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The Classroom

The Classroom January 2015

- January 1, 2015 - Jerry Hayes - (excerpt)

Q Small Hive Beetle Control

Jerry….. I am looking to make some small hive beetle (SHB) traps and use Checkmite. We need a smaller/different sized strip. I am looking for someone at Bayer to contact and see if it’s possible and the cost involved. It would be a large-scale project.

Charles Lindner


Hey Charles, are you sure you want to put more organophosphates in a honey bee colony? SHB do not necessarily stay in the trap on contact with the pesticide until they die. Many times they venture out again and spread pesticides around within the colony as it is on their bodies/feet. This doesn’t sound like a plan to me.

However, if you still think this is a good idea, contact Dick Rogers at Bayer:

Comment from Charles

Thanks Jerry. It’s a mixed bag of problems—that’s for sure. It’s the lesser of two evils. I have been using beetle barns with Checkmite for a couple years and not seeing residue in the wax yet (tiny, tiny amount tracked out), but I am losing hives to beetles. Most beetle barns have dead beetles in them indicating they don’t go far to die.

The other option is Fipronil, which doesn’t seem to be attractive to beetles (tested this summer very few dead). The Aussies have a Fipronil trap that works well—unfortunately, it is not registered for approval here. With that trap they have shown (I haven’t seen the data but the Ausssie government did) that the Fipronil stayed in the trap.

Unfortunately, oil trays and the other traps are just not effective enough on a large scale–and a pain to use. Exploring it a bit, I have a plan to keep the beetles pretty much in the trap. I am still pondering how to monitor that though.

Jerry Responds

Thanks for the update Charles. Small hive beetles (SHB) don’t take down strong, active and vital honey bee colonies. Anything which causes the colony population to slowly or quickly decline makes it attractive to SHB. Honey bees, as you know, produce an alarm pheromone when colony structure and organization fall apart. SHB can pick up this pheromone from miles away and then fly to the site.
You need a bee on every inch of comb. There are many ways to achieve this like removing boxes and crowding bees together until you can get Varroa, disease or queen issues fixed. I’d rather try other means first before adding more pesticides to the colony environment.

Comment from Charles

With much due respect, I sincerely believe you are wrong. (I’m writing an article for Bee Culture on this topic) In my yards this year beetles did in fact take down strong hives. When they reach a threshold level, they are successfully laying in capped brood. For the last few years I too was treating them as a pest and working on colony strength. This season I opened my eyes a bit.

Several queen-right healthy hives were hit this year. Yes, I am sure at some level there were problems. I am also sure that the beetles are reproducing even in strong hives. Unfortunately, European bees do not attack adult beetles very hard, and they do not attack hatched beetle larvae at all. With the right soil and weather conditions, this is a huge problem as the beetles are breeding like mites–very rapidly. At some point, they are like lions on an elephant–unusual, but capable.

Jerry Responds

Charles, remember that I was the Chief of the Apiary Section of Florida when small hive beetles (SHB) became a real concern in that subtropical climate. They loved everything about Florida. In surveys we could trap 500 SHB one night and 500 the next night and on and on! SHB target colonies stressed from other causes that don’t have enough bees to protect the colony. When that is the condition, the SHB females start laying eggs because they have an advantage. It is as simple as that.

Why your colonies can’t protect themselves is really a management issue for you. Don’t blame SHB; they are just taking advantage of a situation that allows them to use your colony as a SHB nursery. You can have a honey bee on every inch of comb by removing or adding boxes. If they are queen-right, have few varroa and no discernible diseases or population losses from a variety of inputs, then it is difficult if not impossible for SHB to get a foothold. You are the manager and need to look, discern and act at the right time. You can do it without adding too many chemicals which are additional big time stressors and disrupt and weaken a colony making it even more attractive to SHB. It is a continuous vicious cycle.

Q Beebread

Your column in ABJ is what makes me want to continue my subscription. Thank you for all your hard work and your sense of humor.

What stops the fermentation process when honey bees make bee bread in the brood chamber? Does it run out of

Don Rewa


Wow, thank you Don for the compliment. I think I should probably stop now before you change your mind!

The fermentation process stops in bee bread for the same the reason the fermentation stops in wine, or cheese or sauerkraut. Food nutrition runs out for the bacteria or yeast to access and then their own by-products i.e. lactic acid or alcohol in the case of wine /beer etc. is a toxin for their continued reproduction. So add the two together, food runs out and toxic by-products, and fermentation stops.

Q Wax Moths

This a picture of a bottom board below a screen bottom that was left for about a year unknown to me. It looks like wax moths but they are really small. They have made tunnels all through the board.

Can you determine by the pictures if this is wax moth? Can they enter the hive through the screen bottom? It has gotten too cold to open the hive to see if they are there.

Thank you,
Jerry Deborde
Flatwoods, KY 


It sure looks like wax moth larvae to me. They do not eat much beeswax, but rather the stuff we would call debris on the bottom board and, of course, old beeswax comb that contains the real food, which are larval skins shed during the pupation process. They can’t digest beeswax very well and there is very little direct nutrition in it. But, the larval skins shed and then left behind in the cells that make the comb darker over time do have nutrition for them. They create the webbing you see, sometimes called frass, which they use to make tunnels and protect themselves.

Wax moths females will walk directly into a colony at night and if …