There's a new pest in town, and it’s not here to make friends with your honey bees. The Small Hive Beetle (SHB) is an invasive and damaging pest of honey bee colonies that was introduced by accident in the early 1990s from South Africa. For the past 25 years, they have been disrupting honey bee hives and causing damage to the comb and honey, rendering all affected honey harvests unfit for human consumption. In severe SHB invasion cases, the queen may even stop laying eggs, causing the colony to abscond.
Recently SHB infestations have been reported in Oregon and the OSU Honey Bee Lab has released an excellent article via the OSU extension service.
"Adult SHB beetles have tough, sting-resistant elytra (modified hard front wings), which make it difficult for honey bees to mount an effective defense. The compact body of the beetles and their ability to seek shelter in hive cracks and crevices make it nearly impossible for the adult bees to evict them from the hive. Honey bees attempt to manage beetle populations in the colonies by creating confinement areas using propolis, not allowing beetles to move out of their hiding locations (cracks and crevices in the hive) to feed. Interestingly, it has also been documented that some beetles are able to trick bees into feeding them by begging.
In small colonies such as divides or splits, newly hived packages, nucleus hives (nucs), or post-swarm colonies, the SHB population can grow rapidly, beyond the colony’s ability to keep it in check. Divides or splits are hives that were established by transferring frames of bees, brood, and food stores from a big or strong parent hive. A nuc or nucleus hive is a small hive consisting of five or six frames. Other factors that appear to exacerbate infestation include too-frequent hive inspections by beekeepers, declines in colony health, and a queen event (loss of queen or supersedure). In colonies having excessive space (multiple empty honey supers) or colonies that have recently swarmed, beetles can lay eggs away from the active bee population and thrive."
Read more about this invasive species and how detect, protect and prevent invasions of SHB in your hives by clicking here.