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Dead hive - how to remove bees from cells

I have just discovered one of my hives has died.Many bees have died head down in cells in clusters. They possibly died from starvation but there are still some cells with pollen in them. It was a reasonably strong hive with queen present as there is some capped brood. So I suspect they succumbed to the extremely cold night we had recently.
My question is how to remove the bees that are head down in the cells?

Welcome. Sorry to hear your news. No consolation for you but many beekeepers will have had this problem. I put it down to my own bad practise. I can’t talk for you though.

I have always cut out the old frames and replaced with new waxed foundation. If you have plastic foundation then you can scrape it off. Some use a wash to clean the frames and plastic foundation.

I think it’s a must to clean the brood chamber floors and lids. To do that I scrape and then burnish with a gas blow torch.

I do have a steamer and that works well. But I like the gas burner. Of course the steamer will remove all wax from your frames as well as cleanse them.

It’s as well to note that bees generally die in the cold because they have insufficient food and that stops them keeping the bee cluster heated. I have found bees dead yet food on frames … such isolation does occur. Unsure why hopefully we will get some comments that explain this.

I guard against starvation by isolation by putting a complete pack of bee fondant directly above the bee cluster. Use an eke or very shallow feeding super to place fondant in. It’s simply that fondant is £5 versus all that extra work and maybe dead bees.

Welcome to the forum, you will find lots of reading and members here that are happy to give advice.
You haven’t said if there was any honey in the frames and if there wasn’t then the bees starved. As the colony starves the number of bees reduces so a cold snap can wipe the rest out.
If you have heaps of time and patience then you could use tweezers to remove each of the dead bees. But if want another option and the frames were wired you could use your egg slide, it is in the 2nd or 3rd draw down in the kitchen, and scrape the foundation as you would an egg in a fry pan, shaving off the comb and reclaiming the wax.
When the good hive is powering on in Spring you could do a split and the queen-less hive can make a new queen if there is eggs or larvae up to 3 days old in both of the colonies if you can’t find the queen.
Cheers Karen


I like the egg slide and I have checked it is in the 3rd drawer. Far nicer that using a decorators scraper!

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I also use the egg slide for removing comb full of jelly bush as it won’t spin out so I ‘shave’ the comb and over several days it filters thru a course strainer. It has been years since I have flipped and egg with it.
Karen in in a very cold climate so a combination of lack of honey stores and a recent severe cold snap with snow and gale force winds would be the problem. Sort of like Ben Nevis in the Winter.

Bees need to consume honey to generate heat.

Shake as many bees out but I wouldn’t lose sleep over it: Your next package of bees will make short work of clearing out the corpses.


Thanks for the info guys. My egg lifter is in the second draw :grin:. I have tweezers, time and a little bit of patience so I’ll start with that.
The bees had no honey but I had been feeding them sugar syrup, although that had run out due to too many really cold windy days when I had time off work to check on them, so probably a combination of starvation and cold. Poor little bees, I do feel bad. I guess it’s all part of the learning.

Karen, I would advise you run a double deep brood then a QX and a deep box for honey for the bees ONLY then another box on top of that when the bees need more room for stores and what they put in that is for you. Insulating the hive against the cold is needed for your Winter as well.

Thanks Peter,

I plan to do that. I didn’t take any honey last year as they didn’t even make enough for themselves. I live in the bush and not a lot of the millions of eucalypts flowered and due to the drought, not a lot of weeds flowered either. Hopefully this spring/summer is better. I’m due to sow a lot of bee friendly seeds in the next couple of weeks.


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Job done, I guess it’s have more patience than I realised. I used the tweezers to remove all bees. What a great learning experience.

Well done Karen, at least now the frames won’t be a ‘wind fall’ for a SHB infestation. It might be a positive step if you have some freezer space to give each frame 48 or more hours to kill and nasties like SHB eggs then put them in plastic bags and taped shut till you are ready to do a split from the other hive when it has warmed up there.
Glad to be of help to you Karen.

I used a air nozzle on my air compressor, set it to about 7 psi and blew them all out. I will say, it is a disgusting mess. That was my first year. Now I would just do what @Red_Hot_Chilipepper says and let the bees take care of it. They make quick work of it.

I think Karen has done the right thing cleaning out the corpses in that she is about 3 months in her climate before the hive will get a new colony and in that time SHB would make a mess by breeding in the dead bees. I think a new colony would do a lot better in the hive without the added job of removing dead bees and the added SHB.

Yes, that was my thinking, less work for the new bees. I reckon I removed about 2000 corpses.