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Hive Beetle Larvae hatching and feeding on the Honey

Small hive beetle (SHB) – Aethina tumida

The small hive beetle can be a destructive pest of honey bee colonies, causing damage to comb, stored honey and pollen. If a beetle infestation is sufficiently heavy, they may cause bees to abandon their hive. Its absence can also be a marker in the diagnosis of Colony Collapse Disorder for honey-bees. 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.

African bees are able to keep the beetles in check but weakened colonies may lose control over their beetle populations.  The colonies will then abscond and leave the infested nest site behind.

Small hive beetles feed on bee brood and food reserves and reproduce within hives, but as soon as the larvae reach the wandering stage, they crawl out of the hives to pupate in the soil, (within 20 m of the hive).


The small hive beetle is considered a secondary pest in South Africa, and, as such, has not been the subject of major control efforts.

Biological control through beneficial soil nematodes specific to the SHB is also effective. Nematodes are microscopic roundworms found living naturally in most soils. Many species of nematodes exist and each has a unique purpose in nature. Also they pose no threat to the environment