NEW map of Small Hive Beetle finds in British Columbia including the latest discovery in Maple Ridge. Courtesy Ministry of Agriculture

A new Small Hive Beetle find in Maple Ridge spells trouble for BC beekeepers

Bee season has not even started and already there’s been a new discovery of small hive beetle in the Fraser Valley. If it isn’t the unseasonably early start to spring – hey, we just got our first blueberry pollination delivery call – it is small hive beetle that is causing sleepless nights for some.

Last week Paul van Westendorp, the provincial apiculturist, notified beekeepers that an adult small hive beetle was discovered in a hive in Maple Ridge. This is, I think, the sixth find of adults in the valley since last summer. A full infestation was found last October. According to van Westendorp, no infestation of larvae was observed in this new Maple Ridge discovery.

Small hive beetle are seen in a hive among bees. Aethina tumida is native to South Africa, where it is regarded as a minor pest of African strains of honey bees. However, in the United States, where the beetle was first discovered in 1988, it has become a significant pest of non-Africanized strains of honey bees. Larvae of the small hive beetle are most damaging to honey bees. They tunnel through combs, eating honey and pollen and killing bee brood, ruining the combs.

Small hive beetle are seen in a hive among bees. Aethina tumida is native to South Africa, where it is regarded as a minor pest of African strains of honey bees. However, in the United States, where the beetle was first discovered in 1988, it has become a significant pest of non-Africanized strains of honey bees. Larvae of the small hive beetle are most damaging to honey bees. They tunnel through combs, eating honey and pollen and killing bee brood, ruining the combs. – Photo by Denis Anderson

But this find marks a potentially serious escalation in the arrival of small hive beetle in B.C. This is April, earlier than the animal’s normal reproductive period. It would seem to suggest the beetle was an overwintering adult, unless he was picked up from an imported package or from a fruit importer. It is not clear how this one beetle got to Maple Ridge.

The other finds last summer are, as far as van Westendorp is concerned, likely immigrants from across the U.S. border; all of the discoveries are right along the 49th Parallel.

This new find is months before  the provincial government begins a mildly beefed up special inspection of hives that will come out of blueberry pollination and head to either Alberta for eventual use in canola pollination, or are to go to northern B.C. for honey production.

van Westendorp announced the spring inspection protocol last year after a meeting with the other provincial apiculturists from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, where there was much debate about the value and efficacy in trying to limit the spread of SHB.

The arrived-at protocols (attached below) are not being met with great favour by some beekeepers, both commercial operations who don’t see the point in trying to limit what they think will become a routine but manageable pest, and drawbridge-raising types who think the rules are simply a recipe for spreading SHB all over the country. At the spring semi-annual meeting of the B.C. Honey Producers Association in Kamloops in March, members resisted one motion asking the province to ban the movement of any hives that contain SHB. Instead, they are watching to see how the new inspection standards bear out. But there are many who also think B.C. is dropping the ball.

Lana Popham, the New Democratic Party agriculture critic, also doesn’t think the B.C. government is putting its back into trying to eliminate SHB in B.C.  In March, she grilled Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick on the new inspection framework, which appears to be less than robust.  She noted that the ministry isn’t putting any extra funding into looking for this reportable pest; it will all come from existing funding. So much for thinking this is a problem worth stopping.

I spoke to van Westendorp earlier this week and he confirmed that the protocol of allowing hives to be moved as long as they don’t have a larval infestation (but may have adult beetles) is not foolproof. As far as he’s concerned the beetle may be slowed but not eradicated from B.C.

van Westendorp did confirm that he has agreed with requests from several commercial beekeepers to conduct spring inspections in the blueberry field apiaries rather than in amalgamation yards where hives are dropped for assembly on trucks. The operators are concerned, not without reason, that if beetles are found in hives in an amalgamation yard, the whole shebang is shut down. Better to have a segregated apiary quarantined than bring beetles into an assembly area.

At least there is some attempt to contain the movement of SHB should it be found. But the fact that this newest find in Maple Ridge come so early, even before pollination sets have been delivered to fields, would seem to indicate we’re probably in for a rough year of beetle infestations.

BC Small Hive Beetle Inspection Standards 2016

Here’s the new inspection framework, as defined by the four western apiculturists. It comes from van Westendorp.



The Small Hive Beetle (Aethina tumida) was first diagnosed in British Columbia in August 2015. The adult beetle was confirmed in a small Abbotsford apiary approximately 4 km. north of the Canada-US border. Subsequent surveillance confirmed SHB is a few additional apiaries all within 5 km from the border.

SHB is a tropical beetle and doesn’t parasitize honey bees. It is a reportable pest because of its potential to cause significant damage to beehive equipment. While there is evidence that SHB may not proliferate in northern climates, provisions are made to manage the risk of spread of the beetle into new areas. Bee movement conditions apply to shipments between Bee Districts in BC and interprovincial bee shipments.

Inspection Levels:

Inspection standards are based on detecting SHB at 1% prevalence and at 95% confidence. According to table 1, a commercial beekeeping operation in BC will have up to 300 colonies inspected for SHB depending on operational size.

Table 1

Operational Size                  No of Inspected Colonies

50                                         48

100                                        96

300                                        189

500                                        225

1,000                                       258

5,000                                       290

5,000+                                     300

 2-Step Inspection Methodology:

  1. Random selected colonies will have the lid and inner cover lifted quickly for immediate visual inspection of adult beetles on the topbars and inner cover.
  2. The inspected colony is tilted forward for immediate visual inspection of adult beetles on the bottom board.

Evaluation of Inspection Results:

  • When NO beetles or larvae are found, all hives in the apiary are permitted to move immediately under permit to a Bee District. For interprovincial shipment a permit is required from Alberta Agriculture or Manitoba Agriculture). Please note, Alberta Agriculture requires colonies to be shipped to prescribed zones for follow-up inspections).
  • Detection of a single adult beetle is confirmation of infestation. (Sighting of any single adult indicates virtual certainty of SHB presence in other hives of the apiary). When a beetle has been detected ALL hives of the apiary must be inspected.
  • When only SHB adults are found, all frames of the hive must be inspected to confirm presence of larvae;
    • When NO larvae are found, the hives can be shipped to a Bee District or to the prescribed zones in Alberta / Manitoba.
    • When larvae are detected, the apiary cannot be shipped and must remain in place. The apiary must be treated, managed and re-inspected after 2-3 weeks. When there are no larvae found, the apiary can be moved to a Bee District or prescribed zones in Alberta / Manitoba.

SHB Treatment and Control

  • For adult beetles only:
    • Install traps. (Various types are available with variable efficacy) and/or
    • Shake adult bee population into a container without comb for several hours, causing adult beetles to flee. Reintroduce adult population to hive.
  • Adults and larvae: Remove the bees and place hive equipment in cold storage or irradiation treatment (Iotron). Heavily damaged equipment should be burned and replaced with new equipment.

Bee Packages and Nuc Sales:

Bulk bees, packages and nucleus for sale must originate from operations free of SHB.


Additional Precautions:

  • Shipments must be netted.
  • Commercial transport preferred for interprovincial shipments.
  • Beekeeper must submit transportation route and dates of shipment.
  • Beekeepers must request an inspection 2 weeks in advance.

Inspection for Varroa and AFB

No changes have been applied to the inspection standards and moving conditions for American Foulbrood (AFB) and Varroa mites. For details, please refer to Honey Bee Moving Conditions and Requirements.

Inspection Data Sharing:

Management of inspection results and data will comply with the Personal Information Protection Act and may be shared with authorised personnel of Alberta Agriculture, Saskatchewan Agriculture and Manitoba Agriculture.

Reporting Requirements:

The Small Hive Beetle is classified as a “reportable pest” under federal and provincial legislation. This means that any beekeeper who detects a beetle in the hive must report the finding. Beekeepers are encouraged to collect any beetle sighted in the hive and submit to the Apiculture Office for identification.

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