Quick Facts

  • Member of the family Nitidulidae, most of which are scavengers or sap beetles
  • Adult is dark brown to black and ½ centimeter in length
  • May live up to six months
  • Can be observed almost anywhere in a hive, although most often found on the rear portion of the bottom board of a hive
  • Primary damage in colonies and stored honey is by the feeding activity of the larvae
  • Hives and stored equipment with heavy infestations have been considered a mess

Species Facts:

The Small Hive Beetle, Aethina tumida (Order:Coleoptera), was first discovered in Florida in June of 1998. This pest completes its life cycle in association with honey bee hives and is being found to be very destructive to honey bee colonies. The Small Hive Beetle has been detected in west and middle Tennessee, and there is a need to contain the spread of this beetle. There is also a need to develop control management strategies in hives and educate beekeepers in detection and control.

The Small Hive Beetle causes damage to comb, stored honey and pollen. If a beetle infestation is sufficiently heavy, they may cause bees to abandon their hive. The beetles can also be a pest of stored combs and honey (in the comb) awaiting extraction. Beetle larvae may tunnel through combs of honey, feeding and defecating, causing discoloration and fermentation of the honey.

The Small Hive Beetle was previously known only from the southern regions of Africa where it has been considered a minor pest of bees. The life cycle information is known primarily from studies in South Africa. No detailed studies have yet been conducted in the different regions of the U.S. where the beetle has been found.

Female beetles lay irregular masses of eggs in cracks or crevices in a hive. The eggs hatch in 2 - 3 days into white-colored larvae that will grow to 10 -11 mm in length. Larvae feed on pollen and honey, damaging combs, and require about 10 - 16 days to mature. Larvae that are ready to pupate leave the hive and burrow into soil near the hive. The pupation period may last approximately 3 - 4 weeks. Newly emerged adults seek out hives and females generally mate and begin egg laying about a week after emergence. Hive beetles may have 4 - 5 generations a year during the warmer seasons.

Various reports showed that the larvae tunnel through comb with stored honey or pollen, damaging or destroying cappings and combs. They then defecate in honey and the honey becomes discolored from the feces. Activity of the larvae causes fermentation and frothiness in the honey; the honey develops a characteristic odor of decaying oranges. Then the damage and fermentation cause the honey to run out of combs, creating a mess in hives or extracting rooms. Heavy infestations cause bees to abscond; some beekeepers have reported the rapid collapse of even strong colonies.

Portions of this article courtesy of: Small Hive Beetle

A comb infested with Small Hive Beetle larva (Photo from: www.bugwood.org Credit to: Jeffery W. Lotz)