Hives in peril

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QPI­ETER BROERE from Pre­to­ria writes: I live on a small­hold­ing near Rood­e­plaat Dam, where I no­ticed this black bee­tle seem­ingly feed­ing on the nest of a wasp. What’s go­ing on?

AEn­to­mol­o­gist DUN­CAN MAC­FADYEN says: This is a large hive bee­tle. It’s as­so­ci­ated with wasp and bee nests and can to­tally dec­i­mate the nests on which it feeds. Due to the hard ely­tra of the bee­tle, a wasp sting is use­less in pre­vent­ing the de­struc­tion. The bee­tle will also eat the brood. Con­sid­er­ing the size of the bee­tle and its abil­ity to quickly con­sume a brood, this be­haviour can im­pact the breed­ing suc­cess of the species it preys on. The hive bee­tle also feeds on hon­ey­comb and can trans­fer dis­eases between bee colonies. The bee­tle is much big­ger than the bees, which has led bee­keep­ers to use bee­hives with smaller en­trances to re­strict ac­cess to the hives.

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