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Help! What is happening here?

I came home from a weekend out of town to this first picture. The day was sunny and 70 degrees F. This “bearding” is on the shady side of the hives. I talked to my bee club president and he felt they were hot and needed more ventilation so I removed the corflute on my flow hive and removed the entrance reducers. This morning, I found them still “bearding” on the outside but it is 40 degrees F today. Some background…a few weeks ago I split my flow hive. So both hives have a full brood box, a brood box with new frames and foundation, and a sugar syrup feeder in the upper box. So I don’t think it would be a swarm. What could be happening? Do you think they were out there all night? Because I was out of town for 3 days, I don’t know how long they have been like this. What should I do? Any other insight would be appreciated.

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Read your story a few times and looked at the excellent photos Stacey.
So you have two strong colonies covering two brood boxes and nowhere to work on storing foraged nectar and honey.
Maybe they need the super on the hive with the Flow Frames to give them some where to work and room for them inside the hive. An empty super with a feeder in it is like an empty room void of any furniture in your house, there is no reason for you to go into the room.
I would experiment by adding the flow super and you might find all the bees hanging outside are then working in the hive with work to do.
Do you really need to feed them? Is there a dearth there now?

So, each hive currently has 8 frames of brood/pollen/honey in the bottom box. The next brood box, on both is empty. There are frames with foundation that have not been drawn out with comb yet. There is then the inner cover and the bucket feeder is on that, inside the top box. The bees can’t enter that upper box. They only have access to the feeders. The feeders are probably almost empty now and can be removed. My Flow hive has a queen but my new hive does not. I was letting them re-queen themselves. It is pretty cold out for May and is going down to almost freezing tonight. Just not sure what is causing this and if I should intervene somehow. Didn’t think I should add a honey super until the 2nd brood box was about 80% full. I am so tempted to scoop the girls up and put them back inside. Worried they will freeze.

Ok, I misunderstood and thought both the brood boxes were full of brood and stores. I can’t fault what you have done and I can’t offer an explanation as the the bees hanging about on the outside of the hive.
A recent split so it shouldn’t be over crowded so no reason to suspect they are thinking about swarming. With your temperatures I also can’t see the colony is over heating with having just done a split and your temperatures.
On the next warm day I would do a full inspection and check for something odd like an infestation of SHB. Other than that I’m out of ideas, it isn’t normal, and I suspect if they are hanging in the day then I suspect the same after sunset.
Your right in not adding the super till at least the brood box is drawn out and at least 80% of the cells in use for stores or brood.
Looking forward to others thoughts on this issue.

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My thoughts a somewhat different to Peter’s.
I believe there are 3 reasons for bearding: Preparing to swarm, hive temp & preparing to abscond.

With those roofs, one a very dark color & the other unpainted tin, that could be a reason why the bees are outside & particularly under what shade there is for them. Don’t be overly worried about the bees & exposure. They will have honey in their stomachs & therefore able to keep themselves warm. If they needed to, they will go back inside the hive.

As for swarming or preparing to abscond. You would need to do a brood check to make sure they are not preparing to swarm or abscond. The only reason I can think of that might make them want to abscond would be a hive beetle slime-out. It would be unlikely that both colonies are ready to abscond simultaneously. However not unlikely that both colonies want to swarm at the same time. I found & read that excessive feeding can encourage a colony to swarm.

In summary: I’d be looking at how hot those roofs get in the sun, on top of that, I’d do a thorough inspection of both hives.


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Dead bees everywhere today.

This sounds too similar to a situation I had myself a couple of years ago.

In my case, a chain of events started when I harvested some frames and flooded the brood box below. The flood was severe and honey was dripping on to the corflute and the ground.

When I next checked the hive in a day or two, I found a curious beard on the side of the hive, similar to yours. They stayed outside the hive during the night too, but the beard moved around. A few days later I found a mound of dead bees under the hive. After 7 or 10 days the beard was gone.

I am still not 100% certain that the bearding and dead bees are related to the flooding honey when extracting. At the time I also suspected hive poisoning but I found no evidence of that.

Out of curiosity, your feeder is not leaking is it?

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The corflute was a little wet when I pulled it out. My other hive has a solid bottom. I Removed the feeders yesterday, empty. They don’t usually leak but they did get jostled around last week. I’m most worried about my hive that is re-queening. I hope in my clumsiness I didn’t damage the queen cell, or I guess kill the queen in my other hive too. Feeling really bad about killing all those bees. I hope the colonies can recover. Thanks for the insight. Sobering but appreciated.

What exactly is hive poisoning?

Are there dead bees around both hives? Is there also dead bees in the hives?
I’m thinking insecticide or herbicide poisoning to see that many dead. Sadly when you look in the hives if both are full of dead bees then it isn’t looking good. Insecticide poisoning it self explaining, but if a herbicide is sprayed on an area of flowers the bees are foraging then that can be just as fatal as spraying insecticide.
I’m not in the U.S. so I’m not sure of the name there for the Dept. of Primary Industries (DPI) or a bee inspector and I would contact them and they could do tests to hopefully find out what has happened.
Please keep us updated Stacey

What was the wet on the coreflute? Was is syrup? If it is syrup, I’m guessing that could have a similar effect on the bees as leaking honey frames. That will drive lots of bees outside while other bees engage in cleaning up the mess, which can lead to hive beetle problems if that applies to your area. That’s my theory.

Lots of bees drown in the honey/syrup, which would account for all the dead bees on the ground.

Is there a foul odor? If so, that would almost certainly be from hive beetle activity. That kind of starts once the larvae start to develop as they feed.

I follow Frederick Dunn on YouTube same thing happened to him when honey dripped into the hive after extracting 7 flow frames (Video : First Flow Hive Extraction video - 3 years back) Bees escaped too the outside took 24 hours for them to go back in and lots of dead bees removed by workers.
He explains how to prevent it in his 2nd flow hive extraction per flow hive group recommendations.
I guess any kind of leak… water, honey could cause same. Like Perth explained in earlier reply.
Im new to the site and just trying to continue learning from all of you guys!!! Thank you for the expertise everyone!!!

Yes it was syrup and the dead bees are on the outside of the hive with the solid bottom and not the hive with the screened bottom which had the corflute in the lowest position.

Yeah, the bees must have drowned on the solid floor. There’s a lesson here. If you’re going to have a flood, don’t have a solid floor or the coreflute in the top slot. How far is the solid floor titled forward? It’s always best to have a solid floor tilted forward so that no rain water pools on it. I guess the same goes for any syrup/honey floods.

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With dead bees only from one hive that rules out any toxin then, Jeff could well be on the right track that the bees drowned.
But what is behind the crowd of bees outside on both the hives? With your cold weather it isn’t likely to be too hot inside the hive. But I agree with Jeff, a whit roof is best, the darker the color generates more heat in the hive.

Just checked again and there is no bearding on the outside of the new hive. Here is the bearding on the outside of old hive. There is no foul smell that I can detect. I have also never had any issue with hive beetles. I really appreciate everyone’s help with this. I’m not as panicked as I was at first. I’m finding that having bees is like being a parent. You can read books and take advice and everyone’s is different. You take it all in but at the end of the day, you have to do what you think is right. I’m thinking to just leave them to sort this out and inspect on the weekend like usual. We’ll see how it looks tomorrow. I may be singing a different tune.

Hi Peter,
Was it you who mentioned some imported foundation had traces or levels of insecticides (and other 'cides) in them? Would it be worth exploring that as a reason the bees aren’t keen on being in either hive?

I will definitely be looking into this.

No it wasn’t me, from recollection it came from someone in the U.S. who said they stopped using wax foundation becuase of toxins in the wax there.
What I have warned about in regards to wax foundation in Australia is the amount of cheap foundation made in China that is a mix of paraffin wax and bees wax, a lot is sold on EBay.
When I first noticed it was the almost creamy color of the foundation a guy brought around to have me fit it into new frames he assembled and wired up. A lick of his foundation and a lick of my own really made alarm bells ring. It was him that said it tasted like kerosene (liquid paraffin).

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At the time when I saw the mound of dead bees under my hive I was terribly upset, and I suspected someone might have sprayed insecticide on my hive, or where the bees forage. It’s unlikely poisoning was the case though, but I can never be 100% sure.

Honey flooding from the flow frames while extracting is the most likely cause in my case.

@JeffH strongly advocates for extracting flow frames off the hive for this reason especially if you have SHB in your area. I don’t extract off the hive because I do not have SHB but I’m still very wary every time I crack open a frame. Once bitten…

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