Thursday, June 27, 2013

Small Hive Beetles & A Homemade Trap

Please remember, we are very new at this.  This is an account of what we're observing and doing, NOT a recommendation of what to do.  Only time will tell if we're on the right track.  So in the meantime, read along, look at the pictures and appreciate all the amazing skills that the BEES possess.

First off, thank you for all the crab apple condolences and encouragement!  We haven't totally made up our minds as to exactly what we'll do, but I'll keep you posted.  In the grand scheme of things, it is a hiccup we are really blessed to have:-).


Well, we knew this day would come sooner or later.  We spotted our first bee pest- the dreaded small hive beetle.  Here's a little excerpt from wikipedia's article on the little buggers:

"Larvae tunnel through comb with stored honey or pollen, damaging or destroying cappings and comb. Larvae defecate in honey and the honey becomes discolored from the feces. Activity of the larvae causes fermentation and a frothiness in the honey; the honey develops a characteristic odor of decaying oranges. Damage and fermentation cause honey to run out of combs, creating a mess in hives or extracting rooms. Heavy infestations cause bees to abscond; some beekeepers have reported the rapid collapse of even strong colonies."

Okay.  So, remember how we divided a hive a few weeks ago?  Nine days later, we made our first real inspection of the new hive (with the marked queen, remember?).  We spotted two small hive beetles inside the hive, near the entrance, walking around on the inner walls of the hive.  The bees were not happy about them being there and were trying to drive them away.  From what we understand, small hive beetles' shells make them impossible to sting and kill, so the bees' only hope is to drive them out of the hive.

We were so stunned to find them there (You know, because our bee-keeping skills are so advanced.  Not.) that we didn't even think to reach in and squish the little stinkers right then and there.  And, there was a storm brewing and it was going to be a really quick peek inside, blah, blah, blah.  Silly mistake.

After we closed up, I dove into our books and the internet trying to figure out what to do.  The gist of what I read was that if allowed to run a muck, unchecked, they will take over and cause real devastation.  Quickly.   You would have thought our house was on fire- I was up in arms and wanted to do something RIGHT AWAY.  As in, 15 minutes AGO.

I was especially concerned because one of the best ways to fend off the SHB is to maintain strong colonies so there are lots of bees to drive them off before the damage begins.  This colony was still small, having been a divide.

Jamey kindly obliged my alarmist reaction and we set to make a plan.  We found a homemade trap that could be made and placed in the hives.  The idea is that if the bees can just drive the beetles away from the combs, to the back of the hive, there would sit our trap- just waiting for them.  It would be a team effort.

Thankfully, we had everything on hand we needed.  We made three traps and set them inside the back of each hive the next morning.

Small Hive Beetle Bait (courtesy of
I only had a very old, frozen half of a banana, so used the whole thing (not just the peel).  We used vegetable oil instead of mineral oil.  The leftover bait went in the freezer.

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 banana peel, chopped fine
food grade mineral oil

readying the bait

Combine ingredients (except for the oil) and allow to ferment overnight.  Place a couple tablespoons of bait into a small container placed in a larger container (I put a tape-donut underneath to keep it from shifting).  Pour the oil in the larger container (that has 1/8-inch drilled holes in the sides), creating a moat around the smaller one.  Place a tight lid on the container and place in the back of your top bar hive.

The idea is that the beetles will be enticed by the smell of the bait, crawl through the holes (which are too small for bees to fit through) and drown in the oil before ever reaching the bait.

 preparing the traps

A couple days after putting in the traps, Jamey peeked into the hive where we spotted the beetles.  He couldn't see any (but they are known to hide) and the trap was empty of beetles as well.  Good.

Eight days after the installation of the traps, we inspected the new hive and the Lower hive (which is not rearing a new queen).  No beetles were spotted in the hives and both the traps were empty.  We did a quick peek in the back of the hive we're not supposed to be bothering (the one rearing a new queen- hopefully) and sure enough- in it's trap there were three dead small hive beetles.  The traps are working.

In the week or so since, we have seen just a couple beetles in the lower hive.  No more have shown up in the traps.  This weekend we plan to put fresh bait in the traps and hope that the bees keep them at bay or drive them to their doom via the traps.  We're hoping that none of them stick around long enough to lay eggs in comb.

I thought this beekeeping thing was supposed to be relaxing.  So why is my heart racing?! :-)  I'm really trying to not succumb to my alarmist tendencies.  We will do what we can do, the bees will be their amazing selves, and the sun will come up in the morning. :-)

 Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”
Hosea 6:2-4
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  1. I am new follower of your blog and I love it! I had thought my dream life was to move to the country and raise bees and goats and live off my garden and orchard. As a middle aged single woman who has to work for a living, I hadn't quite worked out the logistics, but every girl needs a dream, right? I thought beekeeping was easy! I am so enjoying learning that isn't the case and learning new things through your blog.

  2. I honestly wouldn't worry about a couple of hive beetles. It's when there are dozens that you have to worry. Also, they tend to like hives that are in the shade better that those that get sun. One of my fellow beekeepers actually made a need little beetle vacuum so he could just suck them out of his hives he had so many!

  3. Hello, I am a new bee keeper, too and made your beetle bait today. I applied the bait inside a few beetle taps that I purchased. It will be interesting to see how well your bait works in my hives. I'll give you an update in weeks to follow. Thank you for sharing your bee experiences with everyone. I love reading your blogs.

  4. We deal with hive beetles also. We don't use chemicals so our defense is to keep the bees in full sun, use screen bottom boards and to keep hives strong so they can prevent the beetles from getting a toe hold. I am very intrigued by your trap and I am going to suggest to my husband we try that. God was showing out when he made bees! Congrats on your site. Looks good!


Just a friendly reminder, if you know me personally please try to refrain from using my name. There are those who may try to locate me, break into my pantry and steal my pickled beets. Thanks:-).

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