top of page
Wooden Board

Pests & Predators & Safe Pesticides

Small Hive Beetle (Aethina Tumida)

A small, invasive beetle originally from Africa that infests colonies, eating brood, pollen and honey, destroying comb and causing honey to ferment. Without control, infestation leads to colony death.

The beetle has been spread to the USA and Hawaii, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Jamaica and Cuba.  In 2004, SHB was introduced to Portugal in a consignment of queens from Texas, but was rapidly detected and irradicated, the first known presence on mainland Europe.

SHB has now been detected in southern Italy, increasing the risk of transfer to the U.K in imported bee packages and batches of queens.

What can U.K Beekeepers and associations do to help?

  • Encourage association member not to import bees or queens. Ideally, don’t import bees or queens at all, especially not from known infected regions.

  • Do not allow imported bees to be housed on association apiaries as these often have higher hive densities.

  • Encourage beekeepers to source local bees.

  • Encourage active queen rearers in the association to make queens available to association members who would otherwise purchase imported queens. Allow free adverts in your newsletter/on your website.

  • Provide lists of local queen and nuc suppliers.

  • Start a queen rearing group so association members become more self-sufficient. Locally bred queens are likely to be better suited to local conditions.

  • Encourage beginners on winter beekeeping courses to source local bees from association members rather than purchasing them from an unknown source. They might have to wait a few extra weeks but they can get some experience with their mentor during this time and will be much better prepared when the nuc is ready.

  • Overwinter 5 frame nucs for use or sale in the spring. 

  • Watch the excellent talk that Michael Palmer gave at the National Honey Show in 2013 on The Sustainable Apiary.

  • Encourage your national beekeeping association (BBKASBAWBKA) to take a pro-active stance to limit the chances of the beetle being imported.

  • Monitor colonies using Correx SHB traps on a regular basis.

Wax Moth - Originally written by Dave Cushman. Edited by Roger Patterson

Wax moth are not parasites or predators of bees, but they are a nuisance to beekeepers as they destroy comb that is not cared for, either by the bees or in storage. Both Lesser and Greater Wax Moth will destroy combs that aren't looked after. There are areas of the U.K. where they seem to be little problem.


Lesser Wax Moth Achroia grisella does attack unused comb, although it prefers comb that has had brood in. I have seen super combs that have been stored for some time that have been destroyed. Rotating supers, so what hasn't been on the bees one year are first on the next will adequately deal with it.

Greater Wax Moth Galleria mellonella in my experience does far more damage than lesser wax moth. It's larvae are so voracious and numerous that they can wreak massive damage in a short time, especially in warm weather. The lasting damage to hive woodwork is also much more severe than for the lesser species.

The debris has an unpleasant smell, cleaning up the damage takes valuable time and the wax itself is lost as a product.


In a natural nest wax moth perform a very useful function. When a colony dies out and the nest is not occupied immediately by a new swarm, wax moth will quickly destroy the combs, leaving a clean cavity for a new swarm to build a new nest. If the colony that died out was diseased the infection would be destroyed.

Beekeepers often consider the wax moth a nuisance. In stored brood combs they can quickly destroy combs. In a colony the lesser wax moth is no problem, but the larvae of the greater wax moth can tunnel under brood cappings, which shows in a white line. These result in what is called bald brood. In general wax moths are only a big problem in weak colonies, or those that are neglected.

The links above left will give you a good idea of how to deal with them, but do not expect to be able to eliminate them entirely, however by observing hygiene and being vigilant you will reduce the damage that they cause to an acceptable level. Those beekeepers who claim that wax moth will kill colonies are probably trying to cover up their own miss-management. Strong, well managed colonies will themselves do most of the work required to limit the pest.

Vital Role of Wasps

Wasps are important to the environment. Social wasps are predators and play a vital ecological role, controlling the numbers of potential pests such as greenfly and many caterpillars. It has been estimated that social wasps of the UK might account for 14 million kilograms of insect prey across the summer. A world without wasps would be a world with a very much larger number of insect pests on our crops and gardens.

 As well as being voracious and ecologically important predators, wasps are increasingly recognised as valuable pollinators, transferring pollen as they visit flowers to drink nectar. It is actually their thirst for sweet liquids that helps to explain why they become so bothersome at this time of year.


Towards the end of summer and in early autumn, wasps can become more of a problem, not only to humans, but to the general bee population as well. There are six species of wasp in the United Kingdom that could cause serious problems for bees and these include the common wasp, the German wasp and the European hornet. Their respective nests can be found in trees, shrubs, hedges, underground and in many cases human properties.

Some years have a dramatic increase in the number of nests and wasps and some beekeepers have a much higher incidence of wasps in their apiaries.


The original wasp queen dies and the new queens leave to prepare for the next season. The wasp workers, who have been receiving sugary secretion from the wasp larvae, will now go out and search for sweet food sources, including fruit, food and drink on patios, sweet tree sap beehives for honey.


Wasps will take dead bees for food during the summer months, but during this phase of “sweet feeding” they may attack live bees and hives in search of honey. Any weaker bee colonies may quickly fall victim and be unable to defend themselves from the onslaught of robbing wasps.


Wasps are much disliked, but in fact have no greater propensity to sting than does a bee. Their nests are made from paper that they prepare by chewing fibres from old wood. Wasps are actually quite beneficial to gardeners as each wasp nest will consume about 110,000 caterpillars and grubs during the early part of the season - on the other hand, they can destroy fruit.

Discouraging Wasps

Consider providing a distraction to keep wasps away from a hive or add a wasp-proof entrance block, such as a 'Wasp-out'.

If the problem is extreme, a traditional trap of a jam jar with a pencil sized hole, partly filled with water and placed about 30 feet from the hive will capture wasps.


If care isn't taken, mice can be a major problem to the beekeeper. They will readily enter an occupied hive in winter where they will make a nest. They will destroy some of the combs and may cause so much disruption to the colony that it dies. Mice will also make a nest in stored equipment if not made mouse proof.


When bees are active they will deter mice themselves, but when they start to cluster on cold days in the autumn mice will seek entry. Mice are unable to get through a narrow gap of less than 8-9mm, so some physical form of denying them entry works. If you have a deep floor you will need to restrict the entrance in some way. This could be a flat metal mouse guard with holes in as sold by appliance dealers or an entrance block with a shallow entrance. I use shallow floors that prevent entry of mice.


When making entrance blocks or shallow floors a pencil can be used to size the gap, as I have never found a mouse will enter a gap so small. I don't like making mouse guards from queen excluder because a large amount of pollen is scraped off the legs of the bees.


Equipment that is stored needs to be protected, either by putting it in a mouse proof container, or if it is boxes of combs stack the boxes up with no gaps and put a queen excluder top and bottom. Although equipment may not always cost much it is valuable when you need it and can't use it. The careful beekeeper will make sure that mice aren't a problem.

Roger Patterson/David Cushman

Asian Hornet Nest

By Francis ITHURBURU - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Asian Hornet (Vespa Velutina)

Otherwise known as the yellow-legged hornet. Native to Asia, with the first appearance in Europe in France in 2004, thought to be imported in a consignment of pottery from China and rapidly spreading across many regions of France.

In 2016, the hornet was sighted in the UK, in Tetbury. After a 10 day intensive search, the nest was found and destroyed. A single hornet found in a bait trap in North Somerset was confirmed to be from the same genetic population as those found in France.

The Asian hornet is smaller than the European hornet.





















The queen emerges in spring, following a period of hibernation, usually measuring around 30mm/3cm and will search for a sugar source and begin building a small nest. At this stage the queen is solitary and will rapidly begin laying eggs to produce workers. The small nest is enlarged as needed or a new site is found.


A single colony will produce 6,000 hornets in one season. Predation on honeybee colonies will commence in July and increase until the end of November.

The picture below shows other insects that may be confused with the Asian Hornet.

bottom of page