Submitted to: Insectes Sociaux
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 17, 2008
Publication Date: February 4, 2008
Citation: Neumann, P., Hoffmann, D., Pettis, J.S. 2008. Potential host shift of the small hive beetle (Aethina tumida Murray) to bumblebee colonies (Bombus impatiens Cresson). Insectes Sociaux. 55:153-162.
Interpretive Summary: Honey bee colonies are infested by a wide variety of pests and diseases. One such pest is the small hive beetle which was recently introduced into the U.S. from Africa. Because this beetle feeds on pollen and honey it has the potential to infest other types of bee colonies such as bumblebees. We found that small hive beetles are as attracted to bumblebee colonies as they are to honey bee colonies but that bumblebees do exhibit some behaviors that will help defend against beetles invading their hives. Thus small hive beetles could infest and damage bumblebee colonies in nature. Field surveys are necessary to evaluate the actual infestation status of wild social bee colonies. This information will be useful to beekeepers and regulatory persons to try and manage the movement and impact of this pest.
This study examined the attractiveness of bumblebee, Bombus impatiens, colonies to small hive beetles, Aethina tumida, and explored potential defence mechanisms that bumblebees could use to repel small hive beetles. Our findings show that small hive beetles do not prefer honeybee, Apis mellifera, colonies over bumblebee colonies so these native pollinators may serve as alternative hosts. However, even though bumblebees lack a co-evolutionary history with the small hive beetle, they are able to defend their colonies against this nest intruder. Thus, the observed behavioral mechanisms must be part of a generalist defence system aimed at multiple nest attackers. Even given these defence mechanisms, bumblebee colonies may be vulnerable if weak or stressed, or if small hive beetle invasion pressure is high. Field surveys are necessary to evaluate the actual infestation status of wild social bee colonies.