Battling the Small Hive Beetle
By Camilla Bee, Editor
The small hive beetle (SHB) is one of the most dreaded pests that prey on honeybees. Chances are, you’ve already seen one or two per hive this year, or perhaps, one or two hundred, or more. What can you do?
Unfortunately, SHB are a hot topic this time of year, every year. Because of that, we’ve covered combating them extensively in past issues. All back issues of this newsletter are available at www.kelleybees.com, and the index at the same location will point you to several helpful articles.
We caught up with some of our recent Field Day speakers and other contributors to collect their suggestions.
Healthy Hives Are the Best Defense
“SHB do not have to be a problem,” states Dennis Brown. That’s a bold statement considering he’s a southern beekeeper, where the SHB are most problematic. Dennis continues:
- Keeping strong hives is priority. Removing hiding places like frame spacers/holders and yes, those “Club Med for beetles” inner covers. The bees will run the beetles up into the inner cover where the beetles will lounge around in comfort until they get hungry or want to lay some eggs. Then they dash down onto the comb, lay a few eggs, grab something to eat and then get chased back up into the inner cover.
- Don’t leave inside feeders on for long periods.
- Old equipment with cracks and holes should be repaired or replaced.
- Keep strong hives, don’t provide your bees with more room than they can take care of and take away beetle hiding places.
Healthy Hives; That’s Key
Virginia Webb, a third generation beekeeper from Georgia, combats beetles with strong hives. She also recommends the Beetle Blaster traps. One More Time:
Healthy Hives Are the Best Defense.
Frequent contributor and bee expert Cleo Hogan echoes the above, “keep the hives strong and the bees will take care of the beetles.” If Hogan encounters less than 50 while working one of his Kentucky hives, he’s not bothered. If he sees more than that, there’s a problem.
Chemicals are of limited use. Hogan instead battles the problem by fortifying the bees’ defenses. Honey supers are removed to ensure the bees can adequately patrol; the hive may be further reduced to just a single box, or a nuc, until the bees gain the upper hand.
SHB gained the upper hand? Joe Taylor, a Kentucky Beekeeper of the Year, shares a more radical solution: move the hives. Beetles pupate in the ground and then travel back into the hive. According to the University of Alabama, most SHB stay within six feet of the hive, but they can crawl much longer distances if need be.
Taylor also recommends an on-going agricultural salt treatment around the hives, an approach we’ve covered in previous issues. Taylor notes that 50 pounds handles about 10 hives, and ag salt is fairly cheap. He sprinkles a coffee can of salt around his hives each visit.
“I’m not convinced it helps, but I feel like I’m doing something,” he admits. Bees like salt though, so there’s an added benefit.