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July 25, 2022 6 min read

Beekeeping is a fascinating hobby that allows you to get up close and personal with one of nature's most interesting creatures - the honey bee. However, there are some dangers that come along with beekeeping, one of which is the small hive beetle (SHB). Let's Explore Small Hive Beetle in this Blog!

The small hive beetle (Aethina tumida) is a species of beetle in the family Nitidulidae, native to sub-Saharan Africa. A destructive pest of European honey bees (Apis mellifera), it was first found in the United States in 1996, in Florida.

The adult beetle is about 6 mm (1/4 in) long and dark brown to black in color. The larvae are white, legless, and grub-like, growing up to 12 mm (1/2 in) long.

The small hive beetle feeds on honey, pollen, and bee brood (larvae and pupae). A heavy infestation can weaken and even kill a bee colony.

The Most Dangerous Threat

The small hive beetle is considered one of the most serious threats to honey bee colonies in the United States. It is dangerous for the weak colony because it will steal the honey and eat the brood. If there is enough infestation, it can even kill the colony. The adult beetle can also fly long distances, making it difficult to control. In its native range, the beetle is kept in check by natural predators and parasites. However, in areas where it has been introduced, such as the United States, these natural controls are not present, and the small hive beetle can quickly spread and cause significant damage to bee colonies.

The best way to prevent small hive beetle infestation is to practice good bee colony management, such as regular inspections and prompt removal of any affected frames or combs. If you do find small hive beetles in your colony, there are several treatment options available, including chemical, biological, and physical controls.

Small Hive Beetle May Spread By:

The Movement Of Hives:

Small hive beetles can spread quickly through a beekeeping operation by hitchhiking on beekeeping equipment, such as hives, frames, and honey supers. When moving hives, it is important to inspect them carefully for small hive beetle larvae and adults. If any are found, the affected hives should be treated before being moved to a new location.

Package Bees:

Another way that small hive beetles can spread is by hitchhiking on package bees. When ordering package bees, be sure to purchase them from a reputable dealer who takes steps to prevent beetle infestation, such as using screened bottom boards and treating hives with an approved insecticide.

All Types Of Combs, Including Comb Honey: 

Small hive beetles can also spread by hiding in combs, including those used for comb honey. When inspecting comb honey for small hive beetle infestation, look for larvae, adults, or telltale signs of their feeding, such as small holes or dark staining. Any affected combs should be removed and destroyed.

Used Hive Components:

One of the most common ways that small hive beetles spread is by hiding in used hive components, such as frames, honey supers, and inner covers. When buying used beekeeping equipment, inspect it carefully for small hive beetle infestation before bringing it home. If any beetles are found, the equipment should be treated or destroyed.

Bee Collected Pollen:

Small hive beetles can also spread by hiding in bee-collected pollen. When using pollen supplements, inspect the pollen carefully for small hive beetle larvae and adults. Any affected pollen should be discarded.

Small Hive Beetle Beekeeping Supplies

Slum Gum:

Slum gum, or hive beetle honey, is a type of dark, ropy honey that is produced by small hive beetles. This honey is unpalatable to humans and should be discarded if found in a beekeeping operation.

Beeswax Capping:

Beeswax capping can also harbor small hive beetles. When inspecting wax capping, look for small holes or staining that may indicate beetle activity. Any affected wax should be removed and destroyed.

Scraps Yet To Be Melted Down:

Small hive beetles can also infest beekeeping equipment that is being stored or repaired. Inspect all stored or repairable beekeeping equipment for small hive beetle larvae and adults. If any are found, the equipment should be treated or destroyed.

Swarms:

Small hive beetles can spread by hitchhiking on swarms of bees. When capturing a swarm, be sure to inspect the bees carefully for small hive beetle larvae and adults. Any affected bees should be destroyed.

Management

Practices That May Help Control Small Hive Beetle:

Good Colony Management Is Essential!

To avoid SHB, it is critical to keep strong, healthy colonies with a young productive queen bee and a high comb-to-beesten. This entails that beekeepers must replace the queen bee on a regular basis. Supers should only be installed in a healthy colony if 70 percent of combs are filled with honey and/or brood, and there are enough honey bees to defend and maintain the supers. When utilizing these management methods, it's critical to guarantee that no SHB or other honey bee pests have been carried over.

It's also a good idea to avoid making conditions that favor SHB reproduction and development. To prevent the hive from being infested, we must eliminate all of the cracks and crevices where the SHB can hide or lay eggs. Apiarists should avoid placing their hives in areas known to have a high SHB presence, especially during peak season. Hives should be placed in the sun so that SHB pupation sites are less likely to occur. Hives may require ventilation for a few hours (for example, during the night) to reduce humidity in the hive. Beekeepers should, however, be careful about theft since it can happen.


Apiary hygiene is an important component of good colony management. SHB is attracted to dark, hidden places, so free the bottom boards of your hives of any debris that may attract them. Fresh dead bees, beeswax scrapings, old combs, and defunct colonies that attract SHB and stimulate breeding should be removed from and around apiaries as soon as possible. Reusing any equipment or comb that has been infested at any stage of the SHB life cycle or contaminated with fermented honey is not advised.

Trapping And Baiting

There are commercial solutions and homemade devices that may be used to keep and reduce levels of adult SHB in the honey bee colony. These techniques take advantage of SHB's need for security from the honey bees' attacks and light.

SHB females laying eggs are attracted by the odors of honey, pollen, and adult bees are attracted to apiaries as well. Opening and handling a hive may attract SHB females to lay eggs, therefore an inspection of hives, though important for good hive management, should be avoided. Frequent monitoring may be as simple as sliding the trap out of the hive or removing the bottom board for access to the trap, both of which are easy to reach.

To reduce SHB counts, set traps in storage rooms and extraction facilities. The LSHB grubs are attracted to bright light. These may be placed over large shallow containers of vegetable oil or detergent to eliminate the SHB that enters them. A variety of monitoring techniques are used to detect the presence of SHB in stockpiled assets and extraction facilities.

Extracting Facility Hygiene

To prevent SHB from entering foods, combs with even a minimal amount of bee brood should not be taken into an extracting facility. The extraction processes are frequently hot, providing ideal growing conditions for SHB. Dead bees, wax, cappings, and other debris should be removed and melted down immediately to prevent SHB from establishing itself at the facility. Anything left in the extracting process that might support SHB should be eliminated.

Bee Aware!

So, there you have it. These are some of the ways that small hive beetles can spread. By being aware of these potential pathways of infestation, you can take steps to prevent them from spreading to your own bee operation. Small hive beetle is a serious honey bee pest that can cause extensive damage to hives and combs. Good colony management practices are essential to preventing and controlling SHB infestations. Trapping and baiting are effective means of reducing adult SHB populations. Apiary and extracting facility hygiene are important for preventing SHB from gaining a foothold in these areas. Bee aware and take action to prevent small hive beetle from spreading!