The Small Hive Beetle

You will find the adult and larvae of the small hive beetle are found in active beehives and stored bee equipment where they feed on pollen and honey.  The small hive beetle is native to Africa where it requires 38-81 days to develop from egg to adult.  Beetle larvae on not spin webs or cocoons in the beehive but rather pupate in the ground outside the hive.  This first record of this beetle in the Western Hemisphere was determined from a commercial apiary in Florida in May 1998.

The small hive beetle behaved as a scavenger of weakened colonies in Africa.  They were relegated to secondary pest status.  Here in Florida it has not been the case.  The apiaries suffered extensive damage and colony loss.  Beetle larvae tunneled through combs, killing bee brood and ruining combs.  Bees in Florid have abandoned combs and entire colonies once they are infested.  The beetles would defecate in the honey causing it to ferment, producing a frothy mess in supers and honey houses.  Honey contaminated can no longer be sold and cannot be used as bee feed.   In heavily infested apiaries in Florida, larvae could be seen crawling out of the colony entrances or across honey house floors by the thousands trying to reach soil to dig in and complete their development.  It has been cause for some concern regarding the beetles behavior in Florida compared to its behavior in Africa.

The following precautions are suggested to help maintain control of the beetle.

  1. Make sure the area around the honey house is clean.  Extract honey from filled supers as soon as possible rather than let them stand too long.  Leaving the cappings exposed for too long is another bad idea.  Beetles can multiple rapidly in stored honey, because the honey is away from the protective bees.
  • Avoid stacking infested supers in strong colonies.
  • Notice when *supering colonies are making splits, exchanging combs or use of *Porter bee escapes can spread the beetles or provide room for beetles to become established away from the cluster of protective bees.
  •  Watch colonies for sanitary behavior, such as bees showing the ability of ridding themselves of the larvae and adult small hive beetle.  Breed queen lines found to be beetle resistant.
  • See if it is possible to trap the beetle larvae as they make the trek to reach the soil.  Moving colonies might be useful in keeping a beetle population from growing.  The beetle may be adverse to certain soils.  In this case fire ants may be a predator for the beetle larvae as they are pupating.
  •  Bees will not normally clean-up equipment or supers full of beetle-fermented honey.  Bees, however, will finish the job after the beekeeper fist washes out as much honey as possible with a high-pressure hose.
  • By treating the soil in front of the affected hive with a soil insecticide the larvae may not reach adult stage.
  • Treat colonies with Check Mite+ beehive pest control strip according to label instructions.

*supering – the filling of the supers with excess honey

*Porter bee escape – originally designed to clear bees from supers that were to be extracted.

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