6 Tips on How to Avoid the Small Hive Beetle

The Small Hive Beetle (SHB) is a small dark-coloured beetle that infests many colonies around the world. Native to Sub-Saharan Africa, it made its way in the US in 1996, and into Australia in 2002. Due to its tolerance of hot humid locations, it continues to be a major pest for beekeepers located in New South Wales and Queensland.  

A small hive beetle infestation can severely damage major components of the beehive, including honey stores, pollen supplies and the comb itself. Its larvae can burrow into combs, eat brood, honey and pollen. Its infestation can also contaminate the bees’ honey stores as they carry yeast, thus contaminating the honey causing it to ferment. 

Once the hive is heavily infested, it may cause hive to ‘slime out’, leaving the bees no choice to either accept defeat or abscond the hive. 

Identifying SHB in a Hive

The small hive beetle is harder to detect when there are low numbers present, making it harder to avoid severe infestation. Usually, they can be detected through the visibility of the eggs, larvae or adults. This can also be associated with the visible damage that they can cause in the hive. 

There are two ways to locate the small hive beetle while they’re on small numbers: 

  1. During daylight, open the hive and place the lid on the ground. Place the super directly on top. Leave a few minutes. If the small hive beetle is present, they will be visible onto the lid as they try to avoid the light. You can do the similar process with a brood box by using a bottom board. 
  2. Install a piece of corflute or corrugated cardboard in the hive, sealed at one end and ensure there are holes on its surface. Position it at the rear of the bottom board. Leave for a few days and inspect if there’s any SHB present. 

Source: https://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/220240/small-hive-beetle-management-options.pdf

Managing a SHB Infestation

These recommended strategies to minimise the damage of a small hive beetle infestation may only be needed during spring or summer. When temperatures reach above 30 degrees Celsius and humidity is 70% higher, SHB activity increases such as reproduction. 

  1. Minimise full inspections. Opening up the hive frequently can increase its chances of getting infested. Schedule your inspections with a minimum of 7 days apart. 
  1. Minimise cracks and crevices in the hive. Make sure you use good quality equipment and replace any beehive parts that are showing signs of deterioration. 
  1. Avoid using combs or equipment that are infested with SHB. It is best to decontaminate previously infested combs/equipment before using. 
  1. Maintain good hygiene. Ensure that you dispose of any dead colonies, scraps, combs, burr comb or beeswax around the apiary. The scent of these items will attract and encourage SHB to breed. 
  1. Install a beetle trap in your beehive. There are a few commercial products available for you to use to prevent a severe SHB infestation of your hive. Look up Beetltra or AJ Beetle Eater. This is helpful especially if you are in an SHB infested area. 
  1. Keep the bottom board clean and free from any debris. As this is mostly in the dark, SHB can breed in the debris in low numbers without you noticing. 
  1. Increase the airflow in the hive during peak season. Make sure the beehive has enough ventilation during the spring and summer season to reduce the level of humidity. 

What strategies do you have to avoid the pesky beetles? Hope this information helps you and your bees to keep these buggers away! 

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