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Hello,

I work at a school in NYC and we started two hives last spring. They didn't make it through the winter and before we try again this season, we want to know what went wrong. We never added an additional super so I wonder if there wasn't enough space to grow/store honey. We were feeding them pollen substitute but perhaps they starved anyway? I also noticed mold and block spots, we had some weird weather in November so I wonder if poor ventilation could have been the culprit? I want to make sure it wasn't mites either! Please see some pictures below- if anyone who can offer some advice it would be much appreciated! Many Thanks, Sara Hive1(5).jpg Hive1(2).jpg Hive2(1).jpg Hive1(3).jpg Hive1(4).jpg
 

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Pollen substitute will not keep them from starving. The adult bees have no need of protein. They need honey or syrup to survive.

It's always difficult to tell from pictures because of lack of clarity, focus, or detail But I think I see Varroa feces in the brood combs and I think I see Varroa on the bottom board. SOME Varroa wouldn't necessarily mean they died from Varroa, but the feces in the brood combs (little white flecks in the brood combs) seems to indicate that Varroa was the likely culprit.
 

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Also, Not a lot of dead bees, at least in photos. If you need to feed it is better to keep the feed over the center. It looks like yours is on the outside corner which will pull them off their normal center and off empty comb which makes the cluster less dense.

How many frames and how deep were the dead bees under the feed? Just under the feed?
 

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bee source standards question for a dead hive:

1) how do you manage your varroa mites?

2) when was the last time you measured your mite levels? How did you measure?

3) If you treat for varroa, when was the last time you treated?

Alex Madsen
 

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My advice would be not to try it again until you and your students are willing to put in the work of educating yourselves about the responsibilities of beekeeping. It could be an awesome experience and a great educational opportunity if done right. J
 

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Try to locate a local beekeeping association in your area and start attending their meetings. You could gain a world of knowledge from seasoned beekeepers in your region. Typically the members are more than happy to share their experience and advice with new beekeepers. This would be the best way to gain a firm grasp on mandatory beekeeping basics, tailored for your area.
 

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This picture shows what appears to be the last few bees to have died, forming a tiny cluster, and with no food. It also shows some dead brood, some of which has been chewed.

There is no signs of robbing after the bees died, so it looks like the hive has died of starvation. Which is caused not by lack of pollen, but by lack of honey, or sugar syrup which can be used to replace honey.

The thing is, why did they die of starvation, why did they not have enough food? There are very few bees, and in my view the hive was weakened by varroa mites, as evidenced (probably), by the chewed larvae. This has weakened the hive down to a tiny colony unable to gather enough food.

However you say you are in NYC, maybe you are in an area with little available bee forage?

That's my best guess anyway, based on the information shown in the pics.


You have done the right thing asking for advice, which is a whole lot better than walking away. My advice, would be jump in and try again. The hive and combs can be re used, you just need some new bees. This time around, don't feed the bees much, or any, pollen substitute, but feed them sugar syrup until they have a decent amount of it stored in the combs. If there is none stored in the combs, like in your pictures, the bees will starve, wether or not you feed them pollen.

The second thing is to ensure the bees are not harmed by varroa mites. All beehives have some varroa mites, and left unchecked, they can build up in numbers and eventually lead to the death of the hive. There are many ways to deal with varroa mites, but as a beginner, you need something simple, and effective. My suggestion would be a spring and fall treatment with Apivar strips. (Not to be confused with the similar sounding Api Life Var, which is not very effective).

Generally, if you get those 2 things right, being varroa mite control, and ensuring the hive does not starve, you have ruled out the majority of things that can go wrong with your hive and have an excellent chance of success.
 

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You have done the right thing asking for advice, which is a whole lot better than walking away. My advice, would be jump in and try again.
Advice on the internet can sound like a parent talking to a teenager. Takes practice to succeed.
 
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