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Advice- Colony dead already!


Just found my Colony dead, and it’s not even winter.

Looking for some help/ advice as to what might have gone wrong.

I have a top bar hive, with a new Queen and 3 lb package installed this year.

We installed into the top bar hive that we used last year but lost our bees in winter due to cold. There was approximately half a hive of honey left which we installed into.

Everything was going well. Capped brood, increasing numbers. No signs of disease infection.

We had a few frosts recently and temperatures have dropped.

Suspected there was an issue today and found the bees all dead.

There were hundreds of them and they had built plenty of comb but NO HONEY.

None of the honey we gave them was left. We were feeding them also.

Any thoughts on what happened?


Very likely Varroa if you didn’t treat. I assume you are in the US, one of the northern states? Please fill in the profile with your approx location, it will help us to help you. Here is an article on what to look for in your hive:


The lack of honey may be due to robbing by other hives. This is a prime time of year in the US for robbing.


Thank you for your reply.

Yes I am in upstate NY.

I did read that article before I posted to the forum.

How would I know if the hive was robbed?

I just can’t believe it.


If you look at the floor of the hive and see a lot of wax cappings, that is probably from robbing.

The other possibility is that they starved, but my understanding was that NY had a great flow this year, so that is pretty unlikely. I still think Varroa is top of the list. I assume you didn’t treat? :blush:

One other thought. If you can take some photos of the comb, especially if there are dead bees in it, we might be able to help more with a diagnosis.


I’m going with Varroa weakened the colony to the point it couldn’t defend itself from robbers.


No, I didn’t treat.

Here are a couple of photos. One shows mostly just bees with their bums stuck out of the comb. The other shows some bees with their tongue stuck out. I believe that is sign of Varroa.


The image didn’t link properly. Here is how I do it. :blush:

  1. When you start a reply message look at the top of the window where you type text. The seventh icon from the left is a bar with an arrow pointing up. Click on that.
  2. Use the search menu to find your photo and select it. Click upload.
  3. WAIT for 30 seconds or more for it to upload. If you don’t wait, we can’t see it. :wink:
  4. Bask in the glory of a nice photo. :smile:

Edit: OK, well done, you fixed it :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Yeah, sorry. I fixed it.


No problem. I think that photo is very helpful. Now I am 99% sure that was Varroa. You are not the only one. I lost a hive to it this year, and I was treating. :disappointed_relieved: :face_with_raised_eyebrow:


Here is the other one.


In the second photo, I think I can see guanine deposits (Varroa poop) and melted larvae. If you are willing to treat, I would suggest Oxalic acid vapor in August or ASAP after your last harvest next year. It works well, and can be repeated without worrying about resistance. It is also organic.

Sorry for your loss.



Thank you for your help.

If I get more bees next year (which is big IF) I should treat before I install them?

Thanks again.


As you have a top bar hive, you will need a package. I would not treat before installing personally, but some package providers do this before selling the package. Let them build up to reasonable strength, then consider treating. I would also highly recommend joining a local bee club. See if you can find somebody who is familiar with top bar and Varroa, and ask if they are willing to mentor you. Most beekeepers love to talk and teach bee stuff. If you are a new beekeeper (less than 5 years), top bar hives are actually probably one of the most difficult types to start with.

Meanwhile we will help as much as we can. I really hope that you try again next year. This is a valuable learning experience, and if you allow it to do so, it will make you a better beekeeper. :blush:


Thank you again, Dawn.

I am glad to know what happened.

I will think about your suggestions for the future.

I really appreciate all your comments, help and support.


In my humble opinion, I would treat a package with Oxalic acid vapor within a week of installation, this way there is no sealed brood yet. Most packages come with plenty of free mites :open_mouth:


The only problem is that you risk an absconding. If you have a frame of brood and drawn comb to give them, that risk will reduce a lot, but I like to let them make it home before adding noxious stimuli. :smile:


The OP does have drawn comb :thinking:


With lots of dead bees and brood in it = oleic acid. Not attractive to bees. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Dis-agree again: In the wild, a swarm would happily move in there. I’ve witnessed it every year in my own apiary.


Fairy snuff, then. :blush: