Small Hive Beetle help

This information needs to get out there to the bee community as soon as possible.  I am posting this in the midst of doing my own control measures right now.

I am a hobbyist beekeeper, have been keeping hives since about 2008.  I started with one hive and in four years they multiplied to six.  I did have hive beetles here and there, but did the hive bottom and top traps which kept them (I thought) in control.

This year I had to go on vacation and before leaving I did the normal honey thing and put an extra empty super just below the uncapped filled one because I didn’t have time to do anything else before leaving town.  I did this on all the hives, even the ones that were splits from the spring.  I was worried about swarming and them running out of room to store honey.  I assumed the uncapped would be capped when I got back in a week, and I could just take it off the hives.

Soo . . . I got back, checked the hives, and several of them had very little bees coming and going.  One hive swarmed (JULY), and this alarmed me also.  Several days later one of the strongest hives had HERDS of bees on the front hanging off of it.  I thought maybe they might just be that way because in the heat, (we’ve had a drought and over 100 degree temps), they were just hot.

My husband said they were also going to swarm, so I got into my suit early in the morning and started opening hives.  I found that every hive was overcome and slimed with beetles, larvae, and I only had one queened hive left out of five.

One hive had ten forlorned bees in it, some beetles, ants, cockroaches, and the beginning of moths.

The second had 50 or so bees in it, and lots of beetles.

The third was FULL of larvae, beetles, and a handfull of bees.

The fourth had no bees and was full of larvae and beetles

And the fifth and remaining hive had bees on the front, beetles and larvae inside, and was slimed  just like the rest.  However, it had a queen and the bees were pretty strong.

I started with the most infested, and when I pulled out the beetle oil trap that was underneath, I swear there was a layer of beetle larvae two inches thick, which I poured into hot soapy water to kill them. I also knocked any stray beetles into this and put the lid on each time in between checking to see if anyone crawling out needed to be smashed.  It was midmorning, and the temps were in the 100 plus degrees.  Hot, hot, hot, work.

I also used a modified vacuum cleaner  which my husband made up to suck up all the beetles that tried to get away. This works VERY well by the way.  The nozzle was made about 1/2 inch in diameter with an adaptor.  Shoo the bees away with your hand before aiming, not the nozzle (grin)  The vacuum works GOOD.

I then got a fresh hive body, fresh frames, and one fresh super with fresh frames in it, set it next to that hive of the hive that had a queen left and lots of bees. I brushed as many bees into this hive, trying not to brush beetles into it (an almost losing battle), and with a large and small empty totes ready with hot soapy water in them.  I scraped the ruined comb and as much of the larvae and beetles into the smaller one, and then put the frames into the larger one and covered it with lids as I worked.

I cleaned out beneath the infested hive and then put it also into the tote when I got all the bees moved into the new one.  The I moved the whole mess away from the area and placed the new clean hive with bees back in the original place.

I cleaned the old hive bottom beetle trap, replaced it with fresh oil.  That night I researched like a mad person about what causes what again.  I found a bunch of new information on the life cycle of these nasty beetles, and it gave me a start on how to go about what I needed to do to start over again.

GO TO THIS LINK PLEASE.  I am telling you Mr. Freeman and his beetle trap website  has one answer that make a bunch of sense, and that IS.  Bees can herd beetles and contain them to a point they can’t get on the honey and lay eggs so much.  His trap has no ledges for beetles to hide on or in, and this helps the bees to get at them, knocking them into the oil of the trap.  I have a beetle trap, but it has ledges on it.  I ordered one today for my remaining hive.  He called me back and spoke with me extensively, and was really great in answering all my questions about his trap and any other beetle information.

He also says dusting with powdered sugar enrages the bees so that they chase beetles into the oil.  Good point, and I did that also.  And yes, they did get mad at me for it.  (Dummies)

As we power washed the dirty frames and equipment, and attempted to kill the larvae and beetles, we discovered several things.

Bee hive frames getting ready for powerwash because of beetle contamination

Bee hive frames getting ready for powerwash because of beetle contamination

Some say use water and drown them.  I use HOT SOAPY WATER and drown them (it shocks them).  Some say use 50/50 bleach solution.  Yep, it works, but not totally in that concentration.  Some larvae still survived for some reason, so I used full strength on em.   I earlier tried several spray cleaners, and chemicals from my kitchen and bathroom cabinet and they just annoyed them.  The larvae I swear can SNORKLE!


As we cleaned the frames, we found larvae down inside the grooves of where the plastic foundation seated, both bottom and top.  Some were not big mature larvae either, and would be easy to miss on first glance.  There were bunches of them all along those grooves, and you might think you had a frame cleaned and then see them crawl out 2 minutes later.  They use these cracks to breed and hide from the bees when they are chased.

Hive beetle garage 2

Hive beetle garage

BOTH OPENING CRACKS WHERE THE FOUNDATION MEETS EITHER SIDE.  The bees had frantically tried to propolis (seal) all such cracks, and it was heavy here.

NAIL HOLES, AND PARTS WHERE JOINTS MEET  These are tiny, but each one has a place that a few beetles hide, and so do the larvae.

Bee hive frame dirty corner where hive beetles hide

Yet another dirty corner where they reproduce

MY RECOMMENDATION (which may not be expedient for commercial beekeepers at all)  Just examine ALL cracks there, in your hive body, and especially in the lid.  I have eliminated ALL inner covers, because they are just places for the beetles to hide from the bees.  But I am not an expert on this and it is only my personal decision born of paranoia.

I went to Walmart and got a large hot glue gun, long hot glue sticks (ten packages). We cleaned most of the nasties, propolis, extra wax, and bugs off the frames. Put a large piece of cardboard on the kitchen table and a spotlight. Then proceeded to hot glue every darned crack in the equipment and frames.

Tools set up to close cracks against hive beetles

Set up to close cracks against hive beetles

This takes a lot of time, but when you are through, you are eliminating places for any varmint to hide.  We filled all around the plastic frame foundation, both ends, top and bottom, nail holes, etc . . .  In the case of those plastic frames, filled all the casting holes on each end.

Hot glued hive frame corner

Bee hive frame corner after closing cracks with hot glue

They don’t have cracks around the foundation part of the frame, but when I took them out of a beetle infested hive, each casting hole held not just several, but at least 15 beetles were hiding from the light.  I killed them with a five in one tool, sharp end wallowing it back and forth until they were crushed. But those are the holes that take the most hot glue to fill and sometimes you got to go over it several times to find all of the missed spots.

My husband and I are still in the process of doing this, and if I had know this before I put the hive back together, I’d have not put the frames in unglued and fixed.  Too late, they are building new comb on them right now and I am reluctant to disturb them, lest the queen get killed in the process.

He is now taking the foundation OUT of the frames  to clean them, then I scrape them and rinse.  The crack where it rests, top and bottom harbor larvae and beetles to the max. My husband is a gem of a man, and is doing the hardest work to clean up this mess.

I’m telling you, I’m so mad at these bugs.  They eat baby bees and eggs, and you end up with no queen in the hive. Which is why I now have only one queened hive out of five.  I have extreme sympathy for the commercial beekeepers that did not see this coming. I thing someone needs to manufacture or invent some new equipment that has less crevices and cracks during this invasion. I am resolved that I will not give up beekeeping.

Bee hive with feeding pans

Last bee hive standing after 5 hives overcome by hive beetles

My last bee hive has no drawn foundation, but it has a queen, plenty of healthy bees, and all they have to do is fight off the beetles and store enough honey for winter.  Poor things.

I have also ordered 10,000 predatory nematodes, which are hive beetle larvae predators that negate needing poison, to apply
beneath the ground around my hive area.  I have been told they kill the larvae in a horrible way, which suits me to peeces.

Bee hive frames on table

Bee hive frames clean of hive beetle contamination

I am pressed for time and right now can’t post all the links, but search on small hive beetle, traps, solutions, information, etc. But I will tonite try to post this in as many places as possible.  There are SO many bee websites, blogs, and places online.

Bee hive boxes on flatbed

Bee hive brood boxes and supers that had been used before hive beetle contamination

We are inventing things and brainstorming existing traps and additional ideas as I speak, so take heart.  I think it’s the backyard beekeepers that have more time to do so.  We aren’t all scientists, but combining all the information everyone has helps to get solutions.   Good luck to all of you beekeepers out there and I’ll keep in touch if I or my hub invent something more that helps with the beetles.

UPDATE:  I have ordered my Freeman Beetle Trap, done dusted the bees with powdered sugar, been feeding them, and they seem to be in pretty decent shape.  Also ordered some nematodes, and am considering putting some of those CD case traps baited with roach bait under and around the ground way under the hive area.  The CD cases have openings that are way too small for a bee to enter, and I’ve heard they work good too.  (no poison IN the hive in other words)

UPDATE 2014:  See my other posts on what I did later on.



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19 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I just cleaned out 7 bars of infected comb over the weekend, so heart-breaking! We had hive beetles and wax moths. Before I went in it looked to me like there were fewer bees around. Now it is a few days later and there are a lot more bees but I don’t see them bringing in any pollen and there the hive entrance looks dirty to me. Do you have any advice about this? Thanks in advance and thanks for your beetle research!


    • Yes, I sure do. (Just woke up so bear with me). If the beetles have slimed and laid eggs in the remaining honey, the eggs will probably hatch out at a later date and slime the rest. If wax moths have taken over anywhere it’s a sign that the beetles have done a mean job on that hive. Moths usually don’t show up until the hive is really weak after the beetles have messed things up to that point. Additionally, this whole nasty process has made the hive smell badly and not attractive for the remaining bees to live in. Another additionally . . . if there are not enough bees to cover each and every frame then the bees can’t chase and corall the beetles that are in the hive.

      What I would do if it were me is get a fresh empty hive and frames, brush some honey on the frames and put the bees in that one, removing the old hive to a distant place so that you can closer examine it. That way they have a fresh new hive to start on. Put a feeder in there so they won’t starve. If there are many frames of brood, it might be safe to transfer them only, not the honey or anything else. Check these frames for any beetle larvae or slime. Take the old hive and dump those frames into a big trash can with Chlorox water and clean the rest of the hive same way. You fresh hive will need feeding if you go that way.

      Another option. IF THERE ARE NOT MANY BEES (not enough to cover all frames) . . . then you might combine them with another hive that is doing well with many less beetles. (minus the queen) I could not tell you which way is best since I can’t see the inside of your beetle infested hive and examine it myself. The main aim is to evaluate whether there are enough bees left in that hive to cover all frames, and make sure they have a non beetle, non smelly, non slimy, non egg filled larvae filled hive to live in.

      I’ve done it before. Now every time I open a hive I have the sweeper plugged in to suck up beetles, because it’s a constant threat here. I never did totally eradicate beetles, but I cut the population down quite a bit. And remember not to put too much room on top. In other words don’t add supers until you absolutely have to and make sure there are enough bees to cover those frames before you do. I hope this helps, but I know either way it’s a lot of work in hot weather. Let me know if any of that helps, I’d be curious to know. If you have any pictures of what’s going on I could post them for you. Send them on.


  2. […] The Freeman oil Beetle Trap is different from other oil traps, in that it doesn’t have ledges at the bottom for varmints to hide and lay eggs in.  Which leads me to my other article about sealing cracks in the hive.  See my article on how I sealed the cracks permanently HERE […]


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  10. Thanks for the information. Yet again, my hives have been infected with shb. I purchased a 5 frame nuc hive from HL Beekeeper, where the bees use a small hole to enter the hive. This was supposed to cut down on the beetles because the bees would have a small hole to defend instead of the regular entrance into the hive. Well, last week I popped it open and to my surprise the bottom of it was full of shb larvae. I was furious. I started a fire and dumped them all in it. I was able to save some of the hive but I think my bees may have swarmed leaving half the population– I saw no signs of a laying queen. Anyway, I decided to clean it all up and grab some frames from my other hive in hopes that they will produce another queen. Do you think this is likely being that fall is here?
    Thanks for the advice.


    • I guess i didn’t get back to you very fast, but if you have already a hive full of bees (unlike me) your chances are 50/50. What do you have to lose? At that point it’s an experiment anyway, and if they do make a queen, you’ll be one up. In my case it was too late in the season by far, there werent’ enough bees to take care of a queen and store honey for the winter, nor enough bees to keep her warm. I think they have to have a huddle to keep warm, and the food to keep it up before a certain late date.

      I also transferred frames from one hive to another, and also transferred beetle babies and larvae and eggs along with the frames. I didn’t have enough bees left to keep them coralled.


  11. Removed the upper frame in the observation bee hive this afternoon and replaced it with the bees wax foundation frame with cracks filled. Counted 39 beetles between the foundation and the split bottom – killed them in soapy water:-)


  12. Great post and details. Same thing happened to me with two of my hives in July as well. Lost one saved the other by installing traps and reducing the hive and cluster to about 6 frames. Bees are making a recovery. Started an observation bee hive and noticed the beetles in the cracks just like what you observed. Commented to my wife that it would be great to have some type of beeswax glue gun to fill the cracks in. Saw your post and my wife commented that I could have written your post. LOL.. Great Job, keep us posted.

    P.S. Filled in cracks on the replacement frame for the upper frame in the observation hive. Used bees wax and a soldering gun. Slow but essential.


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