Can I Eliminate Hive Beetles by Moving to a Sunnier Location?

Ask the Expert!

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Devon Stronach from North Carolina asks:

My son has a new hive in our backyard in North Carolina. He is seeing a good amount of hive beetles despite putting beetle traps in the hive. A local beekeeper told us the hive wasn’t getting enough sunlight. Unfortunately, our yard is very shady, and there really isn’t a good sunny spot for the hive. Can a hive survive in a shady yard? Is there anything we can do to stop the beetles? Thanks so much!

Hive beetle trap install by nicephotog, licensed with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Rusty Burlew replies:

I don’t believe sun vs shade has anything to do with hive beetles. Yes, you hear that claim quite often, but when you talk to commercial beekeepers and large-scale hobby beekeepers, they will tell you that sun or shade, the beetles are happy to take over their hives. The beetles can fly long distances, and they follow the scent of honey bee hives and locate them that way, so it’s nearly impossible to prevent an infestation if anyone in the area has them.

How well hive beetles do once they move in has a lot to do with the soil type. At a certain point, the larvae leave the hive and drop to the soil beneath the hive. Here, they burrow into the soil and pupate before becoming adults. Some soil is more conducive to burrowing than others, so good soil usually means lots of beetles. Some people treat the soil under and around the hives with diatomaceous earth, which can destroy the beetle larvae, and they manage to keep the number in control that way. Other people salt the soil and have good results with that. In either case, you need to cover an area of at least three feet out from the hive in order to get most of the larvae.

I would definitely recommend you keep using traps. Try putting them in different locations. Some people have better luck in the top box, but others think the bottom box is better. Or try both. In addition, you can put Swiffer pads in the corners of the hive. The beetles get their legs tangled in these and can’t get free. Most people roll them up and put them in the corners of the top box, but some people like the corners of the bottom box or the bottom board. It depends on where the bees try to corral the beetles, and that probably changes from hive to hive.

Small hive beetles are a tough problem for a new beekeeper. Try a few different things, but don’t worry about the shade.

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