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I just discovered a hive loss at my bee yard in Clinton, MS. Very curious, though, as there are no honey stores, very little nectar stores, less than a dozen dead bees, two capped queen cells, several other uncapped queen cells, a softball sized collection of brood on two frames facing each other, and some scattered brood on other frames that looks like it attempted to emerge. Very puzzling as this was one of my strongest hives going into the winter. I've got nine hives in this location - six are still very strong on stores and bees, and the other two are strong on bees but getting light on stores.

I've got a fellow beekeeper, Justin Hamilton, in Edwards that discovered a similar hive of his yesterday. I'll also heard of a fellow about 4 hours north that had a similar experience losing 10 hives in this fashion.

No dead bees around the outside of the hive. About 8-10 dead bees laying on my screen bottom board. No bees showing signs of starvation on the comb. The bees are just gone. Never seen this, but I've only been a beekeeper two years.

A couple of questions.
1) Any ideas?
2) Is the comb and hive components safe to use with other hives? I've currently pulled the comb and placed it in plastic bags in a refrigerator as I don't have room in my freezer.
3) How would I investigate or learn what happened?
 

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Some questions
1). Do you have a screened bottom board? It could reduce the temp inside and the bees would not be able to maintain temperature.
2). What has the temps been like over the last month or 2 where you have the hives?
3). When was the last time you checked the hive? What was their condition? Have you been monitoring the hive and their food stores on a regular basis?
For example I checked my hive in October after giving sugar syrup. I was surprised to learn they did not take it all and some bees drown in 1 hive. I gave 64 ounces. After that I switched over to dry sugar all the time checking the hive and their food stores. Then in December when the freeze happened I brought inside the garage into a tent. All the time I am checking the hive I am photographing and video taping. For example in my video from November and early December I noticed fewer and fewer bees on the top of the frames in 1 of my hives, I thought I had a dead out. But when I brought into the 40 degree garage temperature, I noticed all bees active.
Here is a video I posted of that inspection: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEQbCRki6_Y
4). Check the brood. Are their "Zombie" bees trying to come out?
Take photos of what happened and post.
 

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............... About 8-10 dead bees laying on my screen bottom board. ...........
Sorry, I didn't read your post close enough. the Screen Bottom Board is a definable factor here.
Did you have it closed off?
Weather.com says you had low temps in the teens a few weeks ago, and even now temps in the 20's with highs in the 50's and 60's.
The cluster couldn't stay warm is going to be a significant factor.
What are the other hives like that are in the same bee yard?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the quick reply.

1 and 2) I live in Central MS and use screen bottom boards as it doesn't normally get very cold down here. I say that because now we're dipping into the low 20's which is very unusual for us. Normally, we'll have lows in the mid 30's for a couple of days then it warms up again so no prolonged periods of really cold weather so I've not seen an issue with using the SBBs.

3) Checked in early December. Hive very strong with lots of stores. Had two brood boxes on crammed full of honey, nectar, and bees. I was worried the hive was honey bound and would swarm, but we got a nice dose of cool weather to shut things down.

4) What does "zombie" brood look like? There are only about a dozen to 18 brood cells that have small openings in them scattered all over the frames. The remaining brood was about the size of a softball and was on two frames facing each other. There were two capped queen cells in the hive.

I pulled the hive and have frozen the comb but will try to get some pictures to post.
 

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sounds like what happenned to your hive was what happened to a couple of mine.

your hive was weakened (likely due to mites) and it dwindled to a small size at the time a cold snap happened. During cold weather the bees huddle into a tight cluster to stay warm and they consume large amounts of honey to stay warm. A large cluster of bees can move around in their hive to get to the parts where there is stored honey but the smaller clusters are not as flexible at moving around the hive to get to the honey. So what happens is that a small cluster of bees can end up in a section of the hive that has no stored honey. You may have honey that is a frame or two away from the dead cluster but they can't leave the cluster to get to it.

so essentially they starve to death. A sign of this is if in the small dead cluster you can see most of then with their heads inside the comb. Sometimes you can revive individual bees with a drop or two of honey if this has happened recently.
 

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sounds like what happenned to your hive was what happened to a couple of mine.

your hive was weakened (likely due to mites) and it dwindled to a small size at the time a cold snap happened. During cold weather the bees huddle into a tight cluster to stay warm and they consume large amounts of honey to stay warm. A large cluster of bees can move around in their hive to get to the parts where there is stored honey but the smaller clusters are not as flexible at moving around the hive to get to the honey. So what happens is that a small cluster of bees can end up in a section of the hive that has no stored honey. You may have honey that is a frame or two away from the dead cluster but they can't leave the cluster to get to it.

so essentially they starve to death. A sign of this is if in the small dead cluster you can see most of then with their heads inside the comb. Sometimes you can revive individual bees with a drop or two of honey if this has happened recently.
Same thing has happened to a few of mine.
 

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I'd suggest that you had collapse from varroa/virus issues. The vast majority of my losses, especially in a high mite load year, in my untreated colonies, look like this. The cluster contracts quickly, leaving capped brood on several frames with bees trying to emerge, few dead bees in the hive, very small dead cluster, often with the queen still there. I lost 40% winter of 12'-13'. 95% of them looked just like this. This typically happens between Nov and Feb, most in Dec, Jan. Do mite counts in Aug if you want to get an idea of the cause.

Screened bottoms are only a problem if the winter wind is constantly blowing in. If it is a sheltered location, usually there is no problem even in colder regions of the US. I'm not endorsing them, but I don't think they kill bees.
 

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there are some studies that suggest that leaving the vent open on a SBB actually creates a better habitat for mites than solid bottom hives. As mentioned by rk, if the wind is blowing in through the bottom screen you'll get a chimney effect that will impact your bees.

don't have the link handy (ive linked to it in other threads) but if you google "quebec bee hive screened bottom board study", you'll probably see it at the top of the results.
 

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We have had colder than normal periods this winter..a few weeks at -10! When it warmed up and I was checking hives I was horrified to notice that I had somehow missed putting the bottom board into one of the SBB. Turns out I may been upset but the bees were doing fine. I did insert the board closure in any case.
 
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