cohesive, reliable and robust response by the Italian Government leads to the conclusion that it may already be endemic in Sicily but it has not for the usual “Italian reasons” been officially reported fully. The Italian Government say presently they have “No new information” about Sicily on some press releases but on other data for the year (2017) it has been confirmed as present on Sicily even though it hasn’t been officially reported that Sicily has an outbreak!
Latest Reported Affected Apiaries HERE
A series of Sentinel Apiaries were put in place to monitor the SHB infestation HERE
It is unknown if the Italian Authorities are even looking at any other “Non-sentinel” Apiaries.
(The Italian outbreak was previously enlarged by the unregulated movement of commercial bees to avoid the restrictions placed on commercial beekeepers; and as there is no evidence that regard for the “regulations and law” has improved in Italy it will in all probability happen again. – WebBee)
So the present threat is mainly perceived as from Southern Europe, however Small Hive Beetles don’t need a pilots licence to fly into the UK, or imported via cargo in to the UK within a consignment of something suitable.
Shipments of bees are finding themselves transported to eastern Europe where bee imports are not currently restricted, and again as this infestation is usually “Self reported”; so it is highly un-likely a commercial beekeeping company is going to condemn itself to the destruction of its valuable beekeeping stock and un-told regulation by “Self reporting” an infection of Small Hive Beetle.
On 11th September 2014, the Italian National Reference Laboratory for Apiculture confirmed the first detection and presence of the Small hive beetle in Gioia Tauro municipality, Calabria region, in the South west of Italy.
Italian authorities initial response was to monitor for 12 months and then opted for an eradication policy where infested hives are destroyed and the surrounding soil is treated.
Within the space of three months a further sixty apiaries were found to be infected across the region of Calabria, including an incursion into the region of Sicily.
This demonstrates the beetle’s ability to spread very quickly in a short space of time and highlights the importance that beekeepers should import bees responsibly. Inspections resumed in early spring 2015 and although for most of the year no positive cases were found, in late September 2015, further cases of Small hive beetle infested apiaries were detected.
For more up to date information on the situation, please see the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, Italian National Reference Laboratory for Apiculture (IZSVe) website: http://www.izsvenezie.com/aethina-tumida-in-italy/
Arrival in the UK
The Beebase information sheet points out “At Risk” locations in the UK, where it suggested there may be the first cases of SHB IF it is imported into the UK.
It is worth noting you can order online Lemon trees direct from several horticultural suppliers well within the affected area, and some address seem to be very close to the infected sites, so please don’t order any lemon trees!
There is some research to suggest that it is spread through the transport of rotten Fruit such as lemons HERE
What does it look like?
Here is an America information leaflet about the Small Hive Beetle, with some good (if you can say that?) pictures of the Small Hive Beetle, larve and the effects on comb HERE
Scary video if you want to see some in an Italian hive during an inspection HERE
What does it do?
The short version is it destroys colonies of Bees by eating comb, and laying thousands of eggs that then infest the
comb, these then drop onto the ground to transform into more beetles!
(Photograph by Mark Dykes, University of Florida.)
How can it be controlled?
As with other pests of Honeybees there are ways that this invader can be controlled to an extent.
Hiive traps utilizing Oil and ingenious hive floors, as well as pesticides and comb changes may help control what is going on inside the hive, but what makes this pest different is it has to be controlled OUTSIDE the hive and around the Apiary as well.
The life-cycle of this Beetle is not limited to exclusively being dependent upon colonies of bees, the soil surrounding colonies could become a harbor for the pupae and larve.
An explanation of some of the current protective measures that can be used can be found HERE
Who to tell if you suspect you have Small Hive Beetle?
As with Asian Hornets ALL sightings should be reported IMMEDIATELY to the Non-Native Species Secretariat either via e-mail with a photograph if possible to email@example.com or they can be posted via their online form HERE
It would also be good practice to report this to your local BBKA Branch and area Association as soon as possible.
What can you do to prevent it arriving?
Firstly do not under any circumstances import any bees from abroad, there are some very good UK bee breeders who can provide bees of differing varieties from existing stocks. The UK has an advanced program of “Black Bees” that are more suited to our climate and are better temperament for those who engage in recreational beekeeping.
Please support UK bee breeders and consult with your local branch BEFORE buying bees; it will save you money and could stop the spread of this invasive species of beetle.
Please be aware that a lot of advertisements promising “pure bred Italian Queen Bees”, are nothing of the sort, as in order for this to be the case these bees must come exclusively from pure Italian Bees stock reared in Italy; and after a season in the UK they will evolve into the current hybrid strain off bees in your locality anyway!
BBKA Guidance notes for importing Bees into England HERE
BBKA news updates on SHB will be found HERE
Italian presentation to European Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed, Animal Health and Welfare (short title) – HERE
Here is an article summarizing the spread to southern Italy HERE
A view of Italian beekeeping in Calabria HERE
BBKA Press release about SHB – Feb 2017 –HERE
Perhaps it re-iterates the simple philosophy
>>> DO NOT IMPORT ITALIAN BEES OR BEE PRODUCTS<<<<