Thursday, August 4, 2011

LESSON 108: Small Hive Beetle (217) 427-2678

dnsHello we are David & Sheri Burns from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms in Central Illinois! 

(All small hive beetle and sap beetle photos in this lesson are provided courtesy of my friend Alex Wild. Alex is a biologist at the University of Illinois where he studies the evolutionary history of various groups of insects. He conducts photography as an aesthetic complement to his scientific work. Be sure to look at his honeybee photography at:

Today, I’d like to teach on the small hive beetle. We’ll take a look at: What does it look like? Where did it come from? What does it do to a hive? How to check for it. What to do to help prevent it and how to reduce their numbers.
Summer is the time to take special precautions in dealing with SHB especially since this is the season to remove and extract honey supers. Small hive beetles are waiting for you to make a mistake so they can take over your supers in and out of the hive. SHB can ruin your honey and destroy your colony.
The SHB has has the typical clubbed antennas but can retract all appendages. When you become familiar with identifying the SHB you’ll easily recognize it if you see one in your hive. So become familiar with these great photos.


There are lots of beetles in our world. Around the hive, especially when using entrance feeders, sap beetles can help themselves to the dripping sugar. Some people cannot tell the difference between sap beetles and small hive beetles.

sap beetleThe sap beetle to the left is different than the SHB above and below this photo. The sap beetle has a noticeable white mid section whereas the SHB is one solid dark color, appearing dark brown or black.

SHB3Typically the SHB is about the length of a cell in the comb around 5 mm. When you open your hive by removing the inner cover SHB will scurry quickly across the top bars of frames to flee from the light. Adult beetles like to hide down in a cell when exposed to light.
WHERE DID IT COME FROM? The small hive beetle is officially called Aethina Tumida. It is native to Africa but entered the US in the late 1990s. Since that time it has crippled the beekeeping industry mainly in southern states that have longer tropical summers.
compare larvaeAnother challenge in identifying SHB is knowing the difference between SHB larvae and wax moth larvae. This photo shows that the SHB larva (bottom larva) has numerous spines along the body as well as three distinct pairs of legs. The wax moth larva (top larva) lacks spines and has an additional four pairs of short, less developed prolegs. Both SHB and wax moth can be found in a hive at the same time. (Larvae photo from the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences webpage)
HOW DOES IT EFFECT A HIVE? It flies into the entrance of a hive and lays eggs. The larvae feed on pollen and honey and defecate when eating honey and a slimy mess is left in the hive, even fermenting and ruining all honey. The larvae exit the hive and enter the ground around the hive to pupate, then emerge from the soil as an adult SHB capable of flying 5-12 miles to find a weak colony. A severe infestation can even cause the bees to abscond, that is, to totally leave the hive.
HOW TO CHECK FOR SHB. The practical way to check to see if you have SHB is to lay your top cover upside down on the ground. Then place your honey super or top hive box flat inside your top cover and smoke the box. Now, lift it out of the top cover quickly and see if any small hive beetles are left in the top cover. They are fast, so have your hive tool ready to smash them. Smashing them with the blunt end of the hive tool is the best natural treatment :)
Since SHB seeks out weak and distressed hives, keep your colonies strong and healthy. SHB can also be reduced through trapping and keeping the apiary and honey house clean.
NEVER…cut out stray comb and throw it on the ground.
NEVER…leave honey supers or frames laying around.
NEVER…give your bees more space than they can patrol in the hive.
NEVER…place colonies in full shade as beetles love shady areas. Place hives in full sun when possible.

BeeescapeIf you live in an area heavily infested with the presence of SHB be very cautious in using bee-escapes as a means to empty bees from your honey super. As the bees are trapped out of the super, the beetle can have unprotected free-range of the super. A bee escape is a small plastic gadget with small metal pieces that is placed in the oval shaped hole in an inner cover. The inner cover is then placed under a super allowing the bees to walk out of the honey super, but not back in.
If you do have beetles and suspect that eggs are on your frames, freeze honey supers for 24 hours to kill all stages of SHB.
There are many traps available: West Trap, Freeman Trap, Hood Trap, Cut Beetle Trap, AJ’s Beetle Eater, and Sonny-Mel Trap. These are very effective at reducing overall SHB infestation in the hive. When you have a severe infestation, a ground drench is often suggested. Permethrin as a ground drench that will kill the pupating SHB in the soil. Sold as GardStar, mix 1 teaspoon (GardStar 40% EC) into one gallon of water. Carefully follow label directions and precautions. It is toxic to you and your bees if misapplied. Do not use a sprayer as the vapors can kill bees. Instead use a watering can. Drench a two foot area around and under the hive to adequately kill SHB beetle larvae entering the soil.
irst found in South Carolina in 1996.
SHB will not hatch when humidity below  49%.
SHB vector diseases such as Deformed Wing Virus.
Attracted to stressed hives and other beetles.
Attracted to bee alarm pheromones.
Females lay 4,000 eggs a month for 2 months.

Egg 19-24 hours
Pupae 5-14 days (Soil temps must be 70-80 to survive)
Adult 100-540 days.

Now for the pep talk. SHB are everywhere. Do not panic when you see them in your hive. It does not mean you are a bad beekeeper or that your hive is ruined. Not at all. Look at beetles as just another insect in the insect kingdom. Learn to keep bees among the SHB. It means keeping a better eye on your bees and modifying your management styles, but it will be okay.

TipJarThanks so much for joining us for another beekeeping lesson. We hope you’ll consider making a purchase from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. We need your business. Buy a hive or two from us. Attend one of our classes. Your future business helps us raise our family, enjoy life and pay bills. Or consider making a donation so that we might continue our work and research on the honey bee. These lessons are free and will provide you with as much if not more information than you would find in a $30 book. So if you are so inclined to make a $30 donation so that we might continue these lessons, CLICK HERE TO DONATE $30 Thank you in advance.
David and Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms