Bee farmers across the island are being advised to lookout for the ‘small hive beetle’ or the Aethina Tumida.
The pest was found in two apiaries in Mona, St. Andrew during August and September and is considered dangerous as the larvae destroys the honeycombs of the hives causing honey to be released and run free from the cells.
Chief Apiculture Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Reginald Peddy, informed JIS News, that officers were carrying out investigations to determine the distribution of the pest across the island. Information so far, is that the pest is still limited to the apiaries in Mona and farmers are being urged not to panic.
Mr. Peddy said that the Ministry had embarked on a series of seminars to sensitize beekeepers about the biology of the small hive beetle, its economic impact on beekeeping and measures being implemented in its control.
Seminars have so far been conducted in the parishes of Hanover, St. James, St. Catherine and parts of Clarendon with plans to undertake more sessions in the latter parish on the 17th of November.
Other sessions will be held at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) office in Falmouth, Trelawny on November 23; the Orange River Research Station in Highgate, St. Mary on November 24; the Bee Keeping Demonstrating Centre at the Brown’s Town Community College in St. Ann and the RADA Office in Manchester on November 30 and the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) in Portland on December 9. The starting time for all sessions is 10:00 a.m.
In the meantime, beekeepers are being asked to carefully check their apiaries and beehives thoroughly for the beetle and report any findings to the RADA office in their parish or the Bodles Research Station in St. Catherine.
Mr. Peddy stressed that it was important for beekeepers to “maintain good apiary practices and proper hive management in their efforts to prevent infestation of beetles in their apiaries.”
In describing the pest, Mr. Peddy informed that the adult beetles were dark brown to black in colour and measure 5mm in length. The beetles, he said, lay their eggs in dark concealed sections of the beehive and sometimes in empty comb cells.
The adult beetle and larvae feed on pollen and honey, which results in the fermentation of the honey, which causes the entire colony to break away. Pollen filled combs, Mr. Peddy said, appear wet, with soggy pollen in the cells emanating a scent of fermentation. The insect, he noted, also fed on decomposing fruits such as watermelon, squash, cantaloupe and pumpkin and these fruits serve as secondary hosts.
The Apiculture Officer stated that it was critical that farmers checked carefully for this new pest, as it resembled the ‘lesser wax moth’, which is a usual pest of the beehive, except that they are reddish-brown in colour with spines on the dorsal section of the body.
The small hive beetle was first reported in Florida, in the United States in 1998. It is widely found in Africa, particularly in South Africa where it is considered to be a secondary pest as it mainly attacks small and weak colonies.