Borders beekeepers are being warned to look out for a new pest, the Small Hive Beetle (SHB), which has caused great damage to hives in America and Australia after spreading from its original home in sub-Saharan Africa.
In September 2014 it was discovered in southern Italy and there are fears that it will reach the UK, most likely on bees sold to beekeepers. Although there are restrictions in place on exporting bees from the infested region in Italy, there is a risk that the pest may have already moved out of this area on bees moved for honey crops or for trade.
The beetle, which pupates in soil, can destroy comb, brood and stores, and has been known to fly several kilometres to seek out bee hives. Past experience with bee pests suggests that they may not be detected for a significant period after they are moved to a new area.
Bron Wright, president of the Scottish Beekeepers’ Association, said: “In countries to which it has already spread, SHB has become a significant pest to honey bee colonies. Its discovery in south west Italy is of enormous concern to beekeepers in Scotland, since substantial numbers of packaged bees and queens are annually imported into the UK from Italy. Preventing this pest from entering the UK is of the utmost importance.”