CORVALLIS - The potentially destructive South African small hive beetle has arrived in the United States. The good news is that it has only been positively identified in one state. The bad news is that the one state is Florida.
Florida is a favorite overwintering spot not only for humans, but for bees - and bees shipped from Florida end up all over the country, according to Mike Burgett, an entomology specialist with the Oregon State University Extension Service.
"Oregon beekeepers are still a little edgy because of all the problems they have had with mites over the last couple years and the media has picked up on this new invasive species," Burgett said. "However, this beetle really should not be a great concern."
The South African small hive beetle has a hardened shell that fends off attacking bees, he explained. They eat honey and lay their eggs in the honey combs and other areas of the hive. If they take over a hive, the honey becomes unpalatable to bees and unfit for human consumption.
Florida has imposed a quarantine on its bees, but Burgett speculates that some South African hive beetles may already be on their way to Oregon. But he quickly added that they shouldn't be a problem for beekeepers who monitor their hives regularly.
"This beetle is only going to be a problem for weak hives and beekeepers who aren't vigilant," he said. "In either case, we have fumigants that are registered to kill them. Beekeepers should fumigate honey combs before storing them for the winter."
How can you detect the bee pests?
"Well, just look for beetles," Burgett said. "In larvae stage, they look a lot like the wax moth larvae beekeepers should already be looking for."
Burgett said it is still too soon to determine how much of a problem the beetles will be in the future because beekeepers don't yet know how well they can overwinter in Oregon. Cold weather may stop them. Their natural habitat range is tropical to subtropical.