Been seeing some of these in your hive lately?
If so, you'll need to act fast.
These are Small Hive Beetles (SHB) and they've been known to take over a hive in a matter of 2 or 3 weeks.
Like a military invasion, SHB will destroy your bees' homes, plunder their goods, kill their loved ones, and force them to abandon their own hives.
SHB know nothing about the rules of engagement and have much less tact than their allies, the Varroa Mites.
Varroa Mites, the greatest threat to beehives, are sneaky. They play the long game and will bring diseases to your hive that slowly permeates through the generations.
By contrast, small hive beetles are incredibly visible and are quick to damage your hive(s) by force.
When you see SHB, it means it's time to do something about it.
If you give them an inch, they'll take a mile.
This is why a lot of this fight is fought through prevention. The first half of this article is dedicated to dodging the problem in the first place.
The latter half of the article is focused on trapping and killing the SHB that is already in your hive.
I'll spare you the history and lifecycle of SHB. If you're looking for that, you should read Rusty's article on it.
For this article though. This is war. It's time to kill these bugs.
How to Prevent Small Hive Beetles
When it comes to SHB, the old saying is true. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
It costs a lot less money to try to prevent the problem than it does to fix it.
In fact, many of these lines of defense are free, you'll just have to be mindful of how you're managing your hives.
By being proactive about SHB, you can use the location and strength of your hive to your benefit.
You can also disguise and deceive the SHB on where your hive is or how to get in.
Here are the top five methods of preventing SHB.
1. Lots of Sunlight
Preventing SHB starts with considering where to place your hives.
These beetles are pests that like to live and raise their young in dark and damp areas.
To combat this preference, you'll want to avoid putting your hives under a canopy of trees or brush.
Instead, put your apiary in a section of your property that gets direct sunlight, at least for part of the day.
You may also want to consider laying down a tarp and covering it with gravel or mulch underneath the hive or just paving the area.
During the larval stage of the SHB's life, the grub crawls its way out of the hive and falls to the ground. It then tries to burrow into the soil to start its next stage of life.
By having a tarp or pavement there, it forces the larvae to have to crawl over to the soil.
While it crawls, it will expose itself to more sunlight.
The larvae's skin cannot handle the UV light from the sun and will die before making it to the fertile soil.
2. Keep Your Hive Strong
A hive's strength isn't solely dependent on how many bees are in the hive.
The strength of a hive is more like a proportion between the population size and its physical size.
You can have a strong hive in just one brood box. You can also have a weak hive that has bees spread out over 4 or 5 different boxes.
The rule of thumb is that the stronger the hive is, the more capable it is of protecting itself. In such hives, there isn't much unguarded space for pests to hide in.
The difficult part for beekeepers is keeping your hive strong, but not too strong. When a hive gets too strong, it may feel like it can safely split and swarm.
Beekeepers must try to strike the balance between having a strong hive and knowing when to add medium honey supers on to their hive so they can grow.
You do not want to add a medium honey super to a hive before you know that they are capable of defending the extra space. Doing so will invite small hive beetles into your beehive.
To figure this balance out, you may want to read up on the 60% rule.
3. Don't Mess Around
The title here may imply that you shouldn't take SHB lightly, which is true, but this title is also a reminder to keep your apiary clean.
Be mindful of what you leave in the field whether it's burr comb, honey drips, or propolis chips. These should all be picked up and carried back to your house where you can either store them or dispose of them.
Leaving a mess in the bee yard not only invites small hive beetles, but also predators like skunks, raccoons, opossums, and wax moths to your apiary. All of these pests and predators are led to the hive by the sweet smell of honeycomb.
Small hive beetles have been known to travel up to 7 miles per flight till they finally pick up the sweet scent of your hive. Once they take up residence, they tell their friends to join by creating their own scent that smells like yeasty gym socks.
As the SHB devour your hive's brood, honey, pollen, comb, and dead adult bees, they leave traces of yeast (Kodamaea Ohmeri) throughout the hive. This yeast attaches to the pollen & honey and starts to ferment. Once it's started to ferment it will create a stench that attracts even more SHB to your hive.
4. Guardian Beehive Entrance
The small hive beetle can't take over your hive if it can't get in.
In most hives, the bottom board has a ledge that bees can land on and walk right in. Unfortunately, this also makes it easy for SHB to do the same.
This next product is perfect for preventing this from happening.
The idea was spurred on by the difference between how small hive beetles fly versus the way that bees fly.
SHB fly like airplanes, with a straight trajectory and no capability of being able to hover. Bees, on the other hand, fly like helicopters, they can hover in any direction.
Capitalizing on this difference, the inventors of the Guardian Beehive Entrance have made it so that insects have to be able to hover to get into the hive.
A second inability of the small hive beetle is that they are incapable of climbing the 90-degree angles that this entrance has.
Below is a video of the entrance in action. Check out how the SHB in the middle of the screen goes back and forth underneath the entrance, trapped out of the hive while the bees use the entrance just fine. When the SHB tries to climb the sides, it eventually flips onto its backside.
If you'd like to try this method, you can find the Guardian Hive Entrance on Amazon (Click Here).
5. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is similar to a fine sand. It is oftentimes spread on the ground near beehives to help kill the larva of hive beetles.
Although DE is used to kill the small hive beetle's larva, we still consider it as a preventative.
The reason behind categorizing it as a preventative instead of a way to manage SHB is because it is best used to prevent SHB from attacking your other hives.
It likely won't be able to help the current hive that has SHB issues, but it can stop the cycle of life from continuing.
The adult SHB lay eggs in your capped brood. When they hatch, they emerge as a destructive larva that travels around the hive consuming bee brood, pollen, and honey.
Only once they've had their fill of destruction, do they make their way out the entrance of the hive and drop to the ground. This is where the DE can take effect.
With the DE, having been spread on the ground, the larva will have fallen into your trap.
Like crawling on a bed of blades, the larva digging through the Diatomaceous Earth will be so cut up they'll dehydrate.
It won't take long before the larva has perished.
DE can also kill many other pests that torment your hives like ants, spiders, and more.
As a word of caution, DE can kill bees if they are rolling around in it. If you are using DE, do not intentionally shake your bees onto the ground.
If you'd like to try this method, you can find DE on Amazon (Click Here).
How to Trap & Kill SHB
If you're reading this, I'm sure you've seen plenty of these hive beetles by now.
It may even have kept you up last night.
It's time to do something.
It's time to bring out the heavy artillery.
Let's take a look at what's in your arsenal - you may even have a few of these in your house already.
1. Swiffer Pads
Swiffer pads are at the top of the list when it comes to trapping and killing small hive beetles.
I've seen hundreds of SHB snatched up by a single sheet.
They work incredibly well, are easy to install, and you probably already have some stored underneath your kitchen sink. Just make sure to get the dry and odorless kind.
Depending on how bad the infestation is, you'll need one or two sheets per bee box on your hive.
To use them you'll simply place a pad on top of the frames in the corner of each bee box and wait.
Over the course of a week, you should ensnare plenty of small hive beetles. Their barbed feet get caught up in the fluffiness of the dusting pad. Once caught, they can't escape.
In this video, Emmy shows you her results for the Swiffer Pads she put in her hive after just one day.
One word of caution is that every now and then this method can end with a few friendly fires. Most beekeepers think it's worth it still though. A bee or two is considered a small casualty of war compared to the ground gained.
2. Beetle Blaster
The Beetle Blaster is another chemical-free way to help kill the small hive beetles that are killing your bees.
They are designed to hold Diatomaceous Earth, mineral oil or a simple cooking oil like canola/vegetable oil. Either way works, however cooking oils have a tendency to go rancid, while mineral oil does not.
Once they've entered into the trap, their feet cannot hold on to the slick sides. The oil then covers them. They'll have no chance of escape and will eventually suffocate from the oil.
In much the same way, the DE works once the SHB has slipped off the sides of the Beetle Blasters into it.
As we learned earlier, DE works very well on the SHB larva, but it also works well as a killing agent for adult SHB. It cuts through their exoskeletons and will lodge itself between their joints. This renders them incapable of moving.
The DE can be a bit less of a mess than the oil, but whichever you end up choosing, the result is the same. Several dead beetles.
If you're wondering which to use, you can check out Kamon Reynolds YouTube Video on the debate.
To use the Beetle Blaster, you'll let it hang in between two frames.
Once placed, make sure that the Beetle Blaster's top surface is flush with the frames.
If the trap isn't laid correctly, the SHB cannot step onto or into it. Instead, much like the Guardian Hive Entrance.we showed you earlier, the beetles are incapable of climbing onto a platform like this.
If you decide to purchase a package Beetle Blasters, you'll have multiple traps come in your order. This allows you to spread these troughs of oil/DE throughout the hive boxes.
In about a month, you can pour out your traps and count how many hive beetles you caught.
One word of caution for the Beetle Blaster would be that when you insert these traps, be sure not to spill any oil or DE into the hive. Both of these substances will kill the bees if you get it on them.
3. CD Cases
Still have some old slim-style CD cases lying around from the '90s?
You can make use of your antiques by converting them into SHB traps.
If you don't have any at the house, you can purchase a few off Amazon (Click Here) for pretty cheap.
CD cases can easily be converted into SHB traps by trimming the sides and spreading some bait on the inner surface.
While it is easy to make, the unfortunate part about this trap is that you'll be mixing the chemical Boric Acid into the bait to kill the SHB.
Although it's pretty unlikely, I don't prefer this method, because I fear some of the tainted SHB will get out of the trap and come in contact with the bees.
Regardless of my thoughts, there are hundreds of beekeepers that swear by this method. I'd say, if your hive's going to die by the hand of SHB, you might as well try everything you can.
To make the bait you'll need a mixture of honey to help attract the SHB; Crisco shortening, another attractant that will also help make the mixture into a paste; and a bit of Boric Acid to actually kill the SHB when they eat it.
- 1 tsp of Honey (It does not have to be from your hive since your bees aren't eating it)
- 1 tsp of Boric Acid
- 1 Tbsp of Crisco
Once blended, you can spread the paste inside the case.
This video will show you where to make your cuts on the case to allow the SHB to walk into the trap.
If you're to the point that the SHB has just about overtaken your hive you may want to resort to using chemical warfare.
As a word of caution, please don't use these methods when there are honey supers on the hive.
Some of the chemicals that target SHB are: Checkmite+ and GardStar.
GardStar is used on the ground to help manage the larva, while Checkmite+ is used within the hive to manage the adult SHB.
For more information on how to use them, you'll have to read the back of the label.
Here's a quick video on Checkmite+
5. Freezing Frames
Freezing your frames is the nuclear option to saving your colony.
In this last-ditch effort, you'll place your frames into your freezer.
Everything in them will die, including the bee brood on the frame.
While this does kill the brood, it also eliminates small hive beetles (adults and larva), Varroa Mites, and wax moths. All of which have been known to take over your colony.
If you're considering a freeze-out, you'll want to make sure the temperature of your freezer can get down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. If it can, it'll take about 5 hours for your frames to be safe. If you can get your temperature down to 5 degrees or below, you can speed up the process to just 2 hours.
Freezing your frames can help you take back control of your hive. Before doing so, you'll want to locate your queen and make sure she's safe in your hive. Then you can brush off any bees that are on the frames you're about to freeze. You'll also want to temporarily replace the drawn out frames with some new frames so that your bees don't make a mess of their hive. Before placing your frames in the freezer, you may want to bag them up in a trash bag.
Once your frames have been sufficiently frozen, you can let them warm back up then place them back into your hive.
Since your hive has been completely ransacked at this point, it's likely many of the SHB larvae have made it out of the hive and burrowed into their bunkers below.
It would be best to follow this freezing treatment up with killing the larva under your hives. To do so, pour some Diatomaceous Earth on the ground.
When it's all said and done every last beetle must be killed.
Even one survivor can reignite the war.
A great deal of the fight is fought as prevention.
Once the invasion has begun, it can be brutal with many casualties on both sides.
In the aftermath, your hive may be weak.
If necessary, combine your hives and create allies among your forces.
Fight back and fight hard.
Continue Your Bee Journey!
The following articles could be very helpful in taking your next steps.
Recommended First Hives
If you haven't yet purchased your first hive, we recommend one of our Starter Hive Kits. Each kit comes with all the essential parts of a beehive and the accessories you'll need for your first few years of beekeeping. We consider them "Nuc Ready" which means they come with 5 frames and are ready for the 5 that you buy when you purchase a 5-Frame Nuc of bees.