Dead Hives- Theories on Why?

View Poll Results: Why do you think they died?

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  • Pesticides

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  • Cut off from Honey & Starved

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  • The Wasps weakened the hive and then they froze

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Results 1 to 12 of 12
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Brooklyn, NY
    Posts
    13

    Default Dead Hives- Theories on Why?

    UPDATE: Users all agree... Varroa. Thanks for the feedback.


    This fall, I had three hives. Two of them seemed strong, but I was keeping a close eye on the 3rd as it was a caught swarm. I noticed that the 3rd hive was being robbed by yellow jackets. The wasps were trying with various degrees of success to get into the other two hives, but they seemed to be fighting them off. I added entrance reducers and hoped for the best, but at my next inspection, I realized hive #3 was not going to make it as there were very few bees in it. I'm hoping they simply left again to find a home more to their liking. The wasps were still hanging around, which I concluded meant they were cleaning out the hive. I broke the hive down and prepared the other two hives for winter. They other two hives were still being pestered by the wasps, but mostly they were focused on hive #3, the dead one.

    Both of the remaining hives had nearly full honey supers on top. I am a rookie, but have over-wintered my apiary for four years without losses, relying on the bees natural instincts and leaving them plenty of honey plus granulated sugar on their inner cover. I went to check on them last weekend and maybe give them more sugar, but realized that both my hives were dead. I'm sorry I didn't take more photos, but here's what I observed:

    1) No signs of excessive mite infestation. I do not treat the bees with anything other than powdered sugar for mite control and I'm pretty lax about mites, but looking at the bottom board and I didn't see a lot of mites.
    2) I did not observe signs of diarrhea
    3) There were some bees dead in the comb with their butts sticking out, indicating potential starvation. (See photo.) What is bizarre to me, though, is that they (likely) starved literally right next to capped honey (see photo.) I am wondering, if the wasps managed to raid the brood box and caused dead spots that they wouldn't cross
    4) We also observed dead bees with their tongues hanging out, indicating possible pesticide poisoning. After researching pesticide testing, I decided it wasn't worth it as I think the bees have been dead for a while.
    5) Most of the dead bees in hive #1 were on the bottom of the hive. In hive #2, they were at the bottom, but also in front of the hive (see photo)

    The fact that all three hives were lost make me think that it wasn't actually starvation. It might make sense that one hive would starve with a full super of honey, but both? And losing the 3rd? It seems too much of a coincidence. Then again, I didn't pay much attention to the brood box frames and if it would cause the cluster to become trapped. The hives were located close to the property line. (They are in Long Island, NY) and it is certainly possible that my neighbor's gardener sprayed close to the apiary. It is common to spray for ticks, poison ivy and other weed control here. However, that is usually done early in the season, not in the fall. I also can't help but think the wasps are to blame.

    What do you all think?

    Dead bees next to honey.jpgDead bees on bottom board.jpg
    Last edited by lauranyc; 01-23-2019 at 10:34 AM. Reason: Question answered. Would like to close or delete the thread

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Covington County, Alabama, USA
    Posts
    1,507

    Default Re: Dead Hives- Theories on Why?

    None of the above.

    Bees with their tongues hanging out is a classic sign of Parasitic Mite Syndrome.
    Healthy colonies don't freeze, unless they get wet.
    The bees in your picture are literally a single cell wall away from nutrients. They did not starve.
    No one is spraying pesticides in winter.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Gainesboro, Tennessee
    Posts
    1,407

    Default Re: Dead Hives- Theories on Why?

    When I doubt, it is typically varroa.
    Splitting a first year hive successfully https://youtu.be/ZfRTreQ-S9c

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    53,758

    Default Re: Dead Hives- Theories on Why?

    >1) No signs of excessive mite infestation. I do not treat the bees with anything other than powdered sugar for mite control and I'm pretty lax about mites, but looking at the bottom board and I didn't see a lot of mites.

    When the bees die the mites die. There should be plenty on the bottom board if that was the cause, but you can also look for Varroa feces in the brood cells.

    >2) I did not observe signs of diarrhea

    Anytime they are confined for very long you will, but that probably won't be the cause of the loss.

    >3) There were some bees dead in the comb with their butts sticking out, indicating potential starvation.

    When bees cluster there are bees headfirst in the cells. When bees die in cluster, they die headfirst in the cell. It does not indicate starvation.

    > (See photo.) What is bizarre to me, though, is that they (likely) starved literally right next to capped honey (see photo.) I am wondering, if the wasps managed to raid the brood box and caused dead spots that they wouldn't cross

    If they are NEAR stores, that isn't good enough, but those do look like they were right next to stores. But I don't see very many bees next to the stores.

    >4) We also observed dead bees with their tongues hanging out, indicating possible pesticide poisoning. After researching pesticide testing, I decided it wasn't worth it as I think the bees have been dead for a while.

    Insecticides are generally not used when bees are clustered for winter. So that seems doubtful.

    >5) Most of the dead bees in hive #1 were on the bottom of the hive. In hive #2, they were at the bottom, but also in front of the hive (see photo)

    I would definitely look for signs of Varroa mites.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Covington County, Alabama, USA
    Posts
    1,507

    Default Re: Dead Hives- Theories on Why?

    I hope there is some way to get more of that strain/lineage back to repopulate your hive. If you made it 4 prior seasons with no losses and no treatments, your bees seem to be showing some abilities to cope with varroa. You might have gotten mite-bombed at the end of the season last year and they just got overwhelmed. If you gave any splits to friends, or can go back to the original source of your bees, I would definitely do that.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Powhatan, Virginia, USA
    Posts
    360

    Default Re: Dead Hives- Theories on Why?

    Go to empire state honey producers site ESHPA.org, in their resources there is a file wintering bees in cold climates.
    The first section is good info but wrapping and insulating hives is not necessary in all areas.
    About page 13 you will find the winter dead out key, follow it step by step and you will usually get to a reasonable conclusion.
    The two pictures indicate 1. Lots of dead bees on the bottom board, collect a sample of them add alcohol and shake for two minute to dislodge mites.
    More accurate than looking for mites in the sugar piled there.

    2. They had honey left but looks like a very small cluster, unable to keep their temp up due to low population.

    Look for root cause, why was the population so low?
    Wasps don't usually overwhelm a strong hive.
    Why were the bees dwindling?
    Usually mites
    Follow the dead out key, data is usually better than guessing.
    Last edited by John Davis; 01-23-2019 at 02:41 PM.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Brooklyn, NY
    Posts
    13

    Default Re: Dead Hives- Theories on Why?

    Thanks, guys. It's pretty much always varroa, isn't it?

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Turnbow Hollow, Tennessee
    Posts
    445

    Default Re: Dead Hives- Theories on Why?

    NONE of the above. Look very closely at the pictures. Yes the hive was very weak and I can see small amounts of varroa mite fecal materal on the first frame picture. Those very tiny white flecks. Powdered sugar does NOT work and only to a very marginal degree removing phoretic varroa mites. The BIG problem varroa mites ARE the foundress or reproductive varroa mites that are under the capped brood comb infecting the brood. Treatment that kills the reproductive varroa mite is especially important in the late Summer/Early Fall as that is when the hives are producing Winter bees which are substantially physiologically different from warm season bees.

    You need to treat during this time of year with one of 3 things that DOES kill reproductive varroa mites:

    MAQS
    Formic Pro
    Mighty Mite Killer (especially if you want a chemical free and effect method of treating reproductive mites as well as saving money on chemical treatments when treating large numbers of hives)

    The above treatments to my knowledge are the ONLY treatments that address reproductive varroa mites.

    I also recommend having some means of applying OAV for when you may find elevated mite counts during times of year where temperatures will not support the above treatments. OAV is an excellent treatment to knock down phoretic varroa mites. I like the ProVap 110 but for those with just a few hives the Varrox may be more practical.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Covington County, Alabama, USA
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    1,507

    Default Re: Dead Hives- Theories on Why?

    Quote Originally Posted by lauranyc View Post
    Thanks, guys. It's pretty much always varroa, isn't it?
    As they teach in medical schools in the United States, "When you hear hoof beats, think horses not zebras."

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    53,758

    Default Re: Dead Hives- Theories on Why?

    >It's pretty much always varroa, isn't it?

    No, but it often is. I would not assume it without evidence, but I would look for evidence.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  12. #11

    Default Re: Dead Hives- Theories on Why?

    If you don't treat your hives varroa is a common enemy with a real good chance of taking out your hives. Taking mite counts is not treating. It is a tool to help you make decisions. To treat or not. Even if your not going to treat no how, no way, at least you would know what the threshold was for a known enemy of bees. I'm sorry you lost your bees. If you do bees again and I hope you do please take mites seriously. A simple treatment could possibly have saved your hives. I have looked at many new beekeepers hives and performed alcohol washes. Most don't stand a chance.

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Covington County, Alabama, USA
    Posts
    1,507

    Default Re: Dead Hives- Theories on Why?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Davis View Post
    Go to empire state honey producers site ESHP.org
    John: That is a fabulous resource. Thank you for putting me on to it. I had a little trouble finding it because you left out a letter in the web address. The link is http://www.eshpa.org/beekeeper-resources for anyone else who would like to view it. It is a really well-done decision tree format for both treatment options and dead out diagnoses.

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