Small Hive Beetle in Southern Italy

Downloads Related Content
Changed on: 08.04.2019

All-clear signal - suspicion of the introduction of the small hive beetle into France has not been confirmed

The EU Reference Laboratory for Bee Health has informed that an import of queens from Argentina took place on 26 March 2018 and that four suspicious eggs were found in the French testing laboratory during the examination of the cages. Since the morphological examination of eggs is not suitable for species identification, a molecular genetic analysis was carried out. This did not produce a clear result, as the quantity and quality of the DNA obtained was insufficient.  The following risk analysis showed a risk from zero to almost zero for a possible establishment of the small hive beetle in France, as the import was controlled according to EU directives. In the course of the control, the queens were transferred into new transport cages as required by the proper procedure for queen imports.

Nevertheless, for precautionary reasons, a monitoring programme with international inspections is started at the place where the queen cages are examined, at the place where the queens are admitted and at the airport of arrival.

Click here for more information:

No identification of SHB in France following the queen import from Argentina in April 2018

Current publication with tips for the visual examination of bee colonies on the Small Beehive Beetle:

- Cornelissen B & Neumann P (2018): How to Catch a Small Beetle: Top Tips for Visually Screening Honey Bee Colonies for Small Hive Beetles. Bee World

The small hive beetle has been in South Italy since 2014.

Kleiner Bienenstockkäfer

In the region of Calabria, the area of the first appearance in 2014, there have been finds of the small hive beetle in bee colonies every year since then, despite the very rigorous and continuously implemented extensive monitoring and control measures. Thus this pest is to be regarded as established in this region. In 2016, the small hive beetle was also detected in the province of Cosenza, about 100 km away from the protection zone around Gioia Tauro, at five apiaries of a farm, which indicates a unique carry-over.

The situation is different for Sicily. Here, in 2014, there was evidence of an apiary whose colonies had been in Calabria in the summer of 2014 and had subsequently migrated back to Sicily. After the control measures had been taken, the extensive inspections in Sicily did not reveal any further findings until 2017, so that the restriction and surveillance zone there could be lifted in March 2017 by EU implementation decision (EU 2017/370).

From 2015 onwards, the veterinary authorities in these areas set up surveillance offshoots (so-called "sentinel peoples") in order to obtain a picture of the infestation situation.

In the rest of Italy, the monitoring activities have so far revealed no findings of the small hive beetle.

The data of the confirmed cases are available on the following websites in tabular form as well as in figures: (english)

Origin and previously known distribution areas

The small hive beetle originates from sub-Saharan Africa. It belongs systematically to the family of the Glanzkäfer. Based on this occurrence, it appeared in the USA in 1996 and in Australia in 2002. In the meantime this dangerous bee pest has been spread to many other countries and there are occurrences in North, Central and South America, in the Philippines, in South Korea and since 2014 in South Italy. For Europe, the latter is already the second import. Its larvae were first discovered in queen shipping cages after a queen import from Texas to Portugal (2004). Due to the rapid discovery and the rigorous official measures, however, no establishment took place and the infestation could be eradicated again.

The damage caused by an infestation not only includes direct damage to bee colonies, but also severe economic losses due to import and export barriers for bees and queens from infested Areas.

Infestation or suspicion are notifiable!

In the EU Notification Directive 82/894/EEC (as last amended by Commission implementing Decision 2012/737/EU amending Annexes I and II to this Directive), the infestation with the small hive beetle (Aethina tumida) is listed as a notifiable disease in Annex I. According to the Austrian Bee Disease Act, both an infestation with the small hive beetle and the suspicion of its occurrence are notifiable (Bienenseuchengesetz, § 3. (1) 1. and 2.).

Legal regulations for the import of bees

As there is also a danger that the beetle will be imported in Austria, it is absolutely necessary to comply with the legal regulations on the import of bees. The EU rules for intra-Community trade in live bees and bumble bees state that "bees must come from areas within a radius of at least 100 km where there are no restrictions related to the suspected or confirmed presence of the small hive beetle" (Part 2 of Annex E to Directive 92/65/EEC). As the whole region of Calabria is subject to restrictions as a surveillance zone (after 2014/909/EU), movements of colonies from the region of Calabria and a 100 km wide ring around it are not allowed (see figure).

Die eingezeichnete blaue Linie markiert das Gebiet, für das ein innergemeinschaftliches Verbringungsverbot für Bienenvölker und Imkereimaterial (ausgenommen Königinnen mit max. 20 Begleitbienen, s.u.) besteht (persönliche Mitteilung Mutinelli 2017)

Due to the amendments of 20 November 2017 (Implementing Decision (EU) 2017/2174 of 20 November 2017 amending Annex E of Directive 92/65/EEC on trade in bees and bumble bees), the transport of queens in cages (single queen with a maximum of 20 foster bees per cage) is subject to smaller minimum distances to infested areas of the hive beetle:

The minimum distance to the boundaries of a protection zone with a radius of at least 20 km around a confirmed occurrence of the hive beetle must be at least 30 km. This therefore means at least 50 km distance to a confirmed case. However, this only applies on condition that regular official inspections of the area are carried out with precisely defined statistical reliability. For the movement of bumble bee colonies, the only restriction now applies is that the breeding must take place in a facility shielded from the outside world.

The basic requirements for each movement are valid veterinary certificates from the country of origin, notification of the movement via TRACES and notification to the competent veterinary authority of the recipient country. This means that both the authorities of the country of origin and of the host country are informed about the movement of bees (bumble bees) and can carry out targeted checks.

Appearance and way of life of the small hive beetle

Adult Small Beehive Beetle

The adult beetle is 5-7 mm long, 2.5-3.5 mm wide, brightly coloured after hatching, later to brown-black. The larva is up to 1 cm long, creamy white, has three pairs of legs and two rows of bristles on the back.
The eggs are about 2/3 the size of bee eggs and are usually laid in heaps or individually in cracks.

Adult beetles live in bee colonies, but can also survive outside. In contrast to the Varroa mite, it does not depend on bees as a means of transport, but can actively fly at least 10 km to visit a colony. After entering the colony, the female lays a large number of eggs in several stages. The larva hatches from the egg and eats brood, pollen supplies and honey in the colony. When fully grown, it leaves the colony and pupates in the soil near the colony. Depending on the climate, 1 to 6 generations per year are possible. The adult beetles can spend the winter in the winter grape and thus survive in cold regions (e.g. USA, Canada).

Precautionary measures to prevent importation

Since there is a possibility of a previously unidentified occurrence of this pest, neither bee colonies nor queens should be moved from Italy or returned to Austria in the course of migration for precautionary reasons. The rules for intra-Community trade in live bees and bumble bees state that "bees must come from areas within a radius of at least 100 km where there are no restrictions related to the suspected or confirmed presence of the small hive beetle" (Part 2 of Annex E to Directive 92/65/EEC).

Further Informationen