What are small hive beetles and where did they come from?

Bee Health May 14, 2012|Print

The small hive beetle, Aethina tumida Murray, is a pest of honey bees, that was first discovered damaging honey bee colonies in Florida in the spring of 1998. It is native to South Africa. When and how it arrived in North America is unknown; however, the earliest known collection was made in 1996 in Charleston, SC. By 1999 it was established in Florida, Georgia and North and South Carolina. In 2000, it was discovered in Alabama, Ohio, Maine, Michigan, South Dakota, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Adult beetles are 6 mm (1/4") long, dark brown to black, flattened, oval to oblong in shape, with the head often tucked below the thorax. If the head is in view, the short antennae have a conspicuous club on the last segment. The larvae are elongate, whitish grubs which grow to 11 mm in length. They have tapered front and rear ends, and rows of small spines on their back. Beetle pupae are light tan to brown and can be found in the soil beneath and near the hive. Based on observations made in South Africa, eggs hatch in a few days and larvae complete development in 10 to 16 days. Pupation takes from three to four weeks. Several generations can occur within a year. Adults are strong fliers and easily disperse to new honey bee colonies to lay eggs. - John Skinner, University of Tennessee