The small hive beetle is a pest found within the beehive. It is not as destructive as the varroa mite, but is something the beekeeper should be aware of. 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 and now hardly ever lose a hive to beetles. The only thing they do differently is treat for mites.
It is ok to see a few beetles scurrying around your hive. You should only be alarmed if you see a lot of beetles in the hive (not just under the lid but on the frames) especially walking around the comb in the center of the hive. However, most beekeepers hate seeing these guys in the hive and want to trap as many as they can, whether it's necessary or not. If you live somewhere with a cold Winter, this is more so important. You have a lot of honey for the beetles to feed off of and the bee population is getting lower, which means fewer bees to guard the fames. In warmer climates, there should always be a strong enough population to defend the hive against beetles. If there are frames with few bees on them, you can always remove them (the refrigerator is a good place to keep a few) until the population bounces back and you can put the frames back in. Of course, don't do this with frames of brood! But you can always take out the drawn out comb that's empty or the extra frames of honey.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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