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Honey bee pests

 

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High priority exotic pests

Three exotic pests have been identified as high priority pests of the honey bee industry. The climate of Australian honey bee producing areas would allow each of these pests to survive, spread and establish should they be introduced. Any of these pests would have serious consequences should they enter and become established in Australia.

For a complete list of exotic pest threats for the honey bee industry, refer to the Honey Bee Industry Biosecurity Plan available by contacting the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council (AHBIC).

Varroa mites (Varroa destructor and V. jacobsoni)

Varroa mitea-1317031

Photo by Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org

  • External parasitic mites that feed on the haemolymph of both drone and worker bee larvae and pupae, and adult bees
  • Detection possible by close examination of brood or testing of adult bees
  • Symptoms include deformed pupae and adults (stunting, damaged wings, legs and abdomens), Parasitic Mite Syndrome and colony decline
  • Varroa mites can also spread viruses, further affecting the colony’s health and disease susceptibility

Fact sheet

Tracheal mite (Acarapis woodi)

Tracheal mite

Acarapis woodi: Photo by Simon Hinkley and Ken Walker, Museum Victoria, PADIL

  • Internal parasite of the honey bee respiratory system
  • Affects the honey bee’s capacity to breathe, resulting in weakened and sick honey bees which have a reduced lifespan
  • Symptoms include population drop, bees crawling on the ground and bees holding their wings at odd angles (‘K wing’)
  • Accurate identification requires dissection and microscopic examination of trachea

Fact sheet

Tropilaelaps mites (Tropilaelaps clareae and T. mercedesae)

Tropilaelaps mite-5459547

Photo by Pest and Diseases Image Library, Bugwood.org

  • External parasitic mites that feed on the haemolymph of both drone and worker bee larvae, pupae and adult bees
  • Detection possible by close examination of brood or testing of adult bees
  • Symptoms include deformed pupae and adults (stunting, damaged wings, legs and abdomens), Parasitic Mite Syndrome and colony decline
  • Tropilaelaps mites can also spread viruses, further affecting the colony’s health and disease susceptibility

Fact sheet

Priority established pests

Pests in this category are established in Australia, some only in localised areas and some widespread. These established pests can rapidly affect the strength and productivity of honey bee colonies and are difficult and expensive to manage. Beekeepers should monitor their hives frequently to check for the presence of these pests.

American foulbrood (Paenibacillus larvae)

American foulbrood

Photo by Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright

  • Fatal brood disease caused by a bacterium that is ingested by young bee larvae
  • Spores germinate in the bee’s gut and the developing bee usually dies at the pre-pupal or pupal stage
  • Symptoms include irregular brood patterns, sunken and discoloured cell cappings with perforations
  • Decaying infected larvae may be roped to a distance of 2-3 cm
  • The bacterium is very infectious and remains dormant for over 50 years
  • Present throughout Australia, but not confirmed in NT or Kangaroo Island

Fact sheet

Asian honey bee (Apis cerana Java genotype)

Asian honey bee

Photo by CSIRO

  • Invasive and adaptive strain of Asian honey bee (AHB)
  • Similar appearance to the European honey bee, although is slightly smaller, has more pronounced stripes on its abdomen and has an erratic flying pattern
  • AHB cannot be managed for honey production or pollination, due to its frequent swarming and tendency to abscond
  • Robs European honey bees of their honey stores and competes for floral resources
  • Currently only present in the Cairns region (Qld)

Fact sheet

Black queen cell virus (Black queen cell virus (Cripavirus))

Black queen cell virus

Photo by Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright

  • Virus which causes mortality in queen bee larvae or pre-pupae
  • Queen bee larvae or pre-pupae die after capping. The dead larvae or pre-pupae and the queen bee cell wall turn brown-black
  • Symptoms reflect the appearance of worker bee larvae killed by Sacbrood virus
  • Black queen cell virus may be transmitted by Nosema apis
  • Present throughout Australia, but not confirmed in NT

Fact sheet

Braula fly (Braula coeca)

Braula fly

Photo by Simon Hinkley & Ken Walker Museum Victoria, PADIL

  • Braula fly live in honey bee colonies, attached to the honey bee’s mouth where it feeds on nectar and pollen
  • Has a preference for attaching itself to queen bees which can decrease the efficiency and egg laying capability of queen bees
  • Braula fly larvae tunnel under honey cappings which give honey comb cappings a fractured appearance
  • Is only present in Tasmania and not on mainland Australia

Fact sheet

Chalkbrood disease (Ascosphaera apis)

Chalkbrood disease

Photo by Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright

  • A fungus which is ingested by bee larvae causing death by starvation
  • Symptoms include scattered brood with perforated cappings
  • The larva dies after the cell is capped and becomes covered by the white-grey fungus, causing the diagnostic ‘mummies’
  • Incidence is usually greater when the colony is under stress due to cool weather or poor nutrition
  • Present throughout Australia, but not confirmed in NT

Fact sheet

European foulbrood (Melissococcus plutonius)

European foulbrood

Photo by Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright

  • A brood disease caused by a bacterium that is ingested by honey bee larvae causing death by starvation
  • Symptoms include spotted brood pattern intermingled with healthy brood, sunken and greasy cappings and a foul smell
  • Infected larvae die before their cells are capped in a twisted position and become yellow-brown
  • Incidence is usually greater when the colony is under stress due to cool weather or poor nutrition
  • Present throughout Australia (except WA, NT and Kangaroo Island)

Fact sheet

Greater wax moth (Galleria mellonella) and Lesser wax moth (Achroia grisella)

Greater wax moth-5465504

Photo by Pest and Diseases image library, Australia, Bugwood.org

  • Pests of weak and stressed colonies and combs in storage
  • Both moths are a similar grey colour and tend to coexist in the same location
  • Both species prefer brood combs and eat wax, pollen and remains of larval honey bees, leaving behind silk webbing and silk lined tunnels
  • Larvae spin white silk cocoons on frames and hive body parts which damages parts of the hive
  • Both species are present throughout Australia

Fact sheet

Nosemosis (Nosema apis and N. ceranae)

Nosemosis

Photo by Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright

  • Disease caused by two species of microsporidian parasites which can infect drones, worker bees and queen bees
  • Spores germinate in the bee’s gut and may cause a declining hive population, poor honey production, reduced brood production and dysentery in and around the hive
  • Infection results in reduced colony health and performance, as well as heavy winter losses
  • Both species are present throughout Australia, except N. ceranae which is not present in WA

Fact sheet

Sacbrood virus (Sacbrood virus (Iflavirus))

Sacbrood virus

Photo by Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright

  • A virus that affects bee larvae after consuming contaminated water, pollen or nectar
  • Symptoms include scattered dead brood with discoloured, sunken or perforated cappings
  • Infected larvae die shortly after capping and have a yellowish appearance as the larva becomes a fluid filled sac. The skin of the dead larva changes into a tough plastic-like sac
  • Present throughout Australia, but not confirmed in NT

Fact sheet

Small hive beetle (Aethina tumida)

Small hive beetle-5025048

Photo by James D Ellis, University of Florida, Bugwood.org

  • Brown-black beetle that consumes honey bee eggs, brood, pollen and honey within the hive, as well as laying eggs throughout the hive
  • The hatched larvae chew through the combs causing the honey to ferment and the hive to become ‘slimed out’
  • Large numbers of Small hive beetle can result in the death of the colony or the colony absconding
  • Present in NSW, Qld, Vic and parts of SA and WA, but has not been reported in NT or Tasmania

Fact sheet

Note

It is important to find out which pests are reportable in your local area. Some may have been found in your state or territory, but not in your region. If detected, contact your local department of agriculture.

Always obtain a health certificate which has been signed by an apiary inspector from the state or territory of origin before the interstate movement of honey bees, including queen bees, hives, honey bee products and used apiary equipment.

More information

See ‘Inspecting hives’ on the page Honey bee product management

Reporting suspect pests