Finding Small Beetles in Your Beehive
Small hive beetles, SHB for short, are also known by their scientific name, Aethina tumida. This potentially destructive beetle is usually only dangerous when the beehive is already in less than perfect condition. That is to say, if your beehive is already facing other stresses, an overpopulation of beetles, or other invasive species such as moths, can mean the end of your beehive.
Top points for finding small beetles in your beehive:
- They can destroy honey production
- Small beetles can rapidly increase in population, and overwhelm your hive
- Make the beehive stronger to prevent small beetles from entering
- Use mechanical traps or chemical treatment to get rid of them
The Dangers of Beetles in a Beehive
Once your beehive is infested with beetles, its population will steadily increase to dangerous levels if left uncontrolled. Strong beehives can easily withstand small populations of beetles, but with increased growth and additional pests in the beehive, they may not last for long.
Beetles can be detrimental to your beehive in more than one way:
- Beetles lay large eggs. These can destroy unprotected combs and reduce your honey production
- Beetles defecate on honey, which causes fermentation due to the introduction of the yeast K. ohmeri, which makes the honey slimy
- High rates of honey fermentation may cause the queen bee to stop laying, and the whole beehive could die or abscond
- Contaminated honey isn’t fit for human consumption and will ruin any other honey that it comes in contact with
Finding and Identifying Small Beetles in Your Beehive
To identify SHB in a hive, look for these properties:
- Color: Yellowish brown, reddish-brown, or dark brown, depending on the age
- Size: 5–7 mm in length and 3–4.5 mm in width
- Females are longer and heavier than males
The following are warning signs of any infestations:
- Beetles hiding in corners, around the comb cells, or near the bottom of the colony
- Beetles may also fly around the beehive when you approach
- Pearly white eggs in small cracks or on the brood comb
- White, 10 mm long larvae in the hive or below it in the soil underground
- Fermented honey, which will be runny and more greasy
- Rotten smell of fermented honey or dead bee brood
Protection Against SHB Infection in Your Beehive
SHB infections can get bad, quickly. To stay safe, it’s best to learn how to prevent an infection, or at least, nip it in the bud when it happens.
To prevent a beetle infection in your beehive, the best thing to do is to make your beehive stronger by:
- Prevent against other infestations
- Selective reproduction
Prevention Against Other Infestations
First, you should make sure that no other infections, such as mite parasites, can hurt your beehive. Any infections will increase the stresses on your beehive, making it more vulnerable.
Steps to take here are:
- Limit available space in the hive
- Only use well-sealed hives
- Freeze and rotate frames
- Use moth traps
Use selective reproduction of bee stock with better hygienic traits. These are the bees with a stronger ability to fight off infections. Selective reproduction will increase your colony’s overall ability to resist small beetle infection.
Identify the weakest colonies and strengthen them. Infestation can spread from a colony to another. You can do so by replacing the queen bee regularly to maintain a high bee-to-comb ratio.
Other Steps for SHB Protection
- Inspect: Keep small beetles out by inspecting any bees you plan to move for signs of infection.
- Sunlight: Expose your beehive to direct sunlight since beetles prefer areas with shade.
- Hive integrity: Don’t forget to periodically attend to the integrity of your hives and frames, as any cracks or warps are ideal places for beetles to hide.
- Clean: Use a screen and clean the bottom of your board to avoid the accumulation of debris, which is known to attract beetles
How to Kill Beetles in Beehive
Despite your best efforts, some small black beetles may find their way into your beehive. If their population reaches dangerous levels, you’ll need to consider:
- Mechanical traps
- Chemical treatment to disinfect the hives
These work by luring beetles through small openings and then drowning them in oil. The openings allow beetles to pass but are designed to be too tight for bees. Beetles will usually want to escape the bees, so these traps will be alluring enough to them, yet some types utilize bait to attract beetles more effectively.
If a large larvae infestation is discovered in your beehive, you can use permethrin drench as a chemical treatment for your soil. While it may provide an effective method of killing larvae in the soil, it must be used with extreme caution as it’s highly toxic to bees. Take extra caution as the chemical is extremely corrosive and may cause irreversible eye damage.
As for the chemical treatment of the hive itself, you can use coumaphos. Similar to any chemical, research has proven that coumaphos can be dangerous. Use it in compliance with the label instructions and regulations of associated bodies such as the Department of Agriculture.
SHB can be deadly to your beehives and honey production, but following simple preventive steps can prevent them from ruining your beehives. Keep your beehives strong, ensure there aren’t any vulnerabilities to allow infections and inspect your beehives regularly to nip infections in the bud before they get stronger.
If small hive beetles do get into your hives, all is not lost. Use mechanical traps or chemical treatments to destroy them. Care needs to be taken when using chemicals due to being harmful to bees, yourself and the environment.