Produced by Gerald Kastberger and Otmar Winder
DVD 2007 (initial video release 2003) 28 minutes English and German. This film won a medal at the Apimondia Congress in Ljubljana, Slovenia in August. It provides an excellent review of the devastation caused by the unintentional importation of the Small Hive Beetle Aethina tumida into the USA. Everyone thought Varroa was terrible, but in most American states beekeepers will tell you this infestation is far worse. Within three years the beekeeper who first found the beetles in his hives lost 500 colonies. The film's subtitle - the dramatic story of a cunning parasite - is apparently most apt.
The small hive beetle originates from Africa where it creates a nuisance for African bees but does not kill the colony. The beetle larvae feed voraciously on pollen stores and brood cells. Guard bees chase some beetles away, but when there are too many beetles, African bees have developed the defensive mechanism of 'moving on', that is absconding from the nest, leaving behind their brood. European honey bees Apis mellifera present in the USA do not have this defence and will remain in hives even when there are thousands of beetle larvae destroying the combs. Female beetles lay their eggs in cells. Within one day the larvae hatch and begin eating. Honey stores are damaged and the honey drips from the comb and is lost.
There is no successful treatment. The only chance is to break the beetle's life cycle by preventing larvae pupating and infesting more hives. Good, clean management and hygiene are necessary to ensure this process. The beetle originated as a tropical animal and may not tolerate cold conditions - although safe and warm in the middle of a hive, beetles have been reported in Canada.
The film ends with thoughts of the inevitability of the beetle in Europe. The film producers state that there is a need to enforce strict laws to prevent the importation of bees and queens to reduce the risk.
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