Small hive beetles have spread through many beekeeping countries, including the United States, Canada, Italy, and Australia.
Although honey bees can fight off these pests in small numbers, all hives have a tipping point. Understanding how to treat small hive beetle is essential knowledge for beekeepers.
Always check with a professional and check country regulations when treating bees. There are tight restrictions on what chemicals can be used inside a hive to control SHB.
How Can Beekeepers Treat SHB?
To treat small hive beetle, beekeepers can use mechanical traps as an inexpensive, safe way to kill adult beetles. Hard chemicals like Permethrin and CheckMite+ can be used in partnership to exterminate adults and larvae. However, pesticides affect more than just the pests you try to eliminate.
1. Mechanical traps
Mechanical traps help control the SHB adult population. They come in various styles but mostly use mineral or vegetable oil to drown the beetles.
Small openings allow tiny beetles to enter the trap, but bees are too big to get inside. Although bait effectively lures them in, SHBs often enter traps as a place to hide.
Setting mechanical traps won’t guarantee success. They are made to manage the adult beetle population and prevent major larvae infestations, where honeycomb gets severely damaged.
Mechanical traps are ideal for beekeepers who don’t want to use hard chemicals. Over-reliance on pesticides leads to pest resistance, may harm the bees, and impacts when honeycomb can be extracted.
4 types of mechanical traps
- Hood trap: is attached to a frame within the hive. Mineral oil is poured into vessels that drown any unsuspecting pests that enter. This trap has a second compartment filled with apple cider vinegar, which draws SHB into the oil.
- West trap: is positioned on the hive’s bottom board and has a shallow pool of oil to trap beetles. The oil compartment is covered with a slatted screen to keep bees safe. Beetles trying to hide from bees get trapped in the oil.
- Freeman trap: functions like the West trap but is unique as it replaces the bottom board with a tray of oil covered with a screen mesh. The benefit of this trap is that it also catches some beetle larvae trying to leave the hive.
- Sonny-Mel trap: a homemade device that’s an excellent option for DIY beekeepers. They are placed on the top super, so a wooden frame is required to make space in the hive. A plastic container with 1/8″ (3mm) holes is filled with a shallow layer of mineral oil. Homemade bait is added to a jar lid and then placed into the oil to attract beetles.
Pros and cons of mechanical traps
- Easy to use
- Safer for bees
- No impact on honeycomb
- Frequent filling and emptying required
- Bees propolize the trap openings over time
While mechanical traps successfully treat adult beetles, they won’t deal with larvae. Beekeepers discovering larvae in the hive may treat the surrounding soil.
A permethrin drench will kill the migrating larvae before developing into pupae. This chemical is toxic to bees, and its corrosive properties can cause severe eye damage. Only use Permethrin when needed, with extreme caution, and check that it’s legal to use where you live.
A popular product that contains Permethrin is Gardstar. Beekeepers claim to have had success with it in the United States.
Did you know? As a larva emerges from the comb, the earth surrounding hives is a zone where they crawl for pupation. Learn more about the lifecycle of a small hive beetle here.
In the United States, Checkmite+ is a popular varroa mite treatment. The chemical coumaphos also treats adult SHB. As with any hard chemical, beekeepers should check local laws before proceeding.
Checkmite+ is a small strip attached to the hive’s inside, above the inner cover, or on the center of the bottom board. It remains in place for 42-45 days before removal.
There are some restrictions on when Checkmite+ can be applied. Never use this chemical during honey harvest. Always allow 14 days once a Checkmite+ strip is removed before adding supers.
Pros and cons of chemical treatments
- Effective method of eradicating SHB
- Treatments can kill adults and larvae
- Capable of killing other hive pests
- More expensive solution
- Beetles develop resistance
- Can harm bees and the environment
4. Odorless dusting cloths
Dry sweeping cloths like Swiffer Pads make excellent traps for small hive beetle. They’re safe, low-cost, and easy to use. The pests get their barbed feet caught in the cloth fibers and can’t escape.
Place one sheet in each box on top of the frames, then close the hive and leave it for a day or two. Next hive inspection, remove the cloth and replace it with a fresh one.
5. Freezing frames
Freezing the hive frames will kill all SHB adults and larvae. This method is often a final solution, which isn’t ideal as bee brood will also die.
Freeze the frames for 24 hours at 10.4°F (-12°C), then allow them to return to ambient temperature. Return them to the hive.
Tips and tricks for killing SHB
Check out these tips and tricks for destroying small hive beetle.
Commonly asked questions
How do I make homemade small hive beetle bait?
SHB bait is quick and easy to make at home. Combine ½ cup of apple cider vinegar with one cup of water, one ripe banana peel (chopped), and ¼ cup of sugar. Allow two days for the mixture to ferment at room temperature before using it in a trap.
How do I treat beehive equipment for small hive beetle?
Any components and tools in the apiary can be cleansed of SHB by freezing them. Freeze the equipment for 24 hours at 10.4°F (-12°C) or below to kill small hive beetle at any stage of development. Phosphine gas is also helpful for fumigating eggs, larvae, and adults.
Treating small hive beetle (Aethina tumida) is challenging, but acting quickly before the colony becomes overrun is essential.
We find that using multiple strategies to kill these pests works best. For example, a mechanical trap combined with a drenching of Permethrin will target the beetle at all stages of development.
If you’re serious about keeping your bees healthy and thriving, check out our article on the biggest threats to honey bees. We look at some of the biggest challenges for the colony so that you know what to look out for next hive inspection.