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In the last week I have lost two of my four remaining hives. Upon inspection, I found bees buried to the bottom of the cells with a small cluster of bees over them like they had starved. The curious thing is they could have moved one cell row to the left and been on honey. Does anyone have an explanation for this or is this just one of those things. I checked them last Saturday and they were active and I noticed they had adequate stores and today they were dead. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
 

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When the cluster gets too small, they cannot keep themselves warm enough and it becomes impossible to move over to the honey, so they starve. One possible reason the cluster gets so small is mite damage. Brood damaged by mites in the fall cannot live as long as they need to in order to survive the winter, so the cluster slowly dwindles until it's too small and the cold gets them.

Sorry for your loss.

Rusty
 

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I agree with Rusty. I would be suspicious of high mite counts last fall. Did you do mite counts or did you see large amts of bees crawling on the ground with deformed wings?
 

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When bees cluster for warmth, they are head first into cells with wing hooks disconnected from the thorax muscles so they can use the muscles to create heat and warm the comb. Just because they were found head first does not mean they starved, it means they were clustered trying to keep warm. If the cluster was large enough, the outer bees would get to honey to feed the cluster. Too small of cluster and they can't keep warm enough so they die.
 

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Agreed. Sorry, can't help with your loss but just to say that in my opinion it is a myth that bees dead head first in the cells means they starved. I can remember hearing this more than 40 years ago and feel it's something that's just been repeated down the years.

To get a hive through the winter they need 3 things, which are to be healthy, well fed, and properly housed. Get those 3 things right and barring some disaster the hive will most likely survive. Get just one of them wrong and the hive may not make it. Bees dwindling away through winter till the cluster is so small it freezes right next to honey is pretty much a sign there is something wrong health wise. Nosema, mite vectored viruses, or both together are the 2 main culprits with mite vectored viruses being number one. As per what the others have said, the damage could already have been done last fall, although a large bee population at the time could make it less obvious.
 
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