Small Hive Beetle

Small hive beetle (SHB) (Aethina tumida) is a small brown-black beetle with clubbed antennae that originated from sub-Saharan Africa. In Africa, the SHB is not a significant honey bee pest species; however, since arriving in Australia in 2002, the SHB has caused a major impact to honey bee colonies throughout the warm and humid coastal strip between Victoria and North Queensland.

The larval stage of the SHB life cycle causes the majority of damage to active hives by burrowing into combs, eating brood, honey and pollen. Unlike some other honey bee pest species, SHB is preferentially attracted to active hives because of the availability of food. Whilst feeding the larvae also carry a yeast species (Kodamaea ohmeri) which contaminates the honey causing it to ferment. Heavy infestations cause the hive to become ‘slimed out’ and may cause the colony to die or abscond.

Life cycle

The development of SHB throughout its lifecycle depends primarily on humidity, temperature and food availability. As such SHB has the greatest impact in the warm and humid coastal strip between Victoria and north Queensland, but its presence has also been detected in all states and territories of Australia, except Tasmania, Northern Territory and southern parts of Western Australia. The SHB lifecycle can take between 3–12 weeks and has four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult beetle. More at:

If you suspect you’ve found a small hive beetle, take a photo and collect a sample and send to:

Dr. Chris Looney, WSDA, tracks invasives and would like to hear of any sightings. Photos and actual specimens would be preferred.
Contact at the following:
Chris Looney, PhD
Entomology Laboratory
Washington State Department of Agriculture
1111 Washington St. SE
Olympia, WA 98504
Desk: 360.902.2042
Lab: 360.902.2084

Also please advise the MBBA Forum

Local Update from a MBBA beekeeper in Abbotsford, September 14th, 2017:

This morning (Sept 14) I did an inspection at an apiary just west of the Abbotsford airport which was found to have SHB. Since you have ready access to all your members, I would appreciate if you could press upon them to look closely at their colonies.

A few tips:

  • Without any smoke, carefully and slowly remove the lid and crack the innercover. Lift the innercover promptly and look immediately at the both ends of the topbars for beetles scurrying off. Then, examine the underside of the innercover for SHB.
  • SHB prefer to “set up house” in the comb near the ends of the topbars where it is warm and less busy with bees that bother them.
  • Examine a few frames for adult beetles and any sign on beetle brood. Beetle brood consists of slender larvae of different sizes that crawl in and out of the wax cells. In the area, the comb starts to look wet and messy.
  • Take all the boxes off and examine the bottom board where beetles like to go as they are not bothered by the bees.
  • If you are not sure about the identity of the beetle, place the specimen in a small plastic sleeve or container and put into the freezer for a couple of hours. Afterwards, place the specimen on a flat light-coloured surface next to a measuring tape and take a close-up photograph.