I checked my hive yesterday for the second time this year and noticed some changes from 10 days ago. There are considerablly less bees and seven of them looked very old, with dark bodies and only sticks for wings. I looked close for mites but saw none.
There are three to four frames of capped brood, lots of pollen and honey stores. My queen is alive and well. I have also noticed few, very few, foraging bees as compared to two weeks ago.
My question is this: Is what I am seeing just the winter die off or do I need to look closer??
Other than the above, the hive seems healthy.
This is the time of year I expect the population to be low from winter, but it should not be sinking lower, it should be increasing. The bee with stick wings sounds like Varroa, but I have heard of a virus that causes this. I don't know what you can do about the virus though. Have you seen Varroa before? If you haven't you probably won't see it. It is visible, but the Varroa are often on the other side of the bee and they are small enough that they only look like a freckle on the bee and are very difficult to see unless you've seen them before and know what to look for.
Do the bees seem to have any other problems? Diarreah? There could be secondary problems that are not visible that wouldn't cause the stick wings but would cause the decline. Tracheal mites and Nosema being the most common of these. Have you looked at the open brood? Does it look white and healthy?
Just trying to get enough information.
How old is your Queen?
just South of Lansing Michigan
I agree with Michael. "There could be secondary problems that are not visible." It is cerious that a hive with four frames of brood is dieing off so quickly.
Did you when inspecting your hive notice any cells of brood that looked like they were infected with AFB, the diease that they are talking about looks alot like foulbrood but it is actually pms, it is spread very muchly by the mite. The hive should come out of it this spring as long as you can help them to raise lots of brood and i would`nt take alot of honey from them this year or expect them to do a great deal. We used to see this back in the early days when the mites were having a field day destroying the hive because we did`nt know we had the mites. I would double check what you have been treating your mites with and as bad as i hate to use it you may have to switch to the bayer strip for a year or 2, if you have been using apistan for a long time. Some of the oils work well to help get them back on track but it has been myexperance that this hive will need all the help to live that you can give them. As a comecial man we see this all the time and it still makes your heart sink.
What's the possibility that your foragers are foraging in plants that have been treated with pesticides? I would think that could also be the problem and not necessarily a disease or pest of honeybees. If there are fewer and fewer foragers, I would at least suspect that they could be dying out in the field. What type of area are your hives in? City? Country? Are there any agricultural operations near you? Just a thought on other possibilities.
Thanks everyone for your thoughts.
I inspected yesterday and found the population had grown somewhat, a fair amount of forragers and a good bit of honey in the upper brood chamber. I did notice several puzzling things though:
I noticed about a dozen bees head first in cells on two different frames. They weren't all together but in the same general area on the frame. The bees were all dead and appeared to be dried out.
I also noticed what appeared to be crystalized honey (white)in a few cells and one dead drone half emerged from his cell.
I also noticed a big increase in drone brood. It was all capped, I didn;t count but their was a good handful.
I also noticed what I think may be foulbrood. I opened a couple of brood cells that were "sunken" and got goey white stuff from them.
And lastly I did see several larvae , no mites that I could see, but I didn't see my queen. If she is still there she is only laying in five of the frames on one side of the lower brood box.
My queen is only a year old, no pesticides that I am aware of out in the county
( outside the city but I do have close neighbors). I treated for foul brood with teramycin like I was supposed to. I set out some syrup in a entrance feeder which they didn't touch.
If I do have foulbrood can I still save the hive?
Foulbrood is nasty business but you can save the colony. However, I think what you have here is a Varroa problem. In an earlier post someone mentioned PMS. To determine if you have foulbrood, get a tothpick or something similar and stick it into the rotten brood. If you have foulbrood, the larve will stick to the toothpick and it will be ropey when you pull it out. If it doesn't stick it's PMS(Varroa).
If you have lots of drone brood, you can take a cappings scratcher and stick it into the caps of the drone brood(horizontally). You can then pull out the drone larva and pupae and check it for mites. Varroa prefer drone cells. This can give you an indication of how bad your mite load is. Mature mites appear as reddish brown specs. The immature are white.
a friend of my started a couple of hives last year,to his dismay he realised his bees were foraging at a recycle center nearby,his bees were drinking soda and who knows what,if that weren't bad enough, a few times a week a lot of his foragers would be crushed and taken for processing with the cans and bottles!