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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a hive that was abandoned recently and upon opening it I find it rather strange....I post some pictures

I do top bar mostly but this was a Langstroth hive...well kinda a hybrid...

I build all my top bar hives to the Lang dimensions, so that I may swap frames between the two. My TBH are the width and height to drop in a standard deep frame and the actual top bars are the length and width to drop into any open slot on a Lang.

This particular hive was moved from a nuc/swarm trap several months ago. They are feral bees. The hive was a deep body with 3 standard Lang frames and the rest were TBH bars. one med Lang with all med Lang frames was placed second. Then a queen excluder and on top was another deep body Lang with those new "flow hive" frames.

This hive was very active last year and all winter. Then suddenly all activity stopped.

Opening the hive I found the top chamber with the "flow" frames and middle chamber (below the excluder) to be completely untouched, not even a beginning of comb. The Hive body at the bottom was completely built out. Full comb in the bottom. A huge layer of dead bees on the bottom screen. I could not tell if they were all drones or a mix. There was one very noticeable queen cell on the brood comb.

It's as though the colony reached maximum growth/expansion in the bottom layer and chose to flee rather than move into the empty chamber above. All the honey comb was cleaned out. All the brood comb appears empty as well. I see no evidence of wax moth or any other pest activity to cause them to suddenly leave.

After thinking upon it a bit....I only have 2 other Langstroth hives and they are also set up the same way...meaning a mix of standard frames with foundation and THB bars in the bottom deep body and only medium bodies above that with standard frames only. These two hives were split from a single colony 2 years ago. One of these two hives after a year has not progressed much and has not ever been harvested. The other hive was abandoned last year.

At the moment the only theory I can produce so far is that my TBH bars need some additional mods to properly work in a Lang.

My TBH bars are full width all the way across, which works fine in a TBH but doesn't allow the bees to move directly up into the next hive body, so they must travel horizontally over to a standard lang frame before moving up into the next chamber.

Lang frames have that bee space gap all the way across the top so they may move freely vertically from lower to upper bodies.

Since I only had 3 lang frames in the lower body and 7 bars...I surmise that there was inadequate access/routes to the upper hive body so they failed to expand upward and moved out instead.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I guess I should have looked closer at the top on the bottom chamber. I'll have to go back and take a picture of that and see how restricted the access is above the first hive body. It would either help confirm my theory or just add to the mystery.

lack of resources? Not likely IMHO. Down here the hives pretty much work all year. It's not uncommon to see hives split and swarm on their own in the middle of the winter. This far south they can probably find assorted sources of nectar and pollen year round. The local FB group has posted swarms in Dec, Jan, Feb...well you get the idea...winter in south texas really doesn't exist.
 

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At the moment the only theory I can produce so far is that my TBH bars need some additional mods to properly work in a Lang.
One of those could be a little food in some of them, so the bees don't starve to death.

It doesn't matter if the bees work all year. If there is not a teaspoon of feed in the hive, as it appears in this case, the bees will starve. Check things further up in the hive and see if you can find any honey, if so, you could rule starvation out.

There's at least 2 other things hinted at in the pics which may have caused the hive to die, but the most obvious is no food.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
IMG_3942.jpg IMG_3943.jpg

well there are some bee space gaps allowing some access to the upper bodies. But not really that much so I guess they felt too confined. The fact that the bees built out the entire bottom hive body and absolutely nothing above...it leads me to believe that they chose to abandon the hive and cleaned out all the honey before leaving. Bees do gorge themselves right before swarming or whenever they are preparing to leave.

I would think a healthy and growing hive is going to have sufficient stores to not require feeding when nectar is not readily available. For some reason this hive never grew beyond the first box, but it did grow that one box completely.

I find it just too coincidental that the hive simply "starved" at the exact same time they built the bottom hive body to max capacity with no attempt to move into the upper chamber. For some reason they never touched the second layer of frames. They just stopped building once the main body was filled with comb. If they had continued building upward there would be more honey and perhaps brood comb as well. They would have continued to build into the upper boxes until such time as the food ran out or something else drove them away. I think the dead bees at the bottom are drones who didn't make the move and were left to starve after any remaining honey ran out.

what are your other 2 hints?
 

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I'll share them even though I feel you will also argue that they do not apply to you either.

Other than starvation, the other two main possibilities based on what you have shared including the pics, are varroa mites, and / or queenlessness.

I also do not think the bees "left". They died. The hive may well have swarmed, but not all the bees would have left. There is a hatched queen cell in one of the pics, could be she didn't mate to requeen the hive after swarming. But that's just a guess.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
What clues do you see in the pictures that indicate mites? I do not know what to look for or what stands out as mites?

I found only a single queen cell. I would have expected several queen cells in a hive that was preparing to swarm. Only a single queen cell does not sound like good odds to me.

Yes, there were a lot of dead bees on the bottom screen But I'm unable to tell if they are a mix or only drones. Since they are all dead they are all probably shrunken to similar size so not sure if I can really ever tell if the pile of dead bees is a mix or just drones? But if it was drone only, I would think that indicates that the worker bees and queen fled, thus abandoning the drones to starve and die and the actual colony of workers and queen went elsewhere. Or do drones always accompany swarms? This I don't know but I would assume not.

My other hives I have witnesses a massive expulsion of drones, dead and drying males all over the ground outside the entrance and all the female workers doing a massive beat down on few live ones...sucks to be a drone.
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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Odie, when trying to determine what caused a hives demise, one must look at all the evidence. First, you have a pile of dead bees on the bottom board. Your hive died, they did not abscond. Now it is why did they die? Could be one or a combination of several things. There are no stores. Dead bees do not load up on honey and the comb shows no signs of robbing. Bees weakened by PMS do not store enough honey or build comb. The single queen cell is sometimes a mite infestested colonys attempt at fixing the problem. Deny all you want, doesn't change the opinions of those that have seen this before and are offering their insight.
You can look through the dead bees. Drones have large eyes on the tops of their heads and rounded abdomens. They are easy to distinguish from workers even when dead. Do an alcohol wash on the dead bees and see if you find ANY mites. Since these are dead bees the numbers will be much lower.
 

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Just a dead out. Activity stopped when the last of the honey was cleaned up.

So what is the mite level in your live hives? That is what matters.
 

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This hive was very active last year and all winter. Then suddenly all activity stopped.
Agree with the above comments - the hive has been long dead (likely before even the winter months).
Since this is South TX, there is not much winter to speak of.
The outsiders kept robbing the hive - no more honey - "suddenly all activity stopped".
 

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I'll share them even though I feel you will also argue that they do not apply to you either.
It is pretty frustrating when someone comes to Beesource for information and then dismisses what they are told.
When I see a load of dead bees on the bottom, it suggests to me that the colony collapsed quickly.
My first guess is starvation. The second varroa.
In this case, not seeing any accessible honey would put the nails in the coffin. As suggested earlier, a varroa infested hive is less likely to store enough honey to survive a lapse in nectar.
Sorry that’s not what you want to hear.
 

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It looks like they never made any surplus honey; that comb and the bottom board do not show signs of concerted robbing. If the queen cell referred to is in the third picture, it is a queen cup, not a queen cell. Could that be drone pupae on the bottom board? Starving bees will pull drone brood and cannibalize eggs. Bees short on reserves will not expand into upper boxes especially if somewhat isolated by the gapless top bar style frames in the lower box.

Do an alcohol wash on the dead bees. Bees do not leave a well supplied hive without a good reason!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Sounds like my TBH bars are likely the root cause of starvation since I just stuck them into the Lang without making any gaps between the bars like a standard frame would have. The bees just could not or chose not to expand upward by the limited access. Thus limiting the growth and ability to save sufficient stores? I should either use only standard frames in a Lang or figure out how to somehow notch the sides of the bars to allow movement upward. Secondary I'm guessing a starving hive is not a strong hive, thus more susceptible to mites or other stress factors?

Is this primarily a design failure? And would providing a feeder or some supplemental stores likely only delay the inevitable starvation?

I don't dismiss what anyone has said...but ask clarification and reason as to why a particular answer is given...otherwise one learns nothing...
 

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If your top bars are solid it may be that is why they did not move up. But that is more like overwintering in a single, Which in TX should not be a problem. What happened is more about what they looked like in the Fall.
A queen that failed in the winter, may be no more complicated than that. Even lang to lang they might not move up.
On to this year and getting them ready for next winter.
 
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