Frequently Asked Questions - Small Hive Beetle

​​​​​​​​What is small hive beetle?

​Small hive beetle (SHB) (Aethina tumida) is a small (0.5 cm long 0.3 cm wide) brown-black beetle with clubbed antennae. The larvae of SHB cause most of the damage by burrowing into honeycombs, eating brood, honey and pollen. Whilst feeding, the larvae also carry a yeast (Kodamaea ohmeri) which contaminates the honey, causing it to ferment. Heavy infestations cause the hive to become ‘slimed out’ and may cause the colony to die or abscond. In Australia, SHB has the greatest impact in the warm and humid coastal strip between Victoria and North Queensland.

What is the lifecycle of the small hive beetle? 

See the bee aware website for more information.

​Is small hive beetle present in other states of Australia?

SHB is present throughout NSW, QLD, VIC, ACT and in parts of SA and WA. It has not previously been recorded in NT or TAS. 

How did it get here?

The method of incursion is currently being investigated. SHB can spread by beekeepers moving infested bee or equipment to non-infested areas. SHB is also a strong flyer and can fly up to 7 km to find new hives and colonies. 

H​ow was the beetle detected?

​The beetle was detected in an apithor small hive beetle harbourage (trap). The harbourage was located in what is known as a ‘guard hive’, as part of the Tasmanian portion of the National Bee Pest Surveillance Plan. BT also continues to conduct additional surveillance on sentinel hives and guard hives maintained as part of the National Bee Pest Surveillance Program at Burnie, Devonport, Bell Bay and Hobart.

How do the traps work?

​The trap is a plastic device, with small entrances on the sides, available for the beetles to enter when seeking refuge from bee aggression. Within the plastic device is corrugated cardboard, impregnated with the poison, fipronil. As beetles come into contact with the fipronil, they die. Bees cannot access the poison, when installed properly.​

H​​​​ow does the National Bee Pest Surveillance Program work? 

​The NBPSP’s primary objective is the early detection of new incursions of exotic bee pests and pest bees, to increase the possibility of eradication. It is a program that occurs at a national level and is coordinated by Plant Health Australia (PHA). The NBPSP includes a range of surveillance methods conducted at locations to be the highest risk of exotic pests. Hives (with live bees) located at these high-risk locations are funded through PHA and it’s partners and are known as ‘sentinel’ hives. On top of these sentinel hives, the Tasmanian government funds a number of ‘guard’ hives at the ports of Hobart, Burnie and Devonport in order to increase our biosecurity. More information can be found at

When w​​as the suspect hive last inspected? How long could they have been in the hive?

The traps within the hive were checked six weeks before the find by BT staff and no SHB were detected. No SHB were detected in the traps during the previous inspection either. This guard hive is checked every six weeks.

How​​ many small hive beetles have been found?

One adult beetle was detected. 

Wh​at are we doing about it?

Tasmania’s Chief Plant Protection Officer, Andrew Bishop, has declared a General Biosecurity Direction, which establishes a 15km Bee Movement Restriction Area around the detection site, and restricts the movement of bees and bee products within, into and out of the zone. Hives being transported though the Restriction Area (eg from Smithton to Launceston) will be able to do so under a Group Permit.The BT apiary team are also conducting surveillance on hives within the 15km radius zones through the placement of SHB traps. 

What​ impact would a potential incursion have on bee health? What can beekeepers do to protect their hive from small hive beetle?

In its larval stage, SHB burrow into beehives consuming brood, pollen and honey, which can significantly damage the hive population and honey production. Whilst feeding, the yeast species (K. ohmeri) that the larvae carry contaminates the honey, causing it to ferment, which makes the honey look greasy and slimy and weep out of the cells.

To minimise the potential spread of SHB, beekeepers need to comply with the current moratorium. Biosecurity Tasmania has placed a moratorium on the opening of hives​, harvest of honey and honeycomb, and movement of beekeeping equipment for any beekeepers that are in the 15km Bee Movement Restriction Area as declared in the General Biosecurity Direction. the moratorium on opening, moving and harvesting from hives, and the movement of beekeeping equipment, will be extended from 31 March to 14 April. All beekeepers are asked to avoid opening hives during this period.​​

For beekeepers outside of the Bee Movement Restriction Area that want to move excess supers and combs, cool rooms maintained at 10°C or less will prevent the adult SHB laying eggs and will minimise SHB larvae activity. Freezing frames and hive parts at -7°C will kill all life stages of SHB within 4-5 hours. A range of in-hive chemical and non-chemical options are also available to beekeepers.

Ho​w long will surveillance of the restricted area take to be completed?

Surveillance activities will be undertaken until Biosecurity Tasmania is confident that SHB is not present in this area. BT staff have been placing SHB traps in hives throughout the 15km Bee Movement Restriction Area to understand the extent of SHB within the zone. This is expected to take two to six months. 

Ca​​n hives in the 15kms area be moved to allow pollination?

No. Until Biosecurity Tasmania is confident that SHB is not present in this area, no hives or bees can move in, out or within the area. This is designed to stop potential spread of the pest and protect the health of Tasmania’s bee population and our honey and pollination sectors. Hives being transported though the Restriction Area (eg from Smithton to Launceston) will be able to do so under a Group Permit.

Ar​e hives able to be moved throughout the rest of the state? 

Yes. Hives outside the Bee Movement Restriction Area are not affected by restrictions and are free to move. Please remember that it is a requirement under the Australian Honey Bee Industry Biosecurity Code of Practice that records must be maintained of all hive movements (section 5.1 of the COP).

What does the small hive beetle look like? 

Adult SHB are brown-black. The eggs are tiny (about 1 mm long) and are pearly white. In strong colonies, eggs are laid in the crevices of the hive, while in weak colonies eggs are laid directly on brood comb. Larvae are white, 10 mm long with three pairs of prolegs near the head. Once they mature, larvae leave the hive and burrow into the ground surrounding the hive to pupate.

small hive beetle on blue background

​Will the bees in affected hives need to be euthanised? 

At this stage it is recommended that bees located in any hive where the beetle is detected and any other hive that is located directly next to this hive be euthanised. Further euthanasia will only be considered if more SHB are detected, and it is deemed appropriate to help protect Tasmania’s bee population.

​​​Will there be compensation if bees are euthanised? 

At this stage, the only infested hive is a BT hive managed by a local beekeeper. This is still under discussion within Biosecurity Tasmania.​

​Will the national cost sharing arrangements outlined in the EPPRD apply to this incursion?​

No, SHB is present throughout NSW, QLD, VIC, ACT and in parts of SA and WA. ​

​What engagement will industry have in the incursion response?

Biosecurity Tasmania is working very closely with key stakeholders including Tasmanian bee associations, the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association, Fruit Growers Tasmania and local producers. Key industry representatives are directly involved in the response team. 

​Can producers in the region still sell honey?

According to the current moratorium, recreational beekeepers can no longer collect, move or sell honey within the Bee Movement Restriction Area. However, commercial producers can still move and sell honey, provided it was harvested before 8 March 2023 and has been filtered to a maximum 2mm pore size.

​​Should beekeepers be destroying their hives?

No, do not destroy your hives. Biosecurity Tasmania is only euthanising the hive where the beetle was detected, and any other hives located directly next to this hive. Further euthanasia will only be considered if more SHB are detected, and it is deemed appropriate to help protect Tasmania’s bee population.

​Would small hive beetle survive in Tasmania?

Yes. Even though the small hive beetle thrives in humid climates, the small hive beetle can still survive in Tasmania’s colder climate. However, the beetle’s activity will be slowed. ​

​​Do​es small hive beetle effect wild European honey bees and bumble bees?

Wild European Honey Bees are the same species as the domesticated European Honey Bees so are considered to be at the same level of risk of infestation by SHB. Small hive beetle has been shown to have the ability to infest commercial bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) colonies in North America. Although the bumblebee common in Tasmania is a different species (Bombus terrestris or European bumblebee), Biosecurity Tasmania is working with the presumption that small hive beetle may infest bumblebee colonies.

Does small hive beetle effect Tasmanian native bees?

Small hive beetle is a pest of some colony forming native bee species interstate (eg Austroplebeia native stingless bees). However, native bees in Tasmania are solitary bees not colony formers (although some do form nesting aggregations at times), so it is unlikely that small hive beetle will cause problems for Tasmanian native bees.