A Low Cost Trapping System for Control of the Small Hive Beetle Aethina Tumida Murray, A Pest of Honey Bee Colonies

Project Overview

Project Type: On-Farm Research
Funds awarded in 2004: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Principal Investigator:
Peter Teal

Annual Reports


  • Animals: bees


  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, networking, participatory research
  • Pest Management: field monitoring/scouting, traps


    The small hive beetle has become a significant pest of beehives in the United States over the past 10 years. Although the beetle is distributed broadly, little information is available on spread, host habitat outside of beehives, or population densities. The best way to gain insight into these factors is through the use of effective monitoring traps. Scientists at the Center for Medical Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology, USDA, ARS Gainesville Florida, the University of Florida and the Pennsylvania State University have developed a new highly effective attractant and trap combination that allows for effective population monitoring of this invasive pest. Using the trap-lure combination at sites in Florida and Pennsylvania the team has discovered that most beetles were captured at the bottom of the hive and that infestation was heavily distributed in only about 25% of the colonies. During the period of the study, project participants attended 11 beekeeper meetings and held 3 short courses and 1 field day demonstration on the small hive beetle trapping system. Furthermore, one piece of educational material on the beetle was prepared for beekeepers and one scientific manuscript was submitted for publication. The development of the trap and lure combination will greatly aid research on the population dynamics of the small hive beetle.


    The apiculture industry is a vital component of modern agriculture in the US. Sales of honey, beeswax, and other bee products represent a significant part of this contribution. However, the most significant economic impact of the apiculture industry to US agriculture is from pollination services provided by managed honey bee colonies. An estimated 250,000 hives are managed in Florida, producing about $11 million worth of honey, and providing pollination services to the 35,000 acres of fruit and vegetable crops at an estimated value of about $30 million. In Pennsylvania, an estimated 30,000 honey bee colonies produce about $1.3 million worth of honey, with pollination services valued at about $53 million. Surveys also show that about 27% of beekeepers in Florida manage migratory beekeeping operations for 6 months outside the state, involving 62% of honeybee colonies, to pollinate melon, pumpkin, cucumber and blueberries.

    Surveys of beekeepers by various universities and state agencies identify exotic pests as major constraints to the beekeeping industry. At various meetings of the Florida State Beekeepers Association and the Mid-Atlantic Bee Research and Extension Consortium (MARREC), beekeepers and industry leaders identified the exotic parasitic pests Varroa destructor (Anderson), and the small hive beetle (SHB) Aethina tumida Murray as the leading threats to the beekeeping industry. The migratory nature of the apiculture industry and the increasing demands for pollination services by honeybees are largely responsible for the quick spread of exotic parasitic honey bee pests in the US. In the past 5 years, Florida suffered a loss of about 30 % of managed honey bee colonies due to exotic parasitic pests, with Pennsylvania recording a loss of about 68% in the last 20 years. This suggests that there is a clear need to safeguard the remaining honeybee colonies in the industry by developing cheap and effective control measures for these pests.

    The small hive beetle, a nitidulid beetle, was first discovered destroying honey bee colonies in Florida in 1998. In South Africa, native land of the small hive beetle, it is not considered a significant pest. In the US, it attacks both weak and strong honeybee colonies. Statistical data is not available on the impact of the beetle on the beekeeping industry in the 16 states in the US it has spread to since its discovery in Florida. However, the Apiary Division of the Florida Department of Plant Industry and the Florida Farm Bureau estimate that since its introduction into the US, the beetle has contributed to the collapse of thousands of hives, damaged countless stored combs, and destroyed several pounds of unprocessed honey. Basic biology of this pest is rather scanty, but adult beetles have been found to live up to 12 months, with each female laying about 3000 eggs in the host colony. Emerged larvae are most damaging to the honey bee colony, feeding on honey, pollen and brood. They defecate in the honey causing it to ferment and rendering it unfit for human consumption. Badly infested hives with frothy, fermented honey are eventually abandoned by the bees. In the final instar stage, larvae leave the hive to pupate in the soil, preferably in sandy soil, although the beetle can complete its life cycle in clay soil. Emerging adults can infest colonies nearby or fly several miles to infest other colonies. Beetles are also known to overwinter in the cluster of wintering hives in northern states. In Florida and elsewhere in the south, the worse infestation periods are between May and October when the climatic conditions favor the small hive beetle’s rapid reproduction and dispersal. To date, there are no effective control measures for the beetle.

    At the USDA, ARS-CMAVE in Gainesville, we have developed a cheap, environmentally-friendly and an effective trapping system for the small hive beetle. This trapping system consists of an in-hive trap baited with a highly attractive lure that can be used to monitor and mass trap adult beetles (Torto et al. unpublished results). Estimated to cost about $20, the baited trap can be fitted and removed from the hive without disturbing bees. The trap also has the potential of reducing the level of infestation by wax moth larvae, not counted in this study, but which were also found in some of the baited traps.

    The purpose of this study is to evaluate on a large scale in Florida, Pennsylvania and Delaware the effectiveness of the baited trap in mass trapping beetles from honeybee colonies. It is anticipated that a few commercial, hobbyist beekeepers and bee inspectors will be involved in the evaluation.

    Project objectives:

    To monitor beetle populations from honeybee colonies at sites in Florida, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

    To to test the potential of the trapping system in monitoring wax moth larval populations in honeybee colonies.

    To monitor the number of larvae leaving host colony to pupate.

    To test the potential of the trapping system in monitoring Varroa mite populations in honeybee colonies.

    To monitor the number of queen replacements

    To quantify bee hygienic behavior with respect to removal of small hive beetle larvae

    To quantify brood area in colonies

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.