Bees slowly dying

Hello all. We have a 2 langstroth hives and for the last 4 days bees have been slowly dying. They basically fall in in front of hive, convulse and are extremely agitated and die. We live in the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast and it is starting to cool down for winter but there is plenty of pollen around at the moment courtesy of the Japanese sunflowers that cascade down the range. Have put in a sugar bag this morning as the hive is getting weaker and rain for the next few days forecast. Mr google has mentioned nodesma but I’m up for any info or help. Thanks in advance.

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Insecticide spraying? Any of your neighbours using them, or are you near to any farms which might use them?

We live on a rural bush property
There are roadworks a couple of kms away
They have sprayed a herbicide along the work area to kill weeds
Would a herbicide hurt the bees?

Sounds likely - many herbicides are toxic to insects and fish. I’d suggest contacting your municipal office to learn more. They may have rules about when not to spray - like during flowering - that have been violated. Or at least to notify locals so they can take precautions such as closing up beehives on the day of spray. So sorry :worried:

Hi Felmo, I’m in Buderim, there has been a bit of a honey flow lately. I don’t think the bees are going far to get their honey, just going by how quickly my observation hive has built up in the last week. Your bees may not have to travel 2 k’s to get their honey. It would be good if you could post some photos.

Not much has changed with the hives.
Wet weather yesterday kept foraging to a minimum.
Sick bees are either being pushed out of the hive or they are voluntarily jumping off the landing board at about one bee per minute. From there they slowly die on the ground. Looking at the entrance and under the lid you can see these bees walking around in a very haphazard manner.
The other bees are still coming and going as normal, some with pollen.
Inspected the hive 2 days ago and apart from the deaths all appeared to be normal. Young larvae was observed. The honey had been moved from the outer frames to closer to the brood.
If the problem was caused by an insecticide wouldn’t we observe a sudden die off and then a recovery?
posted a couple of photos to give an idea of the problem

landing board. The healthy ones are still having a go.

dead bees on bottom board of the weaker hive.


Felmo, could it be a naturally occurring plant chemical? Perhaps a saponin type substance as found in sweet pittosporum or the like? They could be collecting the sap from the stumps of recently felled trees.
Locomotion difficulties sounds like it could be a chemical poisoning but it is not necessarily man made, although it could be of course.

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Sounds like what happens to my hive each year right before winter. The hive dwindles from 60,000 to 10,000.

Helpful photo, thanks. That doesn’t look like insecticide, as I don’t see all of their proboscis sticking out. I agree with @Dan2, it sounds like intoxication from some poisonous nectar.

This article has a list of plants which are toxic to bees. I don’t think it is complete, but if any of those are flowering near your hive, it might explain what is going on.

The good thing is that the whole hive usually forages over a wide area and a variety of plants. Any one bee will forage a specific nectar source until it runs out. This means that the bees in your hive which have not fixated on the toxic nectar may be able to keep the hive going, and not get misled to the toxic nectar source.

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Thanks for all of your replies.
Dawn, I hope you are right about only isolated proportion of bees that may be effected.
Will see what tomorrow brings.


Well a week or so on, and our original hive, which is older and stronger seems to be almost firing on all cylinders again. Not dropping off the front entrance every minute anymore. The newer one, which had just recovered quite successfully from chalkbrood, is trying to pick up and the deaths are less but still a few wobbling around. Jury’s out whether they’ll make it or not. I gave the older one a sugarbag one day after they started exhibiting signs and think this basically gave them a kick along as their foragers were dropping off. The newer hive is much smaller and only started exhibiting signs a day after the first hive so their numbers dropped off much more quickly. I have scouted around the neighbourhood (not urban) and apart from Japanese sunflowers, which are a declared weed in my part of Queensland and carpet the hillsides) can’t spot much out in flower. . There are African tulip trees and morning glory vines in flower but I haven’t found any info suggesting either to be noxious to honeybees. I note azaleas and rhododendrons are noxious to honeybees but none in flower that I can see although I do know our closest neighbour as a lot of them. Will have to wait until they start flowering to assess effects on our bees. Never a dull day when you have honeybees is there.

That is your answer then. Here is an earlier post on this forum:

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A video of some of the psycho bees before they die. (hpe this works)

Very impressive. I am still pretty convinced that the African Tulip is to blame. Queensland Dept of Agriculture has named it as an invasive pest and killer of native stingless bees too. Tear it down, I say, tear it down!!! :smiling_imp:

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Our chainsaw is coming out tomorrow to cut an impressive tulip tree. It’s not flowering yet. Just sad about the hundreds of bromeliads growing on it. Well, they can get relocated.
This forum just saved a bunch of my bees. I am so grateful.

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I am grateful that you read and act. Plus the native bees will now have one less hurdle to face. Thank you for taking it seriously. :blush:

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There are a couple of open flowers on our tulip tree and many many to open soon! I can’t reach the branch I need to cut off, it’s too high. Blimey!
Need to talk husband into doing it in the night, he won’t be here during day time the next few days.
A week ago I found a few dead bees in front of one of my hives, not drones, so couldn’t think of a reason. The bees must have learned, still, that tree has to go before the other bees find the flowers. The golden penda trees are near by and full of bees.

An update and a few questions.
The old hive appears to be ticking along OK with numerous bees out foraging all day.
The newer hive is faring much worse. About 30 dead bees on the bottom board every morning with many more dropping off the landing board during the day. Not a lot of foraging activity. Yesterday observed a number of robber bees around the entrance. Reduced the entrance to 20mm gap to try and minimise their impact.

Just completed an inspection of the new hive.
Bees covering 8 of the 10 frames.
A number of bees still showing erratic behaviour.
A lot more capped honey was evident than last week.
The total of capped brood would probably be equal of one complete face of a deep frame.
No eggs or larvae found.
Could not find the queen, but then again I rarely do.

Am I right in assuming that the hive is now queenless? She may have either absconded or died.

Bearing in mind that it is now approaching the end of May is it too late to transfer a frame with eggs/larvae from the other hive to it in the hope that they raise a new queen?
Or should we just leave things alone?


They might be queen-less or they may have swarmed recently and are between queens.

Go ahead and transfer eggs.

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Felmo - in addition to what Ed advises I’m wondering if it might be possible for you to move the weak hive to a friend’s place for a while - preferably away from any possible problem trees/nectar. A real bush setting perhaps?
I’m wondering if the bees in the weak hive might be communicating the problem nectar source like Lemmings over the cliff?
Perhaps the queen died from what she was fed?
Anyhow - thought I might suggest this as it might be something I would look at if I were in your position…