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Grey dust like stuff at the bottom of the hive

I’ve been struggling to get any honey this season (North Brisbane), even when the hive was very strong. The top super was finally starting to fill. A couple of weeks later, I noticed it empty, so took it off and say that the bottom super had only one side of a frame of honey.
Most of the other frames had very little brood, generally with only a hundred capped cells per side of a frame.
Today I went to check on the bees again. They had more honey and were starting to fill some cells again, but I noticed that the bottom of the hive has alot of this grey dust like stuff with pellet like things in it.
I am very concerned that I haven’t been checking the bottom of the hive, only the frames.
What should I do about this?

What you have there is a mixture of chalk brood mummies & wax moth activity.

You need to sort out what’s going on in the brood box while at the same time try to avoid hive beetles from sliming out the brood frames.

Perhaps you could get some close-up photos of the brood to show us.

cheers

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I agree with what @JeffH has said. The first thing is to clean out what is in the hive that shouldn’t be there. You need to do regular inspections of the complete hive, especially now you have chalk brood there in the brood box. If the hive is weak in bee numbers you should consider getting some frames of capped brood so the hive will recover faster, if the bees need feeding then feed internally with a 1/1 sugar and water syrup. There is much you should do to help the colony recover.
Cheers

Here are some photos. Not much brood on most of the frames.

I’ve cleaned out all the rubbish in the bottom of the hive. I don’t see any obvious intruder in the brood, just very small numbers of brood. I don’t have any other hive’s so would need to feed 1:1 suger water solution and hope the numbers improve. Is that correct?

Hi Steve, just looking down over the tops of the frames, there appears to be plenty of bees. You’d need to look at the brood frames in the area where the biggest concentration of bees are to see if you have evidence of a queen. It sounds like the colony has enough stored honey for the time being. You need to make sure you have #1, a good queen & #2 healthy brood. While the colony has plenty of stored honey, there’s no need to feed them. Feeding them alone wont be any good if the colony is queenless or if the brood is unhealthy.
Show us some close-up photos of brood from within the biggest bee mass.
cheers

PS. Just a couple of observations, going by the photos. It appears as if the hive is situated close to the ground. That can be a problem cane toad wise because they eat bees like there’s no tomorrow. They’ll sit at the base of a hive & keep eating bees, depleting their numbers.

Also I notice your frames are unevenly spaced. You need to evenly space the frames to avoid any unwanted crazy comb.

Firstly you need to know for sure if there is a queen in the colony. There is no gain feeding a hive that is queenless so that is the major issue, especially if there is not brood young enough that they can’t make a new queen.
I’m up at Coolum Beach and had a hard time with the drought, my hives main foraging is in the bush and heath land. Lots of the trees flowered but the flowers didn’t contain nectar so I had to feed my hives till the recent rain.
There is no harm in feeding syrup if you do it internally in the hive, if there is enough nectar about the bees will ignore the syrup.
Close up the brood frames so they are touching shoulder to shoulder and an equal gap from the end frames to the box. That will cut down on bridging comb, which you don’t want.
Chalk brood is going to take time to get on top of and will take its toll on the colony in health and bee numbers. I’m no expert on chalk brood but have had some hives infected with it and seen brood frames that have about 20% of the cells of frames with mummies in them and with lots of time spent able to save the hive.
I have my hives sitting on double Besser blocks with timber rails and still get a few cane toads feeding on bees hanging about outside the hive at night. Hives on metal stands a bit higher don’t suffer nearly as much.
For your location your brood box should be covered in eggs, larvae and capped brood on all but the outside frames which should be pollen and nectar. Sadly the photos are not showing me that. I’m not seeing the good number of bees even in the pic looking down on the brood box that Jeff is seeing, but it is not looking that weak that it couldn’t recover either.
A big advantage in having a second hive is that you can use a strong hive to donate frames to support a weaker hive, but in your case I wouldn’t do that as you would just be spreading to spores through both of the hives. If you have spare frames of foundation they could be introduced to reduce the amount of chalk brood spores, which is one of the things I did in my affected hives. I then rendered the wax I cut out of the frames and soaked the frames in disinfectant for a few days before fitting new foundation. Hive cleanliness is very important.
Cheers

Hi Jeff and Peter,

I did see a large cane toad the other week at the hive entrance. I chased it away, but no doubt it would come back. I’ve just put a couple more blocks under the hive Jeff. Hope that helps. I’ll move the two blocks at the front away so the cane toads can’t jump via them.

Unfortunately, the two photo’s you see are the only really significant brood I have left. Most of the frames are empty.

While waiting for your second replies, I went online and looked at chalk brood. The discussion I looked at said that chalk brood is the result of a queen with bad genetics (ie not a good queen in terms of breed). Is that correct? I have had my hive for 18 months now, and have consistently had trouble with honey being collected. I have fed the hive for a large portion of that time (Peter, you may remember my earlier post). I got the queen with a few frames (not full though) from a local person who seemed to be selling quite a few. I saw the person again at the local bee club meeting when i went.

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Hi Steve, the extra blocks should help. The cane toads feed at night. Just wander around after dark to see if any are at the entrance. You can grab them with a granny grabber or with your hand inside a shopping bag inside out, then tie the bag up before freezing them. Check every evening until they’re all gone.

@cathiemac is on the North side. She might be able to sell you a frame of brood in all stages (b.i.a.s) or even a new colony.

Going by those recent photos, assuming they are from this afternoon, it appears that you still have a queen & I don’t see any signs of serious disease. I would kill that queen, leave her body in the hive at the same time as introducing a frame of b.i.a.s brood from good genetics. Let them make a new queen out of that brood. Consolidate the brood frames so that you have just enough frames for the bees to cover. Break any queen cells on the original brood down. Only allow queen cells on the introduced frame.

It gets a bit long winded. I’ll leave it at that.

cheers

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When I first found chalk brood I was lucky to have made contact with a DPI bee inspector and he was kind enough to look at my hives and passed on a lot of info and advice on how to get the hives back strong with a minimum of time. He blew away a lot of the myths about chalk brood, He asked if I had relocated the hives recently which I has 2 weeks earlier. His advice was the cause was stress to the colony having been moved. I posted the issue on the forum and had four relies from others that had hives with chalk brood after relocating them so my guess is that stress seems to play a big part and if other things go pear shaped then you can end up with a hive suffering chalk brood. As for genetics it may also play a part but those queens were 2 and three years old and no chalk brood previously, actually none in any of my hives in over 20 years.
The only way to get rid of a cane toad that has found the hive is by killing the cane toad. They will remember where a free feed is located.
If that is all the capped brood you have then in my opinion you need to get a couple of frames of eggs or larvae up to 3 days old plus a frame or two of capped brood for the colony to survive. A new nuc or a colony colony as Jeff has said would be a much better option.
Kill your present queen if in fact she is still alive. I suspect she is dead with the last of her progeny is the few capped brood and the odd larvae but there is not enough there for the colony to recover…
I’m thinking you have more than one issue, a failing queen is the major one and then the chalk brood. If the queen was doing her job then you should still have a reasonably strong hive. I didn’t loose any of my infected hives but it took months of care to get them back to what I call a strong hive.
Cheers