Shrinking population - what do I do?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2019
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    Aurora, CO, USA
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    14

    Default Shrinking population - what do I do?

    Hi everyone!
    I am a first year beekeeper in the Denver, CO area, and am hoping someone may be able to give me some advice.

    I picked up and installed my nuc back on June 1st, so it's been almost 6 weeks. My concerns are that the colony doesn't seem to be doing much. There's no new comb being built out, and although I see a few eggs and brood, it's just not much. In fact, I think the population is actually shrinking. As of the night of July 7th, I only had a total of one side of a frame's worth of bees (95% of my population was on 2 sides, each ~1/2 covered in bees). The rest of the sides of the frames that came with the nuc had a handful of bees on them, and nothing on the remaining 5 in the box. This inspection was around 7pm, so I don't think there would have been a large amount out foraging. I have checked my video from the nuc install and had at least a good 2-3 full frames (i.e. 4-6 sides) of bees to start out with. So it seems like I've lost 1/2-2/3 of my population.

    I did see larva at all stages this week, and some eggs. But not very much. And I think there is capped brood - but, again, not very much (and honestly, to my untrained eye, it could be capped honey. The cappings are dark though and some look to be chewed out where bees hatched, so I thought brood). There are a couple open emergency queen cells. They have always been very docile and calm throughout install, and each of the inspections I've done.

    I have done 3 inspections and have not yet spotted the queen - but, I have chalked this up to being a beginner. I haven't been too worried because I have been seeing larva and eggs.

    I have been giving sugar water and also put a pollen patty on the frames for a week - but they aren't touching either. I figure they probably aren't drawing new comb yet because they simply don't need it - they haven't even started putting anything in the remaining drawn out frame that came with the nuc.

    Mostly, I'm just wondering if I should be worried about the lack of activity and particularly, the shrinking population - or if they are likely just fine and this is normal and I need to be patient. We have had a very cool and wet spring, so maybe they're just slow to take off.

    I have not yet done an alcohol wash to test for mites - was planning to do that at the month mark but the population is so low and I also can't find the queen, so it makes me nervous to take so many and also potentially risk the queen being in there. I do have a screened bottom board that I put vaseline on and monitor for mite drop daily or every other day as a way to kind of keep an eye on things (understanding that it is not the most accurate method). I haven't seen any mites drop since June 22, and the most I've ever seen on there over a 24 hour period is 2; most of the time it's 0-1. Of note, I have noticed what I believe are eggs on the bottom board though.

    I have attached pictures of the two sides of frames that had more than a few bees on them. This is almost my entire population. Most of the rest of the frames are empty or just honey. I also attached a pic of what I think is an egg on the bottom board - I know it's hard to tell without a scale, but I have seen many of these over the last month.

    What do you think? Do I have anything to be worried about and if so, what would you do to try to help them correct? I hope I'm not past a point of no return.

    Thank you!!

    MiKayla

    IMG_2176.jpgIMG_2169.jpgIMG_0562.jpg

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2019
    Location
    Aurora, CO, USA
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    Default Re: Shrinking population - what do I do?

    I realized I had some better pics of the frames zoomed in - in the attached you can see that I definitely have different stages of larva and eggs. I have circled some questionable ones though - the red circles don't look right to me (a couple eggs in one cell? Eggs on the side walls? Do I actually have no queen and just a laying worker??). The blue circles are some off-color larva. I'm not sure if this helps with troubleshooting, but wanted to give all the info I could! Thanks!!

    IMG_0930.jpgIMG_0931.jpg

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    Williamsport, PA
    Posts
    469

    Default

    If what I think i am seeing is correct...it is very bad. You are new and I have never dealt with it and don't want to needlessly scare you.

    Brown shriveled larvae are a sign of very bad things. Do you notice any odors in the hive?

    I hope someone with more experience replies directly.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Grand Rapids MI USA
    Posts
    1,483

    Default Re: Shrinking population - what do I do?

    I see perforated cappings and yes, brown larvae, which might be parasitic mite syndrome or European foulbrood. Do you have an experienced beek around to help you with an inspection?
    Rod

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    Location
    Wimer, Oregon
    Posts
    103

    Default Re: Shrinking population - what do I do?

    check out the efb sticky threads in the disease fourm
    DavidZ

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2019
    Location
    Aurora, CO, USA
    Posts
    14

    Default Re: Shrinking population - what do I do?

    Oh nooo... Thank you all! I didn't even think about that - was focusing solely on potential queen issues. I will check out the EFB threads. It doesn't have a bad smell at all, but looking at pics I think you are right and there is certainly reason to be concerned. I'm heading to bee club tonight so I'll have to see if I can find (bribe? Haha!) someone experienced to come inspect with me.
    Thanks again!
    MiKayla

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
    Posts
    10,146

    Default Re: Shrinking population - what do I do?

    the larvae in the blue circles look exactly like what i saw in my colonies that tested positive for efb.

    ask the experienced beeks about what is the quickest way for you to get samples tested.

    (i took the liberty of adding your location to your profile so it shows up on your posts, welcome to beesource!)
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Shrinking population - what do I do?

    i would also call the seller of the nuc and let them know what is going on with it. perhaps they will be willing to let you trade it in for another one.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2019
    Location
    Aurora, CO, USA
    Posts
    14

    Default Re: Shrinking population - what do I do?

    Thanks for updating my location and the warm welcome!

    The experienced beeks in my club think it's unlikely that that it's EFB, but I ordered a couple test kits from our local store anyway and should have them in hand to test Thursday.

    That's a good idea to get in touch with the nuc seller - I will do that. Funny thing is that I drove 4 hours across the state to pick up this nuc!

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    ElDorado,Arkansas,USA
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    1,580

    Default Re: Shrinking population - what do I do?

    Now dont jump to conclusions that the person sold you a diseased nuc since its been almost 6 weeks they bees could of gotten efb at your location when you brought them home.See if one of your club members might have a little terramycin on hand and get it in there pretty quick.If it clears then you caught it.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Shrinking population - what do I do?

    Quote Originally Posted by oceanspiral2005 View Post
    As of the night of July 7th, I only had a total of one side of a frame's worth of bees (95% of my population was on 2 sides, each ~1/2 covered in bees). The rest of the sides of the frames that came with the nuc had a handful of bees on them, and nothing on the remaining 5 in the box. This inspection was around 7pm, so I don't think there would have been a large amount out foraging. I have checked my video from the nuc install and had at least a good 2-3 full frames (i.e. 4-6 sides) of bees to start out with. So it seems like I've lost 1/2-2/3 of my population.
    in my opinion after already dwindling to less than a frame of bees it's not likely treating this colony will turn it around to the point achieving the strength necessary to make it through a colorado winter.

    if it tests positive for efb, i see it as more of a liability and potential risk to any other colonies that happen to be within flying distance.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2019
    Location
    Aurora, CO, USA
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    14

    Default Re: Shrinking population - what do I do?

    Quote Originally Posted by snapper1d View Post
    Now dont jump to conclusions that the person sold you a diseased nuc since its been almost 6 weeks they bees could of gotten efb at your location when you brought them home.See if one of your club members might have a little terramycin on hand and get it in there pretty quick.If it clears then you caught it.
    Good point - I certainly don't blame the nuc seller if this does turn out to be diseased! Understand it could come from anywhere. But I probably will get my next bees a little closer to home!

  14. #13
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    Jun 2019
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    Aurora, CO, USA
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    Default Re: Shrinking population - what do I do?

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    in my opinion after already dwindling to less than a frame of bees it's not likely treating this colony will turn it around to the point achieving the strength necessary to make it through a colorado winter.

    if it tests positive for efb, i see it as more of a liability and potential risk to any other colonies that happen to be within flying distance.

    Yes, I'm very worried about the winter for this tiny little group of bees, even if it doesn't turn out to be EFB.

    I understand, that does make sense. If it is positive, I suppose the best thing to do in that case given their small size is to euthanize the hive and get all the gear disposed of/cleaned up?

  15. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Shrinking population - what do I do?

    Quote Originally Posted by oceanspiral2005 View Post
    If it is positive, I suppose the best thing to do in that case given their small size is to euthanize the hive and get all the gear disposed of/cleaned up?
    sadly for you and the colony that is probably in the most sensible thing to do.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  16. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
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    washington, vermont, USA
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    Default Re: Shrinking population - what do I do?

    A healthy nuc doesn't go from 0 to collapsing from EFB in 6 weeks!!! If it tests positive for EFB it is most certainly the sellers fault. How populated was this thing when you got it? Also queen cells and the lack of seeing the queen with that few bees means it's queenless. I'm sorry but I think either way this hive is a wash. You need to get ahold of that efb test and get ahold of the seller. Probably won't be willing to do anything at this point but it's worth trying.

  17. #16
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    Williamsport, PA
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    469

    Default Re: Shrinking population - what do I do?

    Isn't EFB state reportable? I believe to be licensed & approved in PA to sell nucs & queens you need to be inspected and one thing they look for is foulbrood.

    Either way, if you have state bee inspectors I would contact them. Could be the seller is spreading EFB all over the state since you drove 4 hours to get them. As far as your bees...I'd sadly burn everything before it spreads to neighboring hives.

    All of this is why I didn't want to get you too excited in my original reply.

  18. #17
    Join Date
    Jun 2019
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    Aurora, CO, USA
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    14

    Default Re: Shrinking population - what do I do?

    Quote Originally Posted by vtbeeguy View Post
    A healthy nuc doesn't go from 0 to collapsing from EFB in 6 weeks!!! If it tests positive for EFB it is most certainly the sellers fault. How populated was this thing when you got it? Also queen cells and the lack of seeing the queen with that few bees means it's queenless. I'm sorry but I think either way this hive is a wash. You need to get ahold of that efb test and get ahold of the seller. Probably won't be willing to do anything at this point but it's worth trying.
    We were too excited & nervous when we first got the nuc to remember to get pics of the individual frames - but we did take videos we took of install and based on those, it looks like there were bees covering 4-6 sides of frames. So as of last Sunday, I'm down to half or maybe 1/3 of the original population, and maybe a bit smaller now. I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of the EFB test - should come today! And will get ahold of the seller once I know one way or the other.

  19. #18
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    Jun 2019
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    Aurora, CO, USA
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    Default Re: Shrinking population - what do I do?

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve in PA View Post
    Isn't EFB state reportable? I believe to be licensed & approved in PA to sell nucs & queens you need to be inspected and one thing they look for is foulbrood.

    Either way, if you have state bee inspectors I would contact them. Could be the seller is spreading EFB all over the state since you drove 4 hours to get them. As far as your bees...I'd sadly burn everything before it spreads to neighboring hives.

    All of this is why I didn't want to get you too excited in my original reply.
    I actually can't find ANYthing about state inspectors or reportable diseases for Colorado, so I don't think we have them. Most of the Denver-area suppliers import their nucs/packages from the south or California; the reason I chose this seller was because I was ordering my nuc before I knew anything (taking classes or joining the local club etc), and I thought CO-raised/overwintered bees sounded like they'd be strong and hardy and already adjusted to this climate!

    Understood! I appreciate you not wanting to get me too freaked out, but I sure am glad that I asked so that I can get the test and understand what could be going on. Even if it isn't EFB this sure has been a good learning experience and will make me much more careful in the future - buying from reputable sellers, not sharing gear or even using my gear to go inspect friends' hives, etc.

  20. #19
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
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    Aylett, Virginia
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    Default Re: Shrinking population - what do I do?

    This is a all I could find.

    https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/agp...e-products-act

    Looks like you have to request the apiary inspection and shoulder any costs associated with it.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  21. #20
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Northern Colorado, USA
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    543

    Default Re: Shrinking population - what do I do?

    I dont think we have any state inspectors or really any special requirements for selling bees in Colorado. If you are selling honey it either falls under the cottage industry laws (small operations, less than $10K/yr sales) or commercial food processing laws.

    It may be worth reaching out to the Denver area bee club president/board. I think the norther Colorado (Ft Collins area) has a veterinarian in the club, and there was another one that has presented at a monthly meeting.

    For what it is worth (it is to late for this year) I had good experiences with the bees I got from highland bees (boulder) and dakota bees (denver metro). I got a nuc from highland and a package from dakota and they seemed to do well except for my own mistakes (not paying enough attention to mites).

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