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Williamson County Ag Outlooks

A local discussion of current science and issues concerning agriculture in Williamson County , Texas

I have had several questions this week from bee keepers about controling small hive beetle, here is the best information I have. The small hive beetle is an invasive species that entered the United States about 10 years ago. Aided by the transportation of
migratory honey bee hives on trucks, the small hive beetle spread across the U.S. in short order.

The adult small hive beetle is an insect with a hard outer covering which protects it from the honey bees, allowing the beetle to live inside the bee hive. The beetles reproduce rapidly in a hive that is queen less or in stress. When the beetles reproduce, it is the larval stage of the small hive beetle that is extremely damaging to the honey bee hive. The larvae eat everything in the hive, leaving behind a “slimed” waste covering the badly damaged combs. The slime, which has the odor of rotting oranges, repels honey bees and attracts small hive beetles. The beetles can drive the honey bees from their hive in merely a few days.

A control measure for dead colonies includes freezing the hive and its contents at 10°F (-12°C) for 24 hours. This will kill all life stages of the beetle. Equipment should be checked for beetle activity upon removal from the freezer especially in hot weather when longer periods of freeze time are sometimes necessary.

Honey bees will not normally accept supers that are contaminated with beetle fermented honey. The fermented honey can be washed off with a garden hose and bees will normally rework the equipment.

The two available chemical controls for small hive beetles are GuardStarTM a ground drench used around colonies to kill pupating beetles, and Checkmite+TM a plastic strip used under pieces of cardboard in colonies to kill adult beetles. As is the case for all insecticides, it is important to follow the product label when using these products to control small hive beetles.

CheckMite+TM plus GuardStar® 40% EC use at the same time is strongly recommended. Prior to exercising any of the registered control measures you are urged to confirm beetle identity by contacting the State of Texas Apiary Inspection Service. Always follow label instructions carefully.

In The Hive use CheckMite+TM to Control Adults

Do not use on hives kept for comb honey production. Remove honey supers before application of CheckMite+ Strips and do not replace until 14 days after the strips are removed. Prepare a piece of corrugated cardboard approximately 4×4 inches by removing one side to expose the corrugation. Cut one CheckMite+ strip in half crossways and staple the two pieces to the corrugated side of the cardboard. Tape over the smooth side of the cardboard (the side opposite the strips) with duct tape, shipping tape or similar tape to prevent the bees from chewing and removing the cardboard. Or use one-sided plastic corrugated sheets commercially available in 5X5 inch format from major beekeeper suppliers. Place cardboard as near to the center of the bottom board as possible with the strips down. Make sure the bottom board is clean and the strips lay flat on the bottom board. Leave strips in no less than 3 days and no more than 45 days. For maximum efficacy leave the strips in
the hive for at least 42 days (six weeks). Do not leave strips in hive for more than 45 days. Treat no more than four times per year for the small hive beetle. Honey supers may be replaced 14 days after strips are removed. Wear chemical-resistant gloves or at least rubber dishwashing gloves when handling CheckMite+TM. Dispose of used strips according to label instructions. These are guidelines. The label instructions constitute the legal use of CheckMite+TM; follow them carefully.

In the Apiary use GuardStar® 40% EC to Control Pupae

GuardStar® should be used as soon as beetles or larvae are detected in or around hives. Mix a solution of 5 ml (1 teaspoon) of GuardStar® 40% EC to 1 gallon of water. Apply the solution using a sprinkler can. Thoroughly wet the ground in an 18 to 24 inch area in front of each hive. One gallon of this mixture treats about 6 hives. Apply in the late evening after bees are inactive. Do not apply GuardStar® 40% EC to colony entrances, it is toxic to honey bees. These are guidelines. Label instructions constitute the legal use of GuardStar® 40% EC.

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