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Chalkbrood mummies caught in wire screen


Hi - just need some advice on Chalkbrood in a flow hive please. Most of the mummies are appearing on the corflute (coflute in lower slot) having fallen or having been pushed through by the bees but some are getting stuck in the wire mush on the screened bottom board. The bees can’t seem to remove them from there. I have had to pull the hive apart and push the wedged and trapped mummies out of the wire mesh (probably half a cup there). If I put the corflute in the higher slot would the bees be able to lift the mummies over the lip inside the entrance and take them outside the hive?


Yes, I would think so, they will either then drop them out the front of the hive or take them away.


Thanks…I’ll give it a go.


I’ve had to deal with Chalkbrood in 2 of my hives this summer. I’ve found that very often they will bring them to the front of the hive & they eventually are pushed outside, but quite often they end up staying on the entrance board. I was doing rounds of these hives every time I thought of it (often 5 or 6 times a day) to remove what I could from the front of them & whatever had fallen out onto the ground, as it will stay active in the soil for up to 15 years. Of course I also cleaned the bottom board thoroughly during inspections. I actually have 2 solid bottom boards for each of these hives & rotated them out so that I could clean them properly. These 2 hives are very particular usually about keeping things clean ( I did see them removing affected larvae from the cells) but they seemed adverse to having a lot of contact with those larvae that had progressed to more advanced stages. Just in case you didn’t know, the ones that are black have the active spores. I always wore disposable gloves when dealing with anything to do with these 2 & changed them if I’d come into contact with affected larvae before doing anything further within the hive.


Very interesting. I also had Chalkbrood in 2 hives late summer. I condensed the hives down and used banana in one to remedy the situation and overall I am convinced at this stage that it was caused by chilled brood in hives that had too much room. One hive had become queenless and it took a while for them to get it up and running again after I gave them eggs from another hive to raise an emergency queen. I think generally a stronger more compact hive fights it better. Not sure what to do in spring as a stronger more compact hive usually brings on a swarming response at that time. I was tipping the mummies from the bottom screen into a tub of chlorine solution and then spraying and wiping the corflute with a similar solution. Now here is a thought (and am happy to be corrected on this). I think that the ants are collecting the mummies from around the outside of the hive and eating them. They are an organic food source after all. They are dried meat with what looks like a Camembert cheese coating on them. If it is not the ants eating them I am pretty sure something else would or is. If they are, I wonder if they are consuming the fungus spores? Perhaps they are spreading them around the area?


Definitely impacted by colony/hive size ratio, in that it effects how easy it is for them to maintain optimum temps. The hive I had which was most impacted by it was one where the colony was poisoned & it took them awhile to get back on their feet. I believe that there may not have been enough bees remaining to keep all the brood at temperature. I also think that it is definitely linked to nutrition. We have had a very rough time with forage over the summer, as every time flowering came on we had torrential rain or very strong winds. Two of my hives had plenty of stores of both pollen & honey to get through this time (earlier hiving, head start on everything) but the ones I was feeding syrup too quickly ran out of pollen, once that began to come in again there was a marked difference. I was lucky in that it never managed to take a strong hold in either hive. I think the most I found on bottom board (internal) was about 10 & external to hive 5 or 6 per day. In terms of frames it was confined to 1 in each hive. There is now no evidence of it in either hive, they have been clear of it for a number of weeks.
I did notice ants were keen on them & that was my reason for picking them up as often as possible as they were taking them down into their nests. Whilst I know I won’t have found all of them, I just felt I had to do as much as possible to reduce it’s ongoing impact.
I have a friend who is a microbiologist, she said that in the case of something like Chalkbrood, bleach is not the answer, it won’t kill it, you need to use vinegar. So I washed/soaked everything in Vinegar as my first stage in cleaning & used disposable gloves when doing anything with those hives.
I think optimising the bees ability to maintain hive temps & nutrition are key to managing Chalkbrood, I think ventilation is important too & that our very wet & quite cool summer also had an impact, greater periods of humidity & cold. .
On reflection I think hive temps probably take precedence over ventilation & this makes me think that insulation in the form of thicker timber or other methods might be worth considering if we experience similar spring/summer conditions next year.
The balance of hive size to bee ratio re swarming & healthy hive is, for me, a part of the art of beekeeping, & another skill to finesse…


Yes - very tricky to prevent it - particularly in swarming season in a few months. I found more of it in another hive yesterday. I opened up the hive on the suspicion that they had too much room (having seen a mummy on the landing board) and indeed I was surprised at how little honey was in the top super. I will get rid of that super and just leave a deep brood and an ideal. I really think the ants might help destroy the fungus by eating it (when they eat the mummies) and might help clear it up but would love to hear a contribution from an entomologist or the like about that specifically. Interesting regarding the vinegar vs chlorine.


What a bummer, especially this time of year as humidity increases.How are their pollen stores? It would be brilliant if the ants did render it inert by consuming it, but if they get to that really black stage they are very crumbly. I dread to think how many spores there are in one larvae.
I was intending to pack my hives down for winter last weekend but the colonies are just too big, so unless there is a big change in population size over next few weeks they will have 1 brood & 1 super, all are 10 frame deeps.


Thanks Kirsten - true - they powder up when black like charcoal ash! I think pollen looks ok. I don’t like chalkbrood but know for sure that I can’t ever get rid of it because it exists everywhere really. My hives got it from somewhere in the fist place even with clean new equipment and no known nearby hives. With the right conditions it will be back. Nature is sure to be controlling it in some way however, keeping it in check to some extent - perhaps with a combination of ants, rain, sun, microorganisms and so on. I try to think of it with the shoe on the other foot - Chalkbrood is a living thing so it has to battle to stay alive too. In fact, if I was a chalkbrood enthusiast then I would probably be lamenting all the things out there that can kill or deplete it. I think you are spot on with all your reasonings in your second from last post.