A pesticide used to kill varroamites in Georgia bee hives is also proving effective in killingsmall hive beetles.Varroa mites and small hive beetlesare major pests to bees and their keepers in Georgia. In lateJanuary, Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Tommy Irvin granteda temporary clearance for beekeepers to use coumaphos, a pesticide,to fight them. However, beekeepers must remove honey from thecombs of coumaphos-treated hives.Important for GrowingCrops”Varroa mites and small hivebeetles are causing our honey bee population to dwindle,”Irvin said. “Honeybees play an important role in pollinatingmany fruits and vegetables and are responsible for pollinatingplants that account for approximately one-third of the food weeat.”The small hive beetle is a newpest, but varroa mites have been around for years.”We’ve been fighting varroamites since 1987,” said Keith Delaplane, an Extension Serviceentomologist with the University of Georgia College of Agriculturaland Environmental Sciences. “The recent problem is theirresistance to the old stand-by product we were using.”Delaplane said the new pesticideis being used for two reasons. “One is because the varroamites have become resistant to the current pesticide, apistan,”he said. “The other is to fight a new pest, the small hivebeetle.”Came to the U.S.in 1998The small hive beetle was unknownin the United States until its unexpected arrival in 1998. “Thatyear,” Delaplane said, “we found it in Georgia and inFlorida.”Both pests are harmful to beesand to beekeepers’ wallets.”The varroa mite is likea tick,” Delaplane said. “It attaches to the outsideof the bee and actually pierces into it. It’s broadly dispersedacross the state and is causing colonies to die all over Georgia.”The small hive beetle, on theother hand, is much less widely distributed, with concentrationsin south Georgia and several counties in metro Atlanta.”It’s a hive scavenger,”Delaplane said. “The larvae are carnivorous and eat immaturebees.”Hurt the Bees andEat the HoneyThey also eat honey. “Theygo tunneling through the combs and make a mess of everything,”he said. “Colonies that are severely infested will abandonthe nests, and the beekeeper comes back to find an empty box.”Delaplane said the beetles canlinger in colonies for weeks before causing damage. “Whenconditions are right, the larvae explode, and the colony comescrashing down,” he said.U.S.Department of Agriculture scientists had been looking for productsto control varroa mites, anticipating the day the current controlproduct would stop working, he said.A ‘Silver Bullet’for Both Pests”One of them, coumaphos,looked promising,” Delaplane said. “When the small hivebeetle showed up, they decided to try coumaphos on them, too.And it worked. So fortunately we got a silver bullet, so to speak,that works for both of our problems at once: the resistant mitesand the beetles.”Georgia has 75,000 bee coloniesand 2,000 hobby and commercial beekeepers. The industry generates$70 million each year in the state through sales of honey, beeswax,queen bees and package bees.”Georgia ranks 14th in thenation in honey production and second, behind California, in queenbee and packaged bee production,” Delaplane said. “Theseare bees that are shipped all to beekeepers over the world forstarting up colonies and for crop pollination. We dominate onthe east coast as a supplier of bees.”Searching for NonchemicalControlsDelaplane is doing his part tofight these pests. “My research focuses on alternative controlsthat are less chemically intense,” he said.Last summer, he tested a hivescreen that controls the varroa mites. “The screen createsa false floor in the bee hive,” he said. “When the mitesfall through the screen, they have trouble climbing back ontothe bees.”The screens were developed inFrance. Georgia beekeepers are now using them.