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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Beekeepers have new worry with small hive beetles found on Big Isle

Advertiser Staff

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The state Department of Agriculture said Tuesday that it has confirmed the presence of small hive beetles on the Big Island.

Department of Agriculture handout

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The small hive beetle has been discovered in hives near Hilo, adding another threat to Hawai'i's honey industry and exportation of queen bees, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

On April 27, a beekeeper on a Pana`ewa farm contacted the agriculture department's entomologist in Hilo about beetles he found in the hives that he was maintaining for the farm owner, agriculture officials said.

Samples of the beetles were confirmed as small hive beetles on April 30 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Identification Service in Riverdale, Md.

Adult and larval stages of the beetles have been found at two sites. Surveys in West Hawai`i, where the majority of the queen bee operations are located, will begin today, agriculture officials said.

Agriculture officials have activated the Incident Command System, which is widely used for other emergency responses, to manage this pest emergency.

"The Small Hive Beetle will be difficult to eradicate and control because it also feeds on various decaying fruits which are abundant in the wild," said Neil Reimer, manager of the Plant Pest Control Branch. "We are working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop a queen bee certification procedure that would allow for the continued export of clean queen bees to foreign and domestic areas."

Small hive beetle adults are about 4 to 5 millimeters long and yellowish-brown in color, turning brownish, then to black as they mature.

They feed on honey, pollen, wax, honeybee eggs and larvae and tunnel through the honeycomb, damaging or destroying the honeycomb and contaminating the honey. Symptoms of small hive beetle infestation include discolored honey, an odor of decaying oranges, and fermentation and frothiness in the honey. Heavy infestations may cause honeybee colonies to abandon hives.