Q: Can hive beetles invade a hive anytime of the year, in Florida?
A: Yes, so you need to watch out for the beetles, which are round and maybe an 1/8" long. They look like all black lady bugs.
Q: What is the best indicator that my hive has these beetles?
A: Presence of the beetle itself. There likely will be a few all the time, usually in the honey supers, but elsewhere if your hive is experiencing an infestation. I always squish the ones I see with my hive tool. If you take your honey super off and set it on a lid, the SHB will move down seeking darkness. When you lift the super, you’ll see a lot of them – an indication of an infestation.
Q: Why do I have hive beetles?
A: A hive in distress due to high varroa mite counts or a weak queen can both attract SHB. It only takes a short period of time for SHB to overrun even a strong hive.
Q: Where do the beetles come from?
A:No one is sure this pest found its way into the U.S. It was first discovered to be damaging honey bee colonies in Florida in the late 1990s. It is particularly prevalent in the southeast. The adult beetles are strong fliers and are capable of traveling several miles at a time on their own. (see this article)
Q: What is a good treatment to quickly get rid of any hive beetles in my hive?
A: There is a patented device called the Cutts’ Beetle Blaster that you can order from any bee supply business. Apply bait as instructed and place the traps between the hive frames in the honey supers, elsewhere if needed. Two per hive usually works. Check occasionally and replace when the traps have dead beetles that fill the bottom. Some people use a bit of vegetable oil in the bottom of these traps. Others also add a little apple cider vinegar to attract the beetle. Once inside, the beetles drown. Don’t put too much liquid. It may spill when you try to remove the trap if the bees have propolized the traps in place.
Q: What can I do to help prevent the beetles from coming back or entering the first time into my hive?
A: Continuously monitor your hives. You should probably be checking them at least every two weeks, and if you can do so, every 7 – 10 days. Treat as noted, as soon as you can.
Q: What about other treatments? I’ve heard about using dryer sheets.
A: Yes, you can use unscented dryer sheets or Dixie Brawny Beetle Dine-A-Max Beetle Towels. These are an effective and economical way to monitor and trap small hive beetles. Cut each towel into three pieces, placing one to two sheets in each hive where beetles congregate. Your bees will chew up the towels, creating a fuzzy trap. Beetles are unable to escape once they make contact with the towel. Replace sheets once they become filled with beetles and repeat. Place above the queen excluder. Leave a little edge hanging out of the box. The lid will hold it in place so the bees can’t drag the sheet out. You may catch a couple of bees, otherwise it works well and is chemical free. Check it once a week or so.
Q: I’ve heard of a safe soil treatment to kill beetle larva. What is it and where can I get it? How safe is it to use on my couple hives?
A: There is a treatment chemical…Permethrin…which can be purchased as the primary element in the product GoldStar. Application to the soil under and around the hive will kill the larva since it pupates in the ground/soil after falling thru the screen bottom board of the hive. You can apply it whenever, sparingly, and follow the instructions and cautionary notes that will be addressed on the directions for apiary treatment that comes with the bottle. You will have to order it thru an outlet like Amazon, purchasable in 4 oz. bottles.
*There are small and large hive beetles. Here in Florida, it is the SHB that troubles us. SHB will poop in your honey, spoiling it. Their larvae will eat through the honeycomb and slime your hive.
Thanks to Alan Strowd and ABA members for submitting great answers. Try these and leave your comments.
Photo of adult SHB from bee-health.extension.org