Hi. I've got a question about the loss of several hives this winter. The combs are dark and look chewed in places , with what looks like granulated honey in the cells. There is a lot of honey left but all the bees are dead. Does anyone know what might cause this?
winter loss can be caused by many things. I started last fall with fifteen hives and seven survived the winter. Four starved. Two died from nosema (I didn't medicate in the fall). The last two are a little harder to explain because there seemed to be plenty of honey in the hive but also plenty of bees, I would guess that it was a mite kill. The dark comb is probably normal because brood comb darkens with age. The chewed look, if you have ruled out mice, can be caused by the bees if they get "bored". Comb knawing is not unusual. The granular substance is most probably honey. Some honey will do this during the winter. Up here Golenrod is about the latest honey gathered and will almost always sugar over the winter, and this is difficult for your bees to process in the cold and can cause starvation, though the bees will still use is in the spring. You first have to rule out the obvious reasons your bees died. Mites, nosema, starvation due to lack of honey or cold, the bees will not leave the cluster to retrieve stored honey anywhere in the hive if it gets too cold. Sorry to hear about your losses, if you are certain your bees did not die from foulbrood then use this brood comb to split your remaining hives and build back up again. If you are not sure what to look for in AFB have your local bee inspector or a seasoned beekeeper inspect this comb.