1. The small hive beetle, Aethina tumida, is a parasite of honeybee (Apis mellifera) colonies native to sub-Saharan Africa and has become an invasive species. In North America the beetle is now sympatric with bumblebees, Bombus, not occurring in its native range. Laboratory studies have shown that small hive beetles can reproduce in bumblebee colonies but it was not known whether infestations occur in the field. 2. For the first time, infestation of bumblebee colonies by small hive beetles was investigated in the field. Commercial Bombus impatiens colonies (n = 10) were installed in proximity to infested apiaries. Within 8 weeks, all colonies that were alive in the 5-week observation period (n = 9) became naturally infested with adult small hive beetles and successful small hive beetle reproduction occurred in five colonies. 3. In four-square choice tests, the beetles were attracted to both adult bumblebee workers and pollen from bumblebee nests, suggesting that these odours may serve as cues for host finding. 4. The data indicate that bumblebee colonies may serve as alternative hosts for small hive beetles in the field. To foster the conservation of these essential native pollinators, investigations on the actual impact of small hive beetles on wild bumblebee populations are suggested.
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