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I have a hive that is slowly getting less and less bees. looked in last night and now they only have bees on 3 frames. (this spring they were pretty strong) i saw the queen, i have some eggs, larva, and brood in all stages just not very much. the hive has surplus honey, they never did eat a pollen patty this spring so i was wondering about something wrong early on. the hive has some dark orangish brown on the frame tops and has had a bit of a funny musty smell in it. i was looking for advise, should i requeen? or burn the hive and bees and start fresh again? i thought about adding some frames of bees/ brood but i dont want to waste them. the bees are pretty aggressive now, but they appear healthy.

thanks for the help
 

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First - I only have 1.5 years of hands on beekeeping so everything here is only my opinion.

Sounds like possible nosema mixed with to few bees to take care of the hive.
Do they have stored pollen?

If they appear healthy I would personally add brood and bees attached to bring them up to at least 5 frames. If you had access to a free queen I would requeen.

Of course if they are sickly I would probably get rid of them.

Mike
 

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For the most part sounds as if the queen has pooped out or they are honey bound and she has no where to lay. Are the cells in the brood nest filled with nectar and pollen where she should be laying?

The orange stuff on the top of the frames, is it sticky.......propolis

No need to burn your equipment unless you have American foul brood (AFB).
Is the larva you saw a pearly white?

The musty smell could be from the pollen patty, how long has it been in there?

Three frames of bees out of how many frames (5 frame nuc, double deeps, etc)?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
they are not honey bound there is lots of room to lay. she is in the upper medium laying in the middle 3 frames. has a whole empty deep below it. there is some honey in the outer frames. there is not alot of pollen that i remember but i will check again. if the brood is pearly white they are healthy right? the brown stuff is not propolis. it is just brown spots.
 

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those brown spots could be bee poop and if thats the case you could be looking at Nosema....just my $.02 worth......
 

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Usually a good flow will cure nosema (and most other problems).
In my opinion the problem is you haven't enough bees to care for brood and go into the field.
I am assuming when you say 3 frames you mean also the 3 frames aren't loaded with bees.

You didn't mention if her brood are all drones so I am assuming she is laying worker brood.

If you have plenty of other bees in your other hives I would give them a few frames. Move her box down and place the empty deep above her (does it have drawn comb?).
This would give the hive enough bees to take care of brood and some to go into the field. I would be feeding syrup of course. Moving the deep up will allow her to expand the brood nest easily when she is able.

Possibly the smell is mold? (from bees unable to control the hive's environment)

All just my opinion.
Mike
 

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If only three frames of bees, I would reduce the space in the hive to one box. I would add a fresh pollen patty and some syrup since they are too weak to forage themselves. And I would do a alcohol wash with some of the bees on the brood...,make sure not to get the queen A good count is 300 bees. Count the bees and the varroa. Until you assess the varroa and reduce the hive, I would not add a frame of bees from a healthy hive...basically money down the toilet then. As well reduce the entrance to reduce the tendancy of robbing from the healthy hives.
Asses the laying pattern of the queen, and assess the amount of drone brood to the amount of workers. How old is your queen?

To do the wash, you need a jar with alcohol and bees. Shake vigoourously for 8 minutes or let sit for 1/2 to 1 our then strain the bees from the liquid with a mesh strainer big enough for the varroa to pass through. Count and divide and get a percentage

Oh yeah, sounds like at one point the hive had nosema. If they are not eating the syrup, you still have nosema. You will need to feed them fumigillan b somehow. IF you use the pail feed method, your hive must be out of honey production and you need to reduce the entrance of the hive to keep robbing at a minimum.
Another method to feed fumigillan is to drench them. Which might be a better option at this present time. It requires three times once a week. About 70mls of mixed syrup and fumigillan per dose. Drench the bees and the frames. They will clean each other and injest the medicated feed.
Bees with nosema are less prone to injest any feed since nosema infects the gut of the bee.
 
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