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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Columbia County, NY
    Posts
    13

    Default Hive post mortem

    First year beekeeper - installed last Spring. Hive swarmed in late August (couldn't obtain a new Queen that late in the season). Queen cells were observed when they swarmed. Heading into late-fall, there was no sign of a new Queen but they were not behaving like a Queen-less hive. Fed them sugar syrup and hoped for the best. The hive was showing signs of activity (cleansing flights and you could hear their hum) right up until a couple of weeks ago.
    Checked the hive today and they did not make it. Signs of starvation = a pile of bees on the bottom board and a small cluster, some with their heads in the cells. No sign that a queen was present. Also no signs of mites.
    2 Questions - could a hive have gone that long (late Aug until March) without a Queen? And the only substance I can't determine what it is - is a brownish-like substance mixed in with the pile of dead bees. It almost looks like brown sugar or darker colored cornmeal? Does anyone have any idea what this is?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
    Posts
    3,486

    Default Re: Hive post mortem

    The colored cornmeal is probably the cappings off the honey they consumed or it could describe mites! They are little brown ovals. Yes the last elderly bees look like starvation victims because they become too small a cluster to maintain a heated area and die right next to honey often, but with the inability of the cluster to heat an area that reaches the honey, they die. The ones stuck in a hole are normal in a cluster. Did they swarm because you were told they wouldn't produce a crop first season, so you didn't give them room to expand? A lot of newbees lose colonies by locking on to that advice.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Columbia County, NY
    Posts
    13

    Default Re: Hive post mortem

    Thanks so much Vance. We bought a nuc in late May and within 2 - 3 weeks, bees covered 6 of the 8 frames, so we added another brood box, which they also mostly filled and we added one honey super and then eventually another. By late fall, they had a full honey super which we left on (never took any honey). They did beard like crazy all summer - we had both a screened top and bottom board. Changed them back to solids around Sept.

    I've attached a photo of the pile of bees on the bottom board - hoping maybe you can enlarge and see the brown substance. The white substance is sugar we added a few weeks ago. Thanks again.
    image.jpg

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Rockford, MI
    Posts
    2,093

    Default Re: Hive post mortem

    To answer your question if bees can last that long (aug-mar.) the answer is yes. I have a hive that's been queenless since mid sept.
    Now... once the weather warms up and they start collecting nectar, they won't last long. I plan on ordering a queen to add to the hive soon.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Solano, California, USA
    Posts
    1,108

    Default Re: Hive post mortem

    The statistical probabilty of a spring nuc swarming in the fall is increased by not enough room at the appropriate time or the fact you got an old queen to start with. If neither of these is true the likely hood of a fall swarm is almost nill in my experience. Hives with continual beards are a good sign you failed to give them adequate space. Many failure issues from swarms to increased mite loads at an inappropriate juncture of the hives life cycle are certainly a result.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
    Posts
    2,439

    Default Re: Hive post mortem

    Can you zoom in on that picture? I see lots of potential specs that could be mites but it's hard to say.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Columbia County, NY
    Posts
    13

    Default Re: Hive post mortem

    Thanks for your responses. We had a gentleman, who has been keeping bees in the area for over 70 years check it out and he did not see any signs of mites. There were two clusters with their heads in the cells, which I just read on other note that it's a sign of a Queen-less hive. I'm pretty sure they held on as best they could, even though they headed into winter either Queen-less or with a virgin queen, who didn't make it?

    Next question - I've ordered two nukes which won't be available until May. What to do with this empty hive with it's honey stores and built out frames in the meantime? Should I put the frames in the freezer or can I just leave the hive intact and close up the entrances? Thanks!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Rockford, MI
    Posts
    2,093

    Default Re: Hive post mortem

    I make a top cover sandwich. top cover upside down, supers with the frames, top cover. I typically will store them then in the basement until needed.

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