Bee parasite the latest threat to Hawaii's honey industry

Published: May. 4, 2010 at 10:05 PM HST|Updated: May. 5, 2010 at 5:09 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Hawaii Department of Agriculture said Tuesday that it has confirmed the presence of small hive beetles on the island of Hawaii. This new pest threatens an industry already imperiled by the varroa mite, a bee parasite that has plagued beekeeping operations on Oahu and the Big Island since 2007.

The beetle was first reported April 27 in Panaewa. Investigators began searching for more infestations and identified two in the Hilo area. Agriculture officials are bringing more manpower in on the hunt. A search of hives on the Kona side of the Big Island is set to begin Wednesday.

The beetle feeds on honey, pollen, wax, honeybee eggs and larvae. It tunnels through the honeycomb, damaging or destroying it. Signs of  infestation include discolored honey, an odor of decaying oranges, and fermentation and frothiness in the honey. If the infestation becomes severe enough, bees will abandon the hive.

"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 Hawaii's Plant Pest Control Branch.  

The beetle is native to South Africa. It was first reported in the United States in 1996. Since then, it has spread to Southern and Central states on the mainland as well as California.

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