Honey bees month 5: Small hive beetle invasion

Since doing a split on my strong hive a few months back, the new hive has not had the best luck. While refilling the weak hives sugar water I saw some larvae, and upon researching it I found it was small hive beetle larva. I have heard about these pests, and hear the beetles are quite common in small populations. Normally strong hives keep them well under control, but if let grow they will lay larva that will then completely destroy the hive. Unattended comb is the biggest risk to forming hive beetles, and I think the split hive just did not have the population to protect all their combs so this happened. Maybe a nuc box is really the way to go when getting a split strong. As my 8 frame boxes are just too big it would seem, or maybe it was due to the frames placed in the new hive were not repaired yet after me doing the cross comb repairs.

There were signs from my previous visit, such as honey leaking from the opening of the hive. Bumble bees trying to get into the hive and a small of fermenting honey coming from the box. Though at the time I did not put these together in my head. But once I saw the larva I knew something bad was happening. Luckily I have not seen any signs of these beetles in the strong hive, only spotted a single beetle so far in the strong hive. And the traps seem to be working better than they did in the weak hive.

I formed a strategy to battle these beetles, one part of this plan was to spray the surrounding area with a salt and vinegar mix. This will now allow the larva to pupate in the soil and then come back in bigger numbers which then they could indeed attempt to take over the strong hive. I will not give them this chance. So I go about mixing and spraying all around the hive and under them as well.

A 1:1 mix of store bought vinegar and table salt works. Though I will need to buy some pool salt as these small containers of table salt is not enough.

I mix what I have at the moment, doing my best to keep a 1:1 ratio while mixing.

Suiting up I get ready to apply my salt and vinegar solution around and under the hives.

Commonly when suiting up I get curious bees that visit me. Seems to be a normal occurrence now. Maybe they are scout bees from the hives I take care of.

One landed on my glove and was trying to feed on the residual sugar water found on my gloves.

Walking down to where the hives are kept, I appreciated the woods these hives are in. With hundreds of wild acres for the bees to visit, I am quite excited to have some of their honey next year if I can keep them healthy and happy.

It would seem a jump in population of my strong hive shows the bees from the weak hive left and came back home.

Found a mushroom growing under the hives, not sure what kind it is.

Heres the top of it as well.

Looking at the weak hive from the outside some worrying things can be noticed. Such as bumble bees or carpenter bees trying to get in and a lack of bees guarding the opening. Anything thats not a honey bee is robbing the weak hive since its in such distress.

Signs of larva can be seen in the animation above. These little worms crawl around everywhere looking for honey to eat. They probably were feeding on the sugar water as well.

Shortly after starting the spraying, the nozzle gets clogged. I guess not all the salt mixed with the water good enough.

Unclogged I go back to covering the area in this salt and vinegar mix, they also make strong pesticides for this issue. But rather only use them unless I absolutely have to. The weak hive is dead to me, but if I see an invasion of my strong hive I will treat it to save it.

After dousing the area I open up the infested weak hive. Any beetles I find I point out and then crush.

Using a brush I clean off the small hive beetle larva and fermented honey that is stuck to the lid.

Looking at the foundation boards, it appears the bees started collecting wax after the split a few months back but then stopped.

The other side is completely untouched, making me think they did not get very far in building wax before the beetles became a problem.

Pulling out the first frame I can see the broken cells and fermented honey dripping. This was the cause of the smell and leaking honey near the front of the hive entrance.

The slimy appearance is caused by the damage made by the small hive beetle larva.

Larva can bee seen in the honey comb.

I remove the brood box and start looking at the bottom board.

The bottom board has a bunch of those larva, probably feeding on the fermented honey on the floor. All those dead bees is a sign the population dropped off. Normally bees will remove the dead, but when they do not its a sign of a very weak hive.

Some of this honey may be from the initial split. Since I removed cross comb the same day as splitting, the honey may have never been cleaned up by the weak hive attracting the beetles. I think I learned a lesson here, do not do a hive split the same day as cross comb removal. As the honey spilled needs to be fixed by a strong hive. Maybe a few days after cross comb work its okay to do a split as the bees have fixed it all by then.

Another lesson learned is to check the bait traps more often. It would seem in less than 5 months all of it was eaten by the beetles and with nothing left in traps they became useless. Its also possible the coconut oil and boric I used in the bait turned back into liquid and just dripped out. I can see why people use crisco now. I will buy some and bait them in the future with crisco and boric acid.

I clean off the bottom board, getting rid of the dead bees and larva crawling around.

This bush will only be used to cleaning up more infested hives.. Dont want to use this brush after doing this. But I cleaned it up and saved it for future cases.

Setting up the trap again I use my mix of coconut oil and boric acid, I did not have crisco at the time so I just rebaited with what I had.

Putting the hive back together I did not have the time that day to remove all the infested comb and such. But on a future day I will return and clean up the empty hive.

I have to say the top frame traps for the beetles work pretty well. Though I do not like the one I bought as it tends to fall making big mess. I bought some new ones I will install on the strong hive next time I open it.

With the weak hive all put back together I will return on another day to clean it all out. But in the mean time more bait has been placed inside. And the whole area around and under the hives has been treated with a vinegar and salt mix.

I am glad I have two hives, as the strong hive seems to be doing okay. Its due for an inspection soon so we will check and see if it needs any treatment. At the least the traps need to be rebaited and the top frame traps to be refilled with fresh liquid.

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