Bee Problems (pt 2)

By uthus2000 | uthus2000 | 31 Aug 2019

Honey bee problems worldwide may or may not be at least partially due to neonicotinoid-based pesticides. The debate is ongoing. I will not address either side of that in this article.

I had originally planned to write this a day or two after the first article. But life happened.

Wax Moth

There are two species of wax moth (waxworm or candle flies) - the greater and the lesser. They are commercially raised and the larvae are used as a food source for humans and animals especially lizards. They are particularly high in fat content. (I cannot attest to how they taste. I have, however tried freeze-dried mealworms. They have kind of a nutty flavor.)

Wax moths are a nuisance but don't necessarily cause the collapse of a colony. They are, however, an indicator of the health of a hive. A strong hive is capable of driving off the female moths who lay their eggs near the hive entrance or small crevices that may allow access to the hive. A healthy hive will also evict any invading larvae that are found.

Weak, unhealthy hives tend to allow the larvae to grow and possibly destroy drawn honeycomb.

The larvae burrow through the comb into brood, pollen and honey cells. This kills young bee brood and larvae feces contaminates any honey that they come in contact with.

I have noticed a moth cocoon occasionally in my hives. They are eliminated post haste to help quell population growth.

Wax moths can be distracted from hives. In my research of the moths, I found that one might place banana peels and a small amount of white vinegar in a bottle near the hives. The aroma wafting from this concoction seems to be more enticing to the insects than that of beeswax. They go into the container and cannot get out or drown.

Small Hive Beetle

The small hive beetle is the worst pest that I have had to deal with. I lost my last hive to them last spring.

I heard a swarm in the area and went to check on my hive only to find that the swarm I heard was probably mine absconding. This was a top bar hive not the Langstroth that most Americans are used to seeing. A comparison of the two here. The hive had cross comb throughout and was not easy to monitor.

When I did get the hive open and saw the bottom was covered in larvae, I was disgusted and burned everything to destroy the invaders.

SHB are native to sub-Saharan Africa but showed up in Florida in 1996.

SHB adults live in the hive. They are only about .5cm in length so they easily evade housekeeping bees by hiding in crevices or scurrying quickly around a corner. This allows them to continue mating and laying eggs.

SHB larvae cause the same damage that wax moths do but it is compounded due to the amount of beetles living in the hives.

How do they find new hives?

SHB do not wander around looking for new hives to invade. Packaged bees purchased from apiaries generally have beetles in with the bees. 

When shaking frames to collect bees to sell, any SHB on the frames also get shaken into the packages. They are so small they cannot be detected in the time frame used to shake frames.

There have also been instances where SHB were detected on high speed video leaving the hive with a swarm. If a hive splits, part of the beetle population goes with the swarm.

Beetle control

There are various beetle traps on the market that have varied success. I think some DIY approaches work just as well:

  • CD jewel cases with 1/4" holes drilled in the top and a thin layer of vegetable oil inside. The holes are too small for a bee to access, but large enough for a beetle to try to hide. They get in the oil and and can't get out. This device is placed at the bottom of the inside of the hive.
  • A hole in the bottom of the hive body that has a jar or bottle screwed into it. Place vegetable oil in the container and screw it into the hole. #8 hardware cloth covers the hole so bees cannot access it, but the beetles can. The beetles get trapped in the container.
  • Hive bodies that have no solid base but instead sit on #8 hardware cloth. The hive is placed over a water trough stocked with koi, goldfish or some kind of game fish like blue gill. When the SHB jumps off a frame to elude bees, they fall through hardware cloth into the trough and are eaten by the fish. The only drawback to this is that you have to put the hives on a bottom when the weather cools but by that time you probably have eliminated your problem.
  • SHB larvae leave the hive when the time comes to pupate. They burrow into the ground underneath the hive for their metamorphosis. The ground can be treated with Heterorhabditis indica. HI is a nematode (microscopic worm) that fancies the taste of SHB pupae as well as a few other garden pests.

What else?

There are several other maladies that can affect bees including varroa mites which can be controlled with vaporized oxalic acid, tracheal mites which can be controlled with menthol, and chalk brood which requires the destruction of your hives.

I've never had to deal with any of these.

In Conclusion

Beekeeping is an entertaining hobby that can be developed to bring in extra income. All that is required is an investment of about $300 for hive bodies and a package of bees and a smoker.

I would encourage anyone to look into this. You can raise bees anywhere. I've seen them on the roadside in the country, along the interstate in urban areas and even on rooftops in the city. 

Bees will live anywhere you can grow flowering plants.

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I'm a beekeeper electrician in a great small town in a terrible state.


Small town life and observations in the mid-west.

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