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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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Saturday, May 23, 2020

Pesticide Kill at one of my hives

I knew what had happened as I walked up the hill to the community garden. The smell was overwhelming and meant only one thing. I was going to find a pile of dead bees in front of one or all of my hives.

The UGA extension website has an article on The Effect of Pesticides on Bees.

The article suggests that either the hive will survive on its own without the beekeeper's help, or that I should take out the combs of pollen and wash them all out. I wouldn't begin to attempt that since most of my pollen is on brood frames and the hive is decimated as it is. So I will cross my fingers and hope for the first possibility to happen. If the poison is stored in pollen on the frames, the brood and bees will continue to die.

I videoed a drone, affected by the poison, trying to walk on my hand and trembling and unsure of himself:

The video ends abruptly when one of the men who comes to my virtual hive inspections drove up and we had a six-foot-apart discussion of the hive poisoning.

The article states that bees are affected by pesticides in several ways. If a bee were in the path of the spraying of mosquito poison that occurs all over Atlanta, she would die right there and not return to the hive. If the bee brings the pesticide back in the pollen or nectar she transports, then many, many bees will die. Some will die from contact with the pesticide brought back by the original ill-fated bee. More will die because she (the unintentional poison carrier) will tell her sisters where this marvelous source of nectar or pollen is and they will then go and be affected in the same way.

The effect of taking in all of this poison is seen/smelled by the shocked arriving beekeeper (me) because there will be a pile of thousands of dead bees in front of the hive:

The second photo is around the side of the hive. 

And the stench is unforgettable. It smells like very rotten garbage. I found this on Thursday, one week after my last visit to the garden on the previous Thursday. The only saving grace may have been the weather. The hive was fine at the last visit. We had good weather over some of that weekend. But then on Sunday night, Monday and all day Tuesday we had rain. The way these dead bees smelled meant to me that they had been in front of the hive for a few days. 

I expect that the rain interrupted the visits to the poisoned source and the rain may have also diluted the poison over the several days of it. 

There were still lots of bees in the hive. I barely opened it because they were suffering and I didn't want to make it worse, but in opening the hive, many of the bees were trembling and looking confused. The systemic damage is such that they are disoriented and palsied. I just wanted to cry.

I've only had pesticide kills in two hives - both at the community garden - separated by about four years. I did go back to this hive the next day and bees were still writhing on the ground, but there were lots of bees hanging on the robber screen who didn't appear palsied, and I saw a bee go into the hive with pollen on her legs which may mean the queen is still in there and laying. Cross your fingers! I certainly am.

However the UGA article does say that if the poison is in the pollen, nurse bees and brood will continue to die. This is a wait and see situation.

P.S. Today is Sunday, three days since I found the dead hive. I have just walked up to the hive. The smell is almost gone; the pile of bees does not appear to have grown. There are not as many bees on the front of the hive as in the photo I took (above) on Friday, but there were active bees and they didn't look like they were dying. I forgot my phone so don't have a photo.

At my next inspection of this colony, we will go down into the brood box to see how the growth of the hive is going, given the poison/pesticide event.

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