Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Simply Beekeeping: Small Hive Beetle

Small Hive Beetle
We are going to talk about beekeeping today.  Earlier this year, we had 2 hives and were very excited about having some fresh honey later in the season.  Unfortunately, we had an unwelcome visitor named the small hive beetle and they decimated our hives.  We lost them both and ended up with nothing.  However, we are still new at this and still learning.  You don't always hit a home run on the first pitch, so we'll be trying again next year.  In the following paragraphs, I will let you know what this little devil is and how to keep them under control.

What is the small hive beetle and how does it harm the hive?

The beetle is actually native to sub-Saharan Africa, but has begun to spread to countries around the world within the past couple of decades.  The bees in Africa don't seem to really have a problem keeping them under control, however, outside of the continent, other bees can have serious problems with them.  The adult beetle is dark brown to black and about a half centimeter in length. The adults can live up to 6 months and can bee found anywhere in the hive.  Usually, they will be in the back of the hive on the bottom board. The female will lay eggs in cracks and crevices within the hive and with 2-3 days, the larvae will hatch. They will then feed on the pollen and honey, doing damage to the combs.  Within 10-16 days, they will leave the hive and burrow within the soil nearby.  After 3-4 weeks, they will emerge as adults and reenter the hives to start the process all over again. The damage to the hive is because these evil creatures will burrow through the comb, breaking caps causing honey to run down the combs making a huge mess and defecate in the honey which ruins it.  The bees will no longer use the combs and can not use the honey at all.  Often times, the queen will then stop laying if the bees can not keep this under control and the hive will collapse.

Small Hive Beetle Larvae Destroying Comb

A strong colony should not have any problem keeping these pests under control, but you always want to help your colony along.  You can not completely get rid of the beetles once they enter your hive, so you want to use several different control methods.  We are going to try three methods next year.  First, we will lay out a horse stall mat beneath the hive.  It keeps the larvae from going into the ground immediately, and they will have to squirm their way to the edge to find the ground.  During their travel, the heat of the mat should kill most of them and then other animals, such as birds, can pick them off as they try to escape. Next, we will use an open bottom with a screen and place an oil (vegetable) trap below, so the beetles and their larvae will fall in and die like they should!  The final method will be to use beneficial nematodes. They are naturally occurring and do not harm the environment. The microscopic roundworms will invade the body of the beetle and release a  bacterium that liquefies their insides. Awesome! The nematodes will then feast on the dead beetle, mate and reproduce.

Hopefully, we will be able to keep these evil creatures under control and bring you a happy posting about our triumph.  I hope you all have a great rest of the week and join us again on Friday for the Recipe of the Week.  Until next time.

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