Bees and flowers: how to feed an invasive beetle species.
Invasive species may exploit a wide range of food sources, thereby fostering their success and hampering mitigation, but the actual degree of opportunism is often unknown. The small hive beetle (SHB), Aethina tumida, is a parasite of honeybee colonies endemic to sub-Saharan Africa. SHBs have now spread on all habitable continents and can also infest colonies of other social bees. To date, the possible role of solitary bee nests as alternative hosts is unknown. Similarly, flowers as possible alternative food sources are not well understood. Here, we show that SHBs can complete an entire life cycle in association with nests of solitary bees Megachile rotundata. The data also show that flowers can serve as alternative food sources. These results support the opportunistic nature of this invasive species, thereby generating further obstacles for mitigation efforts in the field. It also suggests that SHB invasions may result in more serious consequences for endemic bee fauna than previously thought. This provides further motivation to slow down the global spread of this pest, and to improve its management in areas, where it is established.