Small Hive Beetle Treatment – For Your Bee Hives
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, a good hive beetle treatment plan is probably is a must.
This is especially true for beekeepers who live in warmer regions where Small Hive Beetles run wild! Hive Beetles are a serious problem for beekeepers. A few beetles are nothing to worry about. But, heavy infestations of small hive beetles can take down even a strong bee colony.
Due to a shortage of safe chemical options, many beekeepers resort to trapping adult small hive beetles as a treatment plan. There are many small hive beetle traps in use. The beetle blaster is one that is often used.
Traps work very well sometimes and not so well at other times. If I see the number of beetles in my hives starting to increase, I put traps inside immediately. I have less luck using traps if the beetle population gets out of control.
In a previous post, I discussed the problems posed by Small Hive Beetles-(read more here). In short, Adult beetles fly into the bee hive and lay eggs. The eggs hatch into beetle larva. It is the larval phase of the Small Hive Beetle that causes damage.
We want to control the number of adult egg laying beetles in the hive and reduce pupating larva outside.
Small Hive Beetle larva eat the honey comb and can cause major damage. But the adult beetles start the process, they lay eggs to begin the infestation.
Honey bees can sting. Why don’t they throw the hive beetles out? Yes, the bees do try to corral the hard shelled beetles but they have a hard time of it. The best treatment for small hive beetles is a plan that stops the issue at the adult beetle level.
Not present in all areas of the US, Hive Beetles are a serious problem in the south. I have more experience with beetles than I would wish. If you live in an areas that does not currently need hive beetle treatments – consider yourself lucky indeed.
Small Hive Beetle Larva Infestations
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 large population of 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. How do they do this? 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. So our target is the adult not the larva.
Wax Moth Larva and Small Hive Beetle Larva Look Similar
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. But we don’t want to let things get to advanced for either pest of the honey bee .
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.
A Clean Bee Yard – Helps to Reduce Small Hive Beetle Infestations
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.
Keep bottom boards clean of hive debris. As the colony goes about daily activities, bits of wax, pollen, etc will fall. Beetles will lay eggs in the debris.
Periodically clean any accumulated debris off your bottom board. Otherwise, you will have beetle larva growing inside your hive on the bottom board.
Prevent Small Hive Beetles From Destroying Your Honey
Have you recently harvested honey? Yum. Extract the honey within 1 – 2 days. Hive beetles or eggs may be present on the comb. If you fail to process your honey and store it in a sealed container, you may loose the crop.
Because, unseen eggs can hatch and beetle larvae will ruin your hard-earned harvest.
Beehive Placement Can Play A Role in Hive Beetle Treatments
Adult Small Hive Beetles prefer 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.
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.
This plastic Ultimate Hive Stand is very sturdy and a good choice for beekeepers who don’t want to build wooden stands. Some beekeepers also use cement blocks to create a raised platform for their bees.
Keep the ground around your hives clean and dry don’t use mulch. This is another reason that proper hive placement is so important.
That said, I have had beetles in my sunny hives. But my friends with beehives in the shade had a more difficult time.
The Best Hive Beetle Treatment Options
Large Bee Populations Aid in Small Hive Beetle Control
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.
Worker bees will chase the adult beetles to prevent egg laying. Beetles will be cornered by the bees. I don’t worry about a Hive Beetle treatment plan unless I see more than 10 beetles during an inspection.
Don’t keep weak hives. While strong hives can mount a good attack on beetles, weak hives are quickly overrun. Keep populations large enough to patrol the complete area inside the hive.
Not too Much Space in The Hive
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.
If you have a colony with a large Small Hive Beetle infestation, don’t split it into 2 parts. You will have 2 weak colonies with a beetle infestation already in place. Again, match hive space to your bee population.
Few Chemical Options For Hive Beetle Treatments – None Are Great
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.
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. Some beekeepers have used a mineral salt (made for livestock) and water spray in the same way.
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.
Small Hive Beetle Treatments – Using Traps !
Trap‘em if You Got’em
There are so many beetle traps, rims and shims on the market that I won’t name them all. Some use compartments with mineral oil to trap and suffocate beetles. An attractant such as Apple Cider Vinegar may be used.
Popular Choices: AJ’s Beetle Eater , Cutts Beetle Blaster, Beetle Jail (my favorite) – all these hang between the frames.
I have a love/hate affair with beetle traps. Some times they work well and then months go by with no trapped beetles. I have tried all of the most popular small hive beetle traps.
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) But you can use bait if you wish.
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 but you may like to give it a try
DE – Diatomaceous Earth can be used for many things about the homestead. 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.
It is often used as a dust on the ground around the hives – or placed in “oil” trays under the hive. Just remember – we dont want this dust to end up on the landing board of the hive or on the bees.
A Newish Small Hive Beetle Treatment
A newcomer in Small Hive Beetle treatments 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. Small Hive Beetles become trapped in the fuzz but most bees escape. There are several options.
Beetle B Gone is a commercial beetle pad that can be purchased through bee suppliers. I have by used them and they do work but a few bees will be caught as well. Swiffer sweeper pads (unscented please!) are used some beekeepers.
The pads are cut into squares. A couple of pads are placed over the brood frames and under the inner cover. The Swiffer pads work but I do not like using them. In some of my hives, they caught as many bees as beetles and made the boxes more difficult to separate.
No Perfect Small Hive Beetle Treatment Plan Options
As with any facet of beekeeping, there are many ways to control Small Hive Beetles – or attempt to control them. The good news is that you have several Small Hive Beetle treatments options to consider.
Some work is being done of the possible use of formic acid but at this time results are still uncertain.
But remember, nothing works perfectly and no one thing works all the time for everybody. If you have Small Hive Beetles in your region, I hope you will be vigilant to keep the population small.
Below are a few methods that I don’t use or recommend
Beekeepers use drier sheets instead of the fuzzy pads – I am concerned about chemicals (even in the unscented ones).
Political signs cut into squares and filled with roach poison (just no!) !!!!!
The Small Hive Beetle Battle Continues All Year
Small Hive Beetle populations build throughout the Summer. The number of beetles peaks in my area in late Summer/early Fall.
Then the adult beetles overwinter inside the hive to begin again new year. When opening your hives, have your hive tool ready to squish beetles.
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