The small hive beetle is an opportunistic pest found within the beehive. They can't destroy a strong, heavily populated hive in the middle of Summer, but they can wipe out a hive that's weak or low in population.
If you live somewhere with a cold Winter, you will want to use traps to keep your small hive beetle population low in the late Summer and Fall, when it's still warm out (above 55F), but the beehive population is decreasing and there's a lot of honey in the hive for Winter.
I've used swiffer sheets, brawny dine a max sheets, beetle blasters, beetle barns and screened bottoms with an oil pan. Some traps work really well, some work ok and some make a mess in the hive. Here's how to use them and the traps I use in my hives.
There are a ton of gadgets you can buy to trap small hive beetle or prevent them from getting inside the hive. In this post I'm going to talk about the traps the beekeeper puts inside a hive, or just watch the video above about it.
Screened Bottom with Oil Pan Below
This is my preferred trap. It is easy to use and doesn't require the beekeeper to move it during an inspection. You'll find hundreds of dead beetles in these traps. This acts as your bottom board and goes under your first brood box.
Pros: easy to use, works well, you don't have to move it when opening a hive, also catches honey and rain water that might have fallen inside the hive
Cons: large and costs more to ship, must remove when it gets colder out
Tip! I use canola oil in my pans because it's the cheapest oil. You can also use diatomaceous earth but I have found that it makes a mess when changing it out. I can easily take the oil and spill it in the bushes 50' away from the hive. You can't do that with DE. Since my bees aren't at my home, an easy, non-messy removal is ideal. I also found that if rain gets into your hive, it causes the DE to clump up and is not as effective.
Tip #2! Fill the pan 1/3 of the way so there's a coating of oil. You don't have to fill the pan up all of the way.
Beetles tend to hang out in the top super of the beehive, so Swiffer sheets work well. You place one sheet under the lid (see the video at the top of this post for more info on how to do this), so it is laying on top of the frames in the upper most super. That's it! The bees will chew up the sheet and it will get very fuzzy, like felt. When beetles walk on it, they get stuck and eventually die. The down side is that sometimes a hive will cover it in propolis instead of chewing it up. When it's covered in propolis, beetles won't get stuck in it. Instead, bees will use it to trap beetles under the sheet. This works well too until you want to inspect this box and have to remove the sheet. You can do a quick scrape over the sheet to squish any beetles underneath, but usually a bunch of beetles will still scurry out, happy to be free again. Remember! Use only unscented sheets and place them so the fuzzy side is up.
Pros: can be found at your local store, they're sold in small quantities, works well
Cons: more expensive than other sheets sold at bee supply stores, takes a few days to work, sometimes hives will cover them in propolis, making them ineffective
Brawny Dine-A-Max Towels
These towels work the same as the Swiffer sheets. Bees chew them up and beetles get stuck on them. Again, sometimes they work and sometimes bees just cover them in propolis. There's usually 1-3 dead bees in every Brawny towel I put in my hives. I'm not sure why every so often one bee gets stuck in them to the point that she dies, or if more bees are dying in them and I just don't know it because the bees are getting rid of them. Whenever I see a bee stuck in the towel and she's alive, I give her the hook part of my hive tool to grab onto. Usually she is able to pull herself out by holding on.
Pros: cheaper if bought in bulk, works really well
Cons: takes a few days to work, sometimes hives will propolize (it's possible I just made up that word) them, making them ineffective
Small hive beetle traps I've tried and don't like
These work pretty well, but I just don't like that you can't open them up to clean them out. I've also forgotten they were in a super, and put the super down on the ground. The oil leaks out of the trap and goes down into the box. This is a personal preference and something I just find myself doing more often than I would like, so I stick with the other traps.
I used these at the commercial apiary I worked for. A poison is mixed with pollen/honey mixture to attract the beetles. I'm not a fan of a trap that requires poison and when a co-worker of mine used them, he put too much poison in the traps. When it got hot out, the poison oozed out of the traps, bees ate it and died.
An experiment. Which small hive beetle trap works the best?
I put a Brawny Dine-A-Max towel on one hive, and oil pan on another and a beetle blaster on a third hive. A week later, there was 97 beetles on the Brawny towel, 53 beetles in the oil pan and 21 beetles in the beetle blaster. This experiment, by no means, is proof that the Brawny towel is the most affective trap, but it does work and it usually works very well. If you can't find the Brawny towels, the Swiffer sheets are very similar.
Where to buy these traps
Dealing with Small Hive Beetles In Warm & Tropical Climates
If you keep bees in an area that never has a frost and you do not have to overwinter your hive the way beekeepers in cold climates do, you do not have to worry as much about small hive beetle traps. In warm climates, the most important thing the beekeeper can do to prevent an infestation is keep varroa mite levels low. A strong hive with few mites can defend themselves against beetles. This is not just my opinion, but something I learned from working at a commercial apiary with 4,000 hives. They lost over 75% of their hives to the small hive beetle (went down to only 800 hives in just months!). Now they hardly ever lose a hive to beetles. The only thing they do differently is treat for mites.
You can use traps and keep your hives in full sun to keep the population low, I do both, but I've found that my beehives manage the beetles just fine on their own with out needing any traps if their mite levels are low.
For information on how to lower your mite levels, check out our blog post, how to use Apivar Strips. Stay tuned for more articles about varroa mite treatments or enroll in our beekeeping class, Beekeeping for Beginners, and learn how to manage mites naturally, our recommended mite treatment options and when to use them.
It's Ok To See Beetles
It's ok to see a few beetles scurrying around your hive no matter what climate zone you live in. Seeing a beetles in your hive is like seeing a cockroach in your house. It's not necessarily doing anything to harm you and it's not destroying home, but you just don't want to see it.
You should only be alarmed if you see a lot of beetles in the hive, not just under the lid, but walking around the comb. If you ever see slimy worms, you have an infestation and need to remove all slime ASAP.
Some small hive beetle facts for you (because why not?)
- The Small Hive Beetle (SHB) egg hatches in 2-4 days, turning into a larvae.
- SHB larvae will eat honey, pollen, or sometimes even eggs.
- Usually in 7-10, the larvae will leave the hive and burrow into the ground to pupate. However sometimes they remain a larvae for longer.
- SHB pupate in the ground for 3-6 weeks.
- SHB, as adults, usually live about 6 months.
- Female SHB can lay up to 1,000 eggs in her lifetime.
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