Colony collapse? Foul brood? Wax moths?

Hey everyone,

I am going into second season with my flow hive. First year we didn’t take any honey. The colony got really well through the winter and was buzzing and thriving this spring. About 3 weeks ago they swarmed when I was on holiday. i had a quick inspection, all combs were quite heavy with honey, at least a dozen queen cells of different kinds, some open and some closed and there were still a few hundred bees doing their thing. I was hopeful the colony might recover once a new queen had hatched.

I waited a little over a week and found the colony even less active then before, I maybe encountered 20 bees during the inspection very dark looking cells and also some webs on top of the comb. To surprise I also encountered a queen.

Can you take a look at those pictures and give me an idea what is going on?

  • Does the colony have a chance to recover?
  • Is something wrong with the combs?
  • are those webs from wax moths?
  • If the colony does not recover, what do I have to do with all the honey and combs before I possibly get a new nuc in June?

Here a picture:

Hi Julius & welcome to the forum.

Those webs are wax moth activity.

I’m unable to see any evidence of foul brood. My thinking is that the colony probably wouldn’t have swarmed if foul brood was an issue. I wonder if the colony issued more than one swarm, with the remaining part of the colony deciding to abscond, seeing as they had no obvious brood to hold them to the hive.

Your profile says that you have 3 hives. Are you able to help this hive out with some nurse bees, as well as a frame with emerging bees?

I haven’t discounted varroa. Have you done mite checks, or treated for mites?


I agree with Jeff about multiple swarms.

A few hundred bees and no brood or queen is an impossible situation for those bees to recover from. Overwintered queens are more likely to swarm - as I’ve become more successful in helping my bees make it through the winter months I’ve also had to start my swarm prevention monitoring and actions much earlier than the usual ‘beginning’ of spring. This year I made my first split at the end of February, which is still winter in my area!

So, after several swarms I believe your colony drew an unfortunate lot where a mated queen was not available soon enough or at all to resume brood production. The balance is tipped toward worker die-off, which would by why the wax moths were able to get a foothold. Good workers til the minute they die, they have and will continue to backfill the brood area with nectar and pollen.

In your shoes I would get hold of at least two frames of open and capped brood - if an actual nuc is not available check with local beeks and just ask! I recently bought just two brood frames from someone for $50. Condense these with your bees and 2-3 of your best nectar and pollen frames (after freezing for 24 hours to kill wax moth eggs) into a nuc. Freeze the other frames and keep them protected from pests until the colony can be expanded into a larger box.


Following up with a note about Jeff’s important mention of varroa - it is less likely to be a problem when there’s a period of broodlessness, but we certainly can’t discount it as part of beekeeping in the US or Europe. So assuming you can get this colony back on its feet, now is a good time to prepare your strategy if you haven’t yet :wink:


Thank you for your insights! Yeah that is probably what happened. I looked for signs of varroa, but couldn’t find any signs or traces of them.

Yes it is correct that I have three hives, but unfortunately that was the only colony left. I started off with two colonies, both made it through the first year, but the other one had a weak start into the year and unfortunately didn’t recover.

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Thank you for the detailed analysis @Eva that was really insightful.

I followed your advice and reached out to another bee keeper about brood frames, as we have had a really dry winter and spring here, unfortunately he couldn’t offer me any.

I also followed your advice and put all but one frame into the freezer until my three nucs arrive in the beginning of June. I left the last frame for the poor queen so she is not left to herself in an empty box. A week later she was also gone and that frame is now in the freezer as well.

Thank you everyone for your help!

I am looking forward to a fresh start :slight_smile: