Are you having trouble with small hive beetles? I recently received this letter from Joe Caracausa in east Texas, a longtime beekeeper with a beetle problem. He achieved excellent beetle control using homemade red plexiglass lids. I’ve also heard from other sources that red light repels small hive beetles, so Joe’s method is worth a try. Here is his letter in full:
“I just re-read your post about small hive beetles from a couple of years ago. I can tell you what we do to prevent/eliminate the pests.
“About 5 years ago, maybe 7 now, we started having problems with the small hive beetles. We did the beetle traps, Swiffer pads, etc, but never got satisfactory results. We saw an ad for a company that was making red plexiglass telescoping lids for beehives. They were expensive and flimsy (I didn’t know the flimsy part) but we were getting to where we needed to do something, so we ordered a couple.
“We put them on our two most infested hives and within a week or two, there were no beetles to be seen. We ordered more whenever we had the $$ available, but never got enough to cover all of our hives.
“I tried to get more but never was able to reach the company. I sent an email to their website and after about 8 months got a reply saying they had abandoned the product. They said they couldn’t sell enough to bring the price down to a reasonable level where people would order them consistently.
“The lid had an opaque foil/paper layered on it. You were supposed to remove 3 to 4 inches of the opaque paper from the outside edges of the inner cover, then put the red lid on top of it like any other telescoping cover
The company that made these lids claimed that small hive beetles were extremely sensitive to light, particularly red light. There is another company making red ‘awnings’ to fit over the bee entrance that claims the same principle, that the small hive beetles would not fly into the hive due to the red light at the entrance. I have not tried that product.
Anyway, since I could not get any more of these lids, I tried to come up with a way of making something that would work in the same way. I have several heavy plastic telescoping lids that I really like but have not been able to get more of either. What I came up with was an estimate that the red ‘window’ opening would be approximately 12” X 12”. I ordered translucent red plexiglass on Amazon, then I proceeded to cut out an 11 X 11” hole in a couple of the lids.
“I started using the homemade red lids last year on some hives that we were seeing high concentrations of beetles, and it seems to be working. In 2 to 3 weeks they pretty much disappear. I am sorry the company that made the original lids is no longer around, but I would say their idea works.
“I have run out of the plastic lids to modify, and have done one along the same principle with a wooden lid with tin/aluminum top cover and it seems to be working. Make sure the caulking surrounds the screws to keep rain from penetrating and ruining the plywood lid.”
Thanks, Joe, for the idea, the photos, and all the tips. If anyone has questions, be sure to write. Also, let me know if you try this and how well it worked.
Honey Bee Suite
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I have not had hive beetles in my hives. I am impressed that different parts of the visible light Sprectum would have such a positive effect.
This is a great idea and a very cost effective non-chemical method for beekeepers.
It was a pleasure to read this article.
We’ve been building a Valkyrie with two SHB entrances as an option. It’s offered whenever we are shipping to the southern states, and it was a couple of beeks from Georgia that alerted us to this problem. The entrances are red plastic and curved– hooded, you could say. I was also told that SHB is wreaking havoc in your area, Washington State. I didn’t think they could survive the Pacific NW winters? There’s a SHB video on our YouTube channel, but remember, Speilberg wasn’t available so don’t laugh too loudly.
Thanks so much for this article. I’ll use Joe’s idea if needed!
The entrance is called a Guardian SHB entrance. Works great for reducing the SHB in our hives here in Georgia. The trick is you have to seal off all other possible cracks or possible entrance points around the hive boxes otherwise the SHB will find another way to crawl in. I have the Guardian entrance on all 4 of my hives and use the Miller Beetle Jail for catching those that do get inside the hives.
Very timely & helpful article. Hive beetles are really bad this year and traps are not working. This is something I will try. Mites are way down, beetles are way up. Thanks so much.
Does it effect the bees in anyway?
Most bees, including honey bees, don’t see red light at all. It just appears as darkness to them, so the red plexiglass should not affect them in any way. Other creatures, like the mites, shy away from red light, which is a lucky coincidence for beekeepers.
Very interesting article! I’m dealing with SHB here in western Maryland right now and just might try this. Something I didn’t see mention of was an inner cover. Since I assume the red spectrum of light shining upon the frames is crucial, I also assume this is to be used without an inner cover. How do you maintain ventilation with this type of setup, and does it also address the SHB in the brood frames within the lower deep?
Maybe Joe will chime in and say how he handles ventilation in Texas. However, just briefly, I can imagine several ways to add ventilation without interfering with the red light. One way would be to use screened inner covers that would not impede the light. Another way would be to use an Imirie shim with openings that would improve airflow through the hive. In a similar fashion, you could drill a hole in each of the uppermost boxes and screen them from the inside to protect the colony from robbing bees and predators. You can use plastic plugs to close them in the winter.
All, I love the idea of this modification to the outer cover but am wondering what the effect of leaving off the inner cover would be? It would certainly allow the light to travel downward through some of the hive but would the bees then cover it with propolis or put wacky comb in the space where the inner cover was?
I haven’t used an inner cover since my first year of beekeeping. Most commercial beekeepers don’t use them either, so I can’t imagine it makes any difference.
Thanks, Rusty. We never understood the purpose of them anyway as the bees always propolize them, and sometimes it’s a struggle to get them off. I will give that a try.
In Texas, it is plenty HOT all summer. I use screened inner covers for ventilation. They propolize if they get too drafty (some do, some don’t, and they won’t tell me why).
I tried Joe’s solution to the SHB problem and it worked! My hives in southern NJ were overloaded with those miserable pests and I had tried beetle traps and swiffer pads with little success. It was August when I saw the post and made the red plastic outer covers. I put a screened inner cover on one hive and an imrie shim on another – both worked well. Next year I will put these covers on earlier, once the trees are shading the hives. Thanks Joe and thanks Rusty!!!
I’m so happy to hear it worked. Many other beekeepers have reported the same.
I have used the red hive cover – I didn’t have that many SHBs, so wasn’t sure how well it worked. The flimsy part I totally get. My local club’s yard gets shade in the afternoon, so after being reminded by your post that the red light works, I did just a bit of research and found a study that identified 630nm as the wavelength that works best. Unfortunately, the companies that sell plexi don’t include the wavelength properties in their descriptions. I’m guessing darker is better than lighter. Maureen
Thank you. Good to know the effective wavelengths. I wonder if there’s an economical way to measure that.
Maybe ask Etienne Tardiff? Etienne measures everything!
This was so very helpful. I am a 4-H volunteer in Kentucky and our indoor observation hive was invaded by these little buggers last season. We already have plexiglass on both sides of our hive for viewing purposes, but I wonder if, instead of ordering new plexiglass, some transparent/translucent red window film or vinyl would have the same effect. Anyone have any opinions?
In my opinion, red film should work. We’ll see what others think.