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small hive beetle

Small hive beetle has been intercepted at a sentinel apiary in southern Italy.

It is not yet known for sure whether the beetle has spread beyond the port area in Calabria in which it was found, but a contact tells me that eradication is still being considered as an option. There is currently a mission of Italian and EU experts (from the EU Reference laboratory for bee health in France) on the spot assisting the local authorities. They are already inspecting migratory hives which had been in an area of 20km around the site of detection and, I understand, the response also includes a cordon of 100km around the site where trade in bees is not permitted. However there is a real possibility that we now have this pest on the loose in Europe.

There are many possible routes into the UK for this pest. Packages of bees, queens, bumble bee boxes, pot plants, fruit boxes, hive products are all a risk, and if this pest becomes abundant in southern Europe it will be very difficult to keep it out of these islands forever. There are already sentinel apiaries established in the UK, and the Horticultural inspectors have been alert to this pest for some time, so there is no indication that it has yet spread to the UK. It seems likely though that bees, both packages and queens, represent the great risk of spread at the moment.

The bad news is that many (800) packages were imported from Italy into the UK in 2013. In 2014 there were almost 3000 queens imported from Italy, and perhaps more not making it into the official record. The Italian producers are spread around the country, and migratory beekeeping is practiced in Italy, so there is even a small risk that the recent bee imports have already brought this pest into the UK.

Would they survive a Scottish winter? Possibly, adults can overwinter in the bee cluster in any climate. They can survive very cold winters in northern parts of the US and into Canada so they could perhaps survive in Scotland although they may not thrive as well as in, for example, parts of southern England.

There is further information on the background here:

and Bee Base has a useful leaflet on small hive beetle here:

One last observation is that I understand that some beekeepers in Germany overwinter colonies in Italy. There are clearly several routes to possible rapid spread thoughout Europe. The wholesale movement of bees into the UK from continental Europe has become very risky indeed.

The following web site shows the area of infestation at 11 October 2014

Gavin Ramsay
SBA Bee Health Convener
11th October 2014