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Bees Disappeared in Late Fall

Hello there.
I’ve had three colonies this beekeeping year. I started with one, which I split into two, and I caught a little swarm in the summer. That swarm was a little unproductive, but they were queenright and steadily making progress towards winter preparation (I fed them syrup as well). They seemed like a happy little hive two weeks ago, too; their cluster began covering about five frames in a deep box.
Side note: I just finished the third and final round of mite treatment with ApiLife Var, which seems to have gone pretty well.
Today I go to put all the hives some fondant (today was unusually warm and temps will return to the 40s soon). I open the hive that had the swarm, and they were all gone. No brood, no resources, so queen, and only a couple dead bees here and there.
What could have happened this late in the year? Could they have gone into another hive, or somewhere else (e.g. another beekeeper’s box, tree maybe)? Absconding in late fall seems risky for them. I checked my other hives, and their population seems to have stayed the same from a couple weeks ago.
Thanks in advance for any help/tips/suggestions.

That might be a problem for the effectiveness of your mite treatment. The HBHS Varroa guide says the following for ApiLife Var:
Use between 65 to 85°F (18-30°C); ineffective below 45°F (8°C).

Have you done a sugar roll mite count? If not, I would blame Varroa for your hive’s demise. If you have, and it was low, then it could be a huge number of less likely causes. The most common cause of hive loss in late fall/winter in the US is Varroa, followed by starvation and condensation.

Dawn, I just found it weird that there were barely any dead bees in the hive. Everything was completely gone.

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Very common with Varroa. Believe me, I know from experience, but it isn’t just me. Here is a really good article telling us why we should not be complacent. We need to check whether what we have done is sufficient, and if not, do more or be willing to buy more bees. :thinking:

https://beeinformed.org/2016/03/08/why-did-my-honey-bees-die/

What you have experienced Learningwiththebees has become routine…bees looking OK in September, then the hive is empty…or close to empty… a month later. Sometimes you will see this brood pattern:

Look for signs of frass (mite droppings)…looks like tiny pieces of white wax in the cells. Every area is different in their brood cycle timing… the mite population follows the brood cycle. But in my area, I need varroa treatments in place by the end of August at the latest. I also use Randy Oliver’s blue shop towel method throughout the summer…varroa is not to be underestimated in it’s ability to reproduce.

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