Small Hive Beetle - Best Management and Biosecurity Practices

The small hive beetle (SHB), Aethina tumida, is a honey bee pest capable of damaging and stressing colonies in addition to causing honey spoilage. Prevention is the best mitigation strategy. When SHB is suspected in an apiary, beekeepers must report this to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs' Apiary Program.

Although SHB is capable of damaging honey bee colonies, this impact can be managed. Beekeepers must recognize the risks of SHB, the potential damage resulting from the spread of SHB and the steps they can take to mitigate this pest.

The risk of SHB infestation increases with the following factors and activities:

  • Proximity of bee yards to the US border
  • Sharing of beekeeping equipment among yards and honey houses
  • Catching bee swarms of unknown origin
  • Co-mingling and transportation of bees
  • Importation of bees or equipment into a beekeeping operation

When choosing to move honey bee colonies within the province, beekeepers must be aware of the distribution of SHB in Ontario and make movement decisions with this in mind. To stay up to date on the distribution of SHB in Ontario, use the online SHB viewer. Sharing extraction facilities, beekeeping yards or equipment may increase the risk of transmission of SHB. If you share with another beekeeper, ensure:

  • They are aware of the risks of transmission of SHB
  • They have a similar risk profile
  • They are in a low risk area
  • Cleaning and disinfection protocols are followed

Treatment options for SHB, including in-hive and outside of hive chemical treatments, chemical-free physical traps, and biological control options exist. More information about treatment recommendations can be found online at www.ontario.ca/beekeeping.

To reduce the likelihood of SHB infestation, prevent the spread of SHB and to minimize damage to honey bee colonies, beekeepers must implement best management practices (BMPs) and adopt routine biosecurity practices. The following BMPs will be updated on an ongoing basis as more local data and knowledge becomes available.

Apiary Best Management Practices (BMPs)

  1. Regular colony monitoring
    1. Engage in routine monitoring using a visual scan underneath the inner cover on the top bars of the frames and in the cells of the wax comb to detect adult SHB.
    2. Larval SHB can be detected underneath pollen patties, in cells of wax comb and amongst debris on the bottom board.
    3. The use of physical traps may assist in detecting SHB.
  2. Maintain a clean apiary:
    1. Regularly clean debris from the bottom boards of honey bee colonies.
    2. Keep the apiary clean of wax debris from broken frames or wax scrapings.
    3. Keep colonies and hive equipment in good condition. Remove and replace old comb/ equipment, and dead colonies.
  3. Maintain strong, healthy and populous honey bee colonies:
    1. Obtain bee stock from an operation with known health status.
    2. Reduce potential colony damage or stress by managing other honey bee pests and diseases throughout the beekeeping season.
    3. If treatment for pests or disease is required, choose the appropriate, legally registered treatment and apply according to label instructions.
    4. Ensure nucleus colonies are of sufficient strength, and/or not below three frames of bees and that there is little to no extra comb space.
    5. Combine three way or two nucleus colonies into a single standard Langstroth brood box.
  4. Take immediate measures to manage weak colonies
    1. Requeen queenless colonies immediately.
    2. Cull or combine weak honey bee colonies, after assessing these colonies for other pest or disease issues.
    3. Minimize the amount of unprotected comb in proportion to the honey bee population - do not over-super colonies.
    4. Ensure dead bees and unused equipment (especially darker brood comb) are not left exposed in the bee yard.
  5. Follow biosecurity protocols
    1. Keep vehicle windows and doors closed when visiting a bee yard.
    2. Before leaving a bee yard and prior to entering a vehicle, conduct a thorough inspection of your bee suit and veil for insects. Remove the bee suit and veil and shake vigorously.
    3. If visiting a bee yard or location with a greater risk of harbouring SHB, visit this site last during a day of beekeeping activity.

Additional Precautions for High Risk Areas (in or near known SHB-positive yard)

  1. Park vehicle 10 meters outside the boundaries of the bee yard. Wash the exterior of vehicle prior to leaving a high risk area.
  2. Take only required beekeeping equipment into the bee yard. Use a different set of beekeeping equipment and apparel from yard to yard in a high risk area.
  3. Following a visit to an infested bee yard, conduct an inspection of your bee suit and veil. Shake bee suit and veil vigorously and place in a secured bag before entering a vehicle. Freeze the bag and the contents for 48 hours before wearing.

Honey Extraction Facility and Beekeeping Equipment BMPs

  1. Promptly extract honey supers. Do not bring more honey supers to the extraction facility than can be extracted within a week (ideally within 24 to 48 hours).
  2. Ensure supers are free of bees and SHB before bringing back to honey house (e.g. using bee blower).
  3. If possible, manage colonies with queen excluders. If queen excluders are not used, ensure honey bee brood is not brought into the honey house in honey supers.
  4. Run dehumidifiers in hot rooms to maintain relative humidity (RH) below 50%.
  5. Maintain a clean apiary and honey house, free of debris, wax comb, etc., to reduce attraction to SHB. Ensure that extraction facilities are cleaned after each use.
  6. Remove unprotected comb, wax cappings and slumgum, or store them in beetle-tight containers. Melt cappings as soon as possible.
  7. If wax cappings or other materials become infested with SHB, ensure the material is promptly frozen, ideally at -10?C or colder for 24 hours.
  8. Store honey comb, extracted frames and unused honey supers in a freezer or a cold room (< 10°C) and/or a room with low humidity (< 50% RH).
  9. Inspect honey combs for damage by the beetle (slimy and/or foul smelling honey at an advanced stage of fermentation), or the presence of any life stages of the beetle.
  10. If you encounter any SHB larvae, scrape them into a bucket and dispose by either burning or freezing.
  11. Post biosecurity signs to prevent visiting beekeepers from bringing trucks and equipment onto your site.

Additional Precautions if Extracting Honey Supers from a Known SHB-Positive Yard:

  1. Ensure you have an approved movement plan from OMAFRA prior to moving honey supers.
  2. Extract SHB-positive yards last and as few times per season.
  3. Ensure honey supers are placed and stored in a sealed container* prior to moving from the bee yard.
  4. Freeze honey supers in sealed container ideally at -10?C or colder for 24 hours prior to honey extraction.

*Recommended options for sealing honey supers:

  • Inside heavy duty plastic bags. White or clear plastic work best as the beetles can be easily seen. Ensure bags are not punctured and avoid storing honey supers in bags for longer than 5 days.
  • Interior of a refrigerated reefer truck operating at -10?C or colder for 24 hours prior to honey extraction.

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: Wael Haddad - Apiary Data Coordinator/OMAFRA
Creation Date: 16 May 2016
Last Reviewed: 3 August 2017