NSW Department of Agriculture Article on Small Hive Beetle
Small Hive Beetle
Aethina tumida is a small, dark-colored beetle that lives in beehives. Origally from Africa
The life cycle of this beetle includes part of its development in the ground outside of the hive. Controls to prevent ants from climbing into the hive are believed to also be effective against the hive beetle. Several beekeepers are experimenting with the use of diatomaceous earth around the hive as a way to disrupt the beetle's lifecycle. The diatoms abrade the insect's surface, causing them to dehydrate and die.
Several pesticides are currently used against the small hive beetle. The chemical is commonly applied inside the corrugations of a piece of cardboard. Standard corrugations are large enough that a small hive beetle will enter the cardboard through the end but small enough that honeybees can not enter (and thus are kept away from the pesticide).
Beekeeping is one of the oldest forms of food production. Some of the earliest evidence of beekeeping is from rock painting, dating to around 13,000 BC. It was particularly well developed in Egypt and was discussed by the Roman writers Virgil, Gaius Julius Hyginus, Varro and Columella. A pioneering beekeeping popularizer in the 19th century U.S. was Amos Root.
Traditionally beekeeping was done for the bees' honey harvest, although nowadays crop pollination service can often provide a greater part of a commercial beekeeper's income. Other hive products are pollen, royal jelly and propolis, which are also used for nutritional and medicinal purposes, and wax which is used in candlemaking, cosmetics, wood polish and for modelling. The modern use of hive products has changed little since ancient time.
Western honeybees are not native to the Americas. American, Australian and New Zealand colonists imported honeybees from Europe, partly for honey and partly for their usefulness as pollinators. The first honey bee species imported were likely European dark bees. Later italian bees, carniolan honeybees and caucasian bees were added.
Western honeybees were also brought to the Primorsky Krai in Russia by Ukrainian settlers around 1850s. These Russian honey bees that are similar to the Carniolan bee were imported into the US in 1990. The Russian honey bee has shown to be more resistant to the bee parasites, Varroa destructor and Acarapis woodi.
Prior to the 1980s, most US hobby beekeepers were farmers or relatives of a farmer, lived in rural areas, and kept bees with techniques passed down for generations. The arrival of tracheal mites in the 1980s and varroa mites and small hive beetles in the 1990s removed most of these beekeepers because they did not know how to deal with the new parasites and their bees died.
In Asia other species of Apis exist which are used by local beekeepers for honey and beeswax. Non-Apis species of honeybees, known collectively as stingless bees, have also been kept from antiquity in Australia and Central America, although these traditions are dying, and the trigonine and meliponine species used are endangered.
Of the 1600 species of wild bees native to Australia, 15 species are Meliponines. Stingless bees are also known as Australian native honey bees, native bees, sugar-bag bees and sweet bees. They are small, black in colour, with hairy extended hind legs for carrying nectar and pollen; because of this they are often mistaken for the bumblebee. The various stingless species look quite similar, with the two most common species, Trigona carbonaria and Austroplebeia australis, displaying the greatest variation, as the latter is smaller and less active. Both of these are often found in the area around Brisbane.
Stingless bees usually nest in hollow trunks and branches of trees or rock crevices, but they have also been encountered in wall cavities, old rubbish bins, water meters, and 44-gallon drums. Many beekeepers keep the bees in their original log hive or transfer them to a wooden box, as this makes it easier to control the hive.
As stingless bees are harmless to humans, they have become an increasingly attractive addition to the suburban backyard. Most stingless beekeepers do not keep the bees for honey; rather, they enjoy the sense of conserving a native species whose original habitat is declining due to human development. In return, the bees pollinate crops, garden flowers, and bushland during their search for nectar and pollen.
While a number of beekeepers fill a small niche market for bush honey, stingless native bees only produce quite small amounts and the structure of their hives makes the honey difficult to extract. It is only in warm areas of Australia, such as Queensland and northern New South Wales, that the bees can produce more honey than they need for their own survival. Harvesting honey from a nest in a cooler area could weaken or even kill the nest.
The bees store pollen and honey in large egg-shaped pots made of beeswax, typically mixed with various types of plant resin (sometimes called "propolis"). These pots are often arranged around a central set of horizontal brood combs, where the larval bees are housed. When the young worker bees emerge from their cells, they tend to remain inside the hive, pursuing different jobs. As workers get older, they become guards or foragers. Unlike in honeybees, larvae are not fed directly, but the pollen and nectar is placed in a cell, an egg is laid, and the cell is sealed until the adult bee emerges after pupation ("mass provisioning"). At any one time, hives can contain anywhere from 300-80,000 workers, depending on species.
In a simplified sense, the sex of each bee depends on the number of chromosomes it receives. Female bees have two sets of chromosomes (diploid) - one set from the queen and another from one of the male bees or drones. Drones have only one set of chromosomes (haploid), and are the result of unfertilized eggs, though inbreeding can result in diploid drones.
Unlike true honeybees, where female bees may become workers or queens depending on what kind of food they receive as larvae (queens are fed royal jelly and workers are fed pollen), the caste system in Meliponines is variable, and commonly based simply on the amount of pollen consumed, with larger amounts of pollen yeilding queens; in the genus Melipona, however, there is also a genetic component, and as much as 25% of the female brood may be queens. Queen cells in the former case can be distinguished from others by their larger size, as they are stocked with more pollen, but in the latter case, the cells are identical to worker cells, and scattered among the worker brood. When the new queens emerge, they typically leave to mate, and most die. New nests are not established via swarms, but by a procession of workers who gradually construct a new nest at a secondary location, which is then joined by a newly-mated queen, at which point many workers take up permanent residence and help the new queen raise her own workers. If a ruling queen is herself weak or dying, then a new queen can replace her.
In warm areas of Australia, these bees can be used for minor honey production. They also can be kept successfully in boxes in these areas. Special methods are being developed to harvest moderate amounts of honey from stingless bees in these areas without harming the bees.
Like the European honeybee (Apis mellifera), which provides most of Australia's commercially-produced honey, stingless bees have enlarged areas on their back legs for carrying pollen back to the hive. After a foraging expedition, these pollen baskets or corbiculae can be seen stuffed full of bright orange or yellow pollen. Stingless bees also collect nectar, which they store in an extension of their gut called a crop. Back at the hive, the bees ripen or dehydrate the nectar droplets by spinning them inside their mouthparts until honey is formed. Ripening concentrates the nectar and increases the sugar content, though it is not nearly as concentrated as the honey from true honeybees, and is much thinner in consistency, and more prone to spoiling.
Stingless bees store their aromatic honey in clusters of small resin pots near the extremities of the nest. For honey production, the bees need to be kept in a specially-designed box so that the honey stores can be reached without damaging the rest of the nest structure. Some recent box designs for honey production provide a separate compartment for the honey stores so that honey pots can be removed without spilling honey into other areas of the nest.
Unlike a hive of commercial honeybees, which can produce 75 kilograms of honey a year, a hive of stingless bees produces less than one kilogram. Stingless bee honey has a distinctive "bush" taste - a mix of sweet and sour with a hint of lemon. The taste comes from plant resins - which the bees use to build their hives and honey pots - and varies depending on the flowers and trees visited.
Australian farmers rely heavily on the introduced commercial bee to pollinate their crops. However, for some crops native bees may be better pollinators. Stingless bees have been shown to be valuable pollinators of crops such as macadamias and mangos. They may also benefit strawberries, watermelons, citrus, avocados, lychees and many others. Research into the use of stingless bees for crop pollination in Australia is still in its very early stages, but these bees show great potential. Recent studies at the University of Western Sydney (see Aussie Bee, Issue 10) have shown these bees' excellent ability to work in confined areas such as glasshouses.
Other types of Australian native bees may also prove to be great pollinators. Native carpenter bees, teddy bear bees and blue banded bees can perform a special type of pollination called buzz pollination, which Apis mellifera is unable to perform. This could make them ideal pollinators of crops such as tomatoes, kiwi fruit, eggplants, blueberries, cranberries, and chilli peppers.