Small Hive Beetle Traps & Treatments
Controlling Small Hive Beetles in beehives is a serious part of keeping honey bees for Southern beekeepers. These bee hive pests can be difficult to manage. With few safe chemical options, using Small Hive Beetle traps is often the first line of defense.
If you are a beekeeper who does not know what Small Hive Beetles are – that’s great, maybe you don’t have them in your area – yet.
But for many of us, Small Hive Beetles are something we can not ignore. This is especially true for beekeepers who live in warmer regions where Small Hive Beetles become a big problem – year round!
I know beekeepers who have lost many hives due to beetle infestations. Does this mean you should “freak out” when you see a Small Hive Beetle? NO.
But you should take note of their presence and watch for problems. A few beetles are nothing to worry about.
But, heavy infestations of Small Hive Beetles can take down even a strong bee colony.
One of the most common ways of dealing with hive beetles is the use of traps. Honestly, sometimes they work well and other times – they do not.
Still, using Small Hive Beetle traps does allow the beekeeper to remove some adult beetles from the hive. Hopefully, this can help keep the beetle population under control.
This is the Beetle Blaster . I have many of these traps in use. They are filled 1/3 full with any type of vegetable or mineral oil.
Then place one between the wooden top bars of the frames. One or two per box place among the outer frames is the most common use.
As with all traps, sometimes I have success with these and sometimes not. They can be messy due to the oil inside – be careful.
Do not spill the oil inside the hive – it will kill bees too. The beauty of this trap is that it is inexpensive and disposable.
How Small Hive Beetles Damage Beehives
In a previous post, I discussed the some of the problems posed by Small Hive Beetles – a relatively new pest for beekeepers in the US.
In short, adult Hive Beetles fly into the beehive looking for a place to lay eggs. If the adults are not chased by bees, eggs are laid on the comb.
After a short period, the beetle eggs hatch into beetle larvae. It is the larval phase of the Small Hive Beetle that causes damage.
Small Hive Beetle larvae eat honey comb and can cause major damage to the colony.
The wastes of the larvae cause honey to ferment. Sometimes fermented honey will even run out of the front of the hive.
When the Small Hive Beetle larvae reach a certain size, they leave the hive and burrow into the soil.
Here they pupate into adult beetles. And, the cycle begins again.
Attempting to use hive beetle traps for larva doesn’t work, we can not control the larva.
Our method of control has to involve removing the adult Hive Beetles. We need to reduce the number of adult egg laying beetles in the hive.
If no eggs are laid, no larva will develop. This is where our arsenal of beetle traps and entrance guards come into play.
Keeping Small Hive Beetles out of the beehive is not an easy task. How can we keep the small beetles out and still allow the bees access. Traps can bee the answer.
Strong Bee Colonies Control Small Hive Beetles
One of the best beekeeper strategies for Small Hive Beetle control involves keeping strong colonies. A hive with a large bee population is better able to deal with beetles.
Worker bees that guard the nest area will chase and harass adult beetles. Hopefully, this prevents most of them from successfully laying eggs.
Can Bees Sting Hive Beetles?
Honey bees can sting. The stinger is an effective method of hive protection. However, the bee stinger can not penetrate the hard shell of the Small Hive Beetles.
Our bees do not have the capacity to kill adult Hive Beetles. They can only chase them throughout the hive.
Why Don’t Bees Throw Hive Beetles Out?
Small Hive Beetles can “hunker down” and tuck in their head and legs. The best our bees can do is to corral the beetles into corners. Here, the worker stands guard and prevents the beetles’ escape.
Small Hive Beetle Larvae
Small Hive Beetle larvae are small white grubs. Similar in appearance to the larvae of the Wax Moth, beetle larva are the smaller of the two.
It can be difficult to identify the correct larva type when they are small – but they do have differences.
If you look closely, you can see a slight physical difference between the wax moth larva and beetle larva.
Small Hive Beetle larva have numerous spines along the body and 3 pairs of distinct legs on the anterior end.
Again, we want to control the number of adult beetles in the hive to prevent a beetle larva.
Once beetle eggs begin to hatch, larva grow quickly. A large population of beetle larva can take down a beehive in just a few days.
Weaker honey bee colonies are more at risk because they have fewer bees to patrol the comb.
As the hive beetle larva grow, they move across the comb eating honey, pollen and baby bees. Their feces causes honey to ferment and become slimy.
If conditions get really bad, your whole colony of bees may decide to abscond or leave the hive.
Any Small Hive Beetle treatment plan must consider suppressing larva development – long before it gets out of hand. Our target is the adult not the larva.
Wax Moth Larva or Small Hive Beetle Larva?
Because new beekeepers often find it difficult to distinguish between Wax Moth larva and Hive Beetle larva – they may not identify the problem correctly.
Some of the same situations, like a weak hive low in population, can result in an infestation of either pest. But it is good to know exactly what we are dealing with.
Wax Moth larva have no spines along the underside of the body and their pro-legs are less developed.
Small Hive Beetle larva have spines and developed front legs. But there may be another clue inside the hive.
Do you see any webbing ? Like a spider-web? If I see a lot of adult beetles in the hive and no webbing (left by wax moth larva), its a beetle problem.
Yes, it is possible to have both types of larva in a hive at the same time. Neither type is a good thing to see inside your bee hive. But do not panic if you see just a few of either kind.
Strategies for Small Hive Beetle Control
There are things that we can do to help our colonies deal with Small Hive Beetles. Poor management practices can encourage beetle infestations.
Practice “Clean Beekeeping”
While working in the bee yard, don’t throw down bits of wax and other hive debris.
This practice attract beetles, skunks and other predators. And the aroma, encourages beetles.
Periodically clean any accumulated debris off your bottom board. Otherwise, you will have beetle larva growing inside your hive on the bottom board.
Good Hive Placement Plays A Role in Hive Beetle Problems
Adult Small Hive Beetles prefer hives in shady locations. Therefore, placing hives in the sun may be of some benefit.
Here in South Carolina, I place my hives in full sun. It gets hot! But the hot, red, clay soil discourages larva development. Fewer larva survive to pupate in the hard dry soil.
I am a big fan of placing beehives on stands. It is easier on your back while managing your hive. And, it is easier to keep the area around the base of the beehive clean.
Keep the ground around your hives clean and dry don’t use mulch. This is another reason that proper hive placement is so important.
Best Hive Beetle Treatment Options
Monitor Beetle Populations
A honey bee hive can manage a small population of beetles. It is not necessary to remove every single beetle from every hive.
However, you don’t want to ignore a growing beetle population. If the infestation gets out of hand, you can lose the whole hive quickly.
Being chased by bees, beetles often run into beetle traps to escape. If the trap is partially filled with oil, hopefully the beetle will be unable to escape.
Avoid Giving Bees too Much Space
Resist the temptation to “over-super” your colonies. Beehives with a lot of boxes must have a large enough population to patrol all of the comb surface.
Once the beetle population grows, no amount of hive beetle traps will be able to make a difference.
Other Options for Hive Beetle Treatments
Checkmite+ (coumaphos) is an approved treatment for Small Hive Beetles. The chemical strips are placed inside small boxes with slits.
Considered a “hard” chemical, I don’t know any beekeepers who use it. I would not use this in my hives.
Guardstar is applied as a soil drench that prevents larva development. Application may last 30 days depending on soil type, ph and rain. It is not effective in areas with a lot of rainfall.
Nematodes: If beetles are a big problem in your area, you many consider the use of nematodes. Beneficial predatory nematodes are commercially available to add to your soil.
This method has not worked well in my hard clay soil but you may have better results where you live.
You can not use any nematodes – some varieties do a better job of grub control.
Nematodes may help control the develop of more adult beetles by killing them in the grub stage. But they will not kill the adult beetles that are already in the hives.
DE – Diatomaceous Earth can be used for many things about the homestead. Beekeepers use it inside hive beetle traps or applied to the soil around the hive.
But, don’t forget that bees are insects too! DE will kill your bees if they get it on them or inside the hive. Use it if you want – but use it with care.
Using Small Hive Beetle Traps
There are so many hive beetle traps, rims and shims on the market that I won’t name them all.
Some hive beetle traps use compartments with mineral oil to trap and suffocate beetles. An attractant such as Apple Cider Vinegar may be used.
I have not found “bait” or attractants to work well in my area but you may want to give it a try.
Popular Hive Beetle Trap Choices: AJ’s Beetle Eater , Cutts Beetle Blaster, Beetle Jail (my favorite) – all these hang between the frames.
Currently, the Beetle Jail is my favorite. It is re-usable. I like that I can clean it out and use again – 1 less piece of plastic to throw away.
It is a sturdy made trap and sits recessed between the top bars. I use a small amount of vegetable oil in mine and usually do not use bait. (apple cider vinegar/pollen)
Using Oil Tray Traps: Some beekeepers experience success with oil traps placed under the hive. These trays (with oil inside) are placed under a screened bottom board.
Beetle larva (and maybe some varroa) will fall into the trap and be unable to leave. I don’t prefer this type of trap due to the expense and mess but you may like to give it a try.
Small Hive Beetle Pad Traps
A newcomer in Small Hive Beetle traps is the use of pads. These pads are placed on the top bars inside the hive. The bees try to remove the pads from the hive.
This causes the material to become very fuzzy. Adult Small Hive Beetles become trapped in the fuzz -but most bees escape.
Some beekeepers express success with the use of unscented dryer sheets as hive beetle traps.
However, keep in mind that we do not know the effect on the bees from other chemicals in the sheets.
There is no perfect way to stop Small Hive Beetles. The beekeeper must instead strive to keep healthy strong colonies, make good decisions on hive placement and strive to keep beetle numbers under control.