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Pollen Patties and Small Hive Beetles

By: Blake Shook

If you keep bees in the southern half of the US, especially within 500 miles of the coast, you’ve most likely had to deal with small hive beetles. They are especially problematic when trying to feed pollen substitute, as they absolutely love it. The beetles themselves aren’t actually the problem. It is the Small Hive Beetle larva that cause the damage. The SHB lays eggs in pollen patties, which hatch into larva. The larva not only eat the patty, but they can damage the hive as well. Most strong hives can remove the larvae without an issue. The key is to only give the hive as much pollen patty as they can eat in about 7-10 days. In some cases, that could mean cutting the pollen patty in half or even in quarters. A deep box full of bees or more can typically eat a properly moist 1lb patty in a week or less. If your hive is less than a deep box full of bees, give them half a pound at a time. This ensures the bees eat all the pollen patty before the larvae have the chance to cause damage.

Here are a few key points to keep in mind:

  1. It is common to see a few larvae in a pollen patty. If it’s just a few, you can just scrape the larva off outside the hive and then return the patty.
  2. Larvae tend to live where the bees can’t get to them to remove them on the patty. Sometimes just rearranging the patty helps; giving the bees access to remove the larvae themselves.
  3.  If you see dozens of larvae, freeze the patty for 72 hours to kill the larva, then you can return it to the hive.
  4.  If the patty ever gets harder than thick peanut butter, the bees typically won’t eat it. It’s best just to give the bees a fresh patty.
  5. Often pollen substitute powder comes with instructions to make it into a patty form or mix it with syrup to create a protein slurry you would feed the bees in a division board feeder. For areas with SHB, this isn’t recommended. The larvae tend to quickly reproduce in the slurry and make a huge mess.

How Many SHB Should be Cause for Concern?

Small Hive Beetles are spreading at an increasing rate in the US. They thrive in the southern states where the conditions are warmer, and winters are mild, but have progressively moved north, both naturally and carried by beekeepers. Although, they tend to not be as much of an issue in the northern half of the US as they struggle to survive the longer, colder winters. If you see 5 or less SHB per inspection, there is little cause for concern. They are present in many hives and as mentioned, strong hives can easily keep them under control. 

SHB can survive in the wild, and fly to and from hives typically at dusk. Unfortunately eliminating every SHB from your hive won’t prevent more from flying in from the natural environment or feral hives.

  • If I see more than 5, I keep a closer eye on the hive, but don’t necessarily take action. I will however monitor how much pollen and syrup I feed my bees, knowing there are SHB present.
  • If I see a dozen, or a few dozen during an inspection, especially if my hive is less than 1 deep box full of bees, I often take some steps to control them.

How To Install Beetle Traps

Made with 15% real pollen, these protein patties are readily accepted by bees. Stimulates brood rearing to nurture the hive to maximum strength!

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