How to Identify and Control Small Hive Beetles: Expert Tips

If you’re a beekeeper, small hive beetles can be a significant threat to your hives’ health and honey production. These pests can cause extensive damage to comb, honey, and pollen, and in severe infestations, they can cause the entire colony to collapse. Therefore you really need to learn how to identify and control small hive beetles promptly.

In this article, I will provide expert tips for identifying and controlling small hive beetles effectively. I’ll explain the importance of managing these pests and provide practical guidance on how to prevent and eradicate infestations in your beehives.

Key Takeaways:

  • Small hive beetles can cause significant damage to your hives and even collapse your colonies.
  • The timely identification and control of small hive beetles are critical to your bees’ health and honey production.
  • This section will provide expert tips on how to effectively manage small hive beetles in your beehives.

Understanding Small Hive Beetles

Small hive beetles (Aethina tumida) are a pest that can cause significant damage to beehives. Although they are not native to the United States, they have spread across the country and can now be found in many states.

Small hive beetles have a distinct appearance with oval-shaped bodies that are about 1/4 inch long. They are dark brown or black with tiny pits on their wing covers. They have club-shaped antennae, which are shorter in females than in males.

Small hive beetles lay their eggs in cracks and crevices or in the soil near hives. The larvae feed on pollen, honey, and bee brood, causing damage and weakening the colony. Mature larvae exit the hive and pupate in the soil surrounding the hive, completing their life cycle within two to six weeks.

An infestation of small hive beetles can lead to reduced honey production, weak bee colonies, and, in severe cases, hive abandonment. It is essential to understand small hive beetles’ behavior and life cycle to effectively control them in your beehives.

Identifying Small Hive Beetles

Small hive beetles are small, dark-colored beetles that can quickly become a nuisance for your bees. Identifying the presence of small hive beetles early is crucial to prevent them from causing significant damage to your hive and honey production. Here are some steps to help you identify and manage small hive beetles:

Step 1Observe the hive entrance: Adult small hive beetles are often seen at the entrance of the hive, especially during the daytime. Take note of any beetles entering or leaving the hive.
Step 2Examine the hive frames: Lift several frames from the hive to inspect them for beetle larvae or eggs. Small hive beetle eggs look like tiny grains of rice, while beetle larvae are yellow and worm-like.
Step 3Check for slime: Small hive beetles can leave a slimy substance behind them as they move through the hive. If you notice any slimy trails on the frames or the bottom board of the hive, this could indicate a small hive beetle infestation.
Step 4Inspect the honeycomb: Small hive beetles like to lay their eggs in the honeycomb, so it is important to inspect the honeycomb for any larvae or eggs.

Remember that early detection is key to effectively manage small hive beetles in your beehives. Regular inspections and monitoring of your hive will help you detect any signs of small hive beetle infestation before they become a serious problem.

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Monitoring Small Hive Beetles

Regular monitoring and inspection of your beehives is crucial to detect small hive beetle infestations early. Early detection allows for effective control and prevention of their population growth, reducing the risk of damage to your honeybees and honey production.

One effective way to monitor small hive beetles is to use beetle traps. These can be purchased or made at home using a roll of corrugated plastic. Simply roll the plastic into a cone shape with the ridges facing inward, then suspend it inside the hive with a wire or string. The beetles will crawl up into the cone and become trapped.

Another method is to use sticky traps, which can be purchased or made by applying a layer of sticky material to a piece of cardboard or paper. Place the traps on the bottom board of the hive, and the beetles will become stuck to the surface.

In addition to traps, regular visual inspection of the hive is important. Look for small hive beetle eggs, larvae, and adults on the comb and in the hive corners. Check for any slime or fecal matter, as this may indicate an infestation.

Remember to also monitor the temperature and humidity levels in your hive, as small hive beetles prefer warm and humid environments. Ensure proper hive ventilation and avoid overcrowding, as this can also contribute to beetle infestations.

Natural Methods for Controlling Small Hive Beetles

While chemical control options are available, some beekeepers prefer to use natural methods to control small hive beetles in their beehives. Natural methods allow beekeepers to avoid exposing their bees and honey to potentially harmful chemicals and preserve the environmental integrity of their apiary.

Beetle traps are a popular natural method for controlling small hive beetles. They work by luring beetles into a trap with bait, such as vegetable oil or apple cider vinegar, where they become stuck and die. Beetle traps should be placed in strategic locations inside beehives, where beetle populations are highest, and checked regularly for effectiveness.

Beneficial nematodes are microscopic worms that attack and kill small hive beetle larvae. They can be added to soil around the hive or sprayed directly onto frames and combs where beetle larvae are present. Beneficial nematodes are a safe and environmentally friendly option for controlling small hive beetles, but may require multiple applications for effective control.

Essential oils such as tea tree, eucalyptus, and mint have been found to repel and kill small hive beetles. When mixed with water, these oils can be sprayed directly onto bees and frames to control beetle infestations. Essential oils are a natural and safe option for controlling small hive beetles, but it is important to follow proper dilution and application guidelines to prevent harming bees.

While natural methods can be effective for controlling small hive beetles, it is important to remember that they may not completely eradicate infestations. Beekeepers may need to combine natural methods with other control options, such as cultural and chemical controls, for a more comprehensive approach to small hive beetle management.

Chemical Control of Small Hive Beetles

Chemical control may be necessary when small hive beetle infestations are severe and other methods have failed to manage the problem. However, it is essential to use caution when applying chemicals as they can harm bees and contaminate honey.

Before using chemicals, be sure to identify the specific type of small hive beetle present in your hives, as different chemicals are effective against different species. Follow all instructions carefully, and never exceed the recommended dosage.

Pesticides, such as coumaphos and permethrin, are common chemicals used to control small hive beetles. They are usually applied in the form of strips or dustings, and require removing honey supers before application.

It is important to note that chemical control should only be used as a last resort, and should always be combined with other management practices, such as hive monitoring and good apiary hygiene.


Chemical control of small hive beetles is effective but should be used sparingly and with caution to avoid harming bees and contaminating honey.

Hive Management Techniques to Prevent Small Hive Beetles

Preventing small hive beetle infestations is much easier than trying to control them once they’ve established themselves in your beehives. Here are some practical hive management techniques that can help you keep small hive beetles at bay:

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1. Maintain Strong Bee Colonies

Healthy, strong bee colonies are better equipped to defend themselves against small hive beetle infestations. Be sure to provide your bees with proper nutrition, adequate space for growth, and a well-ventilated hive environment to keep them strong and thriving.

2. Practice Good Hygiene

Regular hive inspections and cleaning are essential to prevent small hive beetle infestations. Remove any debris or old comb from your hives, and use a hive tool to scrape away any propolis or wax build-up. Keep the hive entrance free of dead bees and other debris to reduce the risk of small hive beetle entry.

3. Use Beetle Traps

Beetle traps are a simple and effective way to capture and eliminate small hive beetles. These traps work by luring beetles into a trap filled with vegetable oil or other sticky substances, where they become trapped and eventually die. Be sure to place the traps strategically throughout your hive to maximize their effectiveness.

4. Maintain Proper Hive Ventilation

Small hive beetles thrive in warm, humid environments, so proper hive ventilation is critical to controlling their population growth. Use screened bottom boards to improve air flow, and consider using a top ventilation system to promote circulation. Keep your hives out of direct sunlight to reduce the risk of overheating.

5. Practice Integrated Pest Management

Integrated pest management (IPM) involves combining different control strategies to manage small hive beetles more effectively. This can include cultural controls, such as maintaining strong bee colonies and good hygiene practices, biological controls, such as introducing beneficial nematodes to your hives, and chemical controls, such as using pesticides as a last resort.

By implementing these hive management techniques, you can reduce the risk of small hive beetle infestations and keep your bees healthy and thriving. Remember to monitor your hives regularly and take action at the first sign of small hive beetles to prevent a full-blown infestation.

Integrated Pest Management for Small Hive Beetles

IPM is a comprehensive approach to pest control that combines different strategies to effectively manage pests while minimizing economic, environmental, and health risks. IPM for small hive beetles focuses on cultural, biological, and chemical controls to create a sustainable approach to managing these pests.

First, cultural controls involve practices that modify the beekeeping environment to discourage small hive beetles from reproducing and infesting the hives. This includes maintaining strong colonies, removing unused combs, reducing the space between frames, and keeping the apiary clean and dry.

Second, biological controls involve the use of natural predators, parasites, or disease-causing organisms that target small hive beetles. This includes beneficial nematodes, which are microscopic worms that parasitize and kill small hive beetle larvae without harming honeybees, and beetle traps, which use pheromones to attract beetles and trap them.

Finally, chemical controls involve the use of pesticides and other chemicals to directly target small hive beetles. However, it is important to use these chemicals judiciously, following the product label instructions to minimize risks to honeybees and the environment. It is also important to rotate between different chemical groups to avoid developing resistance in small hive beetles and other pests.

By combining different IPM strategies and monitoring small hive beetle populations regularly, beekeepers can effectively manage this pest and protect their honeybee colonies.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Dealing with Small Hive Beetles

Controlling small hive beetles can be a challenging task for beekeepers, especially when certain mistakes are made. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:

  1. Not monitoring hives regularly: Beekeepers must carry out frequent inspections of their hives to detect small hive beetle infestations early. Failing to do so can lead to the rapid spread of the pests and significant damage to the hive.
  2. Not maintaining strong bee colonies: Small hive beetles prefer weak colonies, so beekeepers need to ensure that their colonies are strong and healthy. This can be achieved by providing adequate food and water, shelter, and protection from predators.
  3. Using too much chemical control: While chemical control may be effective in eradicating small hive beetles, beekeepers should avoid using too much pesticide as it can harm honeybees and contaminate honey. It is essential to follow the label instructions and use the appropriate personal protective equipment when applying pesticides.
  4. Not using IPM: Integrated pest management is a holistic approach that combines different strategies for controlling small hive beetles. Beekeepers should not solely rely on chemical control but also incorporate cultural and biological control methods in their management techniques.
  5. Ignoring good apiary hygiene practices: Keeping the apiary clean and free of debris, excess moisture, and dead bees is crucial in preventing small hive beetle infestations. Good hygiene practices, such as regularly cleaning hive tools and equipment, can help reduce the risk of beetle spread.
  6. Not being proactive: Beekeepers should not wait until they spot small hive beetles to take action. Prevention is key, and proactive measures, such as installing beetle traps, can help reduce the risk of infestations.
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Avoiding these common mistakes can increase the chances of successful small hive beetle management and lead to healthier hives and higher honey yields.

How to Identify and Control Small Hive Beetles – Conclusion

Small hive beetles can pose a significant threat to honeybees and honey production, but they can be effectively managed and controlled with proper identification and best practices. In this article, we have explored the importance of understanding small hive beetles, how to identify and monitor them, natural and chemical control methods, hive management techniques, and common mistakes to avoid when dealing with them.

It’s crucial to remember that preventing small hive beetle infestations is always better than trying to control them. By maintaining strong bee colonies, proper hive ventilation, good apiary hygiene practices, and employing integrated pest management, beekeepers can significantly reduce the risk of small hive beetle infestations.

Ultimately, small hive beetle control requires patience, diligence, and a commitment to using effective and sustainable methods. By following the tips and strategies outlined in this article, beekeepers can successfully manage their hives and protect their bees from the harmful effects of small hive beetles.


Q: How do I identify and control small hive beetles?

A: Identifying and controlling small hive beetles is crucial for the health of your beehives. Here are some expert tips to help you effectively manage them.

Q: What are small hive beetles and how do they behave?

A: Small hive beetles are pests that can cause significant harm to your beehives. Understanding their life cycle, behavior, and potential damage is essential in controlling them.

Q: How can I identify small hive beetles?

A: Identifying small hive beetles involves recognizing their physical appearance, characteristic behaviors, and signs of infestation. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you identify and manage them.

Q: Why is monitoring small hive beetles important?

A: Regular monitoring and inspection of your beehives is vital to detect small hive beetle infestations early. Here, we will provide effective methods to control and prevent their population growth.

Q: What natural methods can I use to control small hive beetles?

A: In this section, we will explore natural methods for controlling small hive beetles, including the use of beetle traps, beneficial nematodes, and essential oils.

Q: Are there chemical options to control small hive beetles?

A: Chemical control options, such as pesticide treatments, can be used to eliminate small hive beetle infestations. We will discuss the proper usage of chemicals while minimizing risks to your bees and honey production.

Q: What hive management techniques can prevent small hive beetles?

A: Proper hive management techniques, such as maintaining strong bee colonies, ensuring proper ventilation, and practicing good apiary hygiene, can help prevent small hive beetle infestations.

Q: What is integrated pest management for small hive beetles?

A: Integrated pest management (IPM) combines cultural, biological, and chemical controls to effectively manage small hive beetles. Learn how to implement an IPM approach for better pest control.

Q: What are common mistakes to avoid when dealing with small hive beetles?

A: Beekeepers often make mistakes when dealing with small hive beetles. Here, we will highlight these common mistakes and provide guidance on how to avoid them for more successful pest control.

Beekeeping Disclaimer:

Beekeeping, like any agricultural activity, involves inherent risks. It is important to understand these risks and take appropriate measures to mitigate them.

Potential risks associated with beekeeping include:

  1. Bee stings: Honeybees are generally not aggressive but can become defensive if they feel threatened or their hive is disturbed. Bee stings can cause allergic reactions or even anaphylaxis in some individuals, which can be life-threatening. It is important to wear protective clothing and follow best practices when handling bees to minimize the risk of stings.
  2. Diseases and pests: Bees can be vulnerable to various diseases and pests, including mites, viruses, and bacterial infections. These can have significant impacts on bee colonies, leading to reduced honey production or even colony collapse. It is important to monitor hives regularly and take appropriate measures to prevent and treat diseases and pests.
  3. Weather conditions: Extreme weather conditions, such as drought or cold temperatures, can affect the health and productivity of bee colonies. It is important to ensure that hives are appropriately sheltered and provided with adequate food and water.
  4. Environmental hazards: Bees can be affected by environmental hazards such as pesticide exposure, pollution, and habitat loss. It is important to be aware of these hazards and take appropriate measures to protect bee colonies and promote healthy environments for bees.
  5. Legal requirements: Beekeeping may be subject to local, state, or national regulations, such as registration or inspection requirements. It is important to be aware of these requirements and comply with them.

While beekeeping can be a rewarding and enjoyable activity, it is important to be aware of the potential risks and take appropriate measures to mitigate them. By following best practices and staying informed about the latest developments in beekeeping, beekeepers can help ensure the health and productivity of their hives and contribute to the well-being of bee populations worldwide.

Featured image: CSIRO, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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