The Small Hive Beetle(SHB) may be something you need to become educated about if you live in the Southern countries of Africa or the Southern United States.
Recently, as we were harvesting honey out of one of our hives and inspecting the others, we came across the Small Hive Beetle (and some wax moths . There were hardly any(SHB) in the strongest colony (where we harvested honey) but they were much more prevalent in a weaker hive.
After reading this you will understand why they are not viewed as just an irritation. They are a VERY REAL hazard to keeping honey bees!
When you take the lid off the hive, they scurry away to get out of the light and to avoid detection.
These tiny little beetles are dark brown or black and are about 1/4 the length of a worker bee.
Now, I'm not talking about just any kind of beetle. The small hive beetle originated in Africa and was only recently discovered in the US during the late 1990's.
The Adult Female beetle will enter the hive by flying in. She then lays her eggs in the comb.
The greatest damage begins when the eggs mutate into larvae! As the larvae makes its way through the combs it feeds on wax, stored pollen and honey. In order to raise more bees, the honey bee needs the wax and pollen. To survive the winter, they need the honey.
The destruction of wax, pollen and honey is bad enough, but it gets worse. The small hive beetle also feeds on eggs that the queen bee has just laid!
They ALSO consume the bee brood while still in their larval stage! To add insult to injury, the beetle defecates in the nectar (future honey), causing it to ferment.
When this happens, the stored nectar and honey starts to ooze out of the comb creating a huge mess!
Eventually, the poor honey bees will be forced to leave their home (abscond) because everything they do becomes ruined by the SHB.
So, what can a bee keeper do to avoid this catastrophe?
Seeing as this pest is a relatively new problem for bee keepers outside of southern Africa, bee keepers are just now starting to get an idea on how to control their infestation.
In Africa, where African bees have the wherewithal to defend against the SHB, honey bees have been able to survive. The African bee is a much more aggressive and vigorous race and is able to keep the upper hand against the hive beetle.
The primary means to avoid these pests is no different than what helps avoid wax moths, mites and various diseases...keep a strong and healthy colony.
Once a colony becomes weakened, it is opened up to disease and attack. The primary focus of the bee keeper is to assist the bees (in whatever means possible) to become healthy, strong and vibrant.
If the bees do well, the bee keeper does well.
This brings up another often neglected part of keeping honey bees...ROUTINE hive inspections.
During the productive months of the year (April - November in Texas), the beekeeper would find it most advantageous to inspect his colonies once every 10-14 days.
Early detection of pest or disease problems are a prime factor in overcoming the problem.
If the infestation of the small hive beetle is great, more severe measures may have to be taken.
Every beekeeper strives to avoid the use of medications in his colonies, and some absolutely refuse to go this route.
However, for those who desire to, and where the laws of the land don't prohibit its use, the use of coumaphos might save the colony from destruction.
This will involve the use of the pesticide in such a way that only the beetles can access it (screened bottom boards and bottom-board traps).
Consult the apiary authorities of your region for detailed instruction.
Have you found a way found to control SHB's? Share it!
The saying "AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION IS WORTH A POUND OF CURE" certainly applies here.
Although I have not seen a full-scale infestation of my hives as described above, it is certainly possible that if I don't take some preventative measures, I will likely see them at some point in the near future!
I encourage you to learn about these pests and how to prevent their assault so you can avoid the weakening of your colonies and the damage to your apiary that is associated with the small hive beetle.
Bee removals are extremely rewarding.
Not only is the beekeeper providing a service to the resident, but he/she is also saving bees and building up their apiary. An added benefit is the genetic diversity gained through the introduction of potential feral colonies.
Here are some of my recent adventures...