Rearing Procedure Rearing Procedure

The rearing procedure is summarized in Table 1.

  1. Conduct all laboratory manipulations with adult SHBs under a screened insect cage to prevent adult escape.
  2. Place 25 sexually mature adult pairs (see section 3.1.3.) into a 3 l plastic mating container with ~400 g of SHB diet. No other substrate, including wax comb or water should be placed in a mating container, because the inclusion of additional materials makes future larval collection difficult. Each container should be fitted with a lid ventilated with tiny holes.
  3. The mating containers should be kept at 25°C, >80% humidity with no light in incubators for 14 days to promote SHB reproduction and oviposition.
    A high relative humidity is needed because SHB egg hatch rate is positively correlated with humidity (Jeff Pettis, unpublished data cited in Somerville, 2003).
  4. Following the 2 week oviposition period, remove the adult beetles from the old diet with an aspirator, leaving the SHB eggs and larvae behind.
  5. Transfer the adults in a new mating container with 400 g of beetle diet to continue the rearing program.
    SHB diet should not be reused because old diet supports mould and fungus growth and may promote increased mortality in SHB larvae and pupae.
  6. Move the mating containers from which the adult SHBs were removed (they contain old diet, eggs, and developing larvae) to a second incubator for 2 weeks under similar conditions.
    Larvae are thus allowed additional time to develop in the absence of adult beetles.
  7. Following the 2 week larval growth period, place the larvae and food opposite of a hole (~5 cm) cut into the bottom at the far end of a tray that has raised [2 cm] ridges spaced 5-8 cm apart that run the width of the tray.
    Larvae developing on the recommended beetle diet are not sticky and are unable to crawl up the tray walls (= dry rearing approach; Neumann and Härtel, 2004). Any moisture added at this part of the procedure permits larvae to escape the tray.
  8. Post-feeding mature larvae (wandering stage, Lundie, 1940) become positively phototactic, wander away from the diet in search of soil and fall through the hole on the opposite end of the tray. The ridges in the tray prevent the beetle diet from spreading over the tray and falling down the hole.
  9. Place a second walled tray (same dimensions as aluminium tray) under the hole of the first to collect the falling wandering larvae.
  10. Maintain the trays at 25°C, ~40% humidity, and no light for 5 days.
    Placement of the larvae trays in a dark room encourages the larvae to crawl away from the diet when finished feeding. This takes advantage of a biological characteristic of the larvae, which normally leave bee colonies during the night. The larvae will remain hidden in the diet if maintained under constant light.
  11. Collect the wandering larvae daily from the bottom tray as long as they are observed wandering from the food (usually up to 4 days).
    Collected larvae are ready to pupate in the soil.
  12. To facilitate pupation, half fill cylindrical plastic containers (pupation containers, 25.5 cm height, 15 cm diameter, 3.7 l capacity) with ~1.75 l sandy autoclaved soil (see section that is ≥ 10% moisture by mass.
  13. Add about 2,000 wandering larvae (~80 ml larvae at 25 larvae/ml) to a pupation container and bury the larvae with ~1.75 l additional moist sand.
    This number of individuals added to the chamber seems to create an optimal density of pupae in the volume of sand used (approximately 1.9 ml soil/pupa). If too many larvae are added, those that cannot create pupation chambers will crawl back to the surface and wander the soil in an attempt to leave the container.
  14. The pupation containers should be maintained at 25°C, > 80% humidity and constant light for 1 week, followed by constant darkness for 13d, until the adults begin emerging.

    Notes for pupation containers:
    • Use sandy soils when rearing SHBs because sand is easier to sift through to expose and recover buried adult SHBs if necessary. Most soil types will work; sand is easier to use. See Ellis et al. (2004c) for details.
    • Soil should be discarded after one use or sterilized since there often is an increase in pupal mortality when unsterilized soil is reused.
    • Never rely on wandering larvae to bury themselves naturally. If put on top of the soil, some larvae may not burrow into the ground for more than 2 weeks, thus widening the range of adult emergence. Manually-buried larvae emerge in a much narrower time period. Larvae will remain buried if the pupation containers are exposed to constant light. Wandering larvae may crawl to the soil surface if the containers are put in a dark room, thus widening the time range of adult emergence.
    • Container depth (rather than width) appears to be important to pupation success.

  15. Twenty days after burying the larvae in the pupation containers, fit the pupation containers with an inverted, similar container (adult beetle funnel trap) with a funnel pointing up into the mouth of the top container (Fig. 8).
    The adult trap should be ventilated.
  16. Loosely cover the funnel hole with a small strip of nylon mesh (1 × 3 cm) that can be secured with tape.
    Adult beetles emerging from the soil crawl through the funnel into the top container where they are unable to go back down. The nylon mesh discourages the adults from returning to the pupation container once they have entered the top container.
  17. Spray a 1:1 mixture (by volume) of honey/water with a hand-held pump sprayer through the ventilation holes into the container to feed the emerging adults.
    Spray enough honey water to wet the side walls of the containers but not too much to promote pooling of the honey water on the bottom of the container.
  18. Maintain the adults at 25°C and > 80% humidity under full light. The light encourages adults to move into the top container.
  19. After 2-5 days, more than 80% of the emerging adult SHBs will be present in the top container. At this time, remove the funnel from the top container, invert the adult trap, and securely fasten its lid.
    Since adult SHBs often remain underneath the soil surface without emerging (up to 35 days, Muerrle and Neumann, 2004), they can be sifted out of the sand and collected using an aspirator. Adult SHBs can be kept alive in these containers for more than 8 weeks by feeding them 1:1 honey water with a sprayer as previously described (see step 17).

Note: Since buried adult SHB can sexually mature before emergence, adult SHBs may mate before emergence from the soil or before they are collected. Thus, rearing programs aimed at unmated adults should use the individual rearing approaches described below.

Table 1. Summary of SHB mass rearing procedure.



Maintained at:



 50 adult SHB with 400 g diet in a plastic container (~3 l volume)

25°C, no light, > 80% humidity

2 weeks


Remove adults from container; SHB eggs, larvae, and food present

25°C, no light, > 80% humidity

2 weeks


Mature larvae + food placed on ridged tray (e.g.: 45 × 35 × 6 cm, l × w × h with 4 ridges 8 cm apart running the width of the tray)

25°C, no light, humidity needs to be high enough to keep larvae from desiccating

>99% larvae will leave the food <5 d and can be collected


80 ml mature larvae added on top of ~1.75 l sandy soil in a plastic container (25.5 cm height, 15 cm diameter, 3.7 l capacity); add another ~1.75 l sand to burry larvae

25°C, constant light for 1 week, then no light

20 d


Place funnel trap on pupation container

25°C, >80% humidity, full light

In 2-5 d, >80% of adults will be in top container


Remove funnel from trap and store adult SHB in top container

25°C, >80% humidity, light optional

Adults will survive 8+ weeks. Adult mortality will increase over time


Fig. 8. Small hive beetle pupation chamber with an adult beetle funnel trap fitted on top. There is an inverted funnel in the middle that beetles from the pupation chamber (container with soil) crawl through to access the adult chamber (top). The adults can be fed with honey water that is sprayed through the ventilation holes in the upper container. Photo: James Ellis.

12106VD revised Fig8