For the past 6 years of beekeeping, small hive beetles have been a minor pest, on which I would use a small hand vacuum to suck out the 5 to 15 hive beetles I would find when I did a bi or tri-weekly hive inspection. But this past summer, in late June, following a cool, wet spring, I went from a hive inspection discovering the usual 6 to 12 beetles in each of my 3 hives, to coming back two weeks later to find three absconded hives with 100’s of beetles and their larvae in a slimy mess of collapsed honeycomb.
At the same time the local bumblebee and yellow jacket populations took a dive and both were no shows for the rest of the summer. Bumblebees were almost nonexistent on the squash flowers for the rest of the summer, but made a slight recovery in late fall with about half dozen seen on the fall camellias. But yellow jackets and honeybees remained rare with only 4 yellow jackets and 6 honeybees seen all fall, a time where I would normally see dozens of yellow jackets around the hummingbird feeders and dozens of honeybees on the fall asters and goldenrod. This spring, on our first 75 degree F day with the henbit and dead nettle in bloom, there was not a single honeybee to be seen.
So it looks like when environmental conditions are optimum for beetle reproduction, they can buildup to numbers that can invade, overwhelm, and destroy even a strong colony in a matter of a week or two and also invade the underground nests of our native bumblebees and yellow jackets, but don’t bother the arboreal nests of paper wasps or bald faced hornets.