Bees and Ballerinas

I lost one of my honeybee colonies to small hive beetles. I’m really upset about it but I know I did everything I could to protect this hive. Here’s a quick video I made of the beetle larvae on the frames.

I’m new at YouTube stuff so please cut me some slack! WordPress doesn’t let you imbed a video unless you use Youtube, so even though the videos are short it allows you to see what I’m talking about and hey, if you “Subscribe” you may see some more short videos that aren’t done very well. Yay!

This hive (Avett Sisters) seemed okay the day of the inspection. The bees were calm, as usual, but when I opened up the hive I discovered a big mess.

This is how many beetles were in my traps. There was a lot of larvae but you cannot see them in this photo.

A TON of beetle larvae with beetles crawling everywhere. Honestly my first reaction was -this is DISGUSTING! My next reaction was sadness. It’s horrible when a colony has to deal with this and I didn’t know that hive beetles could be so destructive. Here’s another video of a frame with beetle larvae all over it.


The ONE thing I needed to do after seeing this was kill every. freaking. beetle. So I filled up a tub with some Dawn dish soap (under the advisement of a mentor with many years of experience) and I submerged all the frames and left them for a few hours. It worked. The beetles and the larvae all died.

In the meantime, I needed to make sure we still had a queen. I saw her on a frame and as soon as I went to catch her…SHE FLEW AWAY. Good Lord. If you’re a beekeeper you know how stressful this is! I stayed as still as possible and just waited. I checked the frame again about 5 minutes later and she had flown back in! Luckily I had ordered these Queen clips just a few days before (in video below)! I thought I would use them in the Spring but I’m really glad I had them for this reason and now I’m sure I might be able to use them in other ways, too.

Once I put the Queen in the nuc I was moving the bees into I tipped the deep over so the bees would have a way to crawl into the nuc. This is what that looked like.

Moving the Avett Sisters into their new home

In doing this I discovered a ton of beetle larvae at the bottom of the hive. So upsetting and so infuriating!

Before I discovered just how bad the beetles were here is a list of the things I was already doing to help minimize beetles in my hive:

  • Diatomaceous earth on the ground around and under my hive
  • 4 beetle traps in the hive
  • Cleaning out the bottom board daily (since I discovered some HB larvae on it during an inspection
  • Reduced entrance
  • I was feeding them-from inside the hive
  • I had recently finished treating for mites

The moral of the story is-you gotta figure out what is “too many” beetles and what you are going to do when need to do something more than what you’ve been doing.

Also-guess what happened a day later? The Queen decided it was time to go look for a better home and they absconded! This was upsetting mostly because I know this colony is so small they don’t have enough resources to make it through the winter. If I would’ve had at least two other strong colonies (or even one) I could’ve tried to help them by giving them some brood. (A big reason it’s a good idea to have two hives) Instead when I went into my WuTang hive I discovered the SHB problem in there was just as bad as it was in the Avett hive. I started treating the same day.

What I learned

Swiffer sheet in WuTang hive (my other hive) after it was in the hive for one week
  1. One major thing I won’t do again is put another hive in this same location. This spot was next to a wooded area and it received late afternoon sun and indirect sun the rest of the day. I don’t think it had enough time to dry out when it rained-and it rains often. Although, I’ve seen plenty hives in shade I don’t think it’s as easy to recover from infestations. I would’ve had to have been treating this hive weeks ago.
  2. It was also a pine hive and I’m not sure it was sealed properly (it wasn’t my hive) an dI didn’t have time to seal it myself when I got the Avett Sisters. Moral of the story is I will never put a hive out again without first nailing and glueing.
  3. Beetle traps might not be enough. I will use them but I am going to use those as indicators of a problem, not a solution to one.
  4. I will continue to conduct hive inspections every two weeks in the summer months to make sure the beetles aren’t getting to be too much in my hives.
  5. Use Swiffer sheets as needed and monitor every few days to replace and make sure no bees (specifically the Queen) are trapped in them.
  6. I will use CheckMite as needed
  7. I also didn’t realize the hive cover wasn’t the proper size for the hive. I cover should come over the top of the hive, like a roof. No one told me any different and since I’m a newbee I didn’t know otherwise. I actually didn’t realize I needed another cover until I was purchasing one for another hive I am putting up in the Spring. I got it home and thought-they gave me the wrong one! This is the one for a 10-frame! I took it out to the Avett hive and realized this should’ve been the proper size for the cover all along. Having the smaller cover (that really didn’t “cover) didn’t help with moisture, in fact, it made it worse.
Duh-wrong size cover. This one is flush with the hive and it should be a few inches over just like a roof on a house

What does this have to do with ballerinas?

Not much really, other than during the few days I was recovering from this crisis (yes, it was a crisis) I watched the movie Leap and thought about how many people told me stories of losing hives. Most of them have decided they won’t get bees again and that makes me sad!

Listen, insects are tough but fragile creatures! Heck, humans are fragile creatures! But you can’t let disappointments keep you from doing what you are passionate about. Maybe you discovered you aren’t that passionate about bees, and that’s okay. But if you are-KEEP GOING! I could call this a failure and hate myself for it and think I’m not good enough to keep bees, but I won’t. If you view everything as a lesson and find what you can learn from it, you won’t be stuck in a negative place.

Listen to this and try not to cry

Life can be unpredictable and tough. Keep picking up the pieces and try again…and again…and again.

~ Carmen