Integrated Pest Management for Small Hive Beetles

2011 Annual Report for FNC10-843

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

Integrated Pest Management for Small Hive Beetles


The overall performance of the bees has been poor. I would not recommend purchasing bees from one of the two suppliers I utilized in the spring of 2011.

A benefit of this grant opportunity has been to teach new beekeepers how to install package bees. Throughout the season we had beginner beekeepers assist in balancing and inspection of the test bee hives.

Three of the Carniolan package bees arrived dead, and the last two package bees died within 24 hours. I called the supplier and they sent me three drone producing queens; within two weeks I had no Carniolan beehives to work with in this current test.

Within 24 hours after installing the Minnesota Hygienic bees, 90% of them migrated into one hive. We were trying to balance the beehives each week. I used this opportunity to teach new beekeepers how to balance by selecting sealed brood. Three of the Minnesota Hygienic queens never really produced any of their own brood. These three hives eventually died out by June 2011. The last two Minnesota Hygienic colonies had good population of bees with average honey stores. There was a small number of small hive beetles present in the two Minnesota Hygienic colonies.

Three of the Buckfast colonies died out within the first 30 days never really producing any bees. The remaining two Buckfast colonies had about 2 1/2 frames of bees by the end of August. Both had very low honey stores and there is a low chance of surviving the winter. Both of these Buckfast colonies of bees experienced large beetle counts in the beginning of July. These counts dropped off by September.

One of the Russian colonies died out early in July along with its sister colony that was completely gone by early September. This second Russian colony of bees was a very strong hive. I added a super onto this colony in June 2011. There was a plentiful foodsource in the fields for these bees to feed on. However, mid August 2011 the land owner decided to cut all the fields for hay. The third Russian colony will probably not make it through the winter; it only has a frame and a half of bees and never really produced any honey. The last two Russian colonies of bees are doing just below average of what I expect. They are small colonies with honey stores that proportional to their size. The small hive beetle counts in all the Russian colonies were low throughout the summer.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The main objective of this test is to eliminate the small hive beetle. This objective should be achieved by using a “no chemical integrated pest management process” and must be cost efficient and easy to implement for a hobbyist beekeeper. However this method will not benefit commercial beekeepers that transport their hives for pollination. The major performance target is to stop the small hive beetle larvae reaching soil that would allow it to pupate into an adult small hive beetle. This method shall suppress the development of adult small hive beetles but will not eliminate the beetle entirely.


I do not feel that any of my milestones were achieved. Two major components did not develop. First, the honey bee breeds supplied to me did not produce at the level that was advertised by the suppliers and the honey bee industry. Second, the arrangements that I had with the land owners for land management was never maintained at the level needed for the honey bee. The honey bee suppliers supplied me with bees that were still virgin queens or poorly mated. The landowner decided to cut the clover and sell it as hay to farmers and ranchers in Texas and Oklahoma. The city of Chicago yards, gardens and walkways has a better environment for honeybees and natural pollinators than most of the state of Missouri.

My personal milestone of capturing small hive beetle adults and larvae to test was achieved. Although I had a small population of small hive beetles, I was able to perform numerous tests that led me to new discoveries. I took close-up pictures of the small hive beetle feet to determine their mobility across different glue products. I tested a small hive beetle when placed on its back, will right itself similarly to a turtle. When placing the small hive beetle on its back onto a glue product, the beetle was able to learn to use its feet to up right itself.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

My philosophy is that you can learn something from anything at any moment of time. I was not able to reach two of my milestones, however, I was still able to expand my understanding of what my next steps are to eliminate the small hive beetle. Early in the test it became apparent to me that I needed to find a way to capture the adult small hive beetle inside the hive. This method of capturing the adult small hive beetle would also need to meet the needs of the commercial beekeeper. It would also have to address those hobbyist beekeepers that do not want to build a stand for their bee colonies. I set out to test different types of glue that I could use inside a corrugated piece of cardboard. I started with pull apart flytrap that can be purchased over-the-counter, and ended with testing about a dozen different products. The small hive beetle was able to walk across these differing glue products with minimal amount of hindrance. I have found one product at the end of the 2011 season that seems to work the best. I am planning on continuing the testing in the spring of 2012 using this glue product. I have also sent letters to different glue manufacturers in regards to their glue products that could be modified to capture and hold adult small hive beetles. This discovery has led me to submit a patent and I hope to develop a product that will eliminate the small hive beetle worldwide.

Through this discovery process I tested different methods of killing the small hive beetle, including oils, gels, saline solution and plain water. After early seasonal testing during 2011, I found that small hive beetles would die within three to seven minutes in water or saline solution. After late season testing in 2011, I repeated the tests and found that the beetles would die within 60 seconds. Was this due to the age of the adult small hive beetle or the ambient temperature difference between the small hive beetle and the solution they were dropped into? I am not going to pursue any of this testing. However, using vegetable oil in early-season or late season, the hobbyist beekeeper can suppress the development of small hive beetle larvae. The vegetable oil procedure, however, is not suited for commercial beekeeping or third world countries, and will add cost to the hobbyist beekeeper for an average beehive at about $35 each.

I had a test site in front of my house on concrete where I dropped larvae of the small hive beetle onto the pea rock salt mixture to determine how long it can take the larvae to crawl out of the pea rock and salt mixture. I was not able to locate or witness any of these larvae crawling out of the pea rock salt mixture. I looked for dead carcasses of the larvae but was unable to identify what they looked like. This led me to develop a new test procedure where I will suspend the base 2 feet in the air over a sheet metal pan that will catch any of the larvae that would make their way through the pea rock salt mixture. This process should tell me without a doubt how many will or will not make it through the pea rock salt mixture.

I also tested the temperature at which a surface has to be, to kill the small hive beetle adult and larvae. I witnessed the instant death of dozens of these beetles on top of a 55 gallon drum that I accidentally spilled these beetles onto. The ambient temperature was well in the 90s and the temperature on top of this 55 gallon drum had to be about 150°. I purchased a device that measures the surface temperature of different objects. I made a small tin pan from sheet-metal and placed it in the sun. I tested every 30 minutes, starting the testing at 8:30 a.m. and ended the testing at 5:30 p.m. The ambient temperature on the day of the testing ranged from 77° to 89°. The surface temperature of the test pan ranged from 75.3° to 110.4°. I dropped in anywhere between four to nine small hive beetle adults and larvae. All the small hive beetle larvae and adults lived to see another day.
Placing a tin object under the hive, or placing the hive on a concrete pad, will not deter the development of the small hive beetle. Small hive beetle larvae migrate in early morning or late evening when the surface temperature does not exceed their survival limits. I will probably continue to test this to find out what temperature range is required for the surface to kill the small hide beetle.

I am planning to buy Italian Russian package bees from Kelley, a beekeeping supplier. This bee breed of the honey bee industry is better established to supply non-virgin Queen's. The genetics of beekeeping is extremely complex and if not intelligently addressed by beekeepers in geographical regions, bee breeds that are labeled as genetic bees that are inclined to suppress mites or produce a given trait will never be successful. I have found through conversations that these beekeepers don't even know how many chromosomes are in the bee.

When I install the new Italian Russian bee packages, I am planning on keeping them with in their shipping container for three to five days performing a powder sugar test to determine the number of varroa mites and small hive beetles that are transported along with the bees.

In the summer of 2012, I am planning on having as many members of the Jefferson County beekeepers that I can persuade to build and test the pea rock salt base. In speaking with some of the members, they have a large and in some cases a very large population of small hive beetles.

I would also like SARE grant recipients to give presentations at local county fairs and at the state fairs as part of their agreement in receiving grant funds.