Autumn signs in the uk

not having problems (i don’t think!), but i wonder if anyone can explain a few recent observations?
i’m in northern england, seems a bit late to be doing inspections, though the bees are still hauling in pollen from somewhere every time we have half an hour of sun, & i’m also seeing little bursts of what look like orientation flights now & again.
things i’m wondering about though, a week or so 2 of my 4 colonies threw out a bit of brood. not much, 2 or 3 larvae each (though i don’t know if there were more they might’ve taken right away). they’ve got plenty of food (both honey & syrup), they’ve all still got a super on (or brood box technically, ie full size) which i’ve belatedly realised isn’t normal practice, but seemed to work well last year when (i think) i massively overfed my first colony & they filled it up then started building new comb in the feeder.
one of the colonies seems to be chucking out a lot of dead bees as well (couple of dozen in the last week or so, thats the ones they’ve left near the door) but the thing i really don’t get is, another colony every time i check the floor for maybe a month, theres a patch maybe 2 fifths of the area covered in little black bits. seems too variable in size to be anythings droppings, & its clearly where the bees are up to something because its also where most of the wax cappings & varroa, which i’m planning to treat soon, is. but its proper pitch black, don’t think i’ve had any comb long enough for it to look like that. its quite hard, ranging in size from maybe half a varroa mite to half a pollen load. shapes very irregular, some long & thin, some almost round, triangular, roundish with a sort of ‘tail’. today there were also a couple of little white bits that looked like the dessicated doings of a very small bird. made me think of chalkbrood, which i’ve never seen. just a bit stumped, & it doesn’t seem to be a problem now, but i don’t want to wait til spring & then find out it was after all…

First thought here is that photos would help us to give more accurate advice. Especially for the following, which are not standard findings:


they would wouldn’t they! i’m afraid the tech is a bit below par over here, i got a few reasonable pics on my phone but i’ve so far failed to get them onto the computer. i know thats a bit pathetic, & i will try & sort it.
meanwhile, i put a mouse guard on the black bits hive a few days ago, which caused a lot of investigation. & probably not connected, but the following day (yesterday) they threw out a fair bit of brood, maybe 30 or so larvae. mostly quite big, but not at the sealing stage, & a few of them seem to have black round the edge as well- i’ll try & get a photo of that too.
so i think thats where the black stuff is from, but i still don’t know what it is. seems the wrong consistency for old larva membranes, crumbly/sooty rather than fibrous when you squash it. weather is fine here today & i actually had a look in just now to check they hadn’t run out of food. they haven’t. top box has its 6 flow frames mostly full of a mix of capped & open syrup plus a good smattering of bees, as ludicrously good natured as ever. i could see the top of a few frames of capped stores in the super below as well (had them on brood & a half earlier in the year, & i have now realised i’m leaving them too much room over the winter, but i think its too late to do anything about it this year without pinching all their winter stores).
i didn’t go down any further, basically because i couldn’t think of anything i might find that i’d be able to do anything useful about. if they have got a brood disease i think its probably one of the less serious ones, & it seems like they’re dealing with it themselves. the fact there is brood means the queen must’ve been alright up to a few weeks back, & the colony seems to be behaving as if they were ok- not bad tempered, & still bringing in pollen as of half an hour ago.
i’m dithering a bit as to when to do my oxalic treatment though. seems like if there is anything wrong, maybe its linked to varroa, & i should treat soon? but there evidently is still brood about at the moment, which i was hoping to wait out.
the hive with the dead bees, they don’t seem to be accumulating very fast. there was one yesterday still alive but obviously on the way out, & one this morning had died clinging halfway up the corner of the hive with her tongue sticking out. they’ve got plenty of stores too, but i’m wondering if they’ve got a buildup of one of the viruses? they were quite crawly earlier in the year for a few weeks, at the time my impression was they were fine but more of them than in the other colonies were checking out the front of the hive. didn’t see anyone looking incapacitated or dying, but then i’m still fairly new to bees & don’t necessarily trust my own conclusions. if thats the problem, hopefully thats another thing that might be sorted out with a winter varroa treatment?

right, finally persuaded one of my picture taking devices to talk to the internet. so, these are all the dead bees from the last 3 days. i tried to get a close up, but to me they just look like dead bees, no tongues out, black/shininess or anything to suggest whats happened to them. i thought 8 over 3 days didn’t seem excessive, but then i cleared them away this morning & there were another 9 this evening.
in the other hive most of the dead larvae have now gone, but the black bits are still coming. its been in that same patch & nowhere else for about 3 weeks, & you can probably see the same area has a lot of brood uncappings &, i think, more varroa than elsewhere. though last time i checked a fair proportion of them were still alive so i guess they might be dropping down & then crawling towards the most brood-smelling bit before the cold gets to them.
i’m more & more thinking those white bits you can see look like chalkbrood too?
zooming in really close as well, that looks absolutely horrible & i’m quite ashamed of not taking it more seriously earlier on, but does it look as if there are a few smaller, ie young, varroa mites in there? plus one or 2 that look as if they’ve been damaged, most obvious one being about a third of the way in from the right hand side, just below the horizontal crease in the board where everythings piled up deepest.
wishful thinking there i expect! i dream these days about my bees learning to deal with varroa themselves…

Some of the dead bees look like drones to me. It is normal for the hive to throw them out at at this time of year (or earlier).

Your coreflute slider shows tons of Varroa. What are you using for treatment? There is also a bit of chalkbrood (dry, white, mummified pupal parts). That suggests that the brood got chilled or wet at some point.

blimey that was quick! thanks. i can’t spot the drones in that collection at all, but i’ll take your word for it. might have a more thorough check of the next batch tomorrow. hadn’t seen any drones about for a bit, i guess i assumed they’d already gone.
i did a quite cack handed treatment with thymol a month or so back, (which you gave me a bit of useful advice on i think, see ‘has my varroa treatment not worked?’)
conclusion seems to be, it hadn’t, at least not in that hive. although they’ve all got signs of varroa again now, including one i did with apistan at the same time (bit late getting started & i didn’t want queenie to go off lay). going to vape em all with oxalic, quite soon i think, last thing i need is a battery, which i’m hoping will arrive tomorrow.
so…i’m sure i read somewhere that the chalkbrood fungus produces black fruit bodies if left long enough, maybe that explains the black bits? hadn’t realised it could be encouraged by dank conditions, though i guess it makes sense. i’ve noticed unexplained patches of wet on my sliders a few times this year, though not lately & i don’t think in that hive. but heres a question; if the bees are in a big space coming up to winter, might the queen try & up the laying to build up a big enough colony to fill it? because after the swarming extravaganza of spring i was determined those bees weren’t going to run out of space, but after the second swarm in july maybe the loss of half the colony (again) left them a bit short staffed. queen is a couple of years old & some sort of prolific yellow southerner & probably wouldn’t need much provocation to lay excessive amounts of eggs, i wonder if she could’ve just outstripped the amount of nurse bees available & they then got caught out by the arrival of winter?
anyway, bit happier to have a couple of my phenomena explained, so cheers for that…

No. The workers will cannabilize any unwanted eggs. Your Flow super really should not be on the hive, but I think you know that.

Great photo of mites on the slider richT…don’t sweat the small stuff when mites are around…

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i wasn’t thinking i want to get them to build up for winter, more wondering if the big space is the thing i’ve done to cause brood to get cold?
i am still struggling a bit with the whole winter space thing. slightly different estimates in my various bee books of how much food colonies will need to overwinter, but a lot of them seem about what you’d get in a brood box if it was chock full of honey, or syrup, & nothing else, & i’ve finished feeding & still evidently got brood, plus in my last check one of the hives had at least one frame completely full of pollen. just feels like one brood box of feed might be cutting it a bit fine. guess i’ll have to get better at looking before winter & assessing colony size…

doug1, thanks! pity theres not a market for the damn things. i’ll try & get some more pics after i’ve OA’d them, slightly dreading what they’ll look like, mind.
i’m not at the point yet where i can tell whats small stuff, is the trouble. very glad no one seems to think my pile of black detritus is a sign of something terrible though.


It would contribute, although they should be clustering soon, if not by now. It really helps colonies to have as little space as possible to heat over winter. Do you still have a queen excluder on the hive?

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no, i don’t really like excluder anyway, & i definitely didn’t want the bees going off & leaving the queen behind. thanks for the nudge though

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just a quick check; i did a test run of my OA vaporiser yesterday, out in the open with me hiding in the greenhouse & holding it out of the door. quite a spectacular display of vapour, with a few bits seeming to sort of take off in powder form & vaporise in mid air. is that the sort of thing you’d expect? just looked like it might be a bit full on for the bees, i think i’d been expecting the process to be more sedate. it took maybe a little under 2 mins, & i reckon if i packed the crystals down a bit it’d probably reduce the shrapnel. wondering if i should try & reduce the power a bit though to slow things down. i used a 12v battery, fully charged just before, so easiest would be to let it discharge a bit before doing a proper run. but maybe its actually supposed to look like that…?

I did a time lapse of mine last year - from your description, I think you test sounds pretty normal.

Thousands of people are doing this every year, seems to work very well even if there are a few bee casualties, they will probably move away as soon as it starts to get hot and vaporize so they should be pretty well clear of “shrapnel.”

Is that video “public”, because it won’t play for me?

If you pack it down, there might be larger lumps of “shrapnel”, because the flying bits are caused by the heating element creating puffs of oxalic acid vapour underneath the pile of crystals. As @chau06 says, I wouldn’t worry about it, as long as you think they are getting most of the dose as vapour. :wink:

actually i didn’t weigh it for my test run or anything, just shoved a scoop in, probably i just used a bit too much. anyway, thanks both, think i am now all set to go.

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Does this link work?

Vaporizer test

Yes, thank you! :blush:

works for me now too, thanks.
a bit more on those dead bees, a load more have turned up over a few days, lots of them in bits/looking partly eaten. despite the narrow entrance i wondered if a shrew or something had got in.
so i had a look in today, didn’t go into the frames but i took the top box off (not that heavy), then the brood box (pretty heavy), & had a look underneath. big pile of a couple of hundred dead bees in the bottom, with a scatter of live ones too, unclear if they were on their way out or trying to clear out the bodies. i couldn’t see any droppings or signs of gnawing, & there was a big bunch of bees clustered across the bottom of the frames.
so i think they’ve got through more of their stores than i’d have liked, but not all, & something else is killing them. i’m thinking varroa & associated viruses (everyone else in yorkshire has apparently had a bad mite year too), & most of the damage has been done already, but still worth vaping ASAP (was going to do it today but i ran out of time).
thought i’d mention it though in case any of you guys had other ideas…

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If it was my hive, I would. Good decision. :wink: