Lots of small hive beetle - anything I can do?
Second year beekeeper with 2 hives in close proximity to one another. We're in the piedmont of NC where we have warm summers, high humidity and right now lots of sunshine - no frost yet. Both of our hives have done fairly well this year though honey stores have never been strong. Both hives were started from packages in late Spring and missed a significant part of the nectar flow which is tulip poplar around here. Both queens have done well though and have had lots of bees.
We've always had a few SHB in each hive and we installed traps early in the season. Traps have always caught beetles and every time we go in, we'll pinch a few beetles with a pair of tweezers.
We started feeding both hives about 2 months ago as the dearth started but I've been puzzled why they haven't seemed able to build up their honey stores as much as we've been feeding them.
As temps are a little cooler now, we have not been entering the hive as often except to feed them (we're using the collins feeders which is a top feeder: upside down bucket with pinholes in the top.) We went in one of the hives two days ago to take advantage of a particularly warm afternoon. That hive is four medium supers with 2 frames that are pretty much the brood boxes and two honey supers on top. There were beetles everywhere. We discovered that the top super where the bees had drawn comb and were filling with honey, was sparsely filled with honey and crawling with beetles. Adult beetles. I saw no beetle larvae at all. I did see a little evidence of what I thought was beetle eggs in some of the honey. We reduced the size of that hive by two supers, basically removing what was to have been their honey stores. Of those two supers, 7-8 frames had some honey but high beetle presence. We put those 7-8 frames in the freezer to zap the beetles. The remaining 10+ frames had almost no honey though a little pollen. I removed them entirely and put them out in the yard, a distance away from the hives thinking the bees could salvage what they could from those frames (and they did not need all that extra space on their hive.)
Yesterday we took the 7-8 frames from the freezer and put them back on the hive (the hive now has three supers). I think that the beetles have fouled some of the honey stores in those frames, even though we killed whatever larvae and adult beetles were present by freezing them. However, I'm sure there are many more beetles in the hive and I'm not sure there is anything we can do at this point. We don't want to use chemicals if we can avoid it, though would a chemical treatment be of value when beetle infestation is so high.
Thanks for reading this lengthy post. Any thoughts on next steps would be appreciated. This report is about one of two hives and while I have not inspected the second hive very thoroughly, there is evidence that hive is similarly affected by small hive beetles.
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