Aethina tumida (Nitidulidae)

Who scored on last night’s mystery? Three points to Gene Hall for naming the family, 8 to Kojun who guessed the genus, species, and collection site, and one to Chris Grinter who added family-level diagnostics.

Chris also takes the monthly prize- with 19 total points- for September. Email me to claim your loot, Chris!

This summer marked the first appearance of the dreaded Small Hive Beetle in Champaign-Urbana. Our summer bee class spotted some early arrivals in late July at one of the University bee yards, and shortly thereafter the pesky little insects appeared in several other apiaries around town. These photos were taken in one of my backyard hives.

Aethina tumida is an African insect first noticed in the southeastern U.S. in 1996. The beetles have since spread outward, aided in no small part by a commercial beekeeping industry insistent on shipping vast numbers of mostly uninspected colonies willy-nilly around the continent. They are the latest installment in a series of bee pests that have emerged from a globalized economy.

Small hive beetle larvae feed primarily on stored pollen around the periphery of the nest, but they make such a mess of things that the honey ferments and parts of the comb fall apart. In bad infestations, bees will even abandon their hive.

Still, hive beetles make fine photographic subjects. I wouldn’t exactly call that a silver lining, but hey. It’s something.