YIKES! Small Hive Beetle in Alberta

Small Hive Beetles? No, thank you.

Two days ago, our apiary inspector announced the unfortunate discovery of the ugly Small Hive Beetle (SHB), species Aethina tumida, in the northern part of our province.  I think that this is the first time SHB has been found in Alberta, Canada. Our prairies are a long way north of the beetle hotspots, so the beetle didn’t arrive of its own volition. Instead, according to the government press release, it was inadvertently imported among “honey colonies that were imported from Ontario without the required permit”.  The permit would have required an inspection and the inspectors issuing the permits in Ontario (2,000 kilometres east) might have seen the beetles. Instead, the bugs are now in our pristine province and a major quarantine has been put in effect.  Here’s part of the announcement:

The SHB is a filthy little animal. It makes a mess of weak hives and unkempt honey shops, chewing honey and wax, then dropping dirty little droppings everywhere. Although the beetle is native to tropical and subtropical regions of Africa and probably won’t thrive up here in North America’s fridge, SHB could survive in heated honey shops and be a bee yard nuisance in the summer. The last time I wrote about this pest, I lamented that inspectors on our mild west coast (in British Columbia) had found the animal. So, we were wary that the beetle would arrive from the west. But this discovery was imported from the east, from Ontario.

Unfortunately, Ontario beekeepers have already exported this pest earlier this year – Ontario SHBs were discovered in New Brunswick. In that case, the beetles were hitching a ride among Ontario hives trucked to the maritime provinces to pollinate blueberries. Kevin McCully, New Brunswick’s agriculture director, was surprised to discover the beetles since the colonies were “all reported to not have any presence of small hive beetles in them,” when they were issued moving permits in Ontario. Nevertheless, the beetles were discovered among some of the 25,000 hives hauled into New Brunswick’s blueberries from Ontario.

Meanwhile, here in Alberta, the provincial government has issued a quarantine of a 15-kilometre zone around the affected hives. This means that apiaries belonging to 15 different operators in the Peace River region (about 800 kilometres north of Montana) will have a new set of rules to follow this summer – they won’t be allowed to sell or move any nucs or hives over the next 45 days, but they are allowed to produce and pull honey from hives within the quarantine.  Hopefully, this will prove to be a tiny infestation which can be eradicated quickly and permanently. But the accidental importation serves as a warning to beekeepers to be vigilante – and follow the rules about moving hives across borders.

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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7 Responses to YIKES! Small Hive Beetle in Alberta

  1. I do not think I have ever read anywhere of fully successful human efforts to eradicate a exotic pest via quarantines or pesticides . Sometimes, exotic pests spread around by us—which is ALL of them over the eons—can be brought to a tolerable level via bio-control from native parasites or predators. Witness the bio-suppression of some psyllids that were formerly destroying Eugenia, Eucalyptus, and other non-native ornamentals—from this link in California—


    Parasites and predators biologically control many native and certain introduced psyllid species. Important natural enemies of psyllids include lady beetles, lacewing larvae, predaceous bugs, and tiny parasitic wasps. Psyllids under moderate to good biological control include the bluegum psyllid and, especially in coastal regions, the redgum lerp psyllid. The acacia, eugenia, and peppertree psyllids are under good biocontrol in warmer locations but are sporadically abundant in coastal regions (Table 1). Introduced parasites have also reduced the abundance of lemongum psyllid and spottedgum lerp psyllid and in some coastal locations this biological control may keep these pests from becoming an intolerable problem. In most situations these species warrant no management except to conserve natural enemies.

    But the situation with SHB was simply a matter of time.   Keeping hives resilient via diverse genetics and diverse forage and queen-rite is your best defense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ron Miksha says:

      Agreed – “keeping hives resilient via diverse genetics and diverse forage and queen-right is your best defence”. Way up north, we have the added ally of harsh winters.


    • Robert Hughes says:

      It would be interesting to get a follow-up on this on the fate of SHB in Alberta, whenever new information comes to light. Here in NB the beetles jumped ship within the so-called quarantine zone and have now been spread (apparently by migratory beekeepers) from one initial location, to at least seven different locations across the province by the end of the first season. It is assumed that they cannot survive outside the hive over winter here (as adults or pupae) but no-one seems to know for sure. Even if they can’t, if they persist in the hive over winter that’s all it takes to potentially spread everywhere over time. SHB 7, beekeepers nil, so far. Not good!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ron Miksha says:

        Hi Robert,
        As Pandora discovered when she opened that box, you can never collect the bad stuff and put it back in again. It’s probably too early to know if SHB escaped the quarantine area here in Alberta. In reality, we can never again know for certain that there is no SHB, we can only know that it hasn’t been found. Hopefully, it will not be found again. (Until the next shipment on Ontario bees arrives here, at least.)
        I’ll ask the provincial inspector and see what he thinks after tests have been made in the spring.


  2. Pingback: YIKES! Small Hive Beetle in Alberta | Raising Honey Bees

  3. Pingback: YIKES! Small Hive Beetle in Alberta | Beginner Beekeeper

  4. Emily Scott says:

    Grrr. Sorry to hear that.

    Liked by 1 person

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