Small hive beetle represents one of the many issues for beekeepers in Australia and much of the world.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been introduced to the small hive beetle to witness there destructive nature on bees first hand and have a few pictures below showing what it looks like.
After helping to collect a colony of bees from a compost bin we left the bees in a new box with some of the comb and brood from their nest next to the original location for several days then returned to find that most of the bees and the queen had absconded. Ok no big deal we relocated the remaining bees and organised another queen from a local queen breeder.
This was now 5 days from the day we removed the bees from the compost bin.
Anna who had taken the remaining bees back to her yard opened the hive to put in the new queen and discovered something she had not seen before!!!!!
The small hive beetle eggs had hatched and the larva were running crazy throughout the hive. She immediately removed all the fouled frames of honey and brood and cleaned the hive as best she could then grabbed a clean frame of honey and brood from her existing hive and placed in the hive for the bees and brought the hive box with bees to my place to isolate the hive from her existing colonies.
Well you might think now the bees would be happy, all cleaned and new frame of honey and brood a new queen and all would be ok but no, the colony of bees that had remained was quite small and were unable to protect properly the one frame of honey and brood from being robbed by other bees or new eggs laid by hive beetles. After about 7 days in there new location they absconded, running away from all the issues associated with this one frame of honey and brood they could not protect due to their limited numbers.
After discovering the empty hive I removed the frame of honey and brood and placed in the freezer and later inspection showed new beetle larva had infected the frame.
Then a day later I discovered the location of the colony in the bushes only meters from the where the hive box had been located. I quickly organised a fresh clean nuc box with only starter strips of wax on the frames and rehoused the colony into the nuc box. With nothing for the small hive beetles to attach the bees have stayed and although there numbers are small they will survive and next spring i am sure will become all they can be. The bees will now have the numbers to protect what they make as they make it and with the addition of several different measures to protect the colony from the hive beetle I believe they will do just fine but maybe it will take some time for the colony to get its numbers up to where they should be.
The collecting of this colony of bees has been one of the most difficult collections that has shown me many of the issues I had not encountered previously and has been a great vehicle for learning some of the more difficult and complex aspects of beekeeping. When retrieving the colony from its location in a compost bin it seems that they had the beetles under control despite the fact that the larva could pupate in the soil (compost) directly under the honey comb thus the beetle could complete its life cycle without ever having to leave the hive. This also explains why the bees reacted to our presence with extreme prejudice and attacked us with all their abilities. They had become overly aggressive due to the constant pressure placed on them by the need to keep the hive beetle under control. It’s a pity we were not able to collect the queen from this colony as she may represent the type of queen that has the right characteristics to manage beetles without the need for traps or various beetle management tools. The colony had been in its compost bin location for many years co-existing with the beetle for much of that time, and if we had not come and disturbed the bees I am sure they would have continued in the compost bin location for many more years without excessive issues from the hive beetle. Once the control protocol had been broken the beetles took full advantage and the results can be seen in the pictures below.
Anna did however collect and process almost 5kg of honey from this hive in a season that has been one of the lowest ever for honey production in Australia’s history.
Lava deficate (Shit) in the honey and cause it to go bad
Each Female Beetle can lay 200 eggs a day
Once there numbers increase they mess up the hive and the bees will leave
Beetles are easy to spot in a hive
The beetles are able to survive being directly attacked by bees so the bees hurd them into corners where they cannot lay there eggs.