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Finaly had a day over 35 today, did some quick inspections on my 5 hives. four are doing great, still mutiple frames of honey, lots of bees and today they are doing some cleansing flights. However, one hive is going bad.

It was my strongest hive going into winter (Italians), but now most all the bees are dead. There is a small pocket of bees but perhaps not more than 1000 total and dead ones everywhere. There were black 'dots' all over the top inner cover and frames. One of the frames was full of dead bees that were in the cells head down. There was capped honey in the frames 3 deep from the sidewall, as well as all the frames near the sidewalls are full. Say 5 full frames of honey and some pollen in the top box. But the center stores were mostly gone. I did not look at the bottom chamber.

I moved one frame of full honey next to the center cluster of bees and gave them some candy board.

Two questions.

It was a tough past 8 weeks - think it was just too cold for them to move the cluster and it mostly starved?

How many bees are needed for the hive to survive? I don't know If the queen is still alive, but I'm thinking that at this point there is too few to make it, and it is best to clean this hive up, save the honey and order an additional package of bees.

Looking for your thoughts

tks
 

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Sounds like they starved b/c they couldn't break the cluster and move to the honey.

I check the black dots out further
A. If its mildew maybe there wasn't enough air circulation and some water condensed and frozed the bees.
B. If it's everywhere in the hive could be nosema.

It may be worth a second look. If it's A then easy fix next winter if B think about getting rid of the equipment so as not to spread it.
 

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I've seen the black dots before but few and far between. May be something like the mold gone bad. Nosema, you'll find diarrhea on the bottom board inside the hive or on the screened board beneath the screen if that type.

If you can't find the queen, then would it hurt to transfer the living cluster & frames to a stronger hive ? Someone here is bound to know. Or wait it out and see. My idea would be to wait until the 4 other hives are rearing brood, then take a few frames from a strong hive and re-queen them in the 5th hive to start a Nuc.
 
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