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'
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
- 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 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)
- Regular colony monitoring
- 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.
- Larval SHB can be detected underneath pollen patties,
in cells of wax comb and amongst debris on the bottom board.
- The use of physical traps may assist in detecting
- Maintain a clean apiary:
- Regularly clean debris from the bottom boards of
honey bee colonies.
- Keep the apiary clean of wax debris from broken
frames or wax scrapings.
- Keep colonies and hive equipment in good condition.
Remove and replace old comb/ equipment, and dead colonies.
- Maintain strong, healthy and populous honey bee colonies:
- Obtain bee stock from an operation with known health
- Reduce potential colony damage or stress by managing
other honey bee pests and diseases throughout the beekeeping
- If treatment for pests or disease is required,
choose the appropriate, legally registered treatment and apply
according to label instructions.
- 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.
- Combine three way or two nucleus colonies into
a single standard Langstroth brood box.
- Take immediate measures to manage weak colonies
- Requeen queenless colonies immediately.
- Cull or combine weak honey bee colonies, after
assessing these colonies for other pest or disease issues.
- Minimize the amount of unprotected comb in proportion
to the honey bee population - do not over-super colonies.
- Ensure dead bees and unused equipment (especially
darker brood comb) are not left exposed in the bee yard.
- Follow biosecurity protocols
- Keep vehicle windows and doors closed when visiting
a bee yard.
- 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
- 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
- Park vehicle 10 meters outside the boundaries of the bee yard.
Wash the exterior of vehicle prior to leaving a high risk area.
- 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.
- 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
- 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).
- Ensure supers are free of bees and SHB before bringing back
to honey house (e.g. using bee blower).
- 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.
- Run dehumidifiers in hot rooms to maintain relative humidity
(RH) below 50%.
- 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.
- Remove unprotected comb, wax cappings and slumgum, or store
them in beetle-tight containers. Melt cappings as soon as possible.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- If you encounter any SHB larvae, scrape them into a bucket and
dispose by either burning or freezing.
- Post biosecurity signs to prevent visiting beekeepers from
bringing trucks and equipment onto your site.
Additional Precautions if Extracting Honey Supers from a Known
- Ensure you have an approved movement plan from OMAFRA prior
to moving honey supers.
- Extract SHB-positive yards last and as few times per season.
- Ensure honey supers are placed and stored in a sealed container*
prior to moving from the bee yard.
- 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.