There are a number of types of hive beetle; essentially large and small. The small hive beetle has recently been accidentally introduced into temperate regions from its native Africa. It has become a significant pest in some circumstances and this has generated research interest and regulation issues. In its native location, Africa, the small hive beetle is only a minor pest. However, even in African bees, a few minutes observation of the bees' behaviour indicates that they can be distressed when beetles, both large and small, are present in the hive.
The small hive beetle is a member of the family Nitidulidae - a family of mainly scavenging beetles. It has a huge reproductive capability with one female beetle producing up to 1000 offspring and the beetles can live for several weeks away from the bees. It spreads primarily by the movement of honeybee colonies, swarms and the workers accompanying queens being sold. Bee products such as unrefined wax can also aid the beetle's dispersal.
To reduce problems from beetles take note of the following points:
A badly infested colony can be transferred into a new hive with the worst combs removed and destroyed. Scorch old hives with fire before reuse to kill eggs and larvae hiding in the cracks of hive. If using mudded hives - remove the mud, clean out well and then replaster.
The use of movable comb or movable frame hives will make all pest and disease problems much worse especially if combs are moved between colonies for management purposes. The total removal of comb at honey harvesting helps to reduce some problems. Absconding is also beneficial for the bee's health because they move to a good clean nest site or beehive.
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