Last weekend I found myself in a funk. There was an event that made me realize that swarm trapping along with all of its positive aspects may also have some negative consequences. Trap 15 had been hanging in one of my best trapping grounds. It was in the same tree that I caught two awesome colonies last year. 1106 one of my very best hives, came from that very tree last year. The bees in Trap15 were numerous and had built 8 frames of comb, many filled with unsealed brood. After I removed the last frame I saw something move in the bottom of the box. I did a double take. It was a Small Hive Beetle (SHB).
Luckily I had taken it to a new hive site which is 15-20 miles from any of my other colonies. I had a plastic trash bag which I put the trap in once emptied of bees. As soon as I got home I put it in the freezer (See: Killing Small Hive Beetles). Unfortunately I am beginning to see a trend.
I am painfully aware that sooner or later I am going to be dealing with those little buggers everywhere. The source is about 15 miles from one of my hive sites that has strong colonies currently unaffected by SHB. Since I just began dealing with them I know very little about what their presence is going to mean for my bee operation. At the last Southeastern Indiana Beekeepers Association meeting I went to, many of the beekeepers present were reporting that SHB effects in our area would be similar to the wax moth. I am apprehensive of that opinion because I have never seen a wax moth or wax moth larvae in an occupied swarm trap, nor have I ever had wax moths in any hives except dead-outs.
I already have two hives at a site affected by SHB. I been watching and waiting on those two colonies to see how they respond. They have continued to build well this spring and appear very strong. I have not gotten into them since March to see if I have larvae are crawling around on the frames. I am going to wait until I am almost done trapping before I check them. I have read that frequent hive visits can free adult beetles from propolis prisons that the bees make for them.
Before I do anything I want to see what happens if I do nothing. My first year in beekeeping I had a colony go queenless. I observed the demise of that colony not because I hate my bees, but to learn from the experience. There was much to learn from that experience, I only wish I had a video camera at that time. When I figure out what the consequences of SHB at that site I will need to make a decision on how to deal with them. Maybe the people at the association meeting are right.
This is going to force me to put my money where my mouth is when it comes to the LetMBee philosophy of allowing bees to be bees. I owe it to anyone wanting to trap bees to know some of the potential risks of swarm trapping. Along with SHB there are other pests and diseases that could potentially come along for the ride with a new swarm. I have read on beesource.com that some people in California claim to have picked up foul brood diseases from trapped swarms. My only hope comes from the fact that I am catching swarms in areas where SHB are present. Everything I currently understand about swarming behavior indicates that western honeybees normally swarm if the colony is fit to do so. To my limited knowledge Africanized Honey Bees (AHB) routinely abscond from their hives as a way of dealing with SHB. I am currently unaware of Western Honeybees acting in this way. So perhaps the bees in that area are able to deal with them in some way. During the next several weeks I will be brushing up on the biology of the SHB.
As things develop I will be writing about it. I am currently pondering removing my traps from the SHB areas. I hate making quick decisions, because they normally result in a bad outcome. So I will be pondering what the next step will be. I suppose I could just as easily pick up SHB on a swarm call. I have read of beekeepers getting them with ordered packages as well. I cannot tell others to trust in the bees if I don’t do the same. All of these factors are being weighed.
If you have any advice or questions please leave a COMMENT.