Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


small hive beetle infestation



small hive beetle infestation


  • Last modified
  • 08 March 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Animal Disease
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • small hive beetle infestation
  • Overview
  • This datasheet is about small hive beetle infestation as defined by the World Organisation for Animal Health, or OIE (OIE, 2012...

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Small hive beetle (Aethina tumida); dorsal view of adult, museum set specimen. Florida, USA.
CaptionSmall hive beetle (Aethina tumida); dorsal view of adult, museum set specimen. Florida, USA.
Copyright©Jeffrey W. Lotz/Florida Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer Services/ - CC BY 3.0 US
Small hive beetle (Aethina tumida); dorsal view of adult, museum set specimen. Florida, USA.
AdultSmall hive beetle (Aethina tumida); dorsal view of adult, museum set specimen. Florida, USA.©Jeffrey W. Lotz/Florida Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer Services/ - CC BY 3.0 US
Small hive beetle (Aethina tumida); adults on comb. USA.
TitleAdults on comb
CaptionSmall hive beetle (Aethina tumida); adults on comb. USA.
Copyright©Jessica Lawrence/Eurofins Agroscience Services/ - CC BY 3.0 US
Small hive beetle (Aethina tumida); adults on comb. USA.
Adults on combSmall hive beetle (Aethina tumida); adults on comb. USA.©Jessica Lawrence/Eurofins Agroscience Services/ - CC BY 3.0 US
Small hive beetle, (Aethina tumida) larvae on a comb of honey; Moultrie, Georgia, United State. 01 September, 2004
TitleLarvae on comb
CaptionSmall hive beetle, (Aethina tumida) larvae on a comb of honey; Moultrie, Georgia, United State. 01 September, 2004
Copyright©James D. Ellis/University of Florida/ - CC BY 3.0 US
Small hive beetle, (Aethina tumida) larvae on a comb of honey; Moultrie, Georgia, United State. 01 September, 2004
Larvae on combSmall hive beetle, (Aethina tumida) larvae on a comb of honey; Moultrie, Georgia, United State. 01 September, 2004©James D. Ellis/University of Florida/ - CC BY 3.0 US


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • small hive beetle infestation

Other Scientific Names

  • Aethina tumida infestation


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This datasheet is about small hive beetle infestation as defined by the World Organisation for Animal Health, or OIE (OIE, 2012), i.e. an infestation of bee colonies by the beetle Aethina tumida, which is a free-living predator and scavenger affecting populations of the honey bee, Apis mellifera. Bumble bee, Bombus terrestris, colonies can also be parasitized under experimental conditions, and infestation has also been reported in commercial B. impatiens colonies. Although infestation has not been observed in wild Bombus spp. populations they should be considered susceptible.

The beetles are native to Africa, but have been introduced to the USA, Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, Australia and Italy, and reported but not substantiated in Egypt (Thomas, 1998; OIE, 2013; FERA, 2010; Cuthbertson et al., 2013b; Mutinelli et al., 2014). They are considered to be a minor pest in Africa, but a major problem in areas where they have been introduced; heavy infestations may result in desertion of the hive. The fact that the adult beetles are able to fly several kilometres has resulted in the rapid spread of infestation (OIE, 2012).

A. tumida infestation is on the list of diseases notifiable to the OIE.

Hosts/Species Affected

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A. tumida is considered to have secondary pest status in its native area of southern Africa, where it is a scavenger of weakened bee colonies. However, in areas where it has been introduced the reports are very different, and it causes significant damage to colonies (Delaplane, 1998), although weak colonies, along with those with a surplus of combs stored in them, are more attractive to bees. It is these factors that will encourage their rapid growth (Calderón et al., 2006).

As well as honey bees, bumble bee (Bombus terrestris) colonies can also be parasitized under experimental conditions; commercial B. impatiens colonies in North America have also been found to be infested (FERA, 2010). Although infestation has not been observed in wild Bombus spp. populations they should be considered susceptible (OIE, 2012).


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A. tumida is native to sub-Saharan Africa; it has been introduced to the USA, Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, Australia and Italy, and reported but not substantiated in Egypt (Thomas, 1998; OIE, 2013; FERA, 2010; Delaplane, 1998; Cuthbertson et al., 2013b; Mutinelli et al., 2014). The Distribution table contains records for all countries where it has been introduced, but in the native range only for those countries where records are readily available.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


AfghanistanNo information availableOIE, 2009
ArmeniaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
AzerbaijanDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
BahrainDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
BangladeshNo information availableOIE, 2009
BhutanNo information availableOIE, 2009
CambodiaNo information availableOIE, 2009
ChinaNo information availableOIE, 2009
-Hong KongNo information availableOIE, 2009
IndiaNo information availableOIE, 2009
IndonesiaNo information availableOIE, 2009
IranNo information availableOIE, 2009
IraqDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
IsraelDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
JapanNo information availableOIE, 2009
JordanNo information availableOIE, 2009
KazakhstanNo information availableOIE, 2009
Korea, Republic ofNo information availableOIE, 2009
KuwaitDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
KyrgyzstanNo information availableOIE, 2009
LaosNo information availableOIE, 2009
LebanonDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
MalaysiaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
MongoliaNo information availableOIE, 2009
MyanmarNo information availableOIE, 2009
NepalNo information availableOIE, 2009
OmanNo information availableOIE, 2009
PakistanNo information availableOIE, 2009
PhilippinesNo information availableOIE, 2009
QatarNo information availableOIE, 2009
Saudi ArabiaNo information availableOIE, 2009
SingaporeDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
Sri LankaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
SyriaNo information availableOIE, 2009
TajikistanDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
ThailandNo information availableOIE, 2009
TurkeyNo information availableOIE, 2009
United Arab EmiratesNo information availableOIE, 2009
VietnamNo information availableOIE, 2009
YemenNo information availableOIE, 2009


AlgeriaNo information availableOIE, 2009
AngolaNo information availableOIE, 2009
BeninNo information availableOIE, 2009
BotswanaNo information availableOIE, 2009
Burkina FasoNo information availableOIE, 2009
ChadNo information availableOIE, 2009
CongoNo information availableOIE, 2009
DjiboutiNo information availableOIE, 2009
EgyptAbsent, unreliable recordIntroducedOIE, 2009; FERA, 2010Reported in 2000 but not substantiated
EritreaNo information availableOIE, 2009
EthiopiaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
GabonNo information availableOIE, 2009
GambiaNo information availableOIE, 2009
GhanaNo information availableOIE, 2009
GuineaNo information availableOIE, 2009
Guinea-BissauNo information availableOIE, 2009
KenyaPresentNativeOIE, 2009; Torto et al., 2010
LesothoDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
MadagascarDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
MalawiNo information availableOIE, 2009
MaliNo information availableOIE, 2009
MauritiusDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
MoroccoNo information availableOIE, 2009
MozambiqueNo information availableOIE, 2009
NamibiaNo information availableOIE, 2009
NigeriaPresentNativeOIE, 2009; Akinwande et al., 2013
RwandaNo information availableOIE, 2009
SenegalNo information availableOIE, 2009
South AfricaPresentNativeSpiewok et al., 2007; OIE, 2009
SudanPresentNativeEl-Niweiri et al., 2008; OIE, 2009
SwazilandNo information availableOIE, 2009
TanzaniaNo information availableOIE, 2009
TogoNo information availableOIE, 2009
TunisiaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
UgandaPresentNativeRoberts, 1971; OIE, 2009
ZambiaNo information availableOIE, 2009
ZimbabwePresentNativePapadopoulo, 1964; OIE, 2009

North America

CanadaPresentOIE, 2009
-AlbertaAbsent, formerly presentIntroducedKozak, 2010Reported in 2006; control measures and species did not become established.
-ManitobaAbsent, formerly presentIntroducedFERA, 2010; Kozak, 2010Reported in 2002 and 2006; control measures taken and species did not become established.
-OntarioLocalisedIntroducedKozak, 2010; Kozak, 2012Detected in 2010. Restricted to a quarantine area in southern Ontario.
-QuebecPresentIntroducedFERA, 2010Detected in 2008. As of 2010, not yet well established.
GreenlandDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
MexicoPresentIntroducedOIE, 2009; FERA, 2010Confirmed in 2007.
USAWidespreadIntroduced Invasive OIE, 2009; FERA, 2010First reported in Florida in 1998; now very widespread.
-FloridaPresentIntroduced Invasive FERA, 2010First reported in 1998.
-HawaiiPresentIntroduced Invasive FERA, 2010First reported in 2010.

Central America and Caribbean

BelizeDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
Costa RicaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
CubaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
Dominican RepublicNo information availableOIE, 2009
El SalvadorDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
GuadeloupeNo information availableOIE, 2009
GuatemalaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
HaitiDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
HondurasNo information availableOIE, 2009
JamaicaPresentIntroducedOIE, 2009; FERA, 2010Confirmed in 2005.
MartiniqueNo information availableOIE, 2009
NicaraguaNo information availableOIE, 2009
PanamaNo information availableOIE, 2009

South America

ArgentinaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
BoliviaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
BrazilDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
ChileDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
ColombiaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
EcuadorDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
French GuianaNo information availableOIE, 2009
PeruDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
UruguayDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
VenezuelaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009


AlbaniaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
AustriaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
BelarusNo information availableOIE, 2009
BelgiumDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
BulgariaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
CroatiaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
CyprusDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
Czech RepublicDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
DenmarkDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
EstoniaNo information availableOIE, 2009
FinlandDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
FranceDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
GermanyDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
GreeceDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
HungaryDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
IcelandDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
IrelandDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
ItalyLocalisedIntroduced2014Mutinelli et al., 2014Calabria (plus one migratory apiary in Sicily)
LatviaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
LiechtensteinDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
LithuaniaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
LuxembourgNo information availableOIE, 2009
MacedoniaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
MaltaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
MontenegroDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
NetherlandsDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
NorwayDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
PolandNo information availableOIE, 2009
PortugalAbsent, intercepted onlyIntroducedMurilhas, 2005; OIE, 2009; FERA, 2010Intercepted and eradicated in a consignment of bees from Texas in 2004.
RomaniaNo information availableOIE, 2009
Russian FederationNo information availableOIE, 2009
SerbiaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
SlovakiaDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
SloveniaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
SpainDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
SwedenDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
SwitzerlandDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
UKDisease not reportedOIE, 2009
UkraineDisease never reportedOIE, 2009


AustraliaPresentOIE, 2009
-New South WalesPresentIntroduced Invasive FERA, 2010First found in 2002.
-QueenslandPresentIntroduced Invasive FERA, 2010First found in 2002.
-VictoriaPresent, few occurrencesIntroducedAnnand, 2008
-Western AustraliaLocalisedIntroducedFERA, 2010
French PolynesiaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
New CaledoniaDisease never reportedOIE, 2009
New ZealandDisease never reportedOIE, 2009


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In sub-Saharan Africa, where A. tumida is native, it acts as a scavenger of weakened colonies. The beetles damage weak or stressed colonies, abandoned honeybee nests and stored bee products of the African subspecies of honey bees (Kokkinis, 2005). Much more severe signs of infestation have been observed in areas where the parasite has been introduced. For example, in Florida, considerable damage and colony loss has been reported and beetle larvae tunnel though combs, kill bee brood and ruin combs. Bees have been reported to abandon combs and entire colonies that have become infested in Florida (Delaplane, 1998).

Fermenting honey, causing a frothy mess in supers and honey houses, is a sign that beetles have been defecating in the honey. In Florida, it was reported that the fermenting honey smelt like rotting oranges (Delaplane, 1998).

Schafer et al. (2008) investigated a method for diagnosing A. tumida in field colonies of bees using corrugated plastic strips, designed to house the beetles while preventing access to bees. They reported an overall strip efficacy of 35.4±20.6 % and that numbers of A. tumida in the traps correlated with total numbers in the hives.

Bottom boards, such as those reported by Torto et al. (2010) in Kenya, can be used to monitor the occurrence and seasonal abundance of the beetle in honey bee colonies. Baited Langstroth hive bottom board trap captures indicated that the beetles were present throughout the year in small numbers, but were most abundant in the rainy season.

Ward et al. (2007) reported a DNA method for screening hive debris for A. tumida. The method uses real-time PCR alongside automated DNA extraction and was able to detect DNA from eggs, larvae and adult beetles from Africa, Australia and North America. The method was found to be reliable because extraction efficiency was consistent between hive debris samples.

Stedman (2006) provides further information on how to detect and identify A. tumida and distinguish them from similar-looking insects.

Disease Course

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The growth of the beetle population is rapid, so while early signs of infestation may go unnoticed, the hive can suffer from high bee mortality (OIE, 2012). The symptoms in bee colonies infested with A. tumida include tunneling in combs and fermenting honey. In Florida, fermenting honey was reported to smell like rotting oranges (Delaplane, 1998) and fermentation is probably due to yeasts associated with the beetle such as Kodamaea ohmeri, which is predominant (Schafer et al., 2009).


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A. tumida is native to southern Africa, and has been introduced to the USA, Egypt (unconfirmed), Canada, Australia, Mexico, Jamaica and Italy (Thomas, 1998; OIE, 2013; FERA, 2010; Cuthbertson et al., 2013; Mutinelli et al., 2014). It is able to survive in cold climates anywhere that bees exist (FERA, 2010). The beetles are scavengers and parasites of honeybee colonies. The adult and larval beetles feed on honeybee larvae, pollen, honey and brood (OIE, 2013).

Under its native conditions of southern Africa, A. tumida requires 38-81 days to develop from egg to adult, and can produce 5 generations per year under suitable conditions (Delaplane, 1998; Cuthbertson et al., 2008).  The adults lay eggs in infested hives, usually in irregular masses in crevices or brood combs. The eggs hatch after 2-6 days and the larvae feed voraciously on brood comb, bee eggs, pollen and honey in the hive. Each female can produce about 1000 eggs in 4-6 months of life. The larvae take about 10-29 days to reach maturity, at which point they exit the hive and burrow in the soil around the hive entrance (OIE, 2013; Delaplane, 1998). Different soil conditions, such as moisture levels and temperature, will determine how successful completion of development is (Delaplane, 1998) and pupation may take 2-12 weeks (OIE, 2013).

Environmental conditions determine the life span of the adults, but on average they can live for at least 6 months, and when conditions are favourable, the female can lay new egg batches every 5-12 weeks (OIE, 2012). The adult beetles are able to fly up to 6-13 km from the nest site, aiding the rapid spread of infestation (OIE, 2012). The beetles may also be spread during the routine tasks carried out by apiarists (Delaplane, 1998). The beetles are able to survive for at least 2 weeks without food and 50 days on brood combs (OIE, 2012). Wandering larvae can survive fopr 48 days without food (Cuthbertson et al., 2008).

There is experimental evidence to suggest that A. tumida is a vector of the cause of American foul brood (AFB), Paenibacillus larvae. Larvae and adults of A. tumida were shown to become contaminated with spores of P. larvae when exposed to honeybee brood combs with clinical AFB symptoms, under laboratory conditions. Contamination persisted on pupae and newly-emerged adults. It was stated that the low number of P. larvae spores on adult beetles suggested that clinical AFB outbreaks are unlikely, but that even small spore numbers can be enough to spread P. larvae. It was concluded that any control measures should account for this risk (Schäfer et al., 2010).

In another study, A. tumida fed with dead worker bees with deformed wings, fed with brood testing positive for deformed wing virus (DWV), or associated with DWV-contaminated wax, were shown to test positive for DWV (Eyer et al., 2009). Further evidence suggested virus replication within the beetles. It was concluded that the beetle can be contaminated with the virus and therefore has the potential of being a vector for it.


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Economic Impact

Infestations of A. tumida can cause considerable financial loss to beekeepers (Delaplane, 1998). Time and labour to detect and control the beetles, and losses in honey production and pollination, are the main economic losses suffered by the beekeeping industry (Calderón et al., 2006).

Adult A. tumida eat bee eggs and the larvae consume brood, pollen and honey and heavily damage wax comb (Calderón et al., 2006). Beekeepers in Florida have suffered considerable damage and colony loss, where beetle larvae have tunnelled through combs, killed bee brood and ruined combs; abandoning of combs and entire colonies by bees once they have become infested has been reported in Florida (Delaplane, 1998).

The beetles defecate in the honey and cause it to ferment; this produces a frothy mess in supers and honey houses. Honey that is contaminated is no longer saleable and is also unpalatable to bees so it cannot be used as bee feed (Delaplane, 1998).

Within two years of the discovery of A. tumida in the USA, at least 20,000 bee colonies had been destroyed by it, costing many millions of dollars. It has had a serious detrimental effect on the beekeeping industry in Australia as well (FERA, 2010).

Environmental Impact

Impact on habitats

A decline in bee numbers has been attributed to various bee pests and diseases, such as A. tumida. Bee decline will have a significantly negative affect on pollination in habitats where plants rely on bees. The value of pollination is estimated to exceed the value of products from beehives many-fold (Delaplane and Mayer, 2000).

Impact on biodiversity

A decline in native bees, such as A. mellifera, due to infestation by small hive beetles will have a negative impact on bee biodiversity (Cuthbertson and Brown, 2009).

Disease Treatment

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See 'Prevention and Control' section.

Prevention and Control

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OIE (2012) makes recommendations for minimizing the risk of introducing A. tumida with bees or apiculture equipment or products. These include inspection of consignments, transporting live bees only from areas known to be free of A. tumida, covering bee consignments with fine mesh to keep beetles out, cleaning of equipment and freezing of honey.


As A. tumida is not restricted to beehives but can survive and reproduce in other natural environments, feeding on other resources such as fruit, it is very difficult to eradicate from an area (OIE, 2012).

Cultural control

Simple measures to help prevent infestation by A. tumida include good husbandry practices, such as ensuring the area of the honey house is clean and reducing the amount of time that filled supers are left standing and cappings are exposed. Beekeepers should be aware that supering colonies, making splits, exchanging combs, or the use of Porter bee escapes can aid the spread of beetles or provide more room for beetles to become established away from the cluster of protective bees (Delaplane, 1998).

Host resistance

Bee hygienic behaviour refers to cell uncapping and the removal of diseased or parasitized larvae, as well as other nest-cleaning and defensive traits; African bees keep the beetle population at low levels in this way (FERA, 2010). Bee resistance to brood infectious diseases can be increased by selecting for hygienic bees. In a factsheet about the small hive beetle, Delaplane (1998) suggests that colonies should be monitored for hygienic behaviour and queen lines found to be beetle-resistant should be propagated. Even though bees will not normally clean supers, or equipment that is contaminated with beetle-fermented honey, they may finish the job if a beekeeper washes out as much honey as possible first.

Chemical control

A. tumida larvae migrate to the soil surrounding colonies in order to pupate, so a soil insecticide is recommended for their control (Delaplane, 1998); Annand (2008) suggests using permethrin. Colonies themselves can be treated with coumaphos-impregnated beehive pest control strips. Neumann and Hoffman (2008) investigated the efficacy of bottom boards and coumaphos strips for the control and diagnosis of small hive beetles in Australia. As with other studies (e.g. Buchholz et al., 2009), they reported that coumaphos traps were efficient, but mortality assessment showed that only a limited proportion of beetles were affected at the colony level. It was concluded that bottom boards provide a first estimate of infestation levels.

Coumaphos is actually an acaracide, but has been shown to be effective against A. tumida. Ellis and Delaplane (2007) investigated the efficacy of acaracides in 3 chemical classes, including organophosphates (coumaphos), pyrethroids (fluvalinate) and botanical extracts (thymol, camphor, menthol and eucalyptol). The acaricides varied in their toxicity to A. tumida, but it was concluded that there was potential to develop chemical controls based on these data.

Schafer et al. (2009) investigated the effects of organic acid treatments on A. tumida and the associated yeast, Kodamaea ohmeri. Organic acids are used to control other bee pests and were applied using the standard concentrations. Lactic, formic and acetic acids were shown to inhibit the growth of K. ohmeri under laboratory conditions. Acetic acid was found to be effective against the adult beetles and formic acid significantly reduced larval infestation.

Stored equipment can be fumigated with aluminium phosphide (phosphine); care is needed as this is very toxic (Annand, 2008).

Pesticide treatment carries a risk of residues in honey (OIE, undated).

Biological control

Other control measures that have been suggested as part of integrated control management programmes include entomopathogenic nematodes (e.g. Cabanillas and Elzen, 2006; Muerrle et al., 2006; Ellis et al., 2010; Cuthbertson et al., 2012). Ellis et al. (2010) evaluated the potential of 7 nematode species. The results of generational persistence and field bioassays suggested that Steinernema riobrave and Heterorhabditis indica displayed potential to control the beetles at tolerable levels as part of IPM schemes in bee colonies.


Other investigations have looked at the use of lime, diatomaceous earth, or organic acids as alternative control measures for small hive beetles. Buchholz et al. (2009) investigated the use of slaked lime, powdered limestone and diatomaceous earth; they concluded that the best-performing formulation of diatomaceous earth showed potential as an in-hive treatment and suggested that further research was required for slaked lime.


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Annand N, 2008. Small hive beetle management options. Orange, New South Wales, Australia: New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, 7 pp.

Buchholz S, Merkel K, Spiewok S, Pettis JS, Duncan M, Spooner-Hart R, Ulrichs C, Ritter W, Neumann P, 2009. Alternative control of Aethina tumida Murray (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae) with lime and diatomaceous earth. Apidologie, 40(5):535-548.

Cabanillas HE, Elzen PJ, 2006. Infectivity of entomopathogenic nematodes (Steinernematidae and Heterorhabditidae) against the small hive beetle Aethina tumida (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae). Journal of Apicultural Research, 45(1):49-50

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World: IBRA, International Bee Research Association, Unit 6, Centre Court, Main Avenue, Treforest, RCT, CF37 5YR, UK,

World: OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health), 12, rue de Prony, 75017 Paris, France,

UK: British Beekeepers’ Association, National Beekeeping Centre, Stoneleigh Park, Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, CV8 2LG, UK,


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23/03/2012: Original text by:

Dr Claire Beverley, CABI, Nosworthy Way, Wallingford. OX10 8DE.

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