Monday, November 22, 2010

Small Hive Beetle Damage

Many Mid-South beekeepers reported their hives heavily infested with small hive beetles this year. It appears that rainy conditions in the previous two years lead to successful reproduction of large populations of these bee hive scavengers. While the beetles are often a secondary pest of the honey bee, once their populations explode they become a primary pest of the hive. A strong honey bee colony may share a small hive beetle population living within its hive numbering several hundred insects. The bees drive the beetles into distant corners of the hive, away from the brood nest. Today’s photo shows a small hive beetle hiding from guard bees in the space between the top bar of a frame and the edge of a super. Small hive beetles can overtake the bee hive when the bee population is weak, the colony is stressed by disease or other pests, the colony is queenless, or multiple generations of beetles are reproducing in the hive.

While handling small hive beetles in the bee hives is an ongoing challenge for beekeepers, they can be a real concern in the honey house. Leigh, a beekeeper in Hawaii, was most disappointed to find that small hive beetle larvae had emerged in his frames of honey to be extracted. The honey was fermented, and the flavor and aroma greatly affected. When harvesting honey, we should try to avoid bringing beetles into the honey house. To prevent beetles from destroying harvested honey, the honey should be extracted within a day or two. Supers of honey should not be stored in the honey house for long periods of time. Frames of honeycomb “slimed” by small hive beetles have the odor of fermenting oranges. The islands of Hawaii have been immune to a number of honey bee pests and pathogens until recent years. World trade can accidentally transfer unwanted pests, pathogens, and invasive species along with cargo. For beekeepers, like Leigh, small hive beetles add a level of complexity to our craft.


  1. As a new beekeeper in Australia I found this post and a previous one quite interesting. I have just found the SHB in my only hive and have been stressing about control methods particularly organic methods. I realise that I should be able to live with the pest at least.

  2. Tim,
    I watched my bees change their behavior toward the small hive beetles the first year that they were here. At first, the beetles seemed to have a free run of the hives. However, in just a few months, I noticed the bees actively fighting the adult beetles. When I would open a hive, bees would catch beetles and fly away with them. Honey bees control small hive beetles by removing their eggs from the hive and trapping the adults in “jails” made of propolis.

    I posted a few more ideas for helping your bees control small hive beetles today, November 24, 2010. Good luck with keeping your bee hive healthy.

  3. Thank you very much for this thorough reply Richard.

    Yes my entire hive was completely destroyed by these beetle larvae, but I did have plastic foundations. I am now leery of trying to start a new hive with so many of these beetles around now. Also, the varroa mite arrived here on the Island of Hawaii in 2007, adding one more challenge to our previously pest-free beehives. The small hive beetles were first identified on this island seven-months ago! The beetle apparently thrives on decaying fruit and honey. With plenty of fruit here year around the beetles have spread rapidly. This is a sad thing.

    I was planning to make some beetle traps but was too slow to establish them in the hive. One good thing, I used to manage five hives and had only one on site when the beetles arrived. I can’t image how the commercial beekeepers are handing these pests.

  4. Small hive beetles can be trapped if the bee keeper will use them. Also all hives should be cleaned and any pests destroyed when a hive is found empty or so weak it cannot support itself....