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Help with understanding my bees' death


Dear all,

I am quite new to bee keeping and I hope someone in this wonderful forum can help me with my bees.

Since April this year (yes, I am THAT new!) I have had a Flow Hive and one Dadant-Blatt hive, both families Carnica (apis mellifera carnica). The bees in the Dadant-Blatt hive have always been a strong family, so hardly any problems there. However, I always found the family in the Flow Hive a bit weaker.
Two weeks ago I prepared the hives for winter, as in the area where I live the temperatures already go well below zero during the night; the sun is strong and quite warm during the day, but is is very cold and humid in these parts now. During the day the highest temperature is around +10 C.
I prepared both the hives with extra food (watered down organic honey).
I went to check the hives today: the Dadant-Blatt family is doing fantastically well, but the family in the Flow Hive is completely dead. DEAD. And I found that the bees had all crammed into the cells, on both sides of the comb. I am posting here some photos of what I found.
I know that weak families often die, that is Mother Nature running its course. What I would like to find out is why the bees crammed into the cells as displayed in the pictures. Were they cold? Were they hungry? They had, however, food in the feeder, so why did they not feed?

I would really be most, most grateful if someone could let me know what went wrong with the bees in the Flow Hive: did I prepare them for winter too soon?

Here are the photos:


Your photos here are sadly classic for colony starvation. You can see that there are no capped stores of honey, and the bees are trying to get every last drop out of the cells.

I would not ever feed bees with bought honey - only their own honey. Too much risk of disease from other hives. If you need to feed them (and this colony should have been fed months ago, I am afraid), then please use a 1:1 solution of white granulated sugar in water in Spring, and 2:1 in autumn.

Sorry for your loss - losing a hive is always a very sad thing.


Yes starved; starving bees head down in cells not strong enough to find the food you did give them. It’s the most gut wrenching sight knowing you could have done something about it. You do need to check the brood nest on a regular basis and keep an eye out on the weather and make sure they have enough in the box to feed them till your next inspection even if they can’t get out to forage til then. As s guideline I like to make sure there is one whole frames worth of stores.


Looks like starvation. The hive type had nothing to do with it. Without food we can starve in a mansion in Beverly Hills or a shack in Baton-Rouge.
Close up the dead hive so no mice and pests get in and you’ll have a head start for housing any swam captures next year.


Thank you very much for all your help. I suspected it was starvation so thank you again for confirming.
Yes, it is sad that the family is dead, especially because, perhaps, had I started feeding these bees extra food during the summer instead of the beginning of autumn, perhaps the colony would have lasted longer -but then again, I doubt it would have survived the winter.

Many thanks again for taking time time to reply, and regards from the Dolomites.


I imagine the Dolomite region must be especially lovely in winter, Milla. Here’s wishing you & your surviving bee family good health through the winter! It’s good of you to share your story & allow other new beekeepers like me to learn more. Maybe in spring you will be lucky enough to split this colony and have two again, and experience a Flow harvest. Whatever happens, I hope you’ll stay with the forum but also find a local mentor for first hand advice in your climate.


Thank you very much, Eva

It is beautiful here, you are right :slight_smile:
I live in the woods almost in the middle of nowhere and in this area the Flow Hive is seen as something quite radical, so it has not been easy to find a mentor who agrees to trek all the way where I live.
Bee keeping has been a great experience so far; I hope to become a proper bee guardian as my experience grows.


Hi Milla,
What you need is a beekeeping mentor, not a Flow mentor. The things you need to learn have to do with beekeeping plain and simple (though of course it’s not simple!). Forget about the Flow part for now. Try to find a local or regional bee group. Subscribe to a bee journal. Take a class.
It looks like your hive had been dying for a long time. There was a queen at one time - dark comb shows that- but the bees never drew out the combs to their full size. When you first get bees and start them in an empty hive it’s like moving a hungry family into an empty house - no food, no furniture, no nursery for the 1000’s of babies, no gas to get to the store. They need food to make wax.
If you possibly can, start with foundation, at least in every other frame. You’ll need to overwinter your bees in two regular deeps at least (no Flow frames), better two deeps and a medium. I’m not sure where you are, but 60-80 pounds (I’m in Colorado, USA) is our minimum honey store for winter. Let the bees draw their combs the first year and fill them with honey for themselves. The second year you can put the Flow frames on when there’s a good flow. Wait until you see new white wax dusting the edges of the frames and combs.
Never feed someone else’s honey. There is always some dander of giving your hive American foulbrood from it. It’s the most contagious, incurable and deadly bee disease there is. Never dilute it. The bees dry it down to 18% moisture so it won’t ferment. Add water and it will ferment overnight. Better to feed 2 parts WHITE sugar to one part hot water by weight. It will not ferment or freeze. Never mind the more dilute stuff. That’s an old, out dated idea.
The bees in your photos starved in the end, but the colony dwindled before that, so their real problem was something else. If they had any honey the neighboring hive would have robbed it all as soon as there weren’t enough bees to defend the hive. By the way, the heads in position is the normal way the bees cluster when it’s cold. When they’re clustered, they physically can’t move more than a few centimeters to get to food.
You will have to learn to monitor for and treat varroa mites before you can keep bees alive through their second summer. There’s a lot to learn!
Kristina Williams
Boulder, CO, USA


Well said Kristina…


Thank you again for all your advice!
Very interesting for me to read all this. I do hope to find a mentor next year (in an earlier reply I did mean a bee keeping mentor in general, not only for the Flow Hive) who will show me the more practical things.
I know there is a bee keeper about 30 kilometres from where I live, so I will try and track him down.

I have checked the remaining hive and for the moment everything is good. I have decided to follow your advice and stop giving the bees honey, and give them the sugar/water instead, as you all have recommended.


Best of luck to you!


Hi Milla, sorry for the off topic, but the colony that you started in the flow hive how did you make it fit in in the beginning? Usual dadant-blad nucleus don’t fit in. Any suggestion?

We want to start a bit southern then you in Lessinia the mountain north of Verona.


Hello Alberto, apologies for the delay in replying but I have been travelling quite a bit recently.
Your question to me was my conundrum last year: what do to when the usual nucleus don’t fit? Well, the solution came via a swarm which was given to me by an elderly bee keeper. He lives an hour away from me. He just gave me a cardboard box with the lovely creatures in it, and once I got back home I dumped the family in the Flow Hive.