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Help analyze colony failure


I opened up my flow hive today after noticing lack of activity for several days. I am in northern Illinois and a newby. I installed a package of bees the first week in April and by week four the colony did not seem to enlarge. The two center brood frames are the only ones that where built out with brood and honey. The next two frames on either side had some comb buildout but no brood or honey.
One frame has a empty queen cell. I can see numerous dead adult bees face down in cells. Also found some grey powdery substance in some of the foundation cells.
Need help with determining what went wrong. Also, should I leave the brood frames out to freeze over winter and then install a new package in spring?
I am working out how to attach photos to this post. I am on a iPad.


That is a cardinal sign of starvation. Sounds like your colony never really got strong enough to forage effectively, and now they have starved. Next year, I would consider feeding them if they are not building comb really well in the first week or so.

Could be fungus or varroa feces, without a photo, it is hard to tell. To post a photo, either drag and drop it into your text post, or tap on the icon above the text entry box, seventh from the left, which is a horizontal bar with an arrow pointing up above it. That lets you select a photo to upload.

If the powder is fungus, I would throw the foundation out and start with fresh. If varroa, you could reuse it.


It is officially mite crash time in the USA.


If you started from package, did you feed the package when you first installed it in the hive? This is critical to build up numbers and establish enough field bees to sustain the hive. The timings you describe sound like a drop in bees due to lack of incoming resources.

Were you using foundation? How much of the brood is worker?

Can you take post photos of the frames?


I fed them for three weeks after installing them. There was a lot of activity and we had good nectar flow. The decline started mid summer. We set up a second hive twelve feet from the Floe hive. It is a 10 frame Langstroth at it did fairly well. I used the molded plastic frames with wax coated foundation. I am working on posting pictures. I have to find a 10 year old to help me.



Yah ! Two of mine hit the proverbial dirt … The other three (had a lot less mites per 300) seem be healthy at my late session recheck. Sugar dusted them to see if the bees might clean themselves off n rid a few unseen mites off in the process.

Ta ta,


Just a theory but at some time after installing the bees and through a generation or two of brood your queen may have failed or died, an empty queen cell would indicate that the colony attempted to create a new queen but failed. From there it is a slow decay of bee numbers until there is none left and those who are left starve.


That is the theory that I have been kicking around. Things seemed to be going at the same rate between my two hives. Then about late July the flow hive activity started dropping and noticed bees fighting. They where literally clutching on to each other and falling off the entrance and fighting to the death.
I watched as the honey robbers flew over from the stronger colony and make their way into the Flow hive to steal more honey. That’s when I put the entrance reducer in. The robbing seemed to stop but the hive just staggered along after that.


Sounds you have it figured out, still painful all the same… in future you may have been able to save them if you knew the queen was gone by taking a frame of brood and eggs from the healthy hive, and doing this every 1 - 2 weeks to give them a kick start