Recommendations for containment and mitigation.
August 18, 2015
Ontario Beekeepers' Association: Since 1881
Beecause: Act Now

OBA to lead small hive beetle (SHB) mitigation program

OMAFRA inspectors recently reported another sighting of small hive beetle (SHB) in the Niagara Region, bringing the total reported sightings to three in this region in the last three years. In the past, Ontario has had other sightings of SHB. In 2010, SHB was found in seventeen locations in Windsor/Essex.

The proximity to the U.S. border means SHB is likely entering from the U.S. where it was first discovered to be damaging honey bee colonies in Florida in the late 1990's. It has since spread to more than 30 states, being particularly prevalent in the southeast. The beetles have likely been transported with package bees and by U.S migratory beekeepers, but the adult beetles are strong fliers and are capable of traveling several miles at a time on their own.

SHB are usually considered to be a secondary or opportunistic pest, only causing excessive damage after bee colonies have already become stressed or weakened by other factors. Infestations of beetles can put significant stress on bee colonies that can be compounded by the stress of varroa mites, pesticides and other conditions.

However, Ontario beekeepers need not fear SHB. Healthy honey bee colonies appear able to contend with fairly large populations of adult beetles with little effects. SHB is most at home in the warm, wet climates where it first became established. Our northern climate, cold winter and low ground temperatures limit the proliferation and damage from SHB. Ontario has had five years of experience with SHB in commercial yards in Windsor/Essex. This experience indicates that it is possible to successfully manage hives with SHB by maintaining healthy populous hives, attention to preventative measures and care with storage of empty supers.

The OBA takes this situation seriously. Earlier this summer, the Small Hive Beetle Working Group was formed to work with OMAFRA to mitigate the impact and to slow the spread of SHB to other parts of Ontario. The SHB Working Group conferred with OMAFRA and considered the SHB experience of Ontario beekeepers in Windsor/Essex and also queried beekeepers in the U.S. with direct SHB experience. The objective is to work with OMAFRA to adopt measures that will limit the spread and impact of SHB on Ontario honey bee colonies without unduly restricting beekeepers' ability to move bees to and from pollination sites. The Group has put forward a number of preliminary recommendations.

These include:
  • An educational initiative to make all Ontario beekeepers aware of, and informed of, SHB behaviours, threats, and controls, and the importance of reporting sightings to bee inspectors.
  • A comprehensive program of appropriate biosecurity practices to limit the impact of SHB and prevent the spread of the pest from one location to another, whether this is one bee yard to another or one region to another, including surveillance and reporting, hive management, equipment, travel and honey house hygiene.
  • Working with OBA's Tech-Transfer Program and OMAFRA, develop tools and workshops to aggressively promote these practices to all Ontario beekeepers.
  • Establish protocols for the movement of colonies exposed to SHB.
  • Ongoing survellance, monitoring and reporting of SHB movements.
Beekeepers need to be aware that any risk mitigation measures to prevent, control or reduce infestation by SHB cannot completely eliminate the chances of survival, spread or establishment of this beetle due to its high mobility and possibility to reproduce outside of managed honey bee colonies. However, we believe an industry-led approach focused on mitigation is the best course of action to serve the interests of all Ontario beekeepers.

We will continue to report regularly on our progress toward dealing with this issue. We have set up a special section on the OBA website www.ontariobee.com/SHB for updates and resources. But you can also contact us with questions.

Here is the Advisory from OMAFRA's Apiary Program. Here is OBA's letter to OMAFRA with our recommendations..

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