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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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This is my first winter as a beek. Not sure if it was my inexperience, or the temperatures consistently at -30 w/wind chill that did these guys in. I went through my dead hive today. It's the warmest it's been for months! My hive had 4 frames of capped honey, but a couple of the same capped frames also had this sugar-like substance in it - see the attachment. (And no, I didn't taste it!).
  • What is this sugar substance? Is it safe to extract the capped honey with an extractor with this stuff in the frames, or should I crush and strain the comb?
  • I also found several dead hive beetles (about 15?) among the dead bees. Is it safe to reuse these honey-filled frames for my new package coming in a few weeks, or will there be a problem with any hive beetle eggs?
  • I want to start my package on honey only, since I have it. No sugar feeders. If I do that, how many frames will they need?
These frames are currently in my deep freeze to prevent any pests until I get my package. Thanks in advance for all responses!
 

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Did you feed any patties or dry sugar in the Fall? Do you have any other pictures of this stuff?

I cannot really tell what it could be from the picture and the angle. It could be dry sugar or chewed up larva (there is a capping at the top and a partial one at the bottom of the picture) or anything else for that matter. Is it in the middle of the frames?

If you extract, that stuff is going to get mixed with the honey. Also, why are you extracting (or crushing) the frames if you plan on feeding the honey to your package?

The cold should have killed and SHB and eggs in the frames.

First try to determine what did your hive in before deciding whether it is safe to re-use the frames.
 

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I think what you have in your picture is granulated sugar. The answer on the usability of the honey is in what did you feed them? If you like sugar and honey bee whatever in your tea, it will be fine. That's a joke BTW. A picture of any remaining brood would be more helpful in trying to decide what killed your colony.

I have heard that varroa leave white feces in empty cells but I have never seen it that I know of. Odd looking crystals in those cells---or have I never magnified them?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
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I added another picture. Thanks for your quick responses! I didn't feed them anything in the late fall/early winter, because they had lots of honey in the hive. The reason I asked if it was safe to extract, was that if I only needed 1 or 2 frames of honey to start a package of bees then I'd process the rest. I took the entire hive apart today and did not see any brood in any of the frames... Is that weird? But these crystals look like brood at first glance. Could it be decaying brood? When I opened it it was like the bees were frozen in time, some were inside cells, some were on top of frames, some were on top of the comb - so I assumed the cold got to them?
 

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I think they got sugar from somewhere, too. If your bees were inside the cells, they probably got caught away from the honey and couldn't reach it. Another possibility is that they had a smallish cluster and couldn't cope with the cold, possibly due to mites.
 

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A picture of the dead bees would be useful. Were there any bees head first inside the cells? The white substance is granulation sugar/honey that the bees could not break down and were working on. I would recommend that you don't use the honey. Wait till your bees are building up again and let them rob it out. The honey bee body is a really good purifier. You can then take the excess honey from the hive and extract.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks, guys! I cleaned the bees off while outside, then brought the frames in to take photos... No pics of the bees, but yes, there were some head first in the cells. I used three medium supers, and when I checked while winterizing, they all three had lots of honey in them. Today the bottom one was completely empty/clean, the middle one had the cluster of bees (which were both head first in the comb and hanging onto the outside of the comb) and was mostly clean of honey, and the top super had honey left and only had a few bees on the outside of the comb.
 

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Thanks, guys! I cleaned the bees off while outside, then brought the frames in to take photos... No pics of the bees, but yes, there were some head first in the cells. I used three medium supers, and when I checked while winterizing, they all three had lots of honey in them. Today the bottom one was completely empty/clean, the middle one had the cluster of bees (which were both head first in the comb and hanging onto the outside of the comb) and was mostly clean of honey, and the top super had honey left and only had a few bees on the outside of the comb.
This is indicative of starvation.
It must have been too cold for too long for the amount of bees you had. They could not break the cluster to go get food in the rest of the hive.
Essentially they freeze because they cannot keep warm because they have no food to produce heat.
Was the hive wrapped in insulation?

How big was the cluster? If it was only in the center medium, I am picturing a pretty small cluster.

Head first in the cells is normally starvation. I would suggest insulating the hive next year, so the bees could break cluster and get food.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thank you all! After seeing the post/link from daphnecybele I'm convinced that's what it is. I will also take more precautions with insulating my hive next winter.
 

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You may be able to take a sample to your local county extension service or whatever it's called in your area; they would have a microscope that will tell whether it's just a form of sugar/honey crystals or something organic.
 
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