Integrated Pest Management for Small Hive Beetles

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2010: $5,631.74
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
John Nenninger

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Animals: bees


  • Pest Management: integrated pest management, prevention, traps

    Proposal summary:

    The Small Hive Beetle (Aethina Tumida Murray) was first found in Florida in 1998. The beetle is from Sub-Saharan Africa. An adult female beetle lays 3 to 5 eggs in an irregular mass in cracks and crevices near or on combs within colonies. Each adult female beetle can lay 100 to 1,000 egg masses. The beetle lays eggs her entire life.

    The small hive beetle larvae tunnels through wax combs eating mostly pollen, but also honey, bee eggs, and the bee larvae. Considerable damage will weaken a bee colony to a point that will permit other pests and diseases to develop. The adult beetles defecate in the honey, causing the honey to ferment, froth and stink like rotten oranges. The adult beetles can also be a major problem anywhere that honey is stored or processed. Within 10 to 16 days the beetle larvae must crawl out of the beehive and enter the soil to pupate. The larvae seek out soil to burrow into, about 10cm deep and within 30cm of the hive. It has been reported that the beetle larvae can cross concrete to seek out the soil. In three to four weeks the small hive beetle larvae emerge as a flying adult beetle. As an adult beetle, it can survive on other food sources such as native fruits (cantaloupe) and nest with native pollinators (bumble bee colonies). This beetle, if not kept in check, could begin to disrupt fruit agriculture and could be a contributing factor to the decline of native pollinators.

    One method currently used to control small hive beetles is placing a piece of corrugated cardboard on top of a chemical called CheckMite+ (coumaphos). This method itself is a problem because it only affects the small hive beetle if the beetle comes in direct contact with the chemical. Small hive beetles will generally not have reason to move to the cardboard if their sub-environment is satisfactory to their needs. CheckMite+ is a member of the organophosphate group of pesticides, which can be very dangerous to humans and honey bees if the product is misused. This pesticide is toxic to birds, fish and aquatic invertebrates. Checkmite+ is not recommended in honeybee colonies that are used as cell builders to produce queens. When using Checkmite+, all the honey must be removed from the hive, the temperature must be over 80 degrees F, the chemical cannot be used more than four times a year, and must be placed in the hive for at least three days, but no more than 45 days.

    The beekeeper must wear pesticide resistant gloves and stay up wind to eliminate breathing in the

    A second chemical used external to the hive to control small hive beetle metamorphosis in the ground while in the pupae state is called GardStar (permethrin). The product is applied on the ground around the hive. Permethrin is a neurotoxin and has been classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a carcinogen. Permethrin causes chromosome aberrations in human and hamster cells. "Permethrin is toxic to honey bees and other beneficial insects, fish, aquatic insects, crayfish, and shrimp." Therefore, extreme caution must be taken when using this product.

    The introduction of the small hive beetle, and the treatment used to control small hive beetles could be contributing factors to the decline of the honey bee itself and other native pollinators.

    Small hive beetles have a specific set of conditions related to nutrition and environmental factors. This is their weakness and one that we need to exploit. The adult small hive beetles are attracted to fluorescent lights, and the pheromone of the beehive and other adult small hive beetles. When the humidity is below 50 percent, and the temperature is below 50 degrees F this condition prevents small hive beetle eggs from hatching. A key component of their lifecycle is the need to have suitable soil to pupate.

    I am planning to use a three prong integrated pest management (IPM) attack system to eliminate small hive beetles. The first part of the attack is to capture adult flying small hive beetles external to the beehive. There has been some success using an external trap created by University of Florida, Gainesville. The trap is made out of 4 inch PVC components, number eight mesh screen, bait made from banana skins, vinegar and water, and Bayvarol (flumethrin) placed in a bead around the inside of the trap. I do not want to use Bayvarol because of its potential environmental effects so instead I want to test petroleum jellys, bearing grease, vegetable oils, and fungus as a treatment and as a trapping agent.

    The second part of the attack is to capture adult small hive beetles within the colony. I will be using Coroplast. Coroplast is a waterproof corrugated plastic sheet that comes in fifteen different colors. I would like to test all fifteen colors by cutting the 4 feet by 8 feet sheets into 2 inch strips, the length equal to the width of the hive to cover the inside perimeter of the hive. I would like to add a pheromone substance with a trapping agent like Petroleum jelly, bearing grease, vegetable oil, and fungus within each corrugated cell of the test strips.

    The third part of the attack is to disrupt the development of the larvae state of the small hive beetle. I will build a stand and a box base for each beehive. The beehive rests on a stand made of 2 x 6 pressure treated lumber raised up with four galvanized pipes. The galvanized pipe is 3/4 inch diameter, 4 foot length driven into the ground at least 12 inches. The galvanized pipes are greased to prevent pesky ants and other crawling insects from entering the beehive. The base that sits on the ground is also made of 2 x 6 pressure-treated lumber that forms a box around the four galvanized pipes. This box is filled up with small pea gravel rock and mixed with an inch and a half of rock salt. Thirty pound roofing felt paper is use to form a basin within this box frame to create a salty pool environment. Because of the properties of salt, the small hive beetle larvae should shrivel up and die when exposed to the salty pool.

    If this IPM test is successful, there is no need to use harsh chemicals to control the growing small hive beetle problem in North America. We would be encouraging a more environmentally friendly ecosystem that would be beneficial for beekeepers, non-beekeepers, consumers of honey, bees themselves, native pollinators, and other wildlife and waterways.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The first object for the summer of 2011 was to establish two honey bee yards using a diverse group of honey bees that were advertised as mite suppressed bees. The second objective was to establish a baseline on how long it would take for small hive beetles to locate the bee hives and how well each honey bee breed would suppress the small hive beetle. At the two test locations, clover and wildflower seeds were planted to establish an outstanding food source for the bees. The locations are also going to be used as educational sites for the Jefferson County Beekeepers Association. The third objective was to determine how long it would take the small hive beetle larvae to penetrate the pea rock salt mix, if they could penetrate it at all. A fourth objective was to see if the pea rock salt mix would suppress the later generations of small hive beetles.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.