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Survival, spread and establishment of the small hive beetle (Aethina tumida)

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The small hive beetle (SHB) is still present in Calabria one year after its first detection in September 2014. Detailed epidemiological studies would improve our knowledge of the survival, spread and establishment of the pest. Movement of an infested hive could spread SHB rapidly over large distances. Modelling of SHB spread in absence of movement of hives, suggests that natural spread of the beetle alone will take more than hundred years to reach Abruzzo from Calabria (around 250 km). A model considering the ownership of multiple apiaries per beekeeper indicates that spread would be 10 times faster. Opportunity maps indicate that, once introduced, the SHB could complete its life cycle in all EU Member States between May and September. It is recommended that restrictions on the movement of honey bees, bumblebees and commodities from infested to non-infested areas be maintained until SHB is eradicated, to prevent spread of the pest. Strengthening visual inspection, preventing infestation using a fine mesh and issuing a health certificate for intra-EU trade of queen bees, within 24 hours before dispatch, could reduce the risk of SHB transmission via consignments. In general, visual inspection of the beehive, as described in this document, is the preferred method of detecting SHB. Traps could help to detect and reduce SHB infestation levels. Maintaining good honey house hygiene and good beekeeping practices are the most important measures to control SHB where eradication is no longer the objective, given that no approved veterinary medicine is available in the EU. A field experiment found natural infestation of commercial bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) colonies placed next to SHB-infested honey bee hives. However, there are no data published on SHB infestation in natural bumblebee colonies. Studies are needed of the capacity of B. terrestris, occurring in Europe, to act as a SHB host.