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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 19th year of beekeeping in April 2024. 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.Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Disappointing Day - Difficult Start to the Bee Year

Today it was finally an OK day weather-wise to check on the hives at my old house.  It was a deeply disappointing day.

First I checked on what we have called the swarm hive since we got a swarm in Dallas, GA for it originally.  I knew it was a dead hive so this was an autopsy while I waited for the temperature to move from 48 to 50.  I opened the hive and found that the first two medium boxes held eight frames each of capped honey that was in great shape.  The next box also had about half frames of honey.  But there were no bees anywhere.  No starved bees, no bees.

On the slatted rack I found a ton of dead small hive beetles.  I guess they planned on staying in the warmth of the cluster all winter and when there were no bees, they just died.  Amazingly, none of the honey was slimed in SHB fashion.  It was all untouched.

There were no bee bodies in the hive and on the screened bottom board were just a few.

I packed all of the hive into my car.  I'll use one of the boxes of honey to demonstrate crush and strain when I give a talk on how to do that at the Forsyth Beekeepers on March 28.  The top box of honey I held back to put on one of the two live hives.

That hive had plenty of bees but felt really light.  I put the full box as the top box in this hive configuration.  There were a number of bees in the top box that I took off so since it only had one frame of honey still left (and that was only a partial frame), I put that box (with bees in it) over the inner cover so the bees would have access to that honey but it would not be the box they would rely on.

Then I opened Five Alive - it wasn't (alive that is).  There was not a bee in the hive, just like the swarm hive.  There were boxes of honey on it as well - at least 2 1/2, but I didn't have room in my car and needed to get back to the office (I have a real job when I'm not beekeeping!).  There were some dead bees on the SBB, but just a handful.

I'll go back over there and get that equipment and the honey.  I'll probably share those frames of honey with other hives that need feeding.

This is really strange.  I found the Stonehurst hives the other day sparse on bees with tons of honey (2 supers).  Today these two hives had NO bees - no brood, no nothing, but plenty of honey.  What could have happened to them?

Then I drove over to Chastain Conservancy to check on the swarm that Julia had installed in my hive over there on Friday.  There were no bees.  The swarm had not liked their new digs and had left.  A tiny cluster about the size of the palm of my hand were left in a top box - probably they were out foraging when the swarm left.  It was funny.  There were dead bees on the landing as if they had settled in and were carrying out the dead, but not a sign of the swarm.

Meanwhile at home, the drone layer hive is flying like mad, carrying in pollen like mad, but has got a queen who isn't worth blowing up.

I do have empty basic hives everywhere some hive has died in hopes of attracting a swarm.  It is hard to hear of my friends who use oxalic acid, feed their hives, wrap them for our non-winter and have thriving bees while I am trying to go without poison, etc. and my bees are doing badly.

What a day!  Thought I'd report and go to bed....discouraged with this start of the year.


  1. Max F9:51 AM

    Don't mean to kick you when you're down - obvoiusly you are upset and want your bees to survive and bee successful. That's a good thing!

    “Let the bees be bees” Really?


  2. Linda, I'm so sorry to hear of your dead-outs. I know how discouraging that is.

    If you find any dead brood in the frames and it is obvious the hive did not die of starvation (no dead bees head down in frames and no honey within cluster reach), send a sample of it to the ARS Beltsville (MD) lab for analysis. They have instructions on how to prepare and mail samples on their web site. In addition to brood, they may be able to check out what happened with the dead bees on the bottom board. I'm not sure if they can analyze empty comb; check their guidelines.

    In the past I've had a really helpful Beltsville analyst call me to discuss his findings, as well as sending the formal report. In my case I had sacbrood (which I guessed, but wasn't sure) that contributed to their loss, along with varroa. (Sacbrood affects both native and honey bees in the spring; researchers have found it spreads through different infected species vising the same flowers.)

    I hope you can find out whether you have a common cause going on in these mysterious dead-outs so that you can take preventive steps. Without knowing the cause it may be risky to feed leftover honey to survivor hives. Beltsville can give you good advice and also advise you on whether/how to disinfect the woodenware before reuse.

  3. Thank you - I'll check their website. I agree about the caution feeding the honey to any other hive. There was no brood dead or otherwise in either hive. All the brood frames were completely empty. There were no heads down starved bees - I have certainly seen that before. Just no bees except for the dead ones on the bottom board. I imagine they died of varroa vectored illness but the lack of brood and bodies bothers me.

  4. I have to give a talk on how to do crush and strain honey harvest on the 28th so I'm going to use the honey in the supers to demonstrate for the talk - at least it can be useful in that way!

  5. Just to be clear, Max F, I don't neglect my bees - I am constantly interrupting the brood cycle by splitting or using powdered sugar, although Jennifer Berry now says it is an ineffective way to go. The best course I think is to take hives that have survived the winter and split them, but so far I haven't had enough do that to have measurable success. I do know any number of beekeepers who do not use any "treatments" in their hives: Jennifer Berry, Bill Owens, Carl Webb (OK, all of his bees are Russians), Michael Bush, Carl Chesick, and I would like to follow their lead.

  6. I did put that one super on the hive at the old house....hope I didn't kill one of my few winter surviving hives.

  7. Linda,

    I'm sorry for your loss. I found one of my two hives dead today with similar circumstances. There were bees taking pollen into the hive just a few days ago. Is it possible that they just lost their queen? I did have some hive beetles, but I don't see any slime in the honey.

    My strong hive just a few feet away the bees are checking the empty one out already. Do you think I should destroy the honey?

    I really appreciate your blog; you are very helpful to this new beekeeper!


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