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The Hive Beetle - Another Destructive Hive Pest For Beekeepers

The Hive Beetle - Another Destructive Hive Pest For Beekeepers

The hive beetle has become a real nemesis for many beekeepers across the United States. They can do serious damage to a beehive. This damage can cost the beekeeper hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Because of this, some beekeepers new and seasoned simply stop keeping bees. This blog will educate you on the problems associated with the hive beetle and how you can fight this pest.

Story of the Hive Beetle

The Hive Beetle is kind of a beekeeping pest that is so destructive to your honeybee colonies. It’s small, brown-black in color and 5-6 mm in length. An adult Hive Beetle has a life span of about 6 months and they breed four to five generations in a year!

These creatures are endemic to sub-Saharan Africa and have spread to Australia, North America and the Philippines causing substantial damage to honey bee colonies. In 1998, their presence was confirmed in the southeastern United States, although it was really 1996 that they have been recognized as an unidentified specimen in the U.S. Since then the Hive Beetle has made their appearance in Charleston, South Carolina, Savannah, Georgia and Florida in the U.S. and also in the early 2000s in Sydney and Brisbane in Australia. The Hive Beetles were also detected in Portugal and eradicated right away!

What damage do they cause?

Your active hives and pest species should be paid attention to at all times specially when it comes to the larval stage of the Hive Beetle as they are attracted more to active hives because of the instant availability of food and breeding grounds. They burrow and build tunnels through the comb, eat brood, honey, pollen and reproduce causing major damage to your hives.

When the Hive Beetle enters into a bee colony, the first thing they look for is cracks in it so that they can hide from bee aggression. Although honey bees make sure the Hive Beetles are confined to these cracks or ‘prisons’ restricting their access to brood combs, the Hive Beetles use their antennae to hustle food from their bee captors and keep fed.

When its larvae defecate, your honey becomes discolored from that discharge. Your honey will also gain an odor that can be recognized as the smell of decaying oranges by the activities performed by the larvae apart from fermentation and frothiness. It makes your combs run out of honey. The larvae carry a yeast species called Kodamaea ohmeri which has the power to ferment the honey by contaminating it. If the infestation is heavy, it could cause fatal damage to the colony resulting it in death.

Want to keep them out?

The Hive Beetle’s behavior differs from place to place. In some parts of the world, they are found to be more damaging than the others. However, it’s wise to take precautions rather than regretting not taking any. There are a few techniques you can implement to keep them out.

Avoid providing conditions that attract beetles as minimizing cracks/ crevices and removing propolis and burr comb where the Hive Beetle hides or lays eggs would be the easy way.

When we consider biological control, beneficial soil nematodes that are specified to the Hive Beetle are found effective in controlling this pest. You can apply the nematodes to the soil. They can be simply poured from a watering can or applied as a pressurized spray. When it is applied to the soil either way, it will burrow downward and search for pests. Nematodes will then enter the body of the detected insect once found and release a bacterium which kills it immediately.

Apart from biological control, you might have seen many traps and baits on the current market like Beetlejail Baitable, Hood Trap, the West trap, the Freeman Beetle Trap, the Australian, Beetle Blaster and AJ's Beetle Eater, to name a few. Most of these traps suffocate the beetles by using non-toxic oil which avoids the touch of toxic chemicals in the beehives.

Make sure your hives are kept in the sun, as Hive Beetles prefer hives in the shade.

Did they invade your hive? Here’s the fix.

First things first, don’t panic!

You can recognize if your hives are under attack by symptoms like fermented, slimy and greasy honey, smell, larvae or visible eggs. 

Once you have found symptoms, wash away the ruined honey from the combs and freeze for 24 hours. This will kill any remaining beetles or eggs on them. Then you can place them back in a strong hive so your bees will clean and repair them. 

Good colony management is key to healthy combs. Practice preventive measures and maintain good hygiene to eliminate the chances of your hives getting attacked by beetles.

 

Sources:

https://beeaware.org.au/archive-pest/small-hive-beetle/

https://agriculture.vic.gov.au/biosecurity/animal-diseases/honey-bee-pests-and-diseases/small-hive-beetle-a-beekeeping-pest

https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/misc/bees/small_hive_beetle.htm

https://bee-health.extension.org/managing-small-hive-beetles/#:~:text=Thoroughly%20drench%20the%20area%20in,when%20few%20bees%20are%20flying.

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