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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I keep logs of my weekly or bi-weekly checks on the hives. This specific hive is all mediums and had eggs and larva on 10/23. I noticed past 2 weeks its been getting hammered by wasps, even with a reducer and robbing screens it was getting hit but holding its own. I noticed the past week wasps were getting in fairly quick without a fight. I decided to perform an inspection and I could not believe it but the entire bottom medium was empty of any capped brood, larva, or eggs. Also, the bee population was SUPER low, I would say 2-300 hundred. I just dont know what happened.. I dont think its robbing because I dont see signs of robbing, for example, the bottom medium still has some capped honey stores, though there is no frame of fully capped honey, and LOTS of pollen. Also, from my reading when a hive is robbed you see wax remnants all over and many torn cells, I dont see any of that. If the hive absconded there wouldnt be any bee's left. The second medium still had a couple capped brood (30-50) and 2 supercedure cells with the 2-300 hundred remaining bees. The of the 2nd medium is capped honey, 3rd medium is capped honey.

I attached some pictures for you all to see. One thing I did notice was several (10-20) capped brood cells that were torn open slightly.

In conclusion, I took mediums 2 and 3 and put them on a tear out that has a happy queen and hopefully itll take them through the winter. I left the original first medium in place with all its pollen/empty frames and blocked it off. Should I just freeze them and use them on spring splits? Also, the 2 supercedure cells that are now part of the tear out with a queen already, should I squeeze them or let the queen eliminate them?

I hope Im not missing something obvious here on why this hive, which was 4 mediums healthy hive, end up like this in a matter of 10 days since my last check.

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You didn't say if on inspection on 10/23 the hive was well-populated with bees, or what amount of eggs and brood were seen, and whether you saw your queen.

At this time of year there will not be be great swathes of brood, but there still will likely be some.

There ought to be a very good population, though, and with luck you'll see your queen.

The sight of "supercedure" cells means the queen is absent (killed or departed) or that she is there but failing in some way.

Still if you're down to just 200-300 bees, the hive is essentially gone at this point.

It's may be OK to have transferred the two upper boxes (but I would have destroyed the two queen cells before doing so - no point adding to the stress of the host bees and their queen.) But to do the transfer with any brood w/o careful evaluation of whether the failing hive was failing due to a brood disease was, and remains, risky.

I can't tell from your pictures whether that was the case or not. Specifically you would be evaluating the combs for signs of foul brood

The safest thing would be to withhold any frame with bees (eggs, larvae, pupae or adults) on it and only transfer frames of stores. (And even then it is not risk-free if the colony succumbed to FB.)

Did you see evidence of mites? And what has been the testing or treatment history of the failed hive? Mites and the diseases they transfer and PMS (Parasitic Mite Syndrome) are far more common than foul brood, so it's likely that's what happened. Though a total collapse in the space of two weeks is precipitous.

Bees do swarm in the fall but they don't leave just a few bees when they do.

A colony may abscond in the face of an intolerably noxious situation (heavy SHB is one reported reason), and possibly for inscrutable reasons of their own. But if you saw queen cells, that doesn't seem likely, either

The robbing you saw likely happened after the bees population was already reduced and demoralize to the point that they couldn't defend the hive- even with the assistance of reduced entrances and robber screens. The lack of torn-out wax means the robbers didn't have to "smash and grab". In the future if you see persistent robbing that isn't stopped by screens and reduced entrances, you need to take a peek and see what's going on.

My bet is on the most likely explanation: collapse from overload of mites in an untreated colony. It's likely the collapse was already underway when you looked in on 10/23. Perhaps you also inadvertently injured or damaged the queen on that date (timing is about right for seeing capped cells - queens are only capped for about eight days, much shorter time than for workers or drones).

If you tell me the hive was monitored and successfully treated for mites in the late summer and fall, then my bet would change to the more worrisome (worrisome because you have already moved frames from this hive to the other colonies) possibility of a brood disease.

You can look at the top back surface of the brood cells from the failing hive and see if you see evidence of guanine deposits (little specks of white debris) which is mite poop deposited while they were under the cappings with the pupae. If you see this sign, you know you had a heavy mite load in the pupae, and the workers of the colony were unable to keep up with cleaning and polishing the cells. The guanine sign pretty much confirms the diagnosis of PMS and failure due to excessive varroa parasitism. That, by itself, is not contagious to the other colonies, though any capped cell would probably have live mites from the failed one, which is why I would have sacrificed the brood and only transferred frames of stores.

Beekeepers move frames around all the time and the bees tolerate and adapt to this practice (and often benefit when the frames have resources - brood and honey). But it remains a significant pathway for moving problems from one hive to another, especially when the donor hive is a failed one.

I would definitely go back and cull those queen cells. They serve no purpose (and don't be surprised if the they have already been torn down in the new hive.) And I would remove any transferred frame with brood on it, as well.

BTW, you said there were only 200-300 bees left in the failed colony. That is about the volume of an extra-large egg, or half a small apple. Is that what you saw? It's a very small number and hardly enough to keep a queen cell warm at this time of year.

I am sorry you have lost a colony - it is always disappointing. But it still has lessons to teach, so do look for the guanine and signs of brood disease. I would also consider treating your other hives for mites with some form of oxalic acid during the upcoming brood pause (if not before, if they are as-yet untreated.)

Enjambres
 

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Did you treat for mites?

You're absolute right there is no sign what so ever of robbing, robbers tear open honey cell leaving jagged edges and they will not stop until ever drop is gone.

Looks like a PMS. This is the time of the year untreated hives die. Spotty dwindling brood, mite feces in empty cells, perforated cells, and some opened and larva removed. Some of the symptoms are similar to AFB or EFB you can rule those out if you want.

I would freeze the comb and reuse the comb next year. Might look for a better source for bees.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Im digging into my log notes, and this may be a treatment issue... All my hives were treated in the past but I didn't do the full 7 day x4 treatment, I did a single treatment in July and the two in August, I was told here that I did make a mistake by not following through on proper treatment lengths.

I then jumped on my treatments 3 weeks ago because of Mite concerns, today I will perform my last set of 4 OAV treatments and Im seeing less and less drops.

Now I believe I may be at fault here, I made it a habit when I inspect a hive to open and check for fresh day 1-2 eggs and larva, I dont bother finding the queen and dont want to disturb the hive if I dont have to, as soon as I see eggs/larva I close it up. I saw those on the 2nd medium and I havnt been in the first medium for weeks on end with the assumption all is well because shes laying.

In response to ENJ question of how many bee's there were when I saw eggs on the 23rd, I cant say... but for certain it was not overspilling like my other hives, but I havnt been into the first medium to check population, if I did Im thinking I would have seen the warning signs a long ways back and this was potentially a problem that started before I was even concerned.

I am going to destroy the queen supercedure cells and continue on with my 4th treatment of all my other hives. I hope its not too stressful for the hive I just combined with to go through another OAV treatment.
 

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When you have a chance run a fine piece of stick, wire into one of those partially uncapped cells and see what happens when you remove it. It doesn't really scream foulbrood to me as afb cells often are more sunken. However on another picture there appears to be remains of larvae glued to cell wall and that does look similar to foulbrood in the very late stage. Definately brood issues but hopefully not any AFB in those

I also think I might see some little white specks that make me think varroa is involved

At this point gonna be impossible to figure out everything sequence wise that took place. The most common scenario is mites which then cause stresses that result in brood issues/viruses of various types. You've put a fair amount of oa on those bees even though your timing wasn't text book perfect but we don't know much about those bees and what the mite loads were at various stages of treatment. Perhaps they were simply very susceptible to varroa. Or they may have no tolerance for the viruses associated with varroa. I've got about a third untreated right now, a third that had one strip of formic in August and final third that needed the half dose formic followed by full dose of thymol later. Basically each colony is different when it comes to varroa.

Another option is failing queen which would be common this time of year and fits in better with suoercedure cells. I can't say that I really recall seeing lots of instances with supercedure cells associated with colonies simply under attack from varroa. Perhaps she started failing weeks ago, mites start taking over and invading every cell, colony struggles to make queen cells, viruses begin appearing and the train runs off track.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
When you have a chance run a fine piece of stick, wire into one of those partially uncapped cells and see what happens when you remove it. It doesn't really scream foulbrood to me as afb cells often are more sunken. However on another picture there appears to be remains of larvae glued to cell wall and that does look similar to foulbrood in the very late stage. Definately brood issues but hopefully not any AFB in those

I also think I might see some little white specks that make me think varroa is involved

At this point gonna be impossible to figure out everything sequence wise that took place. The most common scenario is mites which then cause stresses that result in brood issues/viruses of various types. You've put a fair amount of oa on those bees even though your timing wasn't text book perfect but we don't know much about those bees and what the mite loads were at various stages of treatment. Perhaps they were simply very susceptible to varroa. Or they may have no tolerance for the viruses associated with varroa. I've got about a third untreated right now, a third that had one strip of formic in August and final third that needed the half dose formic followed by full dose of thymol later. Basically each colony is different when it comes to varroa.

Another option is failing queen which would be common this time of year and fits in better with suoercedure cells. I can't say that I really recall seeing lots of instances with supercedure cells associated with colonies simply under attack from varroa. Perhaps she started failing weeks ago, mites start taking over and invading every cell, colony struggles to make queen cells, viruses begin appearing and the train runs off track.
If it was AFB, doesn't that happen at all larva stages and I would be seeing hundreds more dead? All I see in the cells with anything in them is almost full stage brood ready to come out. Im going to perform tooth pick test soon. I would say there was literally a total of 20-30 total cells with a dead full stage brood across 10 frames.
 

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... All my hives were treated in the past but I didn't do the full 7 day x4 treatment...
What is the current consensus on the efficacy of OAV schedules (4 treatments 7 day apart vs. 5 tr 5 days apart vs. multiple treatments 3 days apart) in keeping mites at manageable levels in colonies with laying queen/capped brood? In theory, only a certain percentage of phoretic mites is killed by OAV and those not killed re-enrer the cells; the mature mites emerging from cells between successive OAV treatments re-enter right away and are not affected by the treatment. Is it possible at all to keep mites in check with just an OAV schedule several times a year? Or OAV has to be done all the time?
 

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It's that time of year for mite collapse of hives that haven't had good mite kill with treatments. You have to check how well the treatment you are useing is working.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I took a deep look today. White tiny specs are very present in many cells. Also I did the tooth pic test and no goo stringy present. All the larva i tested was not glued to sides and when poked they moved around freely in cell.

I checked on the hive I combined with and yes they already ate the sides of the supercedures and she was laying in the local comb. Im thinking mite collapse at this point.
 

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Sounds like that to me, too.

But your hive gave you one valuable parting gift: it focused your attention of the perils of varroa; you learned to look for guanine deposits; and you did tests and observations to assess the risk of foul brood disease. This will make you a more observant and effective beekeeper from now on.

Enj.
 
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