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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 18th year of beekeeping in April 2023. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a
Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Monday, March 07, 2011

Wings and the Bee

Today on Beemaster there is a discussion of k-wing virus in the bees.   When we open our hives in the spring, we are first hoping to find the hive alive.  If it's not alive or struggling, then the beekeeper wants to know what's wrong.

A hive may have starved to death.  Frequently this is why a hive has died.  The bees got too cold and the cluster could not move to where the honey was stored.

A struggling hive may have bees with various diseases.  The k-wing virus refers to a viral caused problem with the bee's wings.  The bee wing is made in two sections which are held together with hamuli (tiny hooks).  When a bee is infected with k-wing, the hamuli no longer hold the two wing sections together and the wing looks like the letter "K"  Below is a picture I found on the Internet taken by Danny Jensen:

You can see that the bee's wings are not connected.  This is a bee that cannot fly.

I've had examples in my own hives in other years, but couldn't find a picture as good as this one.

You also may find bees with deformed wing virus.  The bee emerges with shriveled, useless wings.  This is a different disease from k-wing and looks like this:

Being able to fly is essential to the community of the beehive.  If the bees are unable to fly, they are useless to the hive and the hive will fail to thrive.

In the normal life of the bee, the wings are essential for survival.  Old bees have ragged tips on their wings and seeing a bee with such wings on a flower in the summer, lets the observer know that she is almost at the end of her useful life.

Randy Oliver has an interesting article on "Old Bees"  in which he notes that the bees have a 500 mile warranty on their wings.  They wear out at about that point on average and the bee's useful life is then over.  So even if they aren't impaired with disease as in the photos above, when the foraging bee has flown her 500 miles, she's done.


  1. If your hive doesn't make it through the winter, and you suspect K-wing, Can you re-use the equipment? The comb? The frames? The hive bodies?

  2. Yes, you can re-use everything. American Foulbrood is a different story - in that case, you burn the hive and all equipment. K-wing is vectored by (*I've seen both answers on the Internet) mites - either trachael or varroa. They live in/on the bee and not the equipment.

  3. Anonymous10:42 PM

    Once a friend of mine found a virgin queen next to his beehive. I think the workers may have kicked her out of the nest. I took her in and raised it for a while and she laid eggs in the cut straws which I used to simulate honeycomb (no drones emerged, though. the nurses I provided gave the larvae some Royal Jelly and food but to no avail). Sadly, she died. I was surprised, because I hand fed her LOTS of sugar water (She eventually came up to me when she saw the toothpick of sugar water) and added pollen + honey to the fake honeycomb. Would she have died anyway? Since I keep ant colonies (with queen) I may have raised her too much like an ant.
    Also, I'm pretty sure she was a queen. She stung my friend 4 times and her stinger didn't come out. She also never tried to forage and was larger than the five nurses I provided.


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