On Monday, May 21st, a beekeeper in Lihue noticed unusual beetles on some beekeeping equipment near his hives. The Plant Pest Control Branch of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) was contacted on May 22nd and samples were taken and sent to HDOA entomologists in Honolulu who confirmed the identification of SHB yesterday. In the meantime, HDOA received reports that potentially infected hive material had been previously moved to other locations on Kaua`i. HDOA staff is currently surveying and assessing the extent of the infestation on the island.
Hawaii residents, especially beekeepers, are reminded that transporting bees or used beekeeping equipment between islands is prohibited by law without obtaining HDOA permits and prior inspection.
Small hive beetle (Aethina tumida) adults are about four to five millimeters in length and are yellowish-brown in color, turning brownish, then to black at maturity. They feed on most anything inside a beehive, including honey, pollen, wax, as well as honeybee eggs and larvae. As they feed, they tunnel through the hive, 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 sub-Saharan 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 Hawaii.
Besides being honey producers, bees are critical pollinators for many food crops, including melons, watermelons, cucumbers, squash, lychee, mango, Macadamia nut, coffee, eggplant, avocado, guava, herbs and some flowering plants, such as sunflowers. HDOA estimated in 2007 that about 70 percent of Hawaii’s food crops depend on pollination by bees.
Beekeepers who notice any suspicious beetles or larvae inside bee colonies, please contact HDOA immediately at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (808)973-9525 (Oahu) or (808)274-3072 (Kauai)
To view the HDOA Pest Alert on SHB, go to: http://hawaii.gov/hdoa/pi/ppc/npa-1/NPA-SHB%201-12.pdf