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Dead bees mummified

We found this debris at the bottom of the hive. The hive was a split made about a month ago. The queen is there but has not yet started laying. Is this chalk brood? Anybody able to help?

It sure looks like chalk brood to me Stephen and one of my hives has suffered that about 4 months ago. It is not on the ‘notify list’ with the DPI.
The good thing is that the colony will survive even though
I still find the odd mummies. The spores survive in a hive for years, but become less over time.
The bad thing is that there is no silver bullet for it.
A friend at the DPI and a bee inspector feels a hive can fall victim if it has been recently moved and it may be a stress related issue. And yes, I had recently moved my hive. Making a split does cause some stress to a hive as well.
You say the queen hasn’t started laying but I would wonder how you have brood without her having lay the eggs. It can’t be brood layed prior to the spit as it would have been emerged in a month.
Keep cleaning the corflute every day or two and do regular inspection of the brood comb and remove any bodies with tweezers.

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Thanks Peter. We put 3 frames of brood in the hive at the time of the split so I presume the mummies are from that brood. Will do as you recommend and clean up the corflute and remove the bodies.

I agree, definitely chalk brood disease. It can happen when brood gets chilled. It can happen when a split is taken with not enough bees to keep the brood warm. Also a walk-away split could result in not enough bees to keep the brood warm. Another cause could be if the entrance is too big or cold air blowing up through a mesh floor

Yeah it’s make a lot of sense… we moved them and also we split in to 3 haives. And I moved it again…
I am Rua by the way. I found those mummies…
and thanks Steve. You took lots of trouble to post this photo…


Definitely chalkbrood. Requeening is usually the best long term solution.


The time frame isn’t right as the brood you added to the split would have already emerged over the month, your time frame more fits with a laying queen in the hive since the split: but none the less, it is chalk brood, the main thing now is in cleaning out the mummies and reducing the spores in the hive. One thing I missed is advising you to remove the brood frames progressively and put in new frames with foundation to reduce the spore count. Even after 4 months I still find the odd mummie, but as I have said the spores can live in a hive for many years.
I noticed Michael’s tip on re-queening the hive, that idea has been doing the rounds for many years, and when my hive got infected I asked Hamish from the DPI if it was worth trying. His answer was ‘how would doing that reduce the spores in the hive’.
Needless to say, don’t swap any frames from the infected hive to another hive and it will recover over time.

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Hi Peter, @Ducati did the split a month ago. Therefore the time frame for the mummies sounds right to me. All of the brood in those frames would have emerged by now, except for the mummies. The bees remove them as they clean the cells out. This is where the banana trick can work. Apparently bananas put bees into a cleaning frenzy.

Would you believe that brood mummies have some value. That’s if you’re a hive beetle. Hive beetle larvae will feast on chalk brood mummies, that’s from personal observations.

You could be right Jeff but my thinking is as soon as the nurse bees figured out that mummies weren’t going to emerge and were dead they would start cleaning out the mummies sooner than waiting ‘full term’ but that is just my thinking and thankfully I have not got a lot of personal experience with Chalk Brood.
With the increased risk of SHB it is something to watch out for in an infected hive, a good point mate…

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The root cause is not the spores. Chalkbrood cannot reproduce at the normal temperature of the brood nest. Nor can it reproduce at the normal pH of a hive when you aren’t feeding syrup. The spores simply take advantage. A new queen probably works for a variety of reasons:

  1. hygeine is genetic and removing larvae that are infested before the Ascosphaera apis can form spores and reproduce.
  2. perhaps keeping the brood nest consistently warmer is genetic.
  3. expanding the brood nest too far and getting chilled in a cold snap is probably genetic.

Here are some studies on chalkbrood and temperature:

You can look on scholar.google.com and find many more.

So are you thinking then Michael that when I posted pics of the my infected after moving my hive and there was 3 people on the forum that had infected hives after they also had moved their hives it was just coincidences?
The guy who came from the DPI and looked at my issue the first thing he asked was if I had moved my hive. His interpretation is that Chalk Brood can happen as a result of a hive under stress, as in moving the hive.
This event was in days on about 80/90F and nights were about 70F and a very dry atmosphere, during our drought. I wasn’t feeding sugar/water then but did a couple of months later during my sub-tropical winter.
So is your thinking is that a new queen might be genetically better able to cope with Chalk Brood? Have better hive hygiene genetics?

Not a coincidence at all. Stress certainly adds to any disease problem. And it may have contributed to the temperature in the brood nest not being consistent.

I’m doing reverse logic here. I’ve heard a new queen helps and in my experience it has. I’m trying to explain what many people including myself have observed. I suspect they have either better hygiene and/or they maintain the brood nest temperature better and/or they don’t spread themselves too thin.

Thanks for explaining to me. The other links are all Spanish, us Ozzies struggle with English over here. :upside_down_face: Cheers

I just received the Bio Security News from the NSW Dept of Primary Industries which states “Chalkbrood is a notifiable disease in NSW”

That is ridiculous. Chalkbrood is caused by chilled brood and high pH.

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As ridiculous as it is I checked on the NSW DPI site and it is now a notifiable issue there. Thanks @Ducati (Stephen) for the update on that.

Michael, here is a quote from the article to which Peter referred:

”Chalkbrood impacts bee brood. If your colony has an infection you will lose bee numbers and, if not managed, will generally be less productive. Chalkbrood disease is caused by the fungus Ascosphaera apis . The fungus produces spores which are swallowed by honey bee larvae when they are fed by nurse bees. The spores germinate in the honey bee’s gut and ultimately cause the larvae to die of starvation.”

I had understood that chalkbrood was from a chill as you said, but this article contradicts that. I wonder if there may be a difference of definition between our countries. Australian authorities impose restrictions on us that don’t appear elsewhere such as NOT leaving stickies and harvesting equipment out for the bees to clean up. It’s an AFB prevention requirement to not feed honey to bees among other isolation practices.


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Hi Pete, I wonder how well staffed the NSW DPI would be if all of a sudden every beekeeper in NSW reported every time they saw a chalk brood mummy. I saw a few myself this morning.

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@JeffH It is really strange that they have brought chalk brood onto the notifiable list. Like, what can they do about it !!! I might be cynical but I wonder if they are wanting to appear busy to increase their government funding to have more staff employed.
Meanwhile a guy at Wellington in NSW after 4 months waiting for an inspector who was ‘coming tomorrow’ ended up burning his 3 suspect hives. Really a confusing decision made by someone in the DPI.

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When I had chalk brood in one of my hives about 8 months ago, in my sub tropical Summer I got onto a DPI inspector who was nice enough to come 250 klms to have a look at the mummies I had in my freezer and at the hive.
He said it was definitely chalk brood and asked if I had recently moved the hive, which I had. I posted a pic on the forum and I got 3 replies from folks who confirmed it was chalk brood and each said it had happened in their hives within a month of moving their hives. Does that sound like a pattern?
He went on to say that it can happen from a sudden drop in temperature but then also said it can happen if the colony becomes stressed, and something as simple as relocating a hive can bring it on.
Up here Mike the climate is very mild and stable, sub-tropical, so it seems a stronger possible that stress has been the issue here. I remember when if a hive had chalk brood it was assumed the hive has chilled, almost a ‘given’ with no suggestion of another cause.