Small hive beetle

Native to sub-Saharan Africa, the small hive beetle is a brownish-black beetle with spiny larvae.

A major threat to honey producers, hive beetle larvae tunnel through hives and consume honeycomb, pollen and honey. Larvae also defecate and leave slime behind them.

In the USA, 20,000 hives were lost in the first 2 years of an outbreak of small hive beetle. The species is widespread in South East Queensland and has recently been detected in north Queensland.

Scientific name

Aethina tumida


  • Beetle larvae look similar to wax moth larvae but have only 6 legs, have spines on upper or dorsal parts, change to pupae, and do not spin webs or cocoons.
  • Beetle larvae change to whitish-brown pupae, generally in soil near hives.
  • Adult is small brown-black beetle, 5–7mm long, 2.5–3.5mm wide.
  • New adults may be red but soon become dark brown to black, vary in size.


  • Adults prefer dark parts of hive.
  • Can be found hiding under inner mat of hives.


  • Widespread in South East Queensland.
  • Recently detected in north Queensland.
  • Expected to be major pest in northern regions as numbers build over few seasons due to year-round humid conditions and moist soil.

Life cycle

  • Eggs are laid in irregular-shaped masses on combs.
  • Adult beetles can live up to 18 months, with generation completed in 5–12 weeks.



  • Beetle larvae tunnel through combs, consuming brood, pollen and honey.
  • Larvae produce repellent slime so bees do not remove larvae from hive.
  • Combs are damaged and drip honey, which then ferments.


  • A chemical-based bait trap/harbourage (Apithor) is the only registered chemical trap permitted as an inner-hive control measure.
  • Various vegetable oil traps are recommended.
  • Beehive components and apiary products can be treated by freezing equipment for 24 hours. When temperature reaches -12°C, all stages of small hive beetle will be killed.
  • Existing cold rooms used for wax moth control can also be used by holding equipment at 1–9°C for 8 days. Equipment should be held in a freezer for 6 hours then for 12 days at 1–9°C to overcome thermal inertia.
  • Fumigation using phosphine gas kills eggs, larvae and adult small hive beetle.

Infestation management

  • Extract filled supers within 1–2 days.
  • Render cappings promptly – do not leave exposed for long periods.
  • Store supers in areas with good air circulation and less than 50% humidity.
  • Clean honey houses daily.
  • Place fluorescent light near floor of honey house to attract larvae falling out of infected supers as they look for place to pupate – they can be swept up and/or drowned in water bath.
  • Do not stack infested supers on strong colonies.
  • Do not make splits or exchange combs with infested hives.
  • Monitor colonies for hygienic behaviour (ability to get rid of beetles and larvae).
  • Place hives on rock or hard clay-based soil rather than sandy soil.
  • Consider traps to catch larvae as they leave the hive.
  • Treat soil around infested hives with Permethrin. Use a product containing 500g/L Permethrin as its only active ingredient. Dilute 1mL of product in 1L water, then apply solution to soil at rate of 4L per m2.
  • Ensure hives are not stressed (e.g. by disease or poor food stores).
  • Maintain boxes in good condition.
  • Use vegetable oil or diatomaceous earth in traps placed either on bottom board type or between frame type.
  • Use mechanical beetle traps (e.g. bottle screwed into base of hive covered with raised platform that allows hive beetles in but is too narrow for bees).

Permethrin use

Do not use unregistered chemicals in your hives to control small hive beetle – this could result in residues in honey and bee products.

  • The National Registration Authority has approved off-label use of Permethrin on the ground surrounding bee hives or ground intended for hive placement. Permethrin is the only chemical registered for use in the bee industry for the control of small hive beetle. The permit applies to products containing 500g/L Permethrin as their only active ingredient.
  • Applications are only to be used when beetles or larvae have been observed in or around hive.
  • Apply in late evening after bees become inactive.
  • Apply prepared solution to thoroughly wet ground in area 45–60cm wide in front of each hive.
  • Repeat applications at 30-day intervals.

Human health precautions

  • The slime on combs and hive material of beetle-infested hives contains the yeast Kodamaea ohmeri, which has reportedly made some people sick.
  • Anyone with a weakened immune system should not clean hives affected by small hive beetle.
  • When cleaning hives affected by small hive beetle, wear gloves and P2 or N95 face mask and apply waterproof dressing to any exposed broken skin.
  • When cleaning is complete, shower immediately and put on clean clothes.

Legal requirements

  • The small hive beetle is not a prohibited or restricted invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014. However, by law, everyone has a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to take reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with invasive plants and animals under their control.
  • Local governments must have a biosecurity plan that covers invasive plants and animals in their area. This plan may include actions to be taken on certain species. Some of these actions may be required under local laws. Contact your local government for more information.

Further information