Current Threats to the Industry

 

Over the past 35 years the honey production and health of hives have been impacted in several ways:

  • In the opinion of many beekeepers Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) may be caused by the ever-increasing use of chemicals by agriculture industries using intensive farming methods. Monoculture operations for example: fruits, vegetable and nut (almonds) and other crops have moved to the increasing use of man-made fertilisers, insecticides, herbicides and fungicides to increase yields. Honey bees working within such environments take some of these toxic chemical molecules back to their hives. The accumulation of these dangerous molecules in the brood must surely have a long lasting impact on the bee colonies’ health and cleanliness.
  • The increasing number of diseases and pests to name some of them:
    • Impacting on the brood: AFB, EFB, Sacbood, Chalkbrood
    • Impacting on adult bees: Nosema
    • Impacting on both bees and brood: Small Hive Beetles (SHB), Wax Moth, Varroa Destructor (not yet in Australia)

Vorroa Mite on pupa

Australia is the only country left in the world free of Varroa Destructor

Honey bees readily and regularly groom themselves. Close observation shows that honey bees try to get rid of any parasites including the Varroa mite.
The MBB – JPM design will help to eject, through the slots, any Varroa mites becoming loose.  Every Varroa mite dropping outside the MBB – JPM will not go back to the hive and will die.
This is the natural way for the honey bees to get rid off Varroa Destructor.  The honey bee colonies will rapidly adapt and learn to live with this parasite.

SMALL HIVE BEETLE (SHB)

In recent years a new pest, destructive to honey bee colonies, has made its home in Australia. It is the Small Hive Beetle (SHB), Aethina tumida; (Order: Coleoptera). The SHB is native of Africa, where tropical, subtropical and generally warm temperatures predominate. Unfortunately, Australia offers similar climatic conditions for the SHB to establish itself and thrive as a major pest.

The SHB is a destructive insect pest, which scavenges beeswax combs and its honey contents.

When the SHB was detected late in 2002 in Queensland and NSW, it was already well entrenched in feral and domestic honey bee colonies. In Victoria the SHB was detected in 2005 in North-West Victoria, Goulburn Valley, Central and North-East Victoria.

Although, the SHB is in its “advanced intermediate spreading stage” in Australia, there is absolutely no doubt that this pest will spread throughout the Australian continent due to the migratory patterns of commercial beekeepers. More importantly, because the SHB is a very strong flyer it is always able to seek new colonies of feral and domestic honeybees. It is believed that the SHB’s flight range could be up to 10 kms. It is also reasonable to assume that feral bees, unfortunately, assist the SHB to further spread throughout the country.

The small Hive beetle Aethina Tumida

DESCRIPTION AND DIMENSION OF THE SHB

The SHB varies in colour from yellow brown to reddish brown to light brown to black.

The body of the SHB is broad: 3 to 4.5 mm in width; its length is about 5 to 7 mm and its height is from 2.0 to 3.0 mm (including legs). The SHB’s body is considered flat (Source Prof. R Spooner-Hart).

The lifecycle of the SHB is as per the photo from Dr. O. Boecking, LAVES Institute — Germany 2005.

The Life cycle of the small hive beetle

 Photo of the lifecycle of the SHB is self-explanatory

SHB Self explained

 

SOLUTION

Replying to the letter to the editor from Phillip Island Honey’s David Severino in the ABJ 2013 March, vol 94, no.3, page 3 describing the shocking impact of the Small Hive Beetle (SHB) to his apiary. See D. Severino’s YouTube clip (http://youtu.be/lapU_u0kA0c)
Modern beekeepers use major traditional practices and equipment playing very important roles in beekeeping farming techniques and subsequent results.
The current traditional equipment and practices have catastrophic impact to both the honey production and to the vital protection of the healthy environmental sustainability of the honeybee habitat when interloping parasites invade beehives.

  • The ideal environment in which SHBs breed requires food (honey), warmth (inside honeybee hive), humidity (honeybee hive water condensation) and the traditional brood box bottom board.
  • Construction of the traditional brood box includes a solid bottom board, a normal entrance and generally two ventilation holes in the lid of the hive.
  • Traditional brood box design with its plain bottom board suppresses ventilation thereby allowing condensation and humidity to increase to a level which optimises the SHB breeding conditions.
  • Traditional brood box bottom board definitely creates the right environment for SHB breeding.
  • Traditional brood box bottom board allows substantial amassed quantities of debris and detritus where the SHB hide and diseases incubate more readily.
  • Should any hives be pest-colonised to the degree shown in D. Severino’s YouTube clip above then there is very little ability / room to salvage these hives.
  • The solution lies only with prevention.
  • Rather than trying to control the SHB after it has invaded honeybee colonies hives which use the traditional brood box bottom board, a better solution is to discourage the SHB from colonizing the beehive by radically changing the traditional beehive environment to the extent that SHB breeding simply becomes impossible.
  • The brood box bottom boards must remain clean at all times.
  • The preventive solution already exists. When the brood box traditional bottom board is replaced by the Australian-made Bluebees Board , airflow within the beehive is increased. The humidity / condensation within the beehive will thus dramatically decrease, making the environment inhospitable for the SHB to breed. As one of the prime requirements for the SHB’s breeding is humidity, the SHB can no longer successfully breed in this dry and clean environment. The SHB will relocate to a more suitable breeding environment, leaving the beehive with optimal ventilation and beetle-free.
  • Since the appearance of Varroa Destructor changes of the brood box bottom boards have already been tried with the introduction of a stainless steel mesh bottom board. Unfortunately, the stainless steel mesh board created far too much ventilation; additionally with the observation that the bees have great difficulty walking on the mesh – they damage themselves and become irritable to the point anecdotally, that the colonies have absconded. Detritus and debris still amassed to unacceptable quantities.
  • The revolutionary Australian-made Bluebees Board allow optimal airflow thereby dramatically reducing the humidity created by the natural condensation generated by all healthy honeybee colonies.
  • The inside brood and super boxes become dry and remain dry because the right amount of air-flow is allowed to go through the entire beehive.
  • Additionally, the Australian-made Bluebees Board design allows and encourages the honeybees to eject any interloping pests (including the dreaded Varroa Destructor) along with any debris / detritus.
  • Preventive action is the correct answer to control interloping pests. Healthy and strong honeybee colonies have their beehive environmental sustainability maintained due of the technical characteristics of the Australian made MBB-JPM boards. The MBB-JPM empower the honeybee colonies to adapt and learn to deal efficiently with any interloping pests.
  • The need to use chemicals is also greatly reduced, probably eliminated because the honeybees colonies have now the mean to manage efficiently the health and cleanliness of their beehive environment.

After 3.5 years work, the Australian made Bluebees Boards are designed to the professional beekeepers bush working conditions and standards.