Small hive beetle

  • Adult small hive beetle
    Adult small hive beetle
  • Slimefrom a bee hive destroyed by small hive beetles
    The small hive beetle produces a repellent slime.
  • Small hive beetle infest a hive
    Small hive beetle larvae

Pest alert

If you have seen this pest, contact the Customer Service Centre.

General information

The small hive beetle (SHB) is a major threat to honey producers as it consumes brood, pollen and honey. Combs full of honey can be ruined as the beetle larvae tunnel, defecate and produce slime over them.

Species name

Aethina tumida

Impacts
  • beetle larvae burrow and tunnel through combs consuming brood, pollen and honey
  • larvae produce a repellent slime so bees do not remove them from the hive (read human health precautions before cleaning out an infected hive)
  • combs are damaged and drip honey which then ferments

In Florida, United States, 20,000 hives were lost in the first two years of an outbreak of SHB.

Description
  • eggs are laid in irregular-shaped masses on the combs
  • larvae can be confused with wax moth larvae but beetle larvae have only six legs
  • beetle larvae have spines on the upper or dorsal part of their body
  • beetle larvae change to pupae and do not spin webs or cocoons
  • larvae change to a whitish-brown pupae generally in the soil near the hives
  • the adult is a small brown-black beetle 5-7 mm long and 2.5-3.5 mm wide
  • freshly emerged adults may be red but soon become dark brown to black - they vary in size
  • adult beetles can live up to 18 months with a generation being completed in 5-12 weeks
  • fast moving and prefer dark parts of the hive
  • if an inner mat is used they can be found hiding under the mat
Distribution
  • widespread in South East Queensland
  • recently detected in North Queensland
  • expected to be a major pest in the northern regions as numbers build up over a few seasons due to year-round humid conditions and moist soil
Spread
  • travels in honey bee swarms
  • known to fly up to 5 km, but may fly further
  • beetle eggs have been observed attached to worker bees in Florida, United States
  • package bees are a primary vector in the spread of the beetle
  • all beehives, bee equipment, combs and supers (full or empty), wax cappings and bee-collected pollen can house and spread the beetle
  • soil on pallets can spread the pupae and hence the beetle
Control
  • a fipronil based bait trap/harbourage (Apithor) is permitted as a chemical inner-hive control measure
  • various vegetable oil traps are recommended
  • beehive components and apiary products can be treated by freezing the equipment for 24 hours. After reaching -12oC all stages of the small hive beetle will be killed
  • existing cold rooms used for wax moth control can also be used by holding equipment at 1-9oC for eight days. Equipment should be held in a freezer for 6 hours then for 12 days at 1-9oC to overcome thermal inertia
  • fumigation using phosphine gas kills eggs, larvae and adult small hive beetle
Infestation management
  • extract filled supers within 1-2 days
  • render cappings promptly - do not leave them exposed for long periods
  • store supers in areas with good air circulation and less than 50% humidity
  • clean honey houses daily
  • place a fluorescent light near the floor of the honey house to attract larvae falling out of infected supers as they look for a place to pupate - they can be swept up and drowned
  • do not stack infested supers on to strong colonies
  • do not make splits or exchange combs with infested hives
  • monitor colonies for hygienic behaviour (ability to get rid of beetles and larvae)
  • place hives on rock or hard clay-based soil rather than sandy soil
  • consider traps to catch larvae as they leave the hive
  • treat soil around infested hives with permethrin. Product containing 500g/L permethrin as active only ingredient 1 mL product in 1 L water, apply prepared solution to soil at a rate of 4 L per m2.
  • ensure hives are not stressed e.g. by diseases or poor food stores
  • maintain boxes in good condition
  • use vegetable oil or diatomaceous earth in traps placed on the bottom board
  • use mechanical beetle traps e.g. a bottle screwed into the base of hive covered with a raised platform that allows SHB in, but is too narrow for bees
Permethrin use

Do not use unregistered chemicals in your hives to control SHB - this could result in residues in honey and bee products.

  • the National Registration Authority has approved the off-label use of permethrin on the ground surrounding bee hives or ground intended for hive placement. Permethrin is the only chemical registered for use in the bee industry for the control of SHB. The permit applies to products containing 500 g/L permethrin as their only active ingredient
  • applications are only to be used when beetles or larvae have been observed in or around the hive
  • apply in late evening after bees become inactive
  • apply the prepared solution to thoroughly wet the ground in an area 45-60 cm wide in front of each hive
  • repeat applications at 30-day intervals
Human health precautions
  • slime outs are known to contain a yeast (Kodamaea ohmeri, a form of Candida guilliermondii) that has been associated very rarely with serious infections (fungal infections of the blood or heart valves) in people
  • it is not clear whether cleaning out slime outs poses a risk of infection
  • as a precaution, if you clean out an affected hive it is recommended you wear gloves and a mask (P2 or N95), cover any exposed broken skin with a waterproof dressing, then change your clothes and shower immediately afterwards
  • if you have a weakened immune system it is best not to clean affected hives
Identification service

Biosecurity Queensland can identify your beetle samples to determine if your hives are infested with SHB. Catch the beetles and place them in a sample jar of methylated spirits. Drain off the methylated spirits before mailing. Do not send live beetles in the mail. Include a completed Specimen Advice Sheet (PDF, 54.8KB) with the sample.

Mail the sample to:Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Health and Food Sciences Precinct 
Coopers Plains
PO Box 156
Archerfield, QLD 4108

Or deliver to:
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Health and Food Sciences Precinct
39 Kessels Rd
Coopers Plains, QLD 4108

Further information

Last updated 16 April 2013