Just some thoughts about beetles and moths from a newbee...please don't flame me for stating what I've "read" or for not doing a controlled study to defend a statement that I might make. These are just musings, ponderings, thoughts, whatever of what's going through my damaged mind.
On November 26th I will have had bees for a total of one entire year...wow, I must be a professional by now, eh? Yeah, right!
I have tried, though, to study hard and do as much reading and working with the bees as I can...hopefully I've learned something since last summer when I first started studying honey bees. I know November was an odd time to get bees, but for astronomical price of $1 a frame for a very small colony of bees I didn't have a lot to lose (and my mentor and his best friend wanted me to have some bees to "tinker" with). Those bees didn't make me any honey this year (though another colony did)...I know the small colony swarmed once and possibly twice this spring, but they're doing fine at the moment...a fairly strong colony readying itself for the goldenrod and one that I hope will give me a honey crop in 2013! The odd year we've had and the bees swarming more than normal really kept me on my toes. It's been an educational experience so far, to say the least!
A bad experience, though, was a swarm I hived in the spring that wax moth eventually destroyed. I've heard people say that wax moth destruction is the fault of the beekeeper. Well if that's so I'll take the blame. For whatever reason, I lost it and I wasn't happy. I don't want that to happen again, it was nasty. From what I understand beetle destruction can be as bad or worse. The moths hit me out of left field as I had been focusing on small hive beetles and wasn't paying enough attention to the moths. My bad. So now I'm focusing on both of them...moths and beetles.
The army of beetles out there seem to outnumber the moths but both are equally deadly to a honey bee colony...and they *are* deadly. You beeks living up in the far northern areas are blessed not to have to deal with these beetles!
For the moths I'm trying to treat all of my comb with Bt. I've also got a few yellow-jacket/wax moth traps around the edge of the woods. Not really a whole lot you can do about wax moths and the usual recommendation is to "keep your bees strong" which can also be applied to combating beetles.
Protecting comb from wax moth while it is in storage is another matter. Some methods include freezing frames of comb for a few days and then storing in a sealed container...open-air storage of frame-filled supers so that the light and air discourage the moths from laying in the comb....para-moth crystals...Bt....? It seems there might be more alternatives to protect comb from moths than there is to protect the actual colony from them. There's not, from what I can find, many traps or repellents (other than the bees themselves) that we can use against the moths.
With the beetles there seems to be more "things" a beekeeper can do. I believe local enviroment plays a major role in determining whether a bee yard will be prone to heavy beetle infestation or not. I've wondered if the beetles actually sense whether an area is a good breeding area for their species. It seems that the beetles prefer shady spots and moist, loose soil. Many people have reported that hives in dry sunny areas sitting on hard-packed ground or even on rock have much lower problems with beetles. Conversely, I have read many reports of people being overwhelmed by beetles when their hives are in shady, moist locations. To me a sunny, arid, location with hard ground beneath *seems* to be a favorable spot for low beetle numbers. My hive is in full sun except maybe the last hour or two of the day, but it sits on some sandy topsoil. Thankfully the area stays fairly dry.
The other "things" beekeepers can do mostly boil down to using several different types of traps. Some traps consist of small plastic containers filled with vegetable oil or mineral oil and often in conjunction with a "lure". Ripe banana(1) with apple cider vinegar is often mentioned as a lure (I use this mixture). The beetles either enter these traps attracted to the lure or they crawl into the traps attempting to flee bees that are chasing them. These traps are usually placed between frames inside of the hive...types of traps such as these are the Beetle Blasters, Beetle Jail's, etc.,. Moving on to more complex in-hive traps there are the the Hoods Trap, Beetle Jail frame traps, etc.,.
There are oil trays that use only oil (no lure) that slip beneath the screened bottom boards...these are good at catching beetles and other critters (wax moth larvae, beetle larvae, love-bugs, ants, pollen, specks of wax, etc.,) The oil trays can also catch plenty of bees if they have a gap big enough for them to crawl through, so care should be used to insure there is no way bees can enter into the confines of the oil tray. I like the idea of oil trays as they accomplish a couple of things...they catch any thing falling/crawling out of the hive through the screened bottom board and they also block off the bottom from entrance from the outside by pests small enough to go through the usual #8 mesh. My setup with oil trays leaves a small gap between the wooden perimeter and the lip of the tray...not big enough for a bee to get through but big enough for some ventilation. That gap will unfortunately allow beetles to crawl through but hopefully when they crawl in they hop or fall on down to the bottom and into the oil.
One thing I decided to do is use mineral oil in the trays. It doesn't go rancid (that I can tell), it doesn't seem attract ants, and from what others have told me it doesn't attract raccoons or other like-minded critters.
There are also the "cd" traps AKA "Beetle Barns". A lure with something to kill (poison?) the beetles is placed inside these thin cases. They can be slid onto the bottom boards, on top of frames, or on top of the inner cover. The beetles enter in through a small entrance that is too small for the bees to go into, the beetles eat the lure/poison...and die. Fipronil, DE, boric acid, are some of the killing agents used. I don't believe any of these are labeled for use inside of honey bee hives. Fipronil is a very toxic poison and should be used with EXTREME caution. I have some Beetle Barns that I'm thinking of using with a lure in the center and a sticky trap encircling the lure...the beetles would go inside for the food but get stuck in doing so...no poison, nothing toxic. Maybe Tanglefoot or even smearing some goop off of fly-strips might work. ?
There are other styles of diy traps such as the coroplast signs (election signs) filled with a lure and a killing agent. Again, the beetles can crawl inside the channels but the bees can't. There's the tupperware container with the small holes in the side and oil and lure inside...can't remember the name of it.
Other things to do in combating beetles are ground drenches such as Gardstar or beneficial nematodes. There are folks that really believe in these and there's folks that really don't. I like the idea of the nematodes and may one day try them. The problem with these two items is that they help "after the fact"...after the larvae have already exited the hive (and most likely destroyed it) and are seeking to pupate in the ground. We need to kill the beetles before they get to this point.
To *me*, of all the beetle prevention tactics, both the between frame traps and the oil tray traps seem to be the better courses of action in regards to traps. From reading and my own experience they seem to do about the best in catching beetles.
So, we've got some traps for the beetles...some Bt for moths. It seems to me, though, that if we could reduce these pests access to the inside of the hive that the traps and other things could be made more efficient, the bees wouldn't have to work as hard as chasing their enemies inside their hive, and there would be fewer bees doing guard duty over corralled/jailed bees.
What I have done so far which I think will help limit pest access are these things...
I've installed the close-fitting oil trays beneath the screened bottom boards...these will limit greatly access into the hive via the screened bottom boards. I know I could run solid bottom boards and even run them in conjunction with screened bottom boards and an oil tray, but I couldn't open the bottom up in the heat of the summer...it gets hot down here in south Alabama. Anyhow, the small gap around the lip of the tray allows for a little ventilation...beetles that come through the small gap have a good chance of going into the oil.
Up top on the inner cover I was running #8 mesh over the porter escape hole and round feeder holes...the mesh made it easy to feed without bees flying up at me (newbee, remember!). I normally keep the top cover propped up a touch. Occasionally I'd find a beetle or two on top of the inner cover and sometimes between the mesh and the wood. I've killed wax moth up there, too. I'm sure that more beetles and moth than what I have seen have gone through that #8 mesh. So, the other day when I replaced my regular screened bottom boards with the modded ones with oil trays I replaced the #8 mesh on the inner covers with regular window screen. There is no way beetles or moth will enter the hive from up top now. I'm thinking of trying some of those sticky-trap Beetle Barns on top of the inner cover and maybe even one of those Mel & whats-his-name tupperware traps with some fruity, oily mix to trap wax moth.
The last point of entry is the main entrance of the hive. I'm still debating on a couple of ideas here. Of course there's no way to stop all pests from entering, but if I can cut the numbers down significantly the bees will be better able to deal with both the beetles and moths.
Restricting pests from entering the main lower entrance is as simple using an entrance reducer. Reducing the entrance by 50% means the guard bees have half as much territory to guard and can concentrate there efforts in a much smaller area. Reducing the entrance also cuts down on ventilation so being able to prop up the telescoping top a bit since the window screen is in place is a good thing. The small gap around the oil tray helps with venting, too. Many feral colonies have entrances much smaller than what we're talking about here. But, lots of the feral colonies also choose a cavity in more shade than what my hives have...something to think about.
Hmmm, this is getting a little long-winded. I'll cover one more thing and then I'll quit.
With access through the inner cover halted and the lower main entrance reduced beetles can still come in. Moths can, too, for that matter but hopefully the bees will evict the moths. Since the beetles usually land on the landing board and scurry into the hive I figure there ought to be something there waiting for them. The Beetle Jail entrance traps are nice. I have a friend who bought one last year that I'm going to be seeing soon. I'll find out how it worked out for him. What I am thinking about (I'm cheap) is modding once again my screened bottom boards. I'm thinking about replacing the front four inches of #8 mesh on the bottom boards with galvanized sheet metal (thinner aluminum flashing would be easier to work with). In the sheet metal would be cut several slits "in-line" with each other and parallel with the front entrance. After that row of slits another row of slits would be positioned staggered to cover the gaps between the first row of slits, and this pattern repeated for a couple of more rows. The beetles run in, are hopefully harassed by bees, see a nice dark hole to dive into and SPLASH!!..they're in the oil. I've thought of two different types of slits. The easiest made would be where both edges of the slit point downward towards the oil tray. This type of slit would not leave any sharp edges to injure bees (I don't know if that is a valid worry or not). The second type of slit would be more difficult to fabricate. It would have the edge that points towards the entranced bent upwards and the edge that points to the rear bent downward. With this type of slit when the beetles run inside they run up against the raised edge. The raised edge would hopefully direct the beetles to follow the downward slope of the other side of the slit...kind of a natural guidance system to the oil.
The slits could be sized closer to the magic #7 mesh size, too.
Anyhow, so much for my newbee thoughts. Talk about rambling!!!!!! And I haven't even met Mr. Varroar, yet!!!!!
(1) Note: I have seen it stated that banana will cause the bees to react as if it was alarm pheromone and incite them to sting. I haven't seen any evidence of this when using banana in my lure mix and many other people are using it with apparently no problems but you're on your own if you try it.