Dead cluster diagnostics/ why did this hive die?
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  1. #1
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    Default Dead cluster diagnostics/ why did this hive die?

    Posted in another thread. This is one of four deadouts. This cluster looks very small and another cluster was on the other side of the frame. Bunch of bee butts sticking out of cells where cluster was (not sure if this is normal). Had plenty of stores above in 2nd deep, but never moved to it. Queen and attendants looked okay but were motionless and it was 50+ here when they'd normally be flying if it was 40+.

    History: started last treatments with all on 7/26/19 with two hives Apistan, and two hives Api Life Var. (Also spring-time treatments earlier this year)
    Before winter added feeder shim and mountain camp on top of newspaper on top of frames on 2nd deep. I initially plugged the shim with the included plastic plug because I was worried about the stupid yellow jackets. Before that I rearranged and added frames of honey to middle of 2nd deep.

    Added 2" insulation to inside of top cover. I covered the inner cover's hole with duct tape because I was afraid of the stupid yellow jackets getting in through the upper entrance and robbing after getting attracted to the mountain camp.

    Lower entrance was reduced and no evidence of rodent infestation.

    Cluster and dead bees on bottom board were noticeably moist. Not wet and moldy, but seemingly "freshly dead". No clear DWS or anything, though I'm obviously not the best person to diagnose such things.dead bee cluster.jpgdead bee butts.jpg

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Dead cluster diagnostics/ why did this hive die?

    My guess is either starvation or mites (viral load).

    Starvation: I am assuming that the wooden bar I am looking at in the pics is the top bar of the frame. If that is the case, it looks like the fed up to the top bar and there are no more stores on the frame. Perhaps it was too cold to bridge the gap to the top super. The fact that the frame they are on is picked clean, they are head in cells with butts out, supports a starvation. However, you should have a LOT of bees on the bottom board and in the hive. Thousands, not hundreds.

    Mites: The pics are a little fuzzy, but that looks like it could be mite frass (poop) in the cells. The white deposits in each cell. Again, if I am looking at the top bar of the frame, it looks like the white deposits are primarily on the BOTTOM of the cells, which makes me think it might not be frass (usually on ceiling of cells). The fact that you have a small cluster of dead bees and not a large amount supports PMS.

    Best I can do with history and pics. Many still use Apistan, but it has shown a lot of resistance and inconsistent results. It also contains fluvalinate, which stays in wax for years.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Dead cluster diagnostics/ why did this hive die?

    Quote Originally Posted by jimbo3 View Post
    Posted in another thread. This is one of four deadouts. This cluster looks very small and another cluster was on the other side of the frame. Bunch of bee butts sticking out of cells where cluster was (not sure if this is normal). Had plenty of stores above in 2nd deep, but never moved to it.
    That's as much as I read, at which point I clicked on the 2nd picture ...

    Classic starvation, due to the colony being far too small (especially for 2 deep boxes). If the colony was a good size going into winter, then Varroa is a likely candidate in explaining that reduction in numbers.

    When a colony that small becomes chilled, they huddle together for warmth, and are more concerned with trying to keep warm than moving onto fresh stores - even if those stores are an inch or two away. It's then just a matter of time before they run out of food and die where they happen to be.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Dead cluster diagnostics/ why did this hive die?

    Both comments above are good.
    But don't stop at starvation, it is not the root cause.
    As noted, keep looking, probably for evidence of mites. A lot of what is pictured in the cells is sugar that has fallen down from above.
    The bees starved (or froze) because they were not in contact with food.
    What was root cause for that? Low population due to weakened winter bees? Stuck on brood, (small cluster that stays on brood to protect it) loosing contact with food etc.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Dead cluster diagnostics/ why did this hive die?

    Looking at the photos I cannot tell if there is any food on those frames.

    In the 2018-2019 winter I had 3 mediums loaded with bees going into winter. I put a shim ontop loaded with MT sugar. The bees never got to the sugar, ate all their stores and starved. Not saying that is what happened in your case, but it is a possibility.

    Phil

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Dead cluster diagnostics/ why did this hive die?

    Thank you all for your replies. I'm pretty sure that is indeed sugar that had fallen from above. With this hive it looks like starvation I guess. I'm still trying to figure out the other 3. Tons of dead bees on bottom board but no clusters with a lot of food for them.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Dead cluster diagnostics/ why did this hive die?

    No cluster.
    Did they get disturbed frequently? Skunk that did not hibernate.
    From photo that hive did not loose queen.
    Did not move.
    What is your frame gap between boxes? Bridge comb in the fall is a good thing. Miss match between boxes is bad.
    It is hard to design a safety net that some will not use as a hammock.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Dead cluster diagnostics/ why did this hive die?

    Any chance you know what the winter weight of the colony was going in vs now? How old was the queen?

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Dead cluster diagnostics/ why did this hive die?

    One thing I would say is that 7/26 is too early for the last mite treatment. It should probably be a month later. And you might want to do an Oxalic Acid treatment around Thanksgiving.

  11. #10

    Default Re: Dead cluster diagnostics/ why did this hive die?

    >History: started last treatments with all on 7/26/19 with two hives Apistan, and two hives Api Life Var.

    These would surely not be my choice of treatments. Did you follow the entire ApiLife Var protocol? Three treatments, a week apart if my memory serves me. I didn’t realize anyone still sold the stuff since Brushy Mountain was the importer.
    Apistan had suffered from practically total resistance years ago. It may or may not work. Were the strips new? I was also unaware that anyone still sold this.
    PS I just checked my Dadant catalog and see that they sell Apistan. I find it surprising that anyone buys it.
    Last edited by beemandan; 03-03-2020 at 01:45 PM.
    Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson

  12. #11
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    Default

    Cluster too small to make it through winter. Why? What were your mite washes?

  13. #12
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    Default

    You've gotten some good answers to your question about why this hive died.
    Now it might be time to go over a plan to keep your bees alive next winter.

    One thing that jumped out at me is you covered the hole in the inner cover and reduced the hive entrance. What did you do for ventilation?
    Wet dead bees and wet cluster suggests too much moisture could have added to the bees' troubles.

    So we should go over what to do next summer and fall to get your bees ready.

    1. Control the mites. Keep the numbers way down year round. I use OAV treatments:
    As soon as supers come off I give them 5 or 6 OAV treatments.
    Between Thanksgiving and New year's I give them a couple OAV's.
    In spring I give them a treatment to check how clean they are... treat then check bottom board insert to do a count.
    If I see more than a few mites I give them a round of treatments.

    2. Vigorous queens. Not necessarily a first year queen, but you want a good brood pattern and a populous hive going in to fall.

    3. Plenty of honey. In a 2 deep hive you want the top deep full and the lower with a good 6 frames of honey.

    Unless you are in the far north you don't need to worry about insulation. Bees don't suffer terribly from cold but suffer greatly from dampness. Unless you have proper ventilation the hive can become a damp tomb, especially if you insulate.

    A wind break is nice if you have high winds.

    So:
    Kill the mites!!
    Good queen.
    Populous hive... see 'good queen ' above.
    Plenty of honey.

    Did I mention you should kill the mites?

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Dead cluster diagnostics/ why did this hive die?

    Quote Originally Posted by Saltybee View Post
    No cluster.
    Did they get disturbed frequently? Skunk that did not hibernate.
    From photo that hive did not loose queen.
    Did not move.
    What is your frame gap between boxes? Bridge comb in the fall is a good thing. Miss match between boxes is bad.
    I don't think skunk. The entrance reducer was in tact.
    Frame gap between boxes is I think the normal deep to deep frame gap.

    Quote Originally Posted by HeadofMeadow View Post
    Any chance you know what the winter weight of the colony was going in vs now? How old was the queen?
    Don't know the weight or queen's age. At least two hives swarmed, caught one, split another and kind of lost track, but I'd say a year at the most as the originals were marked.

    Quote Originally Posted by jonsl View Post
    One thing I would say is that 7/26 is too early for the last mite treatment. It should probably be a month later. And you might want to do an Oxalic Acid treatment around Thanksgiving.
    That was the beginning of the treatments. So end of August/early September was the end.

    Quote Originally Posted by beemandan View Post
    >History: started last treatments with all on 7/26/19 with two hives Apistan, and two hives Api Life Var.

    These would surely not be my choice of treatments. Did you follow the entire ApiLife Var protocol? Three treatments, a week apart if my memory serves me. I didnít realize anyone still sold the stuff since Brushy Mountain was the importer.
    Apistan had suffered from practically total resistance years ago. It may or may not work. Were the strips new? I was also unaware that anyone still sold this.
    PS I just checked my Dadant catalog and see that they sell Apistan. I find it surprising that anyone buys it.
    Yes, I followed protocol. Actually I misspoke, it was Apivar and Api Life Var. Why can't they make these freaking names less similar??

    Quote Originally Posted by Amibusiness View Post
    Cluster too small to make it through winter. Why? What were your mite washes?
    Don't know mite counts.

    Quote Originally Posted by Arnie View Post
    You've gotten some good answers to your question about why this hive died.
    Now it might be time to go over a plan to keep your bees alive next winter.

    One thing that jumped out at me is you covered the hole in the inner cover and reduced the hive entrance. What did you do for ventilation?
    Wet dead bees and wet cluster suggests too much moisture could have added to the bees' troubles.

    So we should go over what to do next summer and fall to get your bees ready.

    1. Control the mites. Keep the numbers way down year round. I use OAV treatments:
    As soon as supers come off I give them 5 or 6 OAV treatments.
    Between Thanksgiving and New year's I give them a couple OAV's.
    In spring I give them a treatment to check how clean they are... treat then check bottom board insert to do a count.
    If I see more than a few mites I give them a round of treatments.

    2. Vigorous queens. Not necessarily a first year queen, but you want a good brood pattern and a populous hive going in to fall.

    3. Plenty of honey. In a 2 deep hive you want the top deep full and the lower with a good 6 frames of honey.

    Unless you are in the far north you don't need to worry about insulation. Bees don't suffer terribly from cold but suffer greatly from dampness. Unless you have proper ventilation the hive can become a damp tomb, especially if you insulate.

    A wind break is nice if you have high winds.

    So:
    Kill the mites!!
    Good queen.
    Populous hive... see 'good queen ' above.
    Plenty of honey.

    Did I mention you should kill the mites?
    Thanks for the reply. I used two different mite treatments on four hives, and all perished. I think your ventilation theory is holding the key to most of the issues I had. When I put the feeder shim on I plugged the hole to prevent the massive yellow jacket infestation I had from robbing out the mountain camp inside. I also duct taped the inner cover's hole on top to prevent the yellow jackets from gaining access through the upper entrance. On the 3 hives that I found no cluster and a massive amount of bees on the bottom board I noticed they were very moist. This particular hive maybe starved out due to small cluster? Maybe small cluster was caused by the moisture?

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Dead cluster diagnostics/ why did this hive die?

    A lot of reasons a hive gets small, most start with the word mite. A small hive dies wet. Just not enough convection current to move the moisture a safe distance.
    It is hard to design a safety net that some will not use as a hammock.

  16. #15
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    Default

    If you have a situation with yellow jackets again try covering the inner cover hole with window screen.
    In the old days beeks would drill a 3/4 inch hole in the upper brood box. Reduce the entrance. Done!

    In scary cold places like Minnesota they'd wrap the hives with tar paper. Cut out a hole in the paper to line up with the hole drilled in the top box.

    But I digress.

    You're on the right track, don't be discouraged.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Dead cluster diagnostics/ why did this hive die?

    Quote Originally Posted by Saltybee View Post
    A lot of reasons a hive gets small, most start with the word mite. A small hive dies wet. Just not enough convection current to move the moisture a safe distance.
    The other 2 larger hives had a huge pile of dead bees on the bottom board that were fairly moist. I have no idea what fairly moist means, but I'm sticking to that description.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Dead cluster diagnostics/ why did this hive die?

    Quote Originally Posted by Arnie View Post
    If you have a situation with yellow jackets again try covering the inner cover hole with window screen.
    In the old days beeks would drill a 3/4 inch hole in the upper brood box. Reduce the entrance. Done!

    In scary cold places like Minnesota they'd wrap the hives with tar paper. Cut out a hole in the paper to line up with the hole drilled in the top box.

    But I digress.

    You're on the right track, don't be discouraged.
    Thanks! The window screen sounds like a good plan. I think they had a nest directly below one of my hives last year. I must have stepped on a hundred of them into the ground or squished them with the hive tool. They just kept appearing right below the hive but I couldn't tell really where they came from.

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