Small Hive Beetle (SHB) What to do?

Submitted by J. Morgan

As a beekeeper in my forth season, I can proudly say that I haven't lost a hive yet! I'm not worrying about jinxing myself either because I know I eventually will. We all will. Sometimes, there's just nothing we can do. But for me, I don't go down without a fight. Despite regular inspections, things can just come out of nowhere... such is the case of small hive beetle for me.

The other day, I went through seven hives. Now, I normally see a couple beetles here and there in almost all these hives. I assured myself early on that since I saw one beetle, more will be coming! So it just made sense that where there is one... there will be more!

So, I took immediate action. First, here's a link we put up a while back to tells more about SHB and includes pictures and links to some great information. I have had two beetle blaster traps in each hive (one on top of each medium super) for most of the season. I see a beetle in these traps here and there, but at last inspection, they have ramped up. One hive in particular had an alarming number of beetles crawling around. I didn't see any honey or comb damage yet, but there were about 10 beetles on one frame!

The best you can do to combat hive beetle (SHB) is keep the populations knocked down, by using a multi-pronged approach (a variety of methods) before it's too late.

Here's some points to keep in mind

  • Let's cover the basics that are well-known. A strong hive is simply the best way to combat not only SHB, but a variety of hive ailments, such as Varroa and the diseases associated with it. Hives in full sun are also likely to have less SHB then those in shade or part-shade.
  • As Sean Burgess mentioned at September meeting, spraying the area around your hives with a solution of water and salt (about a handful of salt per 2 gallons of water) helps kill off SHB larva that go into the soil to pupate and emerge the next season. Spray in the fall and again in the spring. It obviously helps as a weed control too.
  • Another good point that Sean brought up was limit your hive inspections in the fall. As hard as that may be for some of us, hopfully, we've been keeping an eye on things up until now to feel good about delaying the next inspection. The idea is, bees will chase SHB up into the top supers and propolize them in to areas and trap them. When we go in and crack the covers and frames apart, we release these beetles to cause more trouble. I often see them scurrying when I take off the top cover.
  • Beetles like the dark... and they are scurrying to the dark places when you take off the cover. When I inspect frames, I look closely down into the cells around the sides of the frames and in the corners. They like the dark comb too! I flip it over and look in the slot under the bottom bars (if you have that type of frame) - They are in there, you can crush them with your hive tool in an easy swipe across the bottom. Look also around the frame rests on either side of the hive. That is a common place for them to hide... especially in the older "raised-L" type rests. Bees will to try to glue and trap them in to those spaces.
  • Then, there are a variety of ways to trap them and again, a few variations of traps may help knock them down more effectively and I'll list some of them below.

Of course, if you have many hives, cheap methods are preferred. The beetle blasters are nice but often get a little messy and you also have to space the frames so that they fit down between the top bars. The bees propolize around it and glue it in to place. First thing I do when I open my hive is take my hive tool and run it across the top of this trap to crush any beetles that may be hiding below it... then I remove it to conduct my inspection.

The next cheap alternative for me was the CD jewel case traps to add in addition to the beetle blasters. I made up a bunch of them. Find the directions here on making SHB traps from CD cases. Here is a video for making SHB traps from CD cases too. The effectiveness shown to me by others, including Guy Ross of Alabama who sent me the picture above of his traps was compelling enough to give it a try. I myself am using a mixture of honey, pollen and boric acid... making sure the mixture is thick and doughy enough so that it will not run out of the case. If the bees get at this, it will kill them so be careful... and be careful handling boric acid (a roach/rat killer) or any other hazardous material to kill SHB. I also read that Borax, (sodium tetraborate decahydrate) works well in place of boric acid, and can be bought as a laundry booster cheaper than boric acid. It used to be used as a gelling agent in foods before it got outlawed because of toxic effects at high doses. That said, it's pretty non-toxic to humans, naturally occurring, and lethal to any insect that eats it. Just don't let your bees get any of it or you'll kill them too. I'll report back on this blog how I do soon.

Of course, there is the Freeman trap that is an oil pan under a screen bottom board that rates quite highly! These are of course more expensive and if you need to get them for many hives, it adds up. Here's a video that covers the Freeman SHB trap.

My final thoughts... I'm putting this out there as the approach I am taking to battle SHB this fall. It may change next season. I'm also not declaring this as the defacto method either. The boric acid is the first-ever "chemical" that I'll knowingly be putting in to my hives. After a lot of thought, I decided that if I can keep the boric acid contained in the CD case, there should be no ill-affects to the hive. After reading further, I've found no cases where the boric acid turns to gas to contaminate the hive either. Last, I surely would love to hear your comments, corrections and suggestions to this body of information as we're all on the same team when it comes to defending the bees. Good luck this season and death to SHB!

October 12, 2012 Update: Update on my CD Case success. I have to say, I'm not impressed. After 2 weeks, not a single beetle in my trap. I know they are in there because my oil traps (beetle blasters) are working. They have a lot in them, so, I'll stick with the beetle blasters that have been working.

A reminder that I used these cases on my inner covers under the telescoping cover. I also have to admit... I used arrowroot powder to thicken up the poison mixture so there was less chance of anything coming out of the CD case. A big concern of mine was somehow a beetle making it out of the trap and tracking poison all over the hive. There was no indication of that, but I would have to think there would be one in my trap. I wonder if the arrowroot powder could have reduced the potency of the poison? It was probably a mistake to add it and instead I should have used the honey more sparingly in the honey-pollen mixture. I placed the CD cases on top of the inner cover (because I couldn't bring myself to putting the poison-filled cases down into my supers. I have seen many beetles on my top covers... so I know they are up there. Regardless of what I could have done wrong, the CD cases are out. I have too much success with the beetle blasters and can rest a whole lot better knowing there is no poison in my hives. There are too many safer avenues that can be taken to battle SHB. Just my opinions 🙂

No Comments Yet.

Leave a comment