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30/09/14 09:44

Bee pest confirmed

Small hive beetle confirmed in Italy.

Small hive beetle (SHB), a pest which affects honey bee colonies, has been detected in South West Italy, in the port city of Gioia Tauro. There has been a substantial level of imports of package bees and queens from Italy into the UK since 2011.

The Italian National Reference Centre for beekeeping confirmed the first detection of SHB presence on September 11, 2014 after samples were taken from a bait trap(similar to the Sentinel Apiaries in the UK) belonging to the University of Gioia Tauro.

Since its discovery, urgent measures are underway to measure the extent of the outbreak, complete tracings (sales and movements of bees from the area) and eradicate and control its spread in line with EU legislation and safeguards. Measures include that in all apiaries where the beetle is found colonies are destroyed and all soil surrounding the land is ploughed in and treated with a soil drench.

The National Bee Unit and Scottish Government Bee Inspectors are arranging for further inspection of colonies which have come from Italy.

Colleagues from the National Bee Unit are attending the European Union Reference Laboratories Honey Bee meeting in France this week where the Small hive beetle will be discussed extensively.

The UK has a programme of “ warning stations” – sentinel hives at key risk points of entry and these are regularly monitored for signs of exotic pests including small hive beetle. These checks are being enhanced given the announcement of this find in Italy.

Bee farmers and beekeepers are being urged to be vigilant for signs of the disease, to maintain good husbandry practices and to notify any suspicion of disease to

In order to assist Scottish Government Bee Inspectors to control this and other diseases, beekeepers are advised to register on BeeBase, the national bee database. This will give them access to up-to-date information on the control of bee related issues.

Notes to editors


The Small hive beetle Aethina tumida (SHB)

What is the Small hive beetle (SHB)?

The SHB is a statutory notifiable pest of honey bee colonies across Europe. This beetle, which is indigenous to Africa has spread to the United States of America, Australia, Canada, Jamaica, Mexico and Cuba, where it has proved that it can be a very serious pest of European honey bees. There is a serious risk of its accidental introduction into the UK. On September 11 2014, the Italian National Reference Centre for beekeeping confirmed the first detection of the presence of Small hive beetle (SHB) in South West Italy, in the port city of Gioia Tauro. The samples were taken from a bait trap (similar to the Sentinel Apiaries in the UK) belonging to the University of Gioia Tauro.

More information about this exotic pest and the things beekeepers should do are illustrated in the NBU advisory leaflet ‘The Small hive beetle’. Please see the NBU website for more details:

Could it reach the UK?

Yes, it could. Although indigenous to Africa, it has spread to a number of countries around the world. There is a significant risk that the Small hive beetle could be transported and introduced into the UK. The detection of the small hive beetle in Italy reemphasises these risks. A pest risk analysis completed in March 2010 identified the following pathways through which the beetle could be carried:

  • Movement of honey bees: queens and package bees (workers) for the purposes of trade.
  • Movement of alternative hosts e.g. bumble bees for pollination purposes.
  • Trade in hive products – e.g. raw beeswax and honey in drums.
  • Soil or compost associated with the plant trade.
  • Fruit imports – in particular avocado, bananas, grapes, grapefruit, kei apples, mango, melons and pineapples – Small hive beetle may oviposit (lay eggs) on fruit.
  • Movement on beekeeping clothing / equipment.
  • Movement on freight containers and transport vehicles themselves.
  • Natural spread of the pest itself by flight, on its own or possibly in association with a host swarm.

The UK has not permitted the import of colonies of bees or package bees from Third Countries (outside the EU) for many years. EU legislation now prohibits (with the exception of New Zealand) imports of package bees or colonies from Third Countries.

Could the SHB survive in the UK?

Yes it could. The Small hive beetle is well able to survive even in the colder climates of North America, such as Minnesota and Wisconsin. It has also reached Canada. Studies in the USA show that the adult beetle can survive during winter within the winter clusters inside honey bee colonies and can therefore survive in any location where bees exist.


Claire Stanley
Tel: 0131 244 2614
BB: 07580 485951