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399Apidologie 34 (2003) 399–408© INRA/DIB-AGIB/ EDP Sciences, 2003DOI: 10.1051/apido:2003038Original articleThe effects of adult small hive beetles, Aethina tumida (Coleoptera: Nitidulidae), on nests and flight activity of Cape and European honey bees (Apis mellifera)James D. ELLIS Jr.a*, Randall HEPBURNa, Keith S. DELAPLANEb, Peter NEUMANNc, Patti J. ELZENda Rhodes University, Department of Zoology and Entomology, Grahamstown, 6140, South Africab University of Georgia, Department of Entomology, Athens, GA 30602, USAc Institut für Zoologie, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, 06099, Halle/Saale, Germanyd USDA, Kika de la Garza Subtropical Research Center, Weslaco, TX, 78596, USA(Received 26 September 2002; revised 24 December 2002; accepted 6 February 2003)Abstract – This study identifies differences in the effects of small hive beetles on flight activity and nestsof European-derived honey bees (Apis mellifera) in the United States and Cape honey bees (Apis melliferacapensis) in South Africa. Treatments consisted of control colonies (< 5 beetles/colony) and experimentalcolonies receiving beetles (treatment). Absconding day did not differ significantly between treatment or beerace but absconding was greater between the two treatments in European colonies than in Cape ones. Capebees used significantly more propolis than European bees. Honey stores were significantly greater in Capehoney bee colonies than in European ones. Bee weight did not differ significantly between treatments or beerace. Treatment did not significantly affect bee populations, brood area, or average flight activity in Capecolonies but it did significantly lower all of these in European colonies. The effects of treatment in Europeancolonies are symptomatic of absconding preparation. Treatment significantly lowered the amount of pollenstores in Cape colonies, but this effect was not found in European colonies. The number of beetles in controlcolonies was significantly higher in European colonies than Cape ones while the percentage of beetlesremaining in non-absconding treated colonies was higher in Cape colonies than European ones. These dataindicate that adult small hive beetles are sufficient to cause significant harmful effects on colonies ofEuropean, but not Cape, honey bees.Aethina tumida / Apis mellifera / Apis mellifera capensis / flight activity / honey bee nests1. INTRODUCTIONSmall hive beetles (Aethina tumida Mur-ray) are native to honey bee colonies (Apismellifera L.) of sub-Saharan Africa where thebeetle’s pest status is negligible (Hepburn andRadloff, 1998). Successful reproduction of thebeetle in its native range is often restricted toweak host colonies, due to behavioral resist-ance mechanisms of their honey bee hosts(Elzen et al., 2001; Neumann et al., 2001a), oris associated with after absconding events(Hepburn et al., 1999). Absconding is frequentin African honey bee subspecies and can be* Correspondence and reprintsE-mail: [email protected] J.D. Ellis et al.triggered by parasite infestations (Hepburnand Radloff, 1998). Indeed, severe small hivebeetle infestations may cause such absconding(Hepburn and Radloff, 1998). In sharp contrast, colonies of European-derived honey bee subspecies are highly sus-ceptible to small hive beetle depredation(Elzen et al., 1999; Hood, 2000; Wenning,2001). This damage stems from the feedinghabits of both adult and larval beetles (Hood,2000). It has been reported that only the larvalstage presents a direct threat to colony healthand European colonies can host thousands ofadult hive beetles without suffering visibleside effects (Wenning, 2001); however, noquantitative study has confirmed this.Such quantitatively different responses ofCape (and presumably most other African sub-species) and European host colonies towardsadult small hive beetles are very likely to bereflected in colony productivity. Since Euro-pean honey bees are highly susceptible, areduction in colony productivity is more likelyto be expressed in European host colonies thanin Cape ones. Although the impact of hive bee-tles on European host colonies is striking, thiseffect has not yet been measured quantita-tively. Here we report the results of an interconti-nental quantitative study of the productivity ofartificially infested or non-infested Cape (A.m.capensis) and European honey bee colonies.The variables measured included abscondingday, total propolis, honey stores, bee weight,sealed brood, number of adult bees, pollenstores, flight activity and the number of smallhive beetles remaining in treated colonies ofCape honey bees in South Africa and Euro-pean honey bees of mixed origin in the UnitedStates. 2. MATERIALS AND METHODS2.1. Cape honey bees Experiments were conducted at Rhodes Univer-sity (Grahamstown, South Africa) in late summer/early fall (April 2001). Twenty propolis-freenucleus colonies (about 20 l in volume) of Capehoney bees (an African honey bee subspecies that isgeographically distributed in the region of study)were established with 3 frames of workers, 1 frameof honey, 2 frames of brood, and a laying queen.Ten treated colonies were artificially infested with100 adult small hive beetles on a daily basisbetween 17:00–21:00 h for 15 consecutive days.The small hive beetles used were reared in thelaboratory according to standard procedures(Neumann et al., 2001b). By the end of the experi-ment, 1 500 beetles (100 beetles/colony for15 days) had been introduced into all of the treatedcolonies. This level of beetle infestation is high forAfrican honey bee colonies, but is common ininfested European ones. Ten control colonies(< 5 beetles/colony) were otherwise treated identi-cally to the treated colonies. All nucs were placed inthe same apiary, blocked together by treatment.The number of returning bees was counted forall colonies twice daily, 1 minute each count,between 11:00–11:40 and 15:00–15:40 h becauseof data indicating peak foraging times for honeybees at 11:00 and 15:00 in southern Africa(Hepburn and Magnuson, 1988). Overall flightactivity was determined by averaging the number ofincoming bees per minute for both times.Each colony was monitored three times daily(11:00, 15:00, 20:00) to identify its date of abscond-ing, immediately after which, the colony was dis-mantled to determine number of adult small hivebeetles present; sealed brood area (cm2), honey area(cm2), and pollen area (cm2) (using a calibratedplastic grid); and total weight of propolis (g)


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