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.