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.

Four apiary sites in B.C.’s Fraser Valley found with small hive beetles

Provincial bee inspectors in British Columbia have discovered three more apiaries along the Canada-U.S. border with adult small hive beetles since the discovery of a single beetle on August 24.

The discoveries, which provincial apiculturist Paul van Westendorp said are likely not the last, have resulted in several overlapping quarantine zones between Abbotsford and Langley. That is right in the heart of the Fraser Valley, an area heavily populated with beekeepers.

As of Sept. 9 six adult beetles have been found in four locations but there is no evidence of larvae or damaged equipment. In public statements made at a Richmond Beekeepers Association meeting, Van Westendorp says he’s convinced the beetles flew in from nearby Washington State.

Now van Westendorp says he plans to expand his inspection areas slightly northward towards Langley, while also extending surveys to hives closer to the border.

The discoveries show that B.C. is firmly within the range of small hive beetles flying from hives in the U.S., although van Westendorp said there is no evidence these insects were transported into the province from Alberta with hives that were brought in for blueberry pollination.

They also now place B.C. closer to a not-so-welcome party with Ontario and Quebec, which have established but apparently manageable populations of small hive beetles. And they create a headache for western Canada’s provincial apiculturists, who must decide how to respond just as large commercial beekeepers in Alberta and Manitoba get ready to ship their bees to B.C. for the winter.

As van Westendorp explained, any beekeeper who brings hives into a quarantine area will have to leave them there until the area is released. That’s a huge risk for commercial operators who can’t be guaranteed the province won’t opt for a long-term quarantine zone.

However, van Westendorp has told the B.C. Honey Producers Association and the Langley and Richmond bee clubs that he views SHB in BC as a problem best managed by inspections and treatments, rather than by long-term quarantine zones. He told the Richmond club Tuesday the Fraser Valley’s generally cool and wet climate isn’t conducive to SHB being able to gain a significant foothold.

And he said B.C.’s unquestionable need for upwards of 30,000 pollination hives from Alberta and Manitoba will likely drive the agenda on a coordinated response to SHB.

However, he said he’s doing research on what controls may be useful in controlling the beetle.

In the meantime, the BCHPA is sending out a survey to is members seeking comments about whether they are concerned about the beetle. I can’t post the link here as it is restricted to BCHPA members.

Some members of  the association have been worried that migratory beekeeping practices in Alberta and Ontario may incidentally spread the beetle to B.C., particularly when hives are overwintered here. Others believe the pest can be managed through inspection and treatment. That’s the view of the Ontario Beekeepers Association, incidentally. The OBA recently asked the chief veterinarian for  the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to NOT institute a quarantine, in place of a commitment from the OBA to work collaboratively with OMAFRA to mitigate the effect of SHB. Other elements of the OBA’s view on SHB can be found here.

The BCHPA is exploring the beetle issue in depth at its AGM in Courtenay Oct. 16-18. In addition to revealing the survey results, the association has included several speakers knowledgeable on the pest. They include Medhat Nasr, the Alberta chief apiculturist and the head of that province’s pest surveillance branch, who is working with other provincial apiculturists to develop a response and inspection protocol; and Les Eccles, the head of the Ontario Beekeepers Association’s tech-transfer program. Van Westendorp will also talk about his findings during the Friday business day at the AGM.

Certainly there will be discussion and likely a vote about how members view SHB and whether quarantines or unrestricted movements should be the order of the day. In either case, inspections with treatment and monitoring will likely be a base to start from.

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One Response to Four apiary sites in B.C.’s Fraser Valley found with small hive beetles

  1. Janet L. Wilson September 11, 2015 at 6:16 am #

    I have polled my Washington state beekeeping contacts and while there have been occasional issues over the years with SHB’s coming in on California produced nucs, they are adamant that SHB is not established in Washington state.

    In what areas of the state are there reservoirs of Small Hive Beetle infestation?

    I wonder if we should not look again at the strong possibility these beetles came in on pollination hives after exposure in eastern Canada.

    Either way, we need to treat any colonies hosting even a single beetle, and use quarantine and treatment to eradicate this potential pest while that is still a possibility. I think with more awareness going forward, we can prevent a repeat incident.