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Volume 35, Number 3, May-June 2004
Page(s) 229 - 247
Apidologie 35 (2004) 229-247
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2004010

The biology of the small hive beetle (Aethina tumida, Coleoptera: Nitidulidae): Gaps in our knowledge of an invasive species

Peter Neumanna, b and Patti J. Elzenc

a  Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Institut für Zoologie, Kröllwitzerstr. 44, 06099 Halle/Saale, Germany
b  Department of Zoology and Entomology, Rhodes University, Grahamstown 6140, South Africa
c  USDA-ARS2413 E. Hwy. 83, Weslaco, Texas, 78596, USA

(Received 27 January 2003; revised 18 June 2003; accepted 22 July 2003)

Abstract - Small hive beetles, Aethina tumida, are honeybee parasites native to Africa, where they are a minor pest only. In contrast, the beetles can be harmful parasites of European honeybee subspecies. Resistance of African subspecies to infestations is probably due to quantitative differences in a series of behaviours such as absconding, aggression, removal of parasite eggs and larvae and social encapsulation. The beetles use counter-resistance tactics such as defence posture, dropping, hiding, escape, egg laying in small gaps and trophallactic mimicry. Small hive beetles are efficient in long-range transportation (US: 1996, Australia: 2002) and can establish populations in temperate regions due to their overwintering capacity in honeybee clusters. Host shifts to other bee species may also occur. Thus, small hive beetles have the potential to become a global threat to apiculture and wild bee populations. However, our knowledge of the small hive beetle is still limited, creating demand for more research in all areas of its biology.

Key words: Apis mellifera / Aethina tumida / honeybee / invasive species / small hive beetle

Corresponding author: Peter Neumann

© INRA, EDP Sciences, DIB, AGIB 2004