Dead and dying bees in front of new hive- help!
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Location
    Atlanta, GA, USA
    Posts
    2

    Default Dead and dying bees in front of new hive- help!

    My new hive started from a package last week seems to be struggling. There's a number of dead bees outside of the hive (I don't know how many is normal, but i'm seeing 10-20 corpses added per day) but there are also a lot of bees within ~30' of the hive crawling on the ground, seemingly unable to fly. This is what worries me.

    I also noticed some ants on the hive, so I switched from a boardman feeder to a mason jar top feeder and reduced the entrance to about 1 inch to make it more easily defendable. I have noticed a few bees fighting with each other, and I've seen some individuals fly out of the hive and crash to the dirt, where they just buzz about.

    In the one inspection i've done so far, the queen was still in the cage (though the candy had been chewed) so I turned her out and took away the cage. Since then I have not opened the hive, but when I take off the lid to check the feeder, a lot of the bees on the inner cover seem unnaturally agitated and frantic.

    I was hoping someone might be able to diagnose this issue- are my bees being robbed? is something up with the queen? thanks in advance for any advice you can give.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Dickson TN
    Posts
    1,943

    Default Re: Dead and dying bees in front of new hive- help!

    Sounds like robbing.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
    Posts
    5,536

    Default Re: Dead and dying bees in front of new hive- help!

    I agree, it sounds like robbing to me. I would immediately add a full width, displaced-entrance type of robbing screen to the entrance (leaving the entrance reducer reduce, perhaps even furthern than one inch if there are fewer bees than expected, or they appeared overwhelmed), and if you have an inner cover with a notch cover that that notch with metal house screening to keep robbers from using it as a way in from the top. If you run SBB, close those as well as possible to provide a sense of closure to the harried bees inside, even if robbers can't actually get inside through the SBB. You could tape corrugated cardboard under the screen as a temporary measure.

    Now you may two issues going on: some kind of disease or pest process that is weakening the colony as well as opportunistic robbing taking place as a sort of a coup de grace.

    When they fly out and crash, watch closely and pick up the bee from the ground. Is it actually two bees locked together? This is almost proof positive of robbing with the defender making a valiant, and often fatal, attempt to sting the robber to death, resulting in chaotic, swirling flight that ends on the ground.

    Be aware that for a few days even after you have stopped the robbing, an inspection can re-start it by exposing the bees again. Boardman feeders are a bad idea because they can promote robbing, even in new hives with little stores. UYou could even stop feeding at all for a fw days to leave nothing in the cupboard to steal.

    Deal with the robbing at once because it is an emergency and if steps are taken to suppress it, it can be stopped.


    Meanwhile look for any underlying causes of weakness.

    Now, collect some of the crawlers and examine them: are they trembling; do they have only-partially developed wings ; are their wings old and frayed?

    It is normal to find 10-20 dead bees outside, even a healthy hive, particularly a package that has had an uncertain recent past where many of the bees may have been abruptly combined and have no relationship to one another, or to the queen.

    A week or so after the queen has been released you ought to find evidence of her having laid a few eggs, if there are sufficient bees to have already drawn some comb for her to lay in. So on your next inspection those are the two critical factors to check for.

    Good luck!

    Enj.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Southern Maryland
    Posts
    146

    Default Re: Dead and dying bees in front of new hive- help!

    I had bees die at about those rates for the first week or so. They tapered off but some still die every day. The big thing is comb was being drawn and I had eggs (now brood, etc.). I saw some occasional fights the first week but they were short - meaning that after a few tries the bees gave up messing with each other and kept to themselves. I think a big part of this is making sure that a package of bees gets settled in as quickly as possible so they can find food, build stores and generally not feel the need to scrounge/raid for food all the time. I had established hive bees checking out new hives when they were open for install and maintenance. I keep things moving at a good clip to reduce exposure time and I leave them alone as much as possible.

    Moving to the mason jars seems smart and I keep mine under cover in an empty hive body atop the inner cover.

    We cannot control for everything, and sometimes things just die. One package I installed three nights back had only a few dead bees in the package (it was pretty fresh) but yesterday I had a few hundred dead inside the empty body that holds my jar feeders. Three other packages from the same source didn't have that issue. I'm not worried yet...but will keep an eye on them.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Location
    Atlanta, GA, USA
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: Dead and dying bees in front of new hive- help!

    Thank you all for your input- I went ahead and took off the feeder. Hopefully my next inspection will bring good news

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