UKI beekeeper Laurie Waldron checks his bee hives for the South African small hive beetle which has the potential to devastate
UKI beekeeper Laurie Waldron checks his bee hives for the South African small hive beetle which has the potential to devastate

Hive beetle threat to honey industry



BEEKEEPER Vic Metcalfe fears poor farm hygiene on the Tweed could worsen the spread of a devastating beetle which could sour the local honey industry.

Mr Metcalfe said the small hive beetle, an import from South Africa which has already hit southern beehives, had appeared on the Tweed and could spread among discarded vegetables and farm trash.

The Stokers Sidingbased beekeeper has called on Tweed farmers to be careful about feeding masses of market vegetables to stock or leaving trash around where the beetle can live, before burrowing into the ground and later infecting hives.

Earlier this week Mr Metcalfe burnt one of his beehive boxes which had been infested with the beetle, killing all the bees, ruining the hive and turning the honey to a black, runny mess.

"It was full of maggots", he said.

NSW Department of Agriculture apiarist John Rhodes said the beetle, now widespread in the Sydney basin, had infested other areas of NSW, especially those on the coast.

However, he added, population numbers of the pest outside Sydney, "vary considerably".

He said laboratory tests had shown the beetle could breed in some vegetables and fruit, but the department had no evidence that was happening "in the field".

Mr Rhodes said while frames from affected hives should be washed out it was not necessary to burn the equipment.

While the department was working on control measures, such as traps for adult beetles, none was presently practical.

According to the department's website the South African small hive beetles can be very destructive.

The beetles lay eggs inside the hive and the beetle grubs tunnel through the combs, causing the honey to discolour and ferment, and killing the bee brood.

In bad cases the bees may abandon infested hives.

It is not known how the beetles found their way to Australia. They were first detected near Sydney in 2002.



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