Exploring Aethina tumida Biology and the Impacts of Environmental Factors to Generate Novel Management Strategies
The small hive beetle (Aethina tumida) is an invasive pest from sub-Saharan Africa that has posed increasing threats to European honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies in the United States over the past two decades. While control has been attempted, consistently effective management strategies still not been developed. This study sought to explore novel experimental methods to better understand and use A. tumida biology to target this pest. One aspect of A. tumida biology that has emerged as potential basis for improved control is olfactory manipulation, which could be used to disrupt beetles as they seek out A. mellifera colonies. Through olfactometry and electroantennography, key volatiles in A. tumida attraction and repulsion were tested and sensitivity of A. tumida to several attractants and repellents was quantified on behavioral and physiological levels. An additional source of attractive volatiles is the A. tumida fungal symbiont Kodamaea ohmeri, which ferments larval waste and is present throughout the A. tumida lifecycle, both externally and in the GI tract. This study explored the development of feeding and soil bioassays to test the effects of several insecticides on A. tumida larvae. Feeding and injection bioassays were also used to deliver a fungicide with the goal of repressing K. ohmeri, which was expected to detrimentally impact A. tumida health. The results of this work enhance our current knowledge or A. tumida biology and provide a useful basis for development of safe and selective management A. tumida management options for the future.