Hi there! The beetles you are probably seeing in your hive are commonly called small hive beetles or Aethina tumida. These beetles were introduced to North America in the mid to late 1990s from Africa and have now found their way into almost every state.
Small hive beetle larvae feed on the honey stores your bees make. The larvae tunnel trough the wax slowly eating honey. They leave a tell tale slime trail through the comb. In large numbers they can completely consume a bee colony’s honey stores. Adult beetles use the hive to mate and lay eggs in crevices around the inside of the hive. Once the larvae have grown and are ready to pupate they fall outside of the hive and pupate in the ground around the hive.
The best defense against small hive beetles is having a strong healthy bee colony. Honey bees will actively defend against these beetles. A large healthy colony will often be able to keep hive beetle numbers low and possibly undetectable. There are two chemical treatments for small hive beetles but just like other chemical treatments for mites or other pests, we recommend not using them because they will ultimately affect the health of your bees as well. If you have a colony that is losing the battle to these pests it may be a sign that the colony is not genetically strong. Often culling these colonies and splitting stronger more robust colonies can help rid your apiary of the problem.
For chemical free management it is best if you notice any comb with larvae trails it is best to remove those frames and destroy both the comb and larvae. There are traps available for small hive beetles and often work by using an attractant like apple cider vinegar to lure the beetles into a small thin box set on the bottom of the hive. Once inside the beetles get trapped in a small amount of mineral oil that coats the bottom of the trap. Another management technique is to flood the area around the hive periodically to disrupt the beetles pupation stage. There are also two soil nematode species that have been found to be biological controls of these beetles during their pupation stage in the soil. These nematodes are Steinernema riobrave and Heterorhabditis indica. Both can be found at garden stores and online as soil additions. All three tactics in combination would certainly reduce levels of small hive beetles found in any hive.
Hope that helps! Please feel free to reach out to our customer service line with any additional questions by phone at 877-325-2221 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.