One of the challenges that beekeepers face is protecting hives from pests. We find that in August/September the number of pests tends to really ramp up.
Wax Moth (Galleria melonella)
How to recognize Wax moths: wax moth larvae can do considerable damage in a very short time. They tunnel through comb eating everything in their path. They leave silken threads wherever they go covering the entire frame in days. Once they pupate, their cocoons can easily be seen and they will tunnel into the wood slightly to build them. Typically, wax moths will attack empty supers that are unprotected or weak colonies.
How to eliminate wax moths: once a super/frame is covered in moth larvae you can try to scrape them back down to foundation. The only approved chemical treatment is paradichlorobenzene (PBD) crystals (urinal cakes). Place them only in empty supers and remove them to air out for several weeks before putting back on a hive. PBD crystals DO NOT kill the eggs to you will need to keep the treatment up for a couple weeks to eliminate them all. NEVER use mothballs - the chemical in moth balls remains in your wax and will transfer to your honey.
How to prevent wax moths: Keep empty supers in a dry cold location (winter) and when the temperatures are warm, keep empty supers/frames in a freezer. Another method is to lay supers with frames on their side and put a fan at one end to blow air through them constantly until temperature drop. For in colony, maintain a strong colony; combine weak colonies to prevent outbreaks. A strong colony will eliminate wax moths on their own; a weak hive is defenseless.
Small Hive Beetle (Athina tumida)
Small Hive Beetle larvae consume everything in the comb. They also defecate everywhere they go and this causes the stored honey to ferment and ooze out of the comb causing quite a mess. Eventually, the colony may abscond from the hive entirely.
How to eliminate SHB: Fortunately, SHB is currently restricted to the southeastern United States. However, it is probably just a matter of time until it finds its way across the country. The only chemical currently approved for the treatment of SHB is coumaphos (Checkmite+ strips). However, some beekeepers feel that treatments with mineral oil foggers and/or ascetic acid may also control this pest.
How to prevent SHB: The larvae of the SHB need to come outside of the hive and burrow into the ground to pupate. Keep your hive on top of a hard packed earth or possibly a concrete pad to prevent re-introduction into the hive. A strong colony will be able to keep the SHB under control; watch weak colonies. Kill any and all SHB that you encounter during routine inspections.
Varroa Mite (Varroa jacobsoni)
How to recognize Varroa mites: Varroa mites are small reddish/brown colored insects that feed off of the body fluids of adult bees as well as larvae. They are visible to the naked eye and are most easily seen on brood (especially drone brood). Another symptom of Varroa is the presence of "crawlers", bees whose wings are deformed and cannot fly (hence they crawl around). Varroa does not cause this disfigurement directly, instead they are a carrier for a virus that affects the bee while it is a larvae.
How to treat against Varroa: there are several methods to treat for varroa mites; a short list follows but you should research what other beekeepers are doing in your area to treat. You must learn to apply these correctly to prevent contamination of honey, and resistance development by the mites.
Vaporized mineral oil
How to prevent Varroa: just as there are several ways to treat for mites, there are several ways to prevent them. In some cases, the treatment and prevention methods are the same.
Screened bottom boards
Powdered sugar treatments
Drone brood removal
Small cell foundation
Queen bees with genetic behaviors to
reduce mite numbers.