The Apiculture Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture has put stringent measures in place to control the Aethina Tumida or the ‘small hive beetle,’ which is affecting bee apiaries in the corporate area.
Reginald Peddy, Chief Apiculture Officer, told JIS News that the Unit has been able to design “some strips” that are placed in the hives to trap the beetle.
In addition to this method, he informed that the Ministry would be using a special chemical treatment to better control the pests. Once the chemical is authorised by the Pest Control Authority for use locally and a suitable agreement is reached with the United States-based distributor, in terms of cost and air charges, then the treatment would begin, he said.
According to Mr. Peddy, this sort of one-time chemical treatment, which is believed to be quite effective, has never been used in Jamaica. He noted that, “no one method is able to reduce the spread of the small hive beetle (and) we will use a number of different measures, which will include the one-time use of this particular chemical treatment.”
The small hive beetle is considered dangerous as the larvae destroys the honeycombs of the hives causing honey to be released and run free from the cells.
Jamaica is the third country to be affected by the pest with United States and Australia being the other two. The disease was first discovered in two apiaries in Mona, St. Andrew and has now spread to most of the 1,500 apiaries in the corporate area.
Although the pest has been confined to Kingston and St. Andrew, it was recently discovered in the Caymanas area of St. Catherine but Mr. Peddy believes the beekeeper had sourced some of his bees from Kingston.
He pointed out that the spread of the bug was in the initial stage and as such, everything would be done to reduce the level of contamination. “We have not seen the real destructive damage that the beetle is able to do. We figure it would be extremely destructive if we had not caught it in time,” he stated.
There has been no clear indication as to how the pest came into the island, but Mr. Peddy believes it could have been from a number of different sources. The pest, it is believed, could have been transported in soil, on aircrafts, ships, or products in bee pollen. The beetle could also have entered Jamaica on used bee-keeping equipment that has been imported, even though this practice is prohibited.
In the meantime, the Ministry has embarked on a number of seminars to educate bee farmers on the biology of the small hive beetle, its economic impact on beekeeping and measures being implemented in its control. Mr. Peddy told JIS News that the seminars have been quite successful so far with huge turnouts.
He said the Agriculture Unit is also sensitizing the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) extension officers on how to instruct farmers to control the pest.
In addition, the Apiculture Unit at Bodles in St. Catherine is conducting research to better understand the biology of the beetle as not much is known about it.
“The Ministry will assist the farmers in the treatment process and as such, they will not be left on their own,” Mr. Peddy stated.