Is this AFB? concerned new bee keeper

i have some pretty disheartening news regarding our hive. While the pictures below make it look like there are not any bees left in the hive, it’s just the one frame I have pulled out that is on the outside of the seven frames in the hive. I estimate that there are still about 10-20 thousand bees in the hive, but did not find the queen. I am thinking it left when the hive split (it did this last weekend - we saw it swarm into a nearby pine tree, and the next morning it was gone). There are several queen cells in the hive, which is good news. However the lack of much capped honey or comb with signs of young larvae have me concerned.

A little history, we received our bees last year, and they were very productive and we ended up harvesting about 30lbs of honey in our first season. We left most of it in the hive for winter. We did wrap the hive over winter (we live in Wyoming, USA where temps last year got to 20 below 0) and supplement their honey stores with a mixture of 2:1 sugar water in January/February tailoring off to 1:1 in March\April, we unwrapped the hive when temps returned to the 40’s in late february. With all the moisture this spring there has been plenty of early season flowers and fauna for the bees. Resulting in a very large colony of bees that split and the image I sent you last week showed that.

I have been doing weekly hive inspections this spring and noticed that the comb looked very dark, but with the sheer number of bees in the hive I was not concerned, along with the observation that the bees were actively storing new honey. This weekend we opened up the hive to take a look after the swarm of bees left, and while there’s still quite a bit of cross comb (which we have corrected), the rest of the frames appear to be empty of brood. We did not find the queen, but several queen cells. THeir also appears to be only a small amount of capped honey left - my assumption here is that with the swarm of bees, before they left, they consumed a majority of the stored honey.

my main concerns from the images attached are:

1 - the dark coloring of the comb

2 - how the honey in the dark comb is exposed, where i would expect to see brood

3 - not finding the queen (it is marked and should be easy to find

4 - the yellow dust on the back of some of the bees

5 - how some bees are smaller than others (these smaller ones are the only ones with the ‘dust’ on the back)

6 - the small amount of capped honey

I am worried that this may be American Foul Brood. But i really dont know.

What would your suggestions be for this struggling colony?

I really appreciate any feedback and suggestions.

Hi & welcome to the forum. You must have shared that photo elsewhere, on account that apparently you joined this forum only 6 hours ago.

You need to study up on timelines of queens, brood, bees & more.

#1 The dark coloring is a result of cocoons that each bee leaves behind when they emerge. It’s natural.

#2 The honey in the dark comb could be fresh honey coming in. Bees wont need those cells for brood until shortly before the new queen is ready to lay, at which time the bees will remove it in time for her to lay.

#3 You wont find the marked queen, on account that as I understand correctly, the colony swarmed, which always includes the queen. You may find the new unmarked queen.

#4 The yellow dust could be pollen.

#5 Recently emerged bees will be slightly smaller, & one could be forgiven for thinking that they have dust on their back. I think it’s just fine hairs that disappear with time.

#6 The swarm will consume a fair bit of honey before leaving.

You haven’t shown the appropriate frame in order for us to determine AFB. I don’t think it’s an issue anyway. I think the issue is that the colony simply “swarmed”.


Hi Galen and welcome. I’m going to cut to the chase and say that what you’re describing lines up with your colony having swarmed, possibly more than once. I wouldn’t be able to venture a guess about AFB, but I can say that the dark comb in the picture is no big deal, typical of brood comb - the cells have layers of cocoons stained with feces from each bee that has developed inside :wink:

You’ll find that the answers to your specific questions below all point to a normal post-swarm state of affairs too:

Bees preparing to swarm don’t actually eat honey, they take it with them in their honey stomachs, to be able to build new comb for their new home.

This could either be pollen, or hair on recently emerged bees. New bees are fuzzier compared to older ones whose hair has worn off a bit. Really old ones look black because it’s all gone.

If you got your bees as a nucleus last year, there might have been frames with foundation that had a larger cell size stamped on, so those bees would grow a bit larger. The natural size bees grow to when they build their own comb freely or on small cell foundation is smaller. The other possibility is that you’re looking at workers vs drones. Drones are the males and are bigger.

The mated (and marked) queen left with the first swarm last week, so there isn’t anyone around who is able to lay eggs just yet! That will take some time, but this is normal. In the meantime, the workers are doing their job and collecting nectar to prepare for the next round of brood.

The best thing you can do now is read up on the honey bee life cycle in general, and take a look at this booklet for more specifics on swarming:

Good luck and let us know how you make out. By the way, you mentioned posting a picture for us last week, but maybe that was on a different forum? This post has a banner saying it’s your first time positing - so anyway, welcome to the best beekeeping forum on the planet :sunglasses::honeybee:


@JeffH you beat me to it! @galenrgough looks like you got nearly identical first and second opinions from two beeks across the globe from one another! Always nice when answers are that straightforward, eh? :smiling_face:


Hi @Eva , I think it’s more a case of great minds thinking alike :slight_smile: