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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,

New beekeeper here at the end of my first year. Joined to learn more and hopefully gain some knowledge.

Was out looking at one of my two hives today and opened the entrance reducer for the first time in the last month to clean out the dead bees for winter die off. Even though it was a warmer day and my other hive had some bees coming and going to eliminate waste this hive was dead silent. Since it was somewhat warm I popped the top just to glance down the center through the inner cover lid and saw zero bees.Three weeks ago bees were coming and going bringin pollen back to the hive but not as many as my other one.

The hive was essentially empty of bees. I took the box inside and took it apart to find maybe 100 bees including the queen (all of which were not moving and APPEARED dead, more on that in a second), about 12 frames of honey, most capped, some uncapped, no brood at all in the bottom brood box.

After scooping the 100 or so bees up I put them in a jar to inspect later I found out that the queen and around 15 of the bees starting waking up and moving around. They are now tending to the queen in a makeshift nuc I created with some of their frames of honey, and empty brood.

My questions are this:

What do you think happened and how could I do better? With plenty of food, weather that has not gotten very cold (im in zone 7) and queen that is very much alive, where did all the bees go? The hive did reasonably well for a first year hive filling two and a half supers that I left on. There are some varroa mites but not many at all.

What do I do now? I have the nuc inside because I know that a queen and 15 attendants cant keep warm through winter. Is there any hope for recovery with such low numbers, what can I do?

I plan to take a peek at the other hive tomorrow if weather permits.

Thanks!
 

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There are some varroa mites but not many at all.
If you can see mites, then it's to many.

 

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Your description is a textbook mite dead-out. Small clump of lethargic and sick bees with queen. Plenty of stores. Probably a few random dead bees on the bottom board, but not 3 inches of dead bees on the bottom board. The rest of the bees flew off to die. They were sick and will leave the hive on their own accord if they have the strength.

You can continue to try to nurse your bees, but I have no real hope of survival into spring and beyond. They are diseased. Killing the mites now will not change that.

This is something that virtually all of us have seen at some point in our beekeeping experiences. No shame in it. Just the realities of being in this hobby. Most quit at this point. That is a mistake.

Start looking now for a package of bees or a local nuc that will be ready next spring. These things book and sell out quickly. If you wait until spring, you have waited too late.

Until then, read up on varroa maintenance practices and treatments. The "Go To" source is the Varroa Management Guide produced by the Honey Bee Health Coalition. I live in the deep South, so my climate is most agreeable with Apivar and OAV treatments. I encourage you to edit your profile to include your general geographic area so that others in your area can share with you what works for them. Varroa Management is by no means a "One Size Fits All" affair. Depending on your climate, you might be able to use Formic Acid treatments and other methods.

I know how much is sucks to lose a colony of bees and I am sorry you are experiencing it. Good luck to you.

Patrick
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for all your help, yes, it does seem like a mite problem. I got bad advice that most first year hives wont have mite problems and dont need to be treated until year 2 and therefor did not treat. Bought some equipment to treat the other hive before its too late. Queen and her 15 workers are running around their nuc in my loft, well see if she starts laying and start a slow recovery however unlikely.Thanks for the advice.
 

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Wipeout , go back to your profile and tell us where you are. Location means everything when getting beek advice. Welcome to the Forum and hopefully you will visit often. Join a local bee club and get a mentor. That said, if you have bees you also have mites until you have proven you don't. I catch swarms and each one is treated within a week of being hived; the same would be true if I purchased a package or nuc. It is an absolute must to go into winter with healthy bees and mites would be the reason for sick bees. Beginning in July/August I treat with OAV to kill every mite I can. Treat them every 6 or 7 days for a month and insert sticky boards after each treatment to see the dead mite fall. Treat until you only have 1 or 2 fall. You have to start early so winter bees are healthy; they will carry the hive into spring build up. Then you need a plan to continue treatments thru the remainder of the year. If you are a treatment free beek then don't treat.
 

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I had a hive come out of spring once the same way. Queen and maybe a hundred workers if even. Didn't lay eggs or do much of anything. I counted the hive as a loss until it was about late April and noticed the hive was still somehow alive and still not doing anything. I decided to give them a frame of capped brood and a shake of nurse bees, and that hive proceeded to explode! Ended up swarming in late June. I guess the moral of the story is to not count a queen out, she may not be gassed, just didn't have enough workers to get going
 

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I had a hive come out of spring once the same way. Queen and maybe a hundred workers if even. Didn't lay eggs or do much of anything. I counted the hive as a loss until it was about late April and noticed the hive was still somehow alive and still not doing anything. I decided to give them a frame of capped brood and a shake of nurse bees, and that hive proceeded to explode! Ended up swarming in late June. I guess the moral of the story is to not count a queen out, she may not be gassed, just didn't have enough workers to get going
A matter of critical mass. If all the available bodies are required to maintain brood temperature they may not be able to put forth foragers or comb building bees. The first rounds of brood are reared off the fat body of overwintered bees but if they are timing out as quickly as new ones are coming online--- stalemate. Figuratively speaking, the queens hands are tied.

I hit a similar deadlock but due to mites in one of my first bunch of nucs. Took care of the mites and in two weeks a whole different scenario unfolded. The sad looking brood pattern was not the queens fault.
 
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