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Until recently, Aethina tumida (the small hive beetle) was known only from the sub-Saharan regions of Africa where it is considered a minor pest of bees, harming only weak hives. In 1996, Aethina tumida was discovered in Florida and has now spread throughout much of the United States, including Hawaii, perhaps transported by movement of migratory beekeepers from Florida. This species has also spread to Australia. In North America, free from natural diseases, predators and parasites that keep populations controlled, the small hive beetle is a far more destructive pest to honeybee colonies than it is in Africa, causing damage to combs, stored honey and pollen. The beetle larvae tunnel through combs in the hive, feeding and defecating; this causes discoloration and fermentation of the honey. If a beetle infestation is sufficiently heavy, these beetles may cause bees to abandon their hive.

The adult beetle is dark brown to black and about one-half centimeter in length. Hive beetles may have 4–5 generations a year during the warmer seasons. Larvae hatch from eggs laid in crevices within the hive, grow to a mature length of 9.5 mm, then crawl or drop out of the hive to pupate underground.

The most effective defense against the small hive beetle is maintaining a strong bee colony. There are also several traps currently on the market, which use non-toxic oil to suffocate the beetles. This allows beekeepers to avoid having toxic chemicals in their beehives. Paradichlorobenzene (PDB) has been used for protecting empty stored combs.

(Ellis 2010; Delaplane 2005; Wikipedia 2011)


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