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Mixed Signals (Dead bees, no action, bearding, wasps)

(disclaimer this is my first hive and i’ve only had it for about a month)
Hey there folks, ive been under the weather for the last week or so and i had a gut feeling i should check on my girls. lo and behold i went out and about had a heart attack. There was no action on around the entrance/landing and a large amount of dead bees near the entrance.
My wife and i (still recovering from the flu) rushed out to do an inspection in the 96 degree heat.
We opened up the hive and everything seemed to be mostly functioning. Queen was there. there were uncapped larvae. There were a few twitchy/dying bees and some dead bees at the bottom. There were what looked like a couple of hive beetles in the bottom tray. After the inspection they were more active and then started bearding a lot.
Also saw quite a few wasps around, more than usual.
Not sure what is going on, seems like a few things at play possibly.
any help our guidance is appreciated. I wish i had a local mentor type. Im near Highland Park in Los Angeles if anyone wants to volunteer :slight_smile:


If you have any photos, that would help a lot.Your description could fit with insecticide poisoning, but it is impossible to know without looking at photos/video or in person. Otherwise I call upon @Bruce_Choate to see if he is close enough to help.

I am about 120 miles away, and about 4 hours by road with our current traffic. Plus I work more than 60 hours per week, so I don’t think I would have the time… :blush:

Edit: OK, so you have photos! Whoopee!! :smile:

Thanks i just attached some photos

i thought maybe insecticide but i didn’t see the “tongue sticking out” thing on any of them

i did see this guy but i though maybe it was a fluke and a wasp had scavanged

OK so your hive shows normal bearding for hot weather. With the temps and humidity (monsoon) that we have had recently, some of the bee deaths may have been from that, but insecticides are not exonerated. :blush:

I would strongly suggest a slatted rack like this one. It gives the bees more space for fanning (= cooling) and more space for hanging out when the hive is crowded and hot. I love them and have them on all of my hives. Make sure you buy the correct size for your hive:

Ryan, the bearding activity in the pic which I’m guessing was taken after the inspection is totally normal, especially in hot weather. Even with not disturbing a hive bearding can happen especially in warm weather. It is one way for the bees to lower the brood area temperature as well as fanning at the entrance.
Wasps are an issue, more so in warm weather, at least for me.but they are a fact of life and wouldn’t account for more than a few bees to each wasp.
The twitching and bee deaths is another matter and I would suspect some sort of poisoning, possibly an insecticide. Maybe a neighbor didn’t like so many bees flying about. Not everyone likes bees and some people are really thoughtless.
SHB goes with beekeeping in most of the world but a strong hive will normally control the numbers, it is only when a hive is low in bee numbers that SHB becomes an issue that requires attention. So a few in the bottom tray is something to expect.

thanks for the reassurance. nothing like googling your way into paranoia :slight_smile:

Thanks for the recommendation, just ordered it. I already have the queen excluder i believe you recommended on a different thread!

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I’ve been there and done that too Ryan. After 40+ years of beekeeping I have learnt to relax as bee can get along quite well without us interfering too much.
Just do regular inspections, make sure there is a water supply, especially in hot weather, sit back enjoy watching them do their thing mate.
But also remember we are here to give advice and a bit of moral support if you need it. Just noted you mentioned a QX, they are a definite must especially when you have a Flow Hive and while you have a super on then always use a QX other wise the Queen can and will lay in the super which will be a big problem when you want to take the honey.

ok seems fair :slightly_smiling_face:
follow up. how direct would the insecticide spraying have to be and are my bees going to survive? I did another inspection today. the queen is still working and there is activity but bees are still dropping dead. I took a couple of pictures of some of the frames and a close up of a dead bee

Hello Ryan, thanks for the follow up. Herbicides (of which Round-Up is the common one used) is just as fatal to bees as an insecticide. So it could be that a non-environmentally aware neighbor has sprayed for weeds. What I would do is in passing mention to neighbors of what is happening to your bees and that you fear someone might have been recently using a herbicide for weed control by ‘accident’, without thinking of the environment.
Any flower(weed or not) that has been sprayed is going to be toxic to a bee foraging on the flower and take the toxin back to the hive.
There is still a lot of educating needed for some people about being aware of what they are using, and some can’t learn, sadly.

It is good that the queen is still going strong but it is anyones guess if the colony will pull through or not.

Hi Ryan, thank you for the photos, they are extremely helpful.

First of all I would say that your queen shows a pretty nice paying pattern for a new hive. It looks like you have a few drone cells, but that is normal and means that the hive is generally happy with the resources they think that they have (they don’t make male bees unless they have food to spare).

That close-up is pretty convincing for insecticide poisoning. That is the scary thing for a beekeeper. It doesn’t have to be very local.

If your city or county decides to spray for mosquitoes, it will be deadly for at least a day. In San Diego, if you register as a beekeeper, the Dept of Agriculture informs you if they are spraying near you. I imagine something similar happens in LA. I lock my bees in if I get an alert and I hang a wet sheet over the hive to stop any spray from drifting in.

However, if a neighbor sprays with a persistent insecticide a mile from you, and your bees like to forage on their property, your hive will suffer and you will never know why. I have seen side by side hives where one is wiped out and the other does fine because they forage in different locations. I think @Girl_Next_Door_Honey has seen the same thing many times. Very sad, but a reality in urban (and sometimes in rural) beekeeping.

Problem is, you can educate some people, but you can’t educate them all. My neighbor still sprays their roses. Fortunately, they aren’t good forage for bees, but it still hurts when I see it happening, and they refuse to stop. :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

One more thing, you might want to consider a robbing screen as we are probably in a nectar dearth right now. :wink:

do i need to do anything? are their honey stores contaminated now? sounds a like a real bummer.

And a really nice laying pattern too. We can all make typos but we can also understand the meaning so what does it matter!!!
Last year there was spraying for mosquito by helicopter with no warnings to residents. I heard of a few lost hives and pets (dogs mainly) made sic and needing a vet for treatment for poisoning. I made inquiries myself of who was behind it and what was being sprayed, all I got was BS and denials. The pilot didn’t know what he was spraying and wouldn’t say who he was contracted to do the spraying!!!
It is really sad that people do things like spraying without a second thought, so I’m 100% behind your comments Dawn.

I don’t think there is much you can do. I think the US Dept of Ag will test for insecticides if you want, but probably wait and see is the order of the day.

Usually not a big problem, but if the unfortunate hive dies out, I would consider it contaminated. I don’t have any research data on this, just personal experience.

It certainly is if the hive dies, but not all hives do. As you know, bees do waggle dances to indicate the location of good forage. If the forage is sprayed, they lead other bees to pick up poison. However, the good news is that with most forage areas less than 10% of the hive (approx) goes to forage there. Other bees follow different dancers, or just randomly forage.

I would be cautiously optimistic in your case. :hugs:

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Seriously Peter? How have you come to this conclusion?

Very seriously Skeggs, based on data already available Round-Up out sells any other herbicide in Australia. Tell anyone you want to kill weeds and what they would advise using, most will say Round-Up. Actually most couldn’t name another herbicide like Confidor which is also know to kill insects.

My point Peter, was that all herbicides are not insecticides.
I have a bottle of confidor in the shed. I bought it to spray the stone fruit as we have bad fruit fly here mainly due to all the local backyard fruit tree owners allowing the fruit to drop and rot. The bottle has remained in the shed untouched for the last 15 years or so, since I found out it was proven it killed bees. Since then I have tried all eco friendly products within my price range. I reckon I’ve had 1 good peach from the yard since. You know my stance on glyphosate and have no problem using it in my yard. It is not an insecticide.

I take your point Skeggs but I won’t fall for the story that herbicides aren’t behind bee, and other insects, deaths. A flowering plant that is sprayed with a herbicide and that plant foraged on by a bee the evidence indicates that the the will die as a result.
Blacktown City Council in Sydney has now discontinued the use of Round-Up after 5 law suits in a class action from its gardening staff who all have incurable cancer. I wonder if their insurance company advised the council if they continued using Round-Up the council would need to find another insurance company, as reported in the media. If people can die from skin contact then it isn’t hard to imagine ingesting it is also fatal, being it a human or an insect.
I know you are happy about using glyphosate so I wonder why you won’t use Confidor as well. Unfortunately research money is not available for natural or safer products, I wonder it that will ever change, for the sake of the environment that mankind is ignoring.
But maybe that is idealistic thinking.