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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Analyzing the Dead Hive - Why did they die?

Today in the icy weather I opened up the dead hive to see what the situation appeared to be. There were a pile of dead bees on the slatted rack landing area. There were tons of dead bees on the screened bottom board. In a hive that has starved, generally the bees all die together with their heads down in the last cells where honey was found.

This hive died with two full boxes of stored syrup. There were about 30 bees head down in a frame but the rest were dead all over the hive. Most of the bodies are on the slatted rack and screened bottom board.

If you look carefully at these pictures, you'll see lots of dead hive beetles in with the bees. The SHBs can't stay alive without the heat from the bees.

You'll also see that most of the dead bees have their proboscis (their tongue) sticking out. Bees do this in starvation, but seeing them on the bottom board with their tongues out seems strange to me. Also a number of these bees have varroa mites on their bodies. I don't know if they are dead from a varroa vectored problem or from starvation or did they freeze to death?

Note: beneath the screened bottom board is the tray from the Freeman beetle trap - lots of dead beetles there too. However the hive is not destroyed by the beetle....there are just a lot of bodies around.

I'd be interested in any theories anyone would like to offer.

I sifted through the bodies and did not find a queen. That doesn't mean she wasn't there - I just didn't find her. Although this hive may have died because they were queenless. There are a lot of dead bees between the frames front edge and the front wall of the hive box and I didn't go through those.

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  1. aww I think that's sad

  2. You might want to check the frames and see if they were slimed at all by SHB. The bees would not eat the honey near those that were slimed. Also check to see if the cells have tons of SHB egg clusters.

    There do seem to be a lot of varroa for the number of bees on the SBB... But I didn't see any deformed wing virus or K wings....

    Were there are large numbers of the bees dead head first in cells? They might not have been able to get to food and starved/froze with this crazy weather. That would be my first bet.

  3. Sorry to hear about this, and it has been a crazy winter for cold weather here in the south. I sure don't know anything about bees so I can offer no thoughts on what happened.

  4. Anonymous10:08 AM

    The age structure of the bees.

  5. Not sure but it sounds like a combo of all things. I'm really sold on the bee cozy after hearing of lots of losses since this last cold snap. I believe they are $25 each. I have noticed a increased amount of stores since they didn't have to work as hard to stay warm. Sugar isn't cheap and I think that it paid for it's self just in not having to feed as much.

  6. First of all, I am sorry. It is a sad day whenever a hive is lost, especially one you were able to bring along this far. I am glad that you are still working with it by taking a look at the evidence, and using the discussion as a learning experience for us all.

    I've had a hive die out just this year under circumstances that never seemed clear, so take all that follows with as much doubt as you can muster.

    It seemed that most of the bees were young -- they don't show much wear on their thoraxes. I think your queen was doing pretty well. Would you expect to see brood in your neck of the woods by the time this one died? I would want to have a look if so.

    I concur on the probosces. Personally, I wonder if there was a toxicity event. Was the syrup capped? Could it have fermented? Is it possible that the girls socked away some compromised nectar last fall, and that they just tapped it? I do not ask this seriously: any HFCS that could be bad (other beekeepers need to know that this is a possible result of a bad batch).

    The slime from SHB, as an earlier commenter wrote, might have given them a more limited selection of stores.

    Was there any evidence of dysentery on the front or inside of the boxes? If so, that points to a potential bad/contaminated food issue, too.

    Hope something of this was useful, and that you start up a new colony soon.

  7. I had one just like that...a whole super of honey above. It died sometime in January. It had some bees left on the 15th of Jan., but none last week. The colony was one of three swarms I had in my yard, two of which I captured. I could not determine the heritage of either, but the one soon out performed all 16 colonies I had. It built more comb faster in spite of the weather and made more honey. It was one of seven I moved 60 miles north and was the only one to give me some Sourwood. It was clearly the more vigorous hive I had and largest in numbers of bees (and beetles!). I think the varroa did them in directly. Better weather might have let me powder them in December to counter them.

  8. I am so sorry about the loss of your hive. I would be devastated and dread the day that happens to me. I've really enjoyed reading your blog and am looking forward to trying the solar wax melter and making soap and cosmetics this year. I hope you find out what caused the demise of your hive so you can prevent any future losses.

  9. Anonymous8:20 AM


    Had the very same thing happen to me here in Tn. with very strong hive going into winter. What does Delaplane think about your problem?
    Keep up the good work!

  10. Hi Linda,

    So sorry this happened to you. I have been wanting to get started with beekeeping, but my bee-keeping buddy who lives nearby just had his two hives die and his neighbors hives too.

    I'm sure it's so frustrating (and expensive) to lose your entire colony...makes me nervous about starting out. I'm trying to look into organic methods, like Perone, Top Bar, Warre hives, etc. It just seems like this colony death is an incredibly widespread problem... ;(

  11. Anonymous1:12 PM

    I had 20 or 30 honey bees in my garden at all times-now there was 1 honey bee- today and I cheered-- everyday I have 1 or no honey bees--usually no honey bees are in evidence.i know about the verrona mites, but I have never used any insecticide-and I remember that human are supposed to die off 4 years after the bees.

  12. My hive is still very much alive but many of the dead bees have there tongues sticking out?


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