Maui News

Bee Pest Confirmed on Maui and Moloka’i

July 27, 2011, 1:24 PM HST
* Updated July 27, 1:58 PM
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By Wendy Osher

SHB Adult - top view

A pest considered to be a serious threat to honeybee populations in Hawai`i has been detected on Maui and Moloka`i.

Agricultural officials today confirmed low population levels of the small hive beetle (SHB) in Maui County.

The pest is already considered widespread on Hawai’i Island and O’ahu after it was found in April 2010 and November 2010, respectively.

“It is important that beekeepers survey their hives and report any suspected infestation because I firmly believe that the impact of this pest can be minimized through education and good management practices,” said Danielle Downey, Apiculture Specialist with the Hawai’i Department of Agriculture (HDOA).

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In light of the findings, the HDOA has planned two informational meetings for beekeepers.  The first will be held on Maui on Monday, August 1, at Maui Community College, Ka Lama Room 103 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.  A separate meeting will be held on O’ahu on Tuesday, August 2nd, HDOA Boardroom, 1428 S. King Street, Honolulu from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

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Staff will provide beekeepers with detailed information on how to identify the SHB and to how use traps.

SHB Adult - bottom view

Researchers at the University of Hawai’i confirmed the presence of the SHB after a beekeeper at Keoneku‘ino, Moloka`i reported the finding in early May, 2011.

The SHB was also confirmed in East Maui when entomologists from the HDOA sampled hives on July 27, 2011.

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HDOA and the University of Hawai’i at Manoa Honey Bee Team are currently working with beekeepers on both islands to determine the distribution of the pest.

Meantime, on O’ahu and Hawai’i Island HDOA staff have been working with beekeepers in using traps to control and manage SHB infested hives. Officials say the traps have helped to moderate heavy infestations.

The small hive beetle, known by the scientific name Aethina tumida, grows to about four to five millimeters in length.  They are yellowish-brown in color, and turn black when mature.

The pest feeds on honey, pollen, wax, as well as honeybee eggs and larvae. As they feed, they damage or destroy the honeycomb and contaminate the honey.  HDOA officials say symptoms of SHB infestations include discolored honey, an odor of decaying oranges, and fermentation and frothiness in the honey. Heavy infestations may result in abandoned hives.

SHB is native to sub-Saharan Africa and was first detected in the US in 1996 in South Carolina.  Although it is now found in many mainland states, SHB is under international regulation for export of queen bees.  State authorities say there is a concern that some foreign countries may impose restrictions on the importation of queen bees from Hawai’i.

Besides being honey producers, bees are considered critical pollinators for many food crops. HDOA estimated that in 2007, about 70 percent of Hawaii’s food crops depend on pollination by bees, including such crops as mango, macadamia nuts and lychee.

***Supporting information courtesy State of Hawai’i, Department of Agriculture.

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