I would appreciate your commentary on something that I am doing with my (4) hives. I did not intend to have this result but it might be a good thing.
My hives are built from the bottom-up as follows:
1. Bottom board – simple piece of ¾” plywood (I use a top entrance)
2. Empty honey super – no frames, no nothing
3. Shim with hardware clothe screen to keep the bees out of the area below. This is intended to give the benefits of pests dropping through the screened bottom board but enables me to keep a solid bottom board which is more like a hive in a tree. The space minimizes the ability for varroa to climb or jump back up into the hive. It appears to also be making a small hive beetle (SHB) trap.
4. Brood box – small cell foundation from the nuc, foundationless frames going forward. The foundationless frames are drawing out well
5. Brood box
6. Dry sugar with an empty super acting as a spacer. I understand that feeding sugar is discouraged. In the long term I plan to leave plenty of honey to over-winter with but these hives are from nucs that I received a month ago so I am feeding to encourage comb production
7. Hive top – Simple ¾” plywood with shims on 2 sides as described by Michael Bush
I installed the hives about 4 or 5 weeks ago and after the first week or two I saw that sugar was falling to the bottom which I expected, but nothing much else to comment about. I stopped looking down there until today. I figured I would clean out whatever had fallen. I expected mostly dry stuff (sugar, pollen etc.) to be down there but there was a lot of material on the bottom board. It was pretty wet/greasy and absolutely filled with SHB larva. There were a number of SHBs but the amount of larva was really shocking. I scraped each bottom board (I have 4 hives) onto an old tarp that I was throwing away. I killed any adult SHB that I found (again not that many, maybe 15 or 20 across the 4 hives) and then I put the whole mess into a plastic bag and got rid of it.
In the entire 5 weeks that I have had the hives I have only seen 3 SHB; that is across all 4 hives. I also do not see varroa but I have not done a drop test, just looking at the adults. The hives are thriving, growing rather well.
I am trying to decide from a couple of competing conclusions:
Conclusion 1: I might have what amounts to a rather effective way to trap SHBs: Give them a space below the hive that the bees cannot access and every 2 to 4 weeks (experiments still to be done) scrape it out to remove adults and larva. What remains will have a brood cycle that is interrupted and the population of SHB shouldn’t be able to reach a level significant enough to harm the hive. This is done with no chemicals. There is also no cost other than time and a trash bag.
- Or –
Conclusion 2: I am playing with fire by providing a breeding ground for SHB within 6 inches of my hive. I got away with it this time but I better stay away from this practice. I assume this would mean that I should just use a screened bottom board. Others would add a boric acid or other trap to the bottom board but I don’t intend to use chemical treatments in my hives. Would this be considered “outside of the hive” since the bees cannot access it and therefore be an OK place to treat with something like boric acid?
I am leaning heavily toward conclusion #1 but I am an optimist.
I would appreciate your thoughts on this. Perhaps both conclusions are wrong…