One of the ongoing questions is about maintaining the area under your hives and also around your hives. We know that Hive Beetles pupate in the dirt under and around the hives so having something that will deter them from successfully pupating is a way to help the hive. You also want something that is easy to maintain. Weeds and grasses growing up under the hives and in front of the hives can be a problem for the bees. So what to do?
Here are some some suggestions and my experience with some of these ideas.
Old carpet. Many beekeepers use some kind of old carpet under their hives as a means to control weeds and grass. The carpet lets rain get through into the ground and is pretty good at keeping the area around the bees clear. It won’t keep small hive beetle larvae from successfully pupating though, so you’ll need to consider other controls with this method. I don’t know if this will be effective, but you might try a nice layer of diatomaceous earth under the carpet. And I also recommend nematodes for control.
Plastic garden fabric. Again, this is good for keeping weeds and grasses from growing up but will not deter the hive beetles from successfully getting through or around on their way to pupating in the dirt. They can find their ways through really small holes and can travel a long distance. So like the carpet idea, you might try adding some other preventions to this idea. Here’s an interesting youtube videos about the cunning of the small hive beetle larvae.
Cardboard. I use cardboard and other things under my hives to try to help control grasses and weeds. It helps but I also end up using a weed whacker a few times a year. The bees don’t mind the weed whacker. The sound is not a problem and there’s generally not much vibration so as long as I’m quick to move through their landing strip, they are fine. I use nematodes so the very few hive beetles that get in my hives can easily get to dirt but thankfully, my nematodes take care of them there.
Mulch & Wood Chips. Again, this helps so you don’t need a lot of maintenance. See cardboard above for more explanation.
Pavers or Gravel. Some folks put down pavers or plastic cloth with gravel on top. This works well for weeds and grass but as with the plastic and carpet mentioned above, you do need to still control the small hive beetle.
Spraying to kill grass and weeds. I’ve used vinegar and salt to help control the grass and weed. It doesn’t kill it, but it does help control it and it won’t hurt the bees. Using something like Roundup isn’t recommended. The absolutely worst case of hive beetles I’ve had was when the farm I had bees on sprayed Roundup on the plants in front of my hive. I don’t know why this precipitated a bloom of hive beetles but it may have had to do with the fact that the bees were affected and not able to manage their space as well.
Have you figured out ways to keep grass and weeds from infringing on your hives? Let us know in the comments below.