Sunday, October 7, 2012

Biological Controls

Before embarking on my latest beekeeping trip to Africa, I checked the hive that I was using to transfer a colony of feral honey bees from a hollow tree. All was progressing well, the capture hive was full of bees; the bees even filled two honey supers with summer honey. When I returned a few weeks later, the hive was completely “slimed” by small hive beetle larvae; the bees had abandoned the hive; and the honey was fermented. The hive was overtaken by small hive beetles. Bees and beekeepers find invasive small hive beetles difficult to control. Currently, chemical and cultural controls are used to reduce small hive beetle populations.

Researchers at the University of Arkansas asked a question: Could the small hive beetles have brought their own parasites with them when they entered the US? The presence of such a parasite of the small hive beetle could possibly lead to a biological control for these bee hive scavengers. To investigate the possibility that there may be a not-yet-discovered parasite, Natasha Wright collected small hive beetle adults and larvae and samples of soil from bee yards in Arkansas and adjacent states. She dissected 749 adult beetles and 230 larvae from 13 counties in Arkansas and one county each in Oklahoma and Missouri. Natasha found no microbial pathogens in the SHB larvae, but she did find a protozoan pathogen in adult SHBs from three Arkansas counties. Most of the infected beetles were from a single apiary in nearby St. Francis County, Arkansas. One infected beetle was found in a Peace Bee Farm apiary in Crittenden County, Arkansas. In total, 5.3 percent of the adult beetles sampled were infected with the protozoan pathogen, which forms cysts in the beetles’ Malpighian tubules. The heavily infected beetles detected in St. Francis County were described as having an “impaired function in life.” Hopefully, research will find safe and effective controls for small hive beetles. For published results: Today’s photo: SHB larvae slime a hive.

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