The adult beetle is about 5-7 mm long, 2.5-3.5 mm wide, light in colour after hatching, which can range to brown-blackish as it ages. The larva is up to 1 cm long, creamy-white, has three pairs of legs and two rows of bristles on its back.
Its eggs are about 2/3 the size of bee eggs and are deposited in little piles or individually in cracks.
The small hive beetle has its origins in sub-Saharan Africa and is a member of the sap beetle family. It has also been discovered in Central and North America, Australia and, most recently, in Europe. Adult beetles live in bee colonies, but can also survive outside the hive. Unlike varroa mites, the small hive beetle does not depend on bees as a means of transport, but can fly itself for at least 10 km to seek out a bee colony. Once the beetle has infiltrated the colony, the female lays masses of eggs at irregular periods. The larvae hatch and feed on the bee brood, pollen supplies and honey. Once the larvae have finished growing, they leave the colony and pupate in the soil near the hive. One to six generations of beetles can be born during the year, depending on the climate. Adult beetles can hibernate inside the winter cluster, thus, surviving in colder regions (e.g. the USA, Canada).