Bee Pest Spreads to Maui and Moloka`i

Posted on Jul 27, 2011 in 2011 News Releases, News-Releases

NR11-15 July 27, 2011

HONOLULU – The small hive beetle (SHB), a serious pest of honeybees, has been detected on Maui and Moloka`i.  The pest is considered widespread on Hawai`i Island and O`ahu after it was found in April 2010 and November 2010, respectively.

“We have recently detected low population levels of the small hive beetle on Maui and Moloka`i,” said Danielle Downey, Apiculture Specialist with the Hawai`i Department of Agriculture (HDOA).  “It is important that beekeepers survey their hives and report any suspected infestation because I firmly believe that the impact of this pest can be minimized through education and good management practices.”

HDOA is holding the following informational meetings for beekeepers:

Maui – Monday, August 1st, at Maui Community College, Ka Lama Room 103 from 5:30-7:30 p.m

O`ahu – Tuesday, August 2nd, HDOA Boardroom, 1428 S. King Street, Honolulu from 5:30–7:00 p.m.

Staff will provide beekeepers with detailed information on how to identify the SHB and to how use traps.

In early May 2011, a beekeeper at Keoneku‘ino, Moloka`i reported the presence of SHB – this was confirmed by researchers at the University of Hawai`i @ Manoa.  On July 27, 2011, entomologists from HDOA confirmed SHB in a sample taken from hives in East Maui, Maui.  HDOA and the University of Hawai`i @ Manoa Honey Bee Team are currently working with beekeepers on Maui and Moloka`i to determine the distribution of SHB on those islands.

HDOA staff have been working with beekeepers on O`ahu and Hawai`i Island in using traps to control and manage SHB-infested hives. The traps have helped in moderate to heavy infestations, and can be an effective tool in detecting SHB in low infestations.  Suspected SHB should be collected and reported to Downey at (808)936-5483 (Hilo).


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 Hawai`i.

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 Hawai`i’s food crops depend on pollination by bees.

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