Small Hive Beetle (SHB)
The Threat of the SHB
The small hive beetle (aethina tumida) is very destructive to bee colonies, and can reduce an otherwise strong colony to a non-producer, or even destroy the colony entirely, in a matter of weeks. In Florida, where the beetle was first discovered in 1998, the State Department of Agriculture has stated that the SHB is capable of wiping out an apiary "overnight". While this is of course an exaggeration, this pest is a serious threat to any apiary. The SHB seems to easily be able to overcome even strong honeybee colonies, and the bees are not able to defend themselves adequately. A very strong colony has a better chance for survival than a weak one, but even if a strong colony survives, you cannot expect any honey production, and any surplus honey will be spoiled. When infestations are strong, the honeybee queen will stop her egg-laying activity, and the entire colony may abscond. Because SHB are strong fliers and migrate freely (with an estimated range of up to 5 miles per flight), if they are allowed to propagate, they can quickly dominate even a large apiary, and spread to other local apiaries.
The adult SHB is about 3/16" to 1/4" long (approximately 1/3 the size of a honeybee) and is dark red, brown or black. The beetle is covered with fine hair, which is especially noticeable on the legs. It is also unmistakably identified by the "bulbs" on the end of the antennae, as shown here. The larvae are small, cream colored grubs, with three sets of legs just behind the head. SHB larvae lack the series of paired prolegs running the length of the body that are on wax moth larvae. SHB larvae are noticeably smaller than the 3/4-inch wax moth larvae. SHB larvae do not leave the trails of silken web as do the wax moth larvae -- they just leave a trail of slimy, putrid excrement. SHB consume pollen, wax and honey -- basically, they will eat everything in the hive except wooden hardware and plastic foundation. In addition, burrowing larvae kill the bee brood as they tunnel through the comb.
Each time you open and inspect the hive, you should keep a sharp lookout for this nasty critter. SHB adults can be observed scurrying across the hive surfaces, looking for hiding places. Adults can also be seen around the top cover and inside on the bottom board. The scoundrel shown at the top of the page ran quickly from underneath the edge of the top cover down the hive box and into the entrance. In an especially heavy SHB infestation, clumps of larvae and adults can be seen on both the frames and the bottom board, and you will also notice a decayed-orange smell. This smell results from a large number of adults and larvae contaminating the honey stores with their feces, causing it to ferment. If you are administering sugar syrup in a hive-top feeder, you will see various sizes of adult beetles in the feeder reservoir. If you have pollen patties on the frames, you will see the larvae in the patties, as shown here.
A more proactive SHB detection method is to use a piece of corrugated cardboard, preferably the plastic variety, which the bees do not quickly chew up. Remove the outer surface from one side, and place it on the bottom board, smooth side up, near the rear of the hive. The adult SHB seem to use the cardboard as a shelter, and periodic inspection of the cardboard will reveal SHB if they are present. You may attach a string to the cardboard, making it easy to extract periodically for inspection. This method may allow you to detect SHB in your hives before their population reaches dangerous levels, which can happen in approximately 3-4 weeks from the time of their initial introduction into your hives.
To take proactive measures, perform all of the following steps for the best chance of preventing an SHB infestation:
Maintain strong, healthy colonies
Healthy, populous honeybee colonies can sometimes prevent infestation in their hive, since there are enough bees on the interior hive surfaces to defend against adult SHB that enter the colony. However, maintaining a strong colony does not always prevent SHB infestation; it may just delay it.
Do not leave hive or maintenance equipment in the apiary
The smell of the hive interior on hive tools, woodenware or other equipment in the apiary can attract flying SHB adults. Always remove these from the apiary and store them when not in use.
Never discard comb, waste honey or syrup near the apiary
SHB are especially attracted to the sweet smell of honey, honeycomb and sugar syrup. Never discard any of this material in or near the apiary -- always take it back to the honey house and dispose of it properly.
During the honey harvest, remove and extract honey immediately
If honey supers are ready to remove for the honey harvest, do not leave them sitting on the hive body, since SHB are strongly attracted to the smell of honey. Remove the supers and extract the honey immediately. Temporarily return the extracted supers to the hive so the bees can clean the comb. After the comb has been cleaned, the supers should be removed and stored in the honey house.
Work your hives only when necessary
The SHB has the curious behavior of breeding and multiplying when a hive is disturbed. A beetle population can be relatively stable for some time, coexisting undetected within a hive. But if the hive is manipulated, they become very prolific, and the population can explode quickly.
Don't give your bees too much room
Adding an extra brood box or honey super too soon will lower the density of bees in the hive per surface area of comb. This sparse distribution of bees makes it much more difficult for the bees to detect and defend against SHB. Only add an extra hive box when the topmost box is at least 70% full (7 frames out of 10 are completely filled with brood and/or honey). Consider using a slatted rack to maximize the brood distribution in the bottom brood box.
Once you have detected the presence of SHB in one of your hives, you must take immediate action. Perform the following steps:
Determine the presence of SHB in all your hives
Using one of the above detection methods, immediately test for SHB in all the hives in your apiary. If SHB is not detected in other hives, continue to use the cardboard detection method for the remainder of the warm season to ensure that SHB do not migrate to these hives.
Remove food supplements from the infested hives
If your hives are infested with SHB, you should immediately remove and discontinue using all supplemental food inside the hives, including sugar syrup, grease patties, extender patties and pollen patties. The syrup and patties are a rich food source for the beetles, encouraging their rapid spread throughout the honeybee colony. The presence of supplemental food within the hive makes SHB control very difficult and endangers both honey production and the colony's survival. A better alternative is to use an external bucket feeder for dry feeding, in or near the apiary, which may be used to administer dry sugar, pollen substitutes and terramycin soluble powder.
Treat each infested hive with CheckMite+
The CheckMite+ Strips product (coumaphos), manufactured by Bayer, controls SHB when used strictly according to the label instructions. Please refer to Using CheckMite+ to Control the Small Hive Beetle (SHB) for detailed instructions.
Drench the soil with GardStar
Y-Tex GardStar 40% EC Livestock and Premise Insecticide (permethrin) is used to control SHB by breaking the brood cycle. The beetle pupates in the soil, and this insecticide, when used as a soil drench, kills the larvae and pupae in the soil. Even though GardStar is highly toxic to bees, it is applied to the soil directly in front of the hive. If applied correctly, there is little chance that it will come in contact with the colony.
Inform your state apiary inspector
The state apiary inspector, usually affiliated with your state's Department of Agriculture, needs to know about confirmed cases of SHB, both to control its spread and to document its occurrences. The inspector may choose to inspect your apiary directly to determine the extent of the infestation and how appropriate your measures are to control its spread. They may also suggest changes to your procedures to achieve maximum effectiveness for your prevention and treatment methods.http://www.beecare.com/indexDynFrames.htm?http://www.beecare.com/Bees/Metamorphosis.htm&1