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    Back to the Basics

    Welcome to the Back to Basics Blog where we go over some of the basic steps a beekeeper should take in getting the most out of their hives.

    The small hive beetle, Aethina tumida (SHB), is an invasive pest most commonly observed in the Southeast US but has slowly made its way into other states through the migration of honey bee colonies. Originated in Africa, these beetles are 5 - 7 mm in length, oval in shape, dark brown to black in color and have “clubbed” shaped antennae.

    Adult beetles are easily detected during visual inspection if present. They are typically found on the inner cover or scurrying across the tops of the frames. SHB larvae is sometimes confused with that of the Wax Moth but is distinguished by the numerous spines along the body. Female beetles will lay large clusters of eggs in cracks/crevices or directly into pollen**. The eggs will hatch in 2 - 4 days and will begin feeding upon pollen, honey and brood. The larva will develop in 10 - 16 days, exit the hive to pupate in the soil for 3 - 4 weeks, and emerge from the soil to seek out bee colony. It is common for one female to lay 1,000 eggs in her lifetime.

    The beetles are generally considered opportunistic and will infest colonies that are stressed or weakened by other factors. Honey bees are observed to pursue adult beetles across comb but are not capable of removing from the hive. Rather, the bees will entomb the beetles when they hide in crevices or cracks. A strong colony is able to contend with a large population of beetles but they may not be able to contend with the large number of eggs the beetle population can lay. These eggs will develop quickly and can be very destructive to unprotected comb. By maintaining strong colonies and keeping the beetle population in check, beekeepers can suppress the reproductive potential and the continued stress of the colony

    The most effective approach to SHB control is maintaining a strong colony and continue best management practices. Reduce stress from disease and Varroa levels, avoid combining heavily infested colonies, and maintain a clean bee yard. Keep in mind that tossing burr comb or unfinished pollen patties on ground around the hive will attract pests to the hive; adult beetles prefer shady locations; beetles can easily hide in warped or cracked equipment; and beetle larva can complete pupation in debris left on bottom boards.

    Chemicals and traps are available to help maintain infestation within a manageable level. The use of baited traps will allow you to successfully control the beetle levels without harming your bees. The beetles will move into the traps and drown. Strong chemicals placed in the hive such as Check Mite Plus are an option for heavy infestation but should be used with caution as most heavily infested colonies are weak. Gard Star is a chemical that can be used to drench the ground and kill larva during pupation.

    The devastation of Small Hive Beetle is related to many factors dealing with colony health and strength. Maintaining a strong healthy colony is the best preventive approach to dealing with small hive beetles.

    **Adult and larva beetles are attracted to pollen patties or supplement patties as a food source. If found to be infested with beetle larva, remove and dispose of immediately.