JIS News

The small hive beetle, which has been plaguing apiaries in Kingston and St. Andrew, has been brought under control, Reginald Peddy, Chief Apiculture Officer at Bodles Research Station in Old Harbour, St. Catherine has noted.
Mr. Peddy informs JIS News that while Jamaica will never be totally rid of the pest, they have been able to keep it manageable through the use of chemical strips known as checkmites. ” The chemical treatment which started on February 14 will keep the population very low, plus the mechanical traps that we have set on some farms, they have been giving us some very good results. That in essence will keep the population of the mite at a manageable level,” he says.
The small hive beetle is considered dangerous as the larvae destroy the honeycombs of the hives, causing honey to be released and run free from the cells. He said the treatment teams are no longer out in the fields because most of the work have been completed, but the clean-up process being done by individuals is still on-going. “That is to say, other apiaries that have not been touched, we are now sending in individuals to do them,” he adds.
All apiaries in Kingston and St. Andrew are considered to be infested with the pest and as such, all are being treated. “There are still some apiaries out there that are not registered and we are searching for some of those now,” Mr. Peddy tells JIS News.
He points out that only one incident has been reported outside the Corporate Area, where the beetle was found in St. Thomas. “There is one incident where a single beetle was found in St. Thomas but we think that is an isolated case, because the entire apiary was searched and we did not find any other,” Mr. Peddy informs.
He says that they have been noticing an interesting trend, as the beetle’s adult population has been on the decline. “What we have seen is that where the level was extremely high in the last couple of months, once we went out there and started treating, we realize that the level of the beetle population has diminished significantly. We were not finding as many adult beetles as we expected to find in the apiaries,” he adds.
Mr. Peddy says it has not yet been ascertained as to the cause of the demise in the population. “We are in the process of conducting some research to find out what could have caused the population to be reduced so significantly. We know that some farmers had adopted some of the mechanical methods of control that we had suggested and they were getting some results from it, but there were still other farms on which the beetles were in high population and that was up to a couple of months ago, and on these farms we have noticed that the adult population has decreased,” he points out.
One theory put forward for the decline in the adult population, Mr. Peddy says, could be drought conditions currently being experienced. He explains that the larvae have to exit the hive, fall on the ground and burrow themselves in the soil in order to pupate. “So we figure that the weather condition is not favourable to them to become adults, so that is probably what has caused the population to be so low,” he says.
Mr. Peddy says that as soon as rain begins to fall and the soil condition is favourable, it will be known if the population will soar.
He points out that bee farmers are still being sensitized on how to safeguard against the small hive beetles. “We have already gone through all the parishes and we continue to make our presence felt at the All Island Bee Farmers Association parish meetings to inform farmers what to expect when the small hive beetle finally get to them,” he informs.
Mr. Peddy is imploring beekeepers to look out for the small hive beetle and to use some of the control methods recommended, and if the beetle begins to affect some of the parishes where it has not yet been found, to advise the Apiculture unit immediately.
“We expect the beetle to spread, but not in the very immediate future. The beetle is able to fly quite a distance by itself up to 15 kilometres. We realize that when bees are swarming, the beetle tend to travel along with the swarm and so you will have bees moving from one place to another with beetles moving along with the swarm,” he notes.
So far it has not been established as to how the beetles entered the island. Mr. Peddy emphasises that Kingston and St. Andrew have since been under quarantine with stringent stipulations that no bees or bee-keeping equipment should be moved from Kingston and St. Andrew to other parishes for fear that they might transmit the beetle by this means.
“We are asking farmers that the cardboard strips that we have used to cover the checkmite strips in the beehive, they should ensure that these cardboard strips are replaced if they are eaten away by the bees, because the bees have a tendency to chew away on the cardboard strips and expose the treatments so we are asking farmers to replace them if they find this happening,” Mr. Peddy stresses.