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  1. #1
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    Default Very strange problem with one hive - bees clustered on ground

    I have an 'issue' with one of my hives that I've never seen before... Hoping for a bit of advice.

    I have three hives in my yard. 2 are behaving normally and are issue free. But with the third there are bees all over the ground around it in about a 10' radius. Hundreds of them. The bees seem unable to fly if I blow on them but they will buzz and try to get away. They tend to be clustered together in little groups and appear to be grooming each other in the group. I cannot see any DWV or K wing, cannot see any visible mites, and this hive had the lowest mite count of the three last year. They do not return to the hive at night, and since it is so cold at night still they are dying at night.

    3 weeks ago we were still in the low 30's and today we were in the mid 70's so I suppose they could just be hanging out. But the fact that they won't fly away and won't return to the hive tells me something is up.

    Has anyone seen this before? I would guess pesticide exposure but the other 2 hives are behaving normally. This one is closest to my neighbor's fence and has an exposed entrance to their fence (forcing them to fly up) so it's also possible the kids next door did something to the hive. Can't smell any residue though.

    Thanks for any advice you can give. I'll try to take video or photos tomorrow.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Very strange problem with one hive - bees clustered on ground

    Maybe trachael mites?

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Very strange problem with one hive - bees clustered on ground

    Maybe Trachael mites second. Here's a video I remembered on that.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yv4zzGv_x_Q

    Is the queen in the hive?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Very strange problem with one hive - bees clustered on ground

    Wow, yeah. Definitely abnormal behavior... Would be interested in some pics and vids. Only thing that comes to mind is perhaps the hive has run out of overwintering honey? Have you recently opened this hive? Seems a little late in the season for Tracheal. And you did mention the lack of K-wing.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Very strange problem with one hive - bees clustered on ground

    What javin says too, could be starvation.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Very strange problem with one hive - bees clustered on ground

    Quote Originally Posted by JRG13 View Post
    What javin says too, could be starvation.
    To be clear, I'm not suggesting that you DO open the hive now to check. Depending on your weather situation, that could be a bad thing. You may be seeing them ejecting those bees that would overburden the stores that they have left. There's just too many unaccounted for variables here to make a call to take action. Opening them now if you still have a cold front coming in could shock the remaining bees beyond recovery.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Very strange problem with one hive - bees clustered on ground

    Quote Originally Posted by kincade View Post
    I have an 'issue' with one of my hives that I've never seen before... Hoping for a bit of advice.

    I have three hives in my yard. 2 are behaving normally and are issue free. But with the third there are bees all over the ground around it in about a 10' radius. Hundreds of them. The bees seem unable to fly if I blow on them but they will buzz and try to get away. They tend to be clustered together in little groups and appear to be grooming each other in the group. I cannot see any DWV or K wing, cannot see any visible mites, and this hive had the lowest mite count of the three last year. They do not return to the hive at night, and since it is so cold at night still they are dying at night.

    3 weeks ago we were still in the low 30's and today we were in the mid 70's so I suppose they could just be hanging out. But the fact that they won't fly away and won't return to the hive tells me something is up.

    Has anyone seen this before? I would guess pesticide exposure but the other 2 hives are behaving normally. This one is closest to my neighbor's fence and has an exposed entrance to their fence (forcing them to fly up) so it's also possible the kids next door did something to the hive. Can't smell any residue though.

    Thanks for any advice you can give. I'll try to take video or photos tomorrow.
    Do you have jasmine there, it is a vine with yellow flowers. This is the first year I have had any problem with it, but ai am losing a good many bees to it this year.

  8. #8
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    Atlanta GA
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    Default Re: Very strange problem with one hive - bees clustered on ground

    Why would jasmine cause the bees to do that?

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Very strange problem with one hive - bees clustered on ground

    Quote Originally Posted by SallyD View Post
    Why would jasmine cause the bees to do that?
    There's a lot of different types of flowers that can be bad for bees, all with varying degrees of toxicity and symptoms. It's unlikely that Jasmine would cause the symptoms you're seeing, rather certain kinds of Jasmine will kill off the brood. Here's a quick (certainly not definitive) list:

    Aesculus Californica/ California Buckeye/ California Horse-chestnut - Over time, exposure can cause paralysis and fatal constipation in the bees.
    Balsa Tree - Kills the bees as they are feeding on the nectar. Studies still being done. Scientists cannot identify a toxin in the nectar.
    Cyrilla racemiflora / Southern Leatherwood / Summer Titi - Kills brood. ("purple brood")
    Oak Tree - Pollen can kill brood. Bees will normally avoid if other sources are available.
    Yellow Jessamine/ Carolina Jasmine/ Evening Trumpetflower/ Woodbine - Poisonous nectar. Kills brood.

    There's also a lot of plants that don't hurt the bees, but makes their honey toxic to US (such as Rhododendrons, Oleander, etc.)

    Good luck!

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Very strange problem with one hive - bees clustered on ground

    Yanno, thinking about it, I'd like to see some pictures of the hive, too. You could be looking at a pretty bad nosema outbreak. Don't suppose you have a good quality microscope at home? (What? Doesn't everyone?)

  11. #11
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    SLC, UT
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    Default Re: Very strange problem with one hive - bees clustered on ground

    Thanks to all of you for the valuable input. I hadn't even thought about tracheal mites (and didn't know they were a problem anymore). Since the lineage of this queen is in question (Russell Apiaries Carniolan), I have no idea as to the tolerance they may have for this if any.

    To address a few of the questions; until 3 weeks ago nothing was blooming. The pollen is just coming on here, and although not much is in bloom yet there is a slight nectar flow from what I can see. I'm in zone 6-7. I don't know of jasmine or any of the plants listed above in my area but I suppose it's possible.

    Weather would be fine for a check and I can do so if need be. I was in there 3 weeks ago to check their health, and hive looks good, still tons of honey and they looked healthy and happy. Didn't see the queen, but didn't want to do a full inspection to find her either as it was still pretty cold and I doubted there would be any brood anyway.

    It's been quite dry and I don't see any signs of dysentary but I suppose nosema could be a problem. Inside of the hive was spotless, no feces anywhere.

    As to an update, today there are less 'piles' of bees and less outside on the ground. Activity at the entrance is the same. I did find a few bees that looked very old and shriveled walking around but the wings didn't look similar to the DWV photos I've seen. Those ones look a bit 'shaky' for a lack of a better term. They just look old to me. I did get buzzed a few times so they're slightly more defensive than normal.

    Videos as of this afternoon (sorry about the shaky camera):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-zWm...ature=youtu.be

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ZgbS...ature=youtu.be

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seR_Q...ature=youtu.be

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFqQz...ature=youtu.be

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Very strange problem with one hive - bees clustered on ground


  13. #13
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    cleveland heights, ohio
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    Default Re: Very strange problem with one hive - bees clustered on ground

    Just wondering whats in the storage tank next to the bees? anything they would get into, something spilled on the ground?

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Very strange problem with one hive - bees clustered on ground

    Wow. Only thing I can think of is Nosema (cerenae, not apis). If you had access to a microscope, I could walk you through checking for it yourself. Otherwise, you'll have to mail in about 60 or so bees to check for it. There's most definitely SOMETHING strange going on here. I've never seen anything like that.

    How many hives do you have? And this is the only one impacted?

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Very strange problem with one hive - bees clustered on ground

    Colby, that 'tower' is an access point for our phone lines. Nothing in there that is being stored other than wires.


    I don't have a microscope unfortunately... Although I may have to buy one after this! I have 3 hives, all in the same yard. This one seems to be the only affected.

    Strangely enough, the situation seems to be resolving itself. With each day there are less bees outside, and as of today there are hardly any on the ground. I was going to collect some and send to Beltsville but there aren't enough to gather now. From my limited knowledge it seems like nosema and tracheal mites wouldn't go away this quickly, so I'm leaning towards pesticide exposure. Any other ideas?

    Thanks for all the advice!

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Very strange problem with one hive - bees clustered on ground

    Quote Originally Posted by kincade View Post
    Colby, that 'tower' is an access point for our phone lines. Nothing in there that is being stored other than wires.


    I don't have a microscope unfortunately... Although I may have to buy one after this! I have 3 hives, all in the same yard. This one seems to be the only affected.

    Strangely enough, the situation seems to be resolving itself. With each day there are less bees outside, and as of today there are hardly any on the ground. I was going to collect some and send to Beltsville but there aren't enough to gather now. From my limited knowledge it seems like nosema and tracheal mites wouldn't go away this quickly, so I'm leaning towards pesticide exposure. Any other ideas?

    Thanks for all the advice!
    The ants/birds may be cleaning up the ones that die. I'm not familiar with anything that can "stun" a bee that they later recover from. I suppose it would certainly be possible, just saying I don't know of anything. I'd still have to check for nosema, just to justify my own curiosity. I'm a hands-off beek, so wouldn't treat for it even if it were there, but it would give you an idea of the overall health of your hive. Just collect some of the bees from the entrance of the hive. (Your guard bees are the oldest, so the best ones to test for nosema).

    I'm banging my head here but really can't figure it out. There were just so MANY of them, and they weren't drones. That was bizarre. The hive itself is still strong?

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Very strange problem with one hive - bees clustered on ground

    Yeah, hive seems to be strong. If it's warm enough this weekend I plan to do a full inspection... But it doesn't seem to be any weaker than before from the entrance activity.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Very strange problem with one hive - bees clustered on ground

    Realized I forgot to update this thread!

    The issue came back with a vengeance and 2 hives ended up showing the same problems this year so I decided to try and get to the bottom of the problem. I collected a bunch of the bees having this issue and sent them to the Beltsville bee lab. No tracheal mites or varroa detected. BUT, HUGE counts of nosema. =>1,000,000 are considered high and these 2 hives each showed counts averaging 4,900,000 nosema spores per bee. Both of these hives had R. Russell 'carniolan' queens. I have since requeened and the issue has all but disappeared. The other hive in the same yard headed by a Strachan queen never showed symptoms FWIW.

    Only downside is that the bee lab doesn't say which nosema was detected. But it's nice to know what caused these symptoms.

    Hope this can help someone else here! I'll leave the photos and videos up for future reference.

    Out of curiosity, how is nosema usually spread from one hive to another? Simple contact on flowers? Drones going from one hive to another? Common water source?

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