Updated: Feb 17, 2021
The Small Hive Beetle is an invasive pest that harms honeybee hives and damages the honeycomb, stored honey and pollen. The bees may abandon the hive if the infestation becomes heavy.
The small hive beetle (SHB) causes damage to hives that are stressed or weakened by other factors. In a healthy hive, the worker bees will protect the hive from SHB. Once the worker bees are outnumbered by the beetles, the hive can be destroyed quickly.
When bee populations are sufficient and the SHB populations are small, the hive will be fine. In fact hive beetles are normally in every hive. However when the population of bees is insufficient or the hive is unhealthy SHB can cause havoc. Both the larval and adult stages of the SHB prey on honey bee eggs and brood.
The feeding habits of the SHB larvae cause visual damage to bee colonies. Larvae tunnel through the honeycomb yielding a slimy, shiny appearance in the combs; however, they rarely damage the actual comb.
The adults defecate in the honey and this introduces yeast which ferments the honey. It will be rejected by bees and is not fit for any type of consumption. This fermentation process produces a characteristic odor of decaying oranges.
The adult beetles are easy to detect with quick visual inspections. When the hive is opened, adult beetles will be found running along the underside of the cover and on the top bars of frames.
The larvae can be found in clusters in the corners of the hive or on the frames. If you find larvae that are scattered throughout the hive – but not in clusters – you are seeing Wax Moth Larvae
Prevention and Control:
The best prevention is a combination of cultural and mechanical controls. The most important action you can take is to keep a clean apiary. Here are some other ideas for reducing the attraction of SHB to your bees:
Do not toss burr comb onto the ground.
Place hives where they receive direct sunlight as the beetles prefer shaded hives.
give your hives plenty of ventilation.
Clean bottom boards regularly or use screen bottom boards so that debris doesn't build up and provide prime pupating habitat for the SHB.
Use mechanical traps such as the Freeman Beetle Trap to replace the bottom boards.
Apply the beneficial nematode, Heterorhabditis indica, to the soil beneath and around the beehives.
The use of any insecticide that might control the adult or larval stage of the SHB could have an adverse effect on the bees.
The best control is to keep strong healthy hives.