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Hive wiped out, need help determining if I can re-use comb

I found no queen, lots of bees with heads in cells (starvation?), I found two what I think are varroa mites on the bees themselves and not much on the bottom board. (First time noticing varroa at all). I saw some perforation of capped cells, which made me wonder about foulbrood, but there was no smell. No honey in any of the hive. I discovered this last weekend , first hive check of the spring, but the bees had been flying a month before. Maybe more recently. This same hive lasted through last winter just fine. I would appreciate the help determining if I can use the frames again, as we are foundationless and it take so long for then to make straight (ish) comb again. Two bees were alive in the hive. The whole cluster was sitting exactly in place, just dead. No mold, no wetness. I think I inspected not long after it happened. I had seen about 20 dead bees two weeks before on the landing board and around the ground in front of the hive and decided they were just cleaning house, but then didn’t see any flight. Attaching images. Any help diagnosing would be appreciated. Thank you!

Curious if those are queen cells? Maybe they were trying to make a new queen? Several candidates in the keyhole opening in the comb on one frame.

I would render those combs down. Then start afresh with fresh foundation. However I see you prefer foundationless. Not my first choice.

With those perforated caps, I’d remove them to see what’s under them.

Those are queen cups. People call them “play cups”. I don’t think the colony made an attempt to make a new queen, by looking at those.

It looks like your colony starved to death.

If you insist on foundationless, I guess there’s nothing wrong with reusing those combs, as long as you don’t discover any disease behind those perforated caps.

Don’t count on smell alone to determine whether a hive has disease or not. A small amount of diseased brood probably wont have an odor unless you got right up close to the affected cells.

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Where are you in the world?
If not in Australia, what did you do to control the Varroa mites?

Edit after doing some stalking lol: You’re in Dallas Tx.

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Pretty good photos … Does truly look :eyes: like a starvation die-out … but WHY ?

Some additional info would be helpful … where on this earth :earth_asia: do you n your bees live, how often do you try to inspect, do you check n treat for varroa mites … if so what method n treatment(s) do/did you use …

I have crappy eyes :eyes: but your photos appear to have the tipical varroa white grainy residue. Thus I’m only guessing but seriously leaning to a mite (big time) kill off of your colony. This left it without honey resources… not sure :thinking: why not queen ( but probably lacked attendants n food also.

Beekeeping has it’s leaning curb … this mite issue isn’t helpful… I try to do sugar-roll mite check during milder weather n simple drop test monthly during the colder periods to give me a hint.

Did or do you try to feed ???

Doesn’t appear to be foulbrood … but not sure :thinking: how long they’ve been dead n if the sticky would be dried up. I’ve been lucky :four_leaf_clover: thru the years with no American foul broad (personally n only seen European type once in an experienced beekeepers apiary (one colony) n he treated it.

If it was/is only a varroa mite (serious) n not foul-broad I’d personally reuse the frames … I’d try to bush off the dead one as much as possible then use. That’s my personal bent on it … if it WAS a foul-broad it’s somewhat pointless to melt (the wax would be infected) n if it’s only starvation the frames are totally reusable!!

Do you have any local experience beekeeper that could give it a look :eyes: over to eliminate the foul-brood issue ??!!

I personally lost three to starvation this winter. We had a weird off/on winter. Also I had a major health issue ( heart :heart: problems) n couldn’t get out n check as I should have. Four stringer did okay but I have three die-outs I’ll reNuc mid April. I’ll Bush the dead off n add the new Nuc … No white grains so I know gave a true starvation situation…

Others I’m sure will give you further ideas, thots n info. Hope I haven’t confused you !

Good luck n keep on keeping on,


B.T.W. Give us a bit more info n/or profile. It really helps our aim at your problem. There are a lot of climatic issues answering questions when we don’t have a clue where on this Blue Ball :soccer: you are :laughing:

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If you find Varroa in visible places, there are thousands more in your hive. I think that is your answer. The head in suggests starvation, but they also do that head-in position to warm the colony. If the colony is dying off, many of the warming bees will die on the job, trying to warm up any remnants. Without know whether or not you treated, I am betting on Varroa as the cause. Here is a really good article about how it looks when Varroa does a number on your hive over winter:


I think the queen cups are a red herring, as @Red_Hot_Chilipepper said.

Please update your profile with your approximate location. It will enable everyone to give you climate-relevant opinions without spending lots of time sleuthing. :smile:


I truly appreciate your replies. Thanks for giving your expertise. I am a 3rd year beekeeper in Dallas, Texas. We have caught 3 swarms so far, and I tend to have a “Michael Bush” leaning in my choices. I have not seen any signs of varroa before, and have not treated. I will begin my education on how to test for them and the options of treatment now (open to suggestions).

The reason I was hesitant to decide it was varroa is that every frame of the hive had bees face in. There was not a single bit of honey left, and we have yet to harvest any honey from our bees. This is a single brood box, and we were trying for the entire season last year to convince the bees to fill the flow frames. They sat in them the whole spring/summer/fall and barely closed a 20th of the gaps between the hexes. I opened a few of the perforated caps, as suggested, and the bees seemed normally formed. There was no goo, at least. I am not experienced enough to know what else to look for.

Thanks for the info on play cups, that looks accurate, as they are not very deep inside.

I realize it is controversial, but we prefer not to feed. I feel as though wild, local bees managed without “crutches” (ie, sugar feeding) should help raise strong bees, even if you lose some hives now and then. Easier to say when you aren’t looking at a dead out, though. It hurts. I am a hobbyist, not a raising bees for a living, however, so I have that luxury.

I am wondering if starvation and varroa can go hand in hand somehow. It looks like maybe it was a combination of things. I suppose that’s always true.

Either way, varroa/starvation foundation is re-usable, correct?

Thank you all for your insights.



I like your thought process. It may not be solely varroa, as you say, but that could have weakened the hive to a point where surviving the winter was too much of a challenge.


“I’ll take Varroa mites for 500 Alex”


Hi Rana, you’re welcome. One thing to consider when going into next winter is: provided you have varroa under control & you leave the colony with adequate supplies for the winter is the better insulated a hive is, the less honey they’ll use to keep themselves warm & alive.


I am in zone 9 Louisiana. Had a bad fall flow. Not much golden rod. I had to feed. They would have all starved. Nothing to do with genetics. I would reconsider your no feed strategy.


Hi @rana128, so sorry you lost your colony - it does hurt :sweat:. Have a look at this article by Randy Oliver for some down to earth input that I hope will help you in your beekeeping journey as he, Michael Bush and many others have contributed to mine:


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