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Small hive beetles, Aethina tumida, are vectors of Paenibacillus larvae

Schäfer, Marc Oliver, Ritter, Wolfgang, Pettis, Jeff, Neumann, Peter
Apidologie 2010 v.41 no.1 pp. 14-20
Aethina tumida, American foul brood, Apoidea, Paenibacillus larvae, adults, beekeepers, control methods, honey, honey bee brood, honey bees, larvae, pathogens, pests, pupae, spores
The transmission of honeybee pathogens by free-flying pests, such as small hive beetles (= SHB), would be independent of bees and beekeepers and thereby constitute a new challenge for pathogen control measures. Here we show that larval and adult SHB become contaminated with Paenibacillus larvae spores when exposed to honeybee brood combs with clinical American foulbrood (= AFB) symptoms in the laboratory. This contamination persists in pupae and newly emerged adults. After exposure to contaminated adult SHB, honeybee field colonies showed higher numbers of P. larvae spores in worker and honey samples after five weeks. Despite these results, the rather low number of P. larvae spores on adult SHB suggests that clinical AFB outbreaks are not likely. However, even small spore numbers can be sufficient to spread P. larvae. Therefore, our data clearly show that SHB are vectors of P. larvae. We suggest considering the role of SHB in AFB control in areas where both pests are established.