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Dead bees, and swarming?


If great looking frames was normal we wouldn’t be excited seeing a great frame of honey or brood. It gives me a buzz to see those frames. It motivates me to take a photo of a great frame though the only input I have is to supply a wired frame of foundation, the rest is up to the bees. Even a ‘grotty’ frame is amazing engineering by the bees.


I agree Peter. I saw one of those good looking brood frames this morning. I recently talked about placing some bur worker comb face down. I did that over a colony that hadn’t made a queen. Or I thought it hadn’t. Most of the brood in the bur comb had emerged, so I removed it & pulled the middle frame half out & put it straight back down again. It was 3/4 full of sealed brood. I mentioned that hive again previously because it has 2 supers with no QX. My next job is to add the QX.

I got my first bit of jellybush for the season this morning. It was in one of the first 2 frames I spun, & that was it, only one more after that out of five boxes. I expect a bit more next couple of times I rob. I mentioned that I got some last year on the 30th Jan. I’ll see if I do the same this year.


I don’t have much experience with identifying robbing. But I just been to the hive and I’ve seen a lot bees flying in front of the hive. I lot more than usual (*). Until yesterday, the activity at the entrance was normal and could not detect anything suspicious.

I kitted up and fired up the smoker but at the end I decided not to disturb the hive any further. I am out of my depth and I don’t think there is much I can do anyway. I’m keen to have a look once, and if, the hive settles back to normal.

The ‘beard’ that formed on the corner stayed roughly the same size, but changing shape continuously, and moving around just a bit.

(*) I checked an hour later and activity in front of hive is pretty much normal again.


Crikey you’re game! We have signs around this area saying ‘ANY sign of fire call 000’ but I guess you’re not as urban as here. More than likely in a higher fire zone though…
It makes it tougher doing a full inspection and it makes you more appreciative of the smoke when you can use it! :slight_smile:
Yes doing inspections can be intimidating to begin with but each inspection becomes easier as more is seen and learned. I do minimal intervention inspections summertime but keep an eye on the entrance and weight. I’d offer to come over and have a look as I’m only down the scarp a bit but I’ve been time poor of late and couldn’t guarantee anything.


When you see robbing going on for the first time you will know it — all the pandemonium is at the entrance with fighting to the death.
The bees flying about at the entrance is cleansing flights and orientation flights, those leaving the hive and flying in a direction are foraging for nectar and pollen.
The ‘beard’ in the hot months is fairly normal to help in the temperature control of the hive. If the ‘beard’ increases after sun set it is likely the population of the colony is too high for the available room inside and so needs checking out with a possible split or weakening of the hive needed.


When I saw bearding before, it was always at the entrance, and the bees will be fanning their wings. This is at the rear corner, and the bees are not fanning. Been there for three days now. Is this still considered ‘normal’?


I did ask earlier if where the bees are hanging out in the shade, but didn’t get an answer. If they are in the shady side of the hive I would’t be surprised
Fanning at the entrance is not bearding. They are two different events.

Fanning at the entrance is to air condition the hive, usually to lower the hive temperature. There are things you can do to help in a cooler hive.

Bearding is a massing of bees outside of the hive, commonly near the entrance but on a very hot day don’t be surprise if they have moved to a side out of the sun into the shade. Bearding can have several causes, like there not being enough space in the hive for the colony so it likely you won’t see fanning because of that. It can also happen if the colony temperature is getting hot so some of the bees will hang about in the cooler air outside and some may be fanning as well.


Thanks for that info Pete.

The hive is in dappled shade so gets sun on and off during the day. I had a few days of 38c a couple of weeks ago but it has been low 30s for a while now.

Maybe they are becoming over crowded then? Well a couple of hundred died due to honey flooding we suspect so that should have eased the crowding a tiny bit.


For a strong and healthy hive a few hundred deaths above normal isn’t much, given that a ‘normal average’ rate of egg laying for a queen is 1200 per day.

An ambient temperature (out side of the hive) of 38c could very well explain your bees clustering on the side of the hive looking for some cooler air and to reduce the amount of body heat building up in the hive.

As well as hot weather bees will cluster outside of the hive if there is not the room inside for them all so a quick walk around the hive at last light for a bigger cluster is an indicator of that issue if it exists. During your inspections estimating the use of the frame cells in some type of use and how much of each frame is visible under the bees working on the frame is also an indicator.
If 80% of all of the cells in the brood box are in use and you have 70% of the frames covered in bees on average then you are needing to make some choices by either doing a split or going to a double brood box, there are for and against both of those options.


I had a chance to check the hive at night (8:45pm) after work, and the cluster is still roughly the same size. They were quite cute snuggled up sleeping I have to say - I never saw sleeping bees before.

So… not sure what i can make of that. Having said that I’ve been considering adding a brood box for some time, and as you say there is a lot of conflicting opninions. Full size, half size, none at all…

Still, back to topic, the dead bees, and the cluster/beard on the rear corner - are these related issues?

To sum up - about two weeks before this happened I had a few days around 38C but it’s been mild since, and about 5 days before I harvested honey and it flooded.

The dead bees, and cluster/beard appeared ~ 5 days after that. If this issue is related to the flooding of the flow hives, wouldn’t I notice the dead bees and cluster sooner?


The only real way for answers is to inspect the brood. If the bees aren’t bearding at the entrance I doubt they are overcrowded. I know it’s tough if you can’t use smoke but even just checking a couple of frames in the brood box will give you good information. With all that tinder around the hive and with the warm days I wouldn’t light the smoker without a hose running in close proximity even if we weren’t in fire ban season. Ask Peter how smoker accidents can happen. :wink:
Are bees still bringing pollen into the hive?
Is the coreflute slider in the top or bottom slot?
I agree that cluster is odd but once again who knows what’s going on inside.


That tells me the hive is not over crowded, if it was then with all the foraging bees home for the night there would be a bigger cluster outside having a relax.

Without at least seeing pics and just thinking on what is the average I would go for just a single brood box at least till next Spring then find what others nearby are using and follow their advise.
Keep up with inspections, look and learn, watch for bees flying back in with pollen and nectar, the bees will forage if it is available even if they have no need for it.
@skeggley is worth making contact with as he is in your area even if just to compare notes and get a feeling what is going on in your area.


If that cluster is still located in the same spot are they putting any wax on the outside of the box?
It may be worth brushing them onto a sheet with a nuc box in case it’s a mini swarm with a virgin queen.


I have a hose just next to the hive. I’m paranoid about firing it up as I’m near bush. I think i can legally use it any day except on total fire bans.

Yes, I can see bees loaded with pollen.

I removed the corflute to increase air circulation, just after I had the honey leak.

I had a guy to give me a hand with introducing the nuc when I started and he vouched for half size brood boxes added. Then I went to a seminar for local beekeepers, and got all sorts of opinions. I guess there is no right or wrong answer.

Well… the cluster is now gone! Activity seems pretty normal, and a peek through the viewing window suggests a normal hive.

Where they’ve gone, I have no clue.


Ok, ignore the bees cleansing and orientating around the hive, but those flying in from a distance not returning with pollen you can assume are returning with nectar.

I am hoping your not thinking that being removed would have stopped the honey leak. It seems some remove the corflute, other have it in the top slot and other use the bottom slot in really hot weather. For me I would try them all and when the bees are not having to fan the hive for cooling I would use that position.

@skeggley is in your neck of the woods and his advice is well thought out so I would be guided by his thinking.

I would out a good wager they have finished their drinks of G&T’s and gone back inside the hive, I have ruled out the other possibles as not likely - but bees will be bees.
Thanks for the interesting thread and the thought provoking answers from all.


No, haha. I usually remove it when it gets very hot in summer to aid circulation, and put it back in in winter.

What do you reckon @skeggley? Add another brood box next spring? A half one?


Assume Peter? No, I can’t agree.

It’s been warm, more likely water.

More than likely bee rs.
My colonies are starting to get light, some already too light, stores are diminishing. From my experience fairly normal for this time last of year relying on the local park land.

Bottom line, it’s more work that’s not necessary, twice as much work. Twice as hard to find the queen.
Now if you were to say, ‘add another super next spring? a half one?’, different kettle of fish.
I’m a hobby keeper, my hives don’t migrate, I don’t follow the flow, I rely on the bush, and Mother Nature.
Since having a colony starve this time a few years back I was advised or rather recommended by a forum member from Canberra to add an ideal super for bees only moving the qx up and down seasonally to accomodate the dearth. So I tried it with a WSP sized box and am still using this system and these hives are still going strong. I still ensure the single brood hives have stores though but have had to add honey frames.
I don’t like the different sized frames though, I keep getting them mixed up!
The gums around here are budding up and hopefully we get a good productive flow to rebuild the colony stores and some come March.


I take your point on the possibility the bees are returning with water. I do go on a bit about making a water supply available to them. It is essential in hot and dry weather.
It is easily forgotten about here with our ‘wet season’ and plenty of dams, lakes and water courses available both man made and natural.
Honey production is 12 months of the year here with slight ups and downs, but they are always foraging and producing.
I like your summing up at the bottom of your post completely, I used to run double brood boxes in the past because of the freezing winters but it did make hive jobs a real pain in the butt, especially when the hives were 3 or 4 hours drive away from spare gear. For someone in their first year or two I wouldn’t go in that direction of double brood boxes. Reading about others in the forum about their conditions makes me grateful for the conditions here.
Cheers mate