Another Serious Bee Pest Found in Hilo

Posted on May 4, 2010 in 2010 News Releases, News Releases

NR10-04 – May 4, 2010

Small Hive Beetle Damages Honey

HONOLULU – The Hawai`i Department of Agriculture (HDOA) has confirmed the presence of another serious bee pest, the Small Hive Beetle (SHB), in hives located near Hilo.   The discovery of this new pest, in addition to the already established varroa mite, imperils the queen bee export and honey industry in Hawai`i.   In response to this detection, the department has invoked the Incident Command System to coordinate and manage rapid response efforts.  It is not known how the SHB arrived in Hawai`i.

On Tuesday, April 27, 2010, a beekeeper on a Pana`ewa farm contacted HDOA’s entomologist in Hilo about beetles he found in the hives on the farm.   The entomologist collected four beetles and together with HDOA entomologists in Honolulu made a preliminary identification.  Samples of the beetles were confirmed as SHB on Friday, April 30, by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Identification Service in Riverdale, MD.

Staff from HDOA’s Plant Pest Control and Plant Quarantine branches has already begun conducting surveys in the Hilo area.  So far, adult and larval stages of SHB have been found at two sites.  Surveys in West Hawai`i, where the majority of the queen bee operations are located will begin today.  Staff from O`ahu and Kaua`i has been dispatched to assist Hawai`i Island staff in this labor-intensive activity to determine the extent of the infestation. Two teams will be working in the Hilo area and one team in West Hawai`i.  HDOA is utilizing the Incident Command System, which is widely used for other emergency responses, to manage this pest emergency.  

“The Small Hive Beetle will be difficult to eradicate and control because it also feeds on various decaying fruits which are abundant in the wild,” said Neil Reimer, manager of the Plant Pest Control Branch.   “We are working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop a queen bee certification procedure that would allow for the continued export of clean queen bees to foreign and domestic areas.”

HDOA staff is working with counterparts on the mainland to develop most effective treatment strategies that may control SHB. 

SHB (Aethina tumida) adults are about four to five millimeters in length and are yellowish-brown in color, turning brownish, then to black as it matures. They feed on honey, pollen, wax, honeybee eggs and larvae and tunnel through the honeycomb, damaging or destroying the honeycomb and contaminating the honey.  Symptoms of SHB infestation include discolored honey, an odor of decaying oranges, and fermentation and frothiness in the honey. Heavy infestations may cause honeybee colonies to abandon hives.

SHB is native to South Africa and was first detected in the U.S in 1996 in South Carolina.  It was subsequently detected in Florida in 1998 and is currently found in many states in the South and Central areas of the U.S. and California.  Although found in the U.S., SHB is under international regulation for export of queen bees and it is a concern that some foreign countries may impose restrictions on the importation of queen bees from Hawai`i.

Varroa mites were first found on O`ahu in April 2007, and later in Hilo in August 2008 and Kona in October 2009. To date, varroa mites have not been detected on Kaua`i or in Maui County.

HDOA is asking residents to report any backyard or feral bee hives to the State’s toll-free Pest Hotline, 643-PEST (7378).

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