Small hive beetles are spreading through many countries that love their beekeeping. The United States, Canada, Italy, and Australia have all been impacted.
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.
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 can hurt more than just the pests you try to get rid of.
Always check regulations in your country, as there are tight restrictions on what chemicals can be used inside a hive to control SHB.
1. Mechanical traps
A mechanical trap is designed to 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 always eradicate the problem. They are made to manage the adult beetle population and prevent major larvae infestations, where honeycomb gets severely damaged.
Mechanical traps are a good option for beekeepers that don’t want to use hard chemicals. Over-reliance on pesticides leads to pest resistance, harming 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, 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
To learn how to make your own trap for SHB, check out this video.
While mechanical traps successfully treat adult beetles, they won’t deal with larvae. Beekeepers that discover larvae in the hive may choose to 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, the cloth can be removed, and a fresh one added.
5. Freezing frames
Freezing the hive frames is a surefire way to kill all the adult and larva SHB on them. This method is often a final solution which isn’t ideal as any 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. They can then be placed back in 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 a ½ cup of apple cider vinegar with one cup of water, one ripe banana peel (chopped), and a 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 isn’t easy but acting quickly before the colony becomes overrun is essential. We have found that using more than one strategy 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.