Hive Beetles are fast becoming a major pest to anyone who keeps bees. Wax moths and Varroa mites have caused their share of damage over the years but this new pest, another import not native to the United States, seems to be of particular concern. Confirmed as being established since 1998, this beetle is now found in many states. If you keep bees, add the Small Hive Beetle to your list of “insect enemies”.
HIVE BEETLE BIOLOGY
Hive beetles are largely scavengers that are drawn to honey and pollen. Bees and bee keeping equipment have both such attractants so they act as a magnet to any foraging adult hive beetles. Adult beetles can fly and will seek out food on which they can feed and lay eggs. They are small, about 1/4″ long, with flat bodies. They appear dark brown, nearly black, to the naked eye. Adult females will start laying eggs within a week of emerging from their pupae. Eggs will be laid in cracks and crevices of hives and bee keeping equipment. In a few days, these eggs will hatch and larva will emerge and immediately begin feeding. If they have a good food supply, they’ll mature in 2-3 weeks and migrate out and off of equipment and host hives. They’ll seek soil; larvae need the ground in which to pupate and become adults. Metamorphosis will last 3-4 weeks and adults will arise from the ground seeking food and nest sites to renew this cycle. Adults can live at least 6 months and it is commonly believed that 5-7 generations of hive beetles can cycle annually.
HIVE BEETLE SPECIES
In Africa, hive beetles aren’t much of a problem. In fact, there are at least two species; “small hive beetles” and “larger hive beetles”. Data shows these species tend to attack weakened bee colonies and are thus thought of as secondary pests. It could be that healthy bee colonies are absconding and thus don’t fall victim to the invasion but nevertheless, that doesn’t seem to be the case here in the states. Currently the species identified in the United States is the “small hive beetle” and it seems to successfully infest any bee colony it finds. It most likely has something to do with it’s newness to the land; behavioral patterns of the bees here in the States, along with a whole set of different climatic influences, are undoubtedly at work. Over time a detectable pattern may evolve but it’s too soon to tell right now. The one common thread, when it comes to the hive beetle, is quick reproduction and quick colony destruction. For this reason, anyone who keeps bees should watch for this pest and take corrective measures sooner rather than later.
HIVE BEETLE PROBLEMS
Hive beetle damage takes place during their scavenging once they find their way into a bee colony. Adult hive beetles can seemingly coexist with bees. But the actions of the beetles seem to trigger a series of events which ultimately doom the bees; the threat of the hive beetle presence isn’t acknowledged and largely ignored. Since adults seek pollen and honey, they’ll forage throughout the hive causing damage as they go. Newly formed combs are prime targets and once opened, become vulnerable. Hive beetles defecate continuously and once the honey in a comb is contaminated, it will ferment and bubble all over. This frothy brown honey has a strong citrus odor and will accumulate at the bottom board. Along the way, female hive beetles will be laying eggs in every crack and crevice they find. Hatching larvae will start to feed and can be found throughout the hive. Adults will be feeding on just about anything including their own eggs, young and even bee eggs. Emerging and migrating larvae ready to pupate will leave dark lines or streaks along the outside of hives. These are all tell tale signs of local infestations and should not be ignored.
HIVE BEETLE CONTROL
Unfortunately, there is no one “magic bullet” when it comes to hive beetle control. Since they are new to the region, at this time there are limited products which list hive beetles on the label. CheckMite+, mostly used for Varroa Mite control, has been found to help. In many states, hive beetles have been temporarily added to the label so that bee keepers can employ this product directly to the hive. But for anyone that doesn’t want to invade bee hives directly with pesticides, there are other less invasive options.
First, it’s important that all equipment be cleaned and treated. Hive beetle eggs, larva and adults will thrive on equipment left alone and untidy. Bee houses are commonly infested since scavenging adults don’t discriminate where they nest. In other words, you must think “outside the hive” when it comes to hive beetles. Some keepers have resorted to what they call “fumigation” but really what they are doing is a type of fogging or misting. Fortunately, hive beetles are easy to kill. Both adults and larvae are susceptible to most any pesticide. The secret here is that you don’t want to use something which leaves residual! Such products could ultimately impact your hives so be sure to limit your product choices to products which are pyrethrin based.
HIVE BEETLE AEROSOL
If you have a small bee house, storage shed or some equipment you want to treat, something like PT-565XLO will prove safe and effective. It uses pyrethrin as the active and though pyrethrin works as a contact kill when you apply it, within a short time it will dissipate.
Outside treatments will barely last a minute or two.
Inside bee houses, it will probably remain active for an hour or two at most.
PT-565 can be directly sprayed on equipment or into air spaces for volumetric treatments. It will knock out Varroa Mites and Wax Moths too but remember, bees don’t like it so don’t use it around hives.
HIVE BEETLE PYRETHRIN TREATMENTS
If you wish to apply pyrethrin in a more controlled manner, get EXCITER. This pyrethrin concentrate mixes with water and can be applied with one of our SPRAYERS. Exciter will provide a quick knockdown of hive beetles but again, being that it’s pyrethrin, it won’t last long so its OK to use where bees might be active. It can also be applied in a fogging machine if you have large bee houses or storage sheds that need to be fogged from time to time.
Pump Sprayer: https://bugspray.com/good/pump-sprayers
HIVE BEETLE CONTROL USING FOGGING MACHINES
Fogmaster Mini Fogger: https://bugspray.com/equipment/foggers/mini-mister
TREATING THE GROUND SOIL SURROUNDING THE HIVE
Another area that should be treated is the soil surrounding the hives. Since mature larvae will forage out of hives and down into the ground, many people feel this is the best way to approach the problem and insure they don’t get well established.
Clearly treating the soil with a residual pesticide should make for certain death to any foraging larvae. Remember, something like Exciter wouldn’t be the best choice for this area. The pyrethrin would be active when applied but within a short while – just an hour or so – it would break down and loose it’s effectiveness. For this reason you need something that provides residual.
The most common product for this is known as PERMETHRIN SFR. Apply it using a low pressure sprayer coating the ground and turf under the hives. PermSFR can be tank mixed and sprayed on buildings and other areas outside where hive beetles might be active but where bees don’t normally go. It’s important to understand that if your bees land on treated surfaces, they will pick up the treatment and succumb to the Permethrin so don’t spray where you know they land.
Permethrin SFR: https://bugspray.com/catalog/insecticide/liquid/perm-sfr
HIVE BEETLE GRANULAR TREATMENTS
Another material that uses Bifenthrin as the active ingredient is a mild granule called BIFEN GRANULES. This material can be sprinkled out in the turf under hives once a month and will provide protection against foraging larvae. It’s very mild and not cost effective compared to the PermSFR but it will work fine for small areas.
SAFE GROUND TREATMENTS
Now whether you choose the Permethrin SFR or the Bifen Granules to apply, it’s important you don’t put your bees at risk. To insure their safety, don’t directly treat the ground directly under them unless you remove the hives during the treatment. You can treat other parts of the yard without removing the hives but keep a space of at least 10 feet between any hive and any area you’re treating insure you don’t accidentally spray or hive or contaminate them somehow.
Now for when you want to treat the areas directly under the hives, it would be wise to first remove the hives from the area. Once relocated, you can apply granules or spray Permethrin SFR over the turf and allow it to sit for at least 4 hours before bringing the hives back. Waiting this long ensures the applications will have ample set up time and not pose any kind of aerial threat tot he hives but again, if the bees typically land on the areas you treated, they will be vulnerable to the application as well so keep this mind before you treat.
HIVE BEETLE BAIT
One last approach that has been found to be highly effective is the use of ROACH BAIT STATIONS. These bait stations have long been used inside homes for controlling german cockroaches. The lure used in these stations seems to be highly attractive to small hive beetles.
Roach Bait Stations: https://bugspray.com/bait/stations/maxforce-roach-bs-72bag
When placed outside hives, foraging adult beetles will readily find them. They will quickly die, usually within a day, after feeding. The stations don’t seem to attract bees but the beetles definitely love them.
Remember, these stations aren’t made to be used outside so sheltering them on the bottom side of hives is suggested. This will help protect them from direct sunshine and rain. And don’t forget to replace the stations as needed since large beetle populations can empty a station within a week.
Hive beetles may be new to America but their foraging, scavenging and nesting alongside any bee colony will have devastating consequences. If you want to keep your colony alive and kicking, don’t allow this pest to get established. Soil treating under hives as well as preventive baiting can help. And if you have current activity, hive relocation and equipment treatment might be required. Remember, failure to address any population will lead to a reduction in honey production as well as jeopardize the wellness of your bees.
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