Small hive beetles are bee hive scavengers that entered the United States in recent years and spread rapidly across the country. Some adult beetles can be found hiding in most bee hives. Hardy insects, their hard wing coverings protect the beetles from the honey bee’s sting. The real trouble-maker in the bee hive, however, is the larval stage of the small hive beetle. Larvae start to appear in colonies in trouble, often following the loss of the queen. The larvae are voracious feeders, seeking protein, mostly from stored pollen in the combs. As the beetle larvae wander through the hive, eating everything in sight, they leave behind a “slime” of waste on the comb. Yeast grows in the fouled comb which develops a strong odor of rotting oranges. The odor attracts more beetles to the hive and repels the honey bees. The entire colony will abandon a “slimed” hive.
If the beekeeper has a severe small hive beetle infestation, there are a number of beetle traps that have been designed to catch and drown the beetles in vegetable oil. Some traps are placed under the hive; others fit inside. The beauty of each of these traps is that they are chemical-free; so they don't affect the honey bees' health; they don't create chemical-resistant pests; and they don't lead to chemical build-up in the comb. The key to controlling small hive beetles is to prevent them from establishing multiple generations of beetles in the hive. Also, if the beekeeper can reduce the beetle population in the fall, the bees will have the upper hand in controlling the beetles in the spring. One way to lessen small hive beetle populations is to eliminate places in the hive where the beetles can hide and breed. Division board feeders holding drowned bees make a protein source that encourages beetle reproduction. In today’s photo, small hive beetle larvae slime a frame of comb. The larvae crawl from the hive to pupate in the soil.