Frequently Asked Questions - Small Hive Beetle

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Changes to the General Biosecurity Direction

  • Effective from Wednesday 29 November the Bee Movement Restriction Area (BMRA) as declared in the General Biosecurity Direction will be reduced from a radius of 5km to 1.5km around the original detection site. A map can be seen here: Bee Movement Restriction Area interactive map
  • Unfiltered Tasmanian honey can be moved into the 1.5km BMRA. Beekeepers can bring honey harvested outside of the BMRA into the BMRA for processing and distribution. Members of the public can also bring raw Tasmanian honey and honeycomb purchased outside of the BMRA back into the BMRA for consumption.

Information on the moratorium

The moratorium on the opening of beehives and the harvest of honey and honeycomb within the BMRA placed by Biosecurity Tasmania on 12 March, has now been lifted.

If you are in the 1.5km BMRA you can now open your hives for management and the collection of honey, honeycomb or wax. However, any beekeeping equipment and hive components must be sourced from your property as movement restrictions are still in place. 

Please contact Biosecurity Tasmania on (03) 6165 3777 to arrange for protective tape to be removed from your hives.

​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 beehives or equipment to non-infested areas. SHB is also a strong flyer and can fly up to 7km to find new hives and colonies. 

H​ow were the beetles detected?

Both specimens were found as part of Biosecurity Tasmania’s extensive monitoring program – this is an example of our world class biosecurity system working. Since the initial detection in early March, Biosecurity Tasmania has taken swift and decisive action, working alongside beekeepers, industry and the community to undertake thousands of beehive and trap inspections.  


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, saturated 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 its 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 https://www.planthealthaustralia.com.au/national-programs/national-bee-pest-surveillance-program/.

How​​ many small hive beetles have been found?

Two adult beetles have been 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 Bee Movement Restriction Area (BMRA) around the detection site, and restricts the movement of bees and bee products within, into and out of the BMRA. Effective from 29 November 2023, the BMRA has been reduced to a radius of 1.5km. A map can be seen here: Bee Movement Restriction Area interactive map

Biosecurity Tasmania officers are conducting surveillance and monitoring for small hive beetle within the BMRA using a combination of physical inspections and traps. Two further rounds of inspections are currently planned- one in January and one in March 2024.

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 must comply with the movement restrictions that are in place. Beekeepers must not move bees, beehives, captured swarms, nucleus colonies, honey, honeycomb, wax or used beekeeping equipment in, out or within the BMRA.

For beekeepers outside of the Bee Movement Restriction Area that want to move excess supers, cool rooms maintained at 10°C or less for excess supers and combs 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 24 hours. A range of in-hive chemical and non-chemical options are also available to beekeepers.

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

Surveillance activities will be undertaken until Biosecurity Tasmania is confident that SHB is not present in this area.  Biosecurity Tasmania will be conducting two further rounds of inspections, one in January and one in March 2024. 

Ca​​n beehives in the 1.5km area be moved to allow pollination?

Pollinators can apply for a permit to bring their hives into the 1.5km Bee Movement Restriction Area (BMRA) specifically for the purpose of pollinating crops. Permits are free and only one permit is required per pollinator, regardless of the number of hives. Pollinators cannot enter the BMRA without a permit – penalties may apply. All hives will be inspected for small hive beetle while inside the BMRA and checked again before they leave.


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 for 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 1mm 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, 10mm 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 SHB 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? 

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?

Although beekeepers within the BMRA can now harvest honey and other products from their hives, movement restrictions remain in place. Beekeepers must not move any products, including honey, originating inside the BMRA, within, or out of the BMRA. However, beekeepers can bring unfiltered Tasmanian honey harvested outside of the BMRA into the BMRA for processing and distribution.​

​​Should beekeepers be destroying their hives?

No, do not destroy your hives. Hive destruction 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 affect wild European honey bees and bumblebees?

Wild European honey bees are the same species as the domesticated European honey bees. Therefore, they 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 SHB may infest bumblebee colonies.

Does small hive beetle affect Tasmanian native bees?

SHB 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). It is unlikely that SHB will cause problems for Tasmanian native bees.