New bee keeper problems

Hi guys,

I’m hoping for some help with my first hive which seems to have failed. I live in northern NSW not too far from the flowHQ. I purchased a flow hive in September and after assembly purchased a 5 frame Nuc. Things were going well with new comb getting made with brood and honey in the peripheral frames. When all the frames were full I put the super on and waited eagerly.

My super was on for 3-4 weeks and there was no evidence of anything happening so I took a look in the brood box. One week ago I saw my queen and what I thought was a pretty healthy colony. This week I went for a look again and found very few bees, no queen and comb that looks dark and unhealthy. There has been lots of dead bees around the hive which I was reading could be normal. Today there were lots of dead inside the hive.

I have had a few hive beetles but have been using a trap to try and manage them, I did find some larvae in the bottom tray this morning.

My questions are:

  • Is my hive dead and I should try to find another nuc and restart?
  • Is there any chance of the colony rebuilding?
  • Where did I go wrong? I feel responsible for a horrible genocide!

Sorry for the long post, I’ll try to attach some pictures to show what I found today.



Hi Hamish, welcome to the forum.

I have a question for you: Did the frame in the first photo come with the nuc? If so, shame on the supplier.

To answer your first question: It depends on how many bees are left, & what available resources you have to be able to rescue the colony, regardless of how weak it is.

Second question: Again, it depends on how strong the colony is., if it still has a queen, and what brood the colony has to work with. Just an example: A colony with only 2-3k bees can rebuild, provided it has a mated queen, & possibly a frame of bias (brood in all stages). That takes quite a few months for that to happen, and it would need to start during the springtime.

Question 3: These misfortunes happen basically through inexperience. It appears to me that your hive could have gotten robbed out, followed by a hive beetle slime-out. Or it could have been the other way around.

Thanks for your input Jeff, really appreciate it. The frame in the first pic is one that the bees drew themself on the frame flow supplied.

I suppose I don’t have a whole lot of choice at the moment but wait and see what happens. I didn’t see a queen today on my inspection so am feeling a bit helpless.

I’ll keep an eye out for another nuc locally and start again. Should I clean the frames or use new frames if I’m installing a new nuc?

These forums have been super helpful for my education, if only they could bring my bees back!

You’re welcome Hamish. The comb on that frame looks a lot older than that, to me anyway. I always use & recommend properly fitted wax foundation frames.

I would clean those frames up, provided you are certain that no AFB, or EFB caused the demise of the colony. I would keep the comb to render down for the wax later on. Sooner rather than later, before the beetle larvae mess it up too much. You could use hot soapy water to wash the beetle slime off the frames, before reusing them.

Try to avoid any beetle larvae making it to ground, which is where they will complete their life cycle. This will minimize beetle populations going forward.


You’ve been so helpful. I feel such the fool, I’ve been shaking the beetles out of the bottom tray onto the ground!

I’ve got a big work week coming up so I’ll leave things alone for now. If no improvement on the weekend I’ll strip and clean the frames to start again.

Thanks again, I’ll keep this thread updated as I do inspections.

Don’t feel like a fool Hamish, on account that you didn’t know the life cycle of the beetles.

Not knowing the state of the hive, beetle wise, I’m thinking that leaving the hive as it is for the next week might not be a good idea, if beetles get a chance to continue to wreak havoc on the remaining frames.

Just to let you know, beetles lay eggs in unprotected brood, dead bees & pollen. If you can remove all of that before your busy week starts, that will help reduce the likelihood of them multiplying.

Hi Hamish,

I too am new to beekeeping. I hope that you and your bees manage to persevere through this, i am sure that with the right support you will overcome this

I had my dicernments on your pictures in how clean alot of the cells appear. The numerous drones are unavoidable also. Does your hive have sufficient numbers? Brood of all stages? Bee bread and nectar stores? With how barren the frames appear i am concerned that the bees have lost a greater portion of what is intrinsically necessary in a working hive.

I too encourage you to intervene sooner and gain an understanding of what is necessary going forward. I have my limits to my experience but i will do my best for those around me.

All the best to you and your Bees Hamish and i look forward to hearing how circumstances go.

Hi Hamish, welcome to the forum - sorry that it’s under tough circumstances for you!

Thanks for posting the pics, they really help put together at least some reasonable hypotheses if not confirmation of what happened to cause a colony to weaken or die. Jeff’s input makes good sense and I second his recommendation to protect those drawn frames from pests asap.

I would add that I notice there are some bees that died as they were emerging on photos 1 & 2, and greasy/slimy looking brood caps in photo 3. I’ve never experienced a beetle slime out (fingers crossed I never do) but that is probably what Jeff is referring to. If you have room in your freezer for the frames with drawn comb, put them in there to keep safe and kill off beetle eggs.

I had to look up causes of emerging bees dead in their cells, which is different from perforated caps or missing caps/bald brood. What I learned was that it’s a sign that your queen was a drone layer, or you had laying workers (whose eggs can only be drones). Drone brood gets laid in worker cells in either situation, then the drones get stuck and die as they try to emerge from cells that are too small for them. And of course, with only drones being raised a colony will die out no matter what, as drones do not feed the queen or the larvae, and can’t protect the hive from pests. To me this is one very plausible scenario for what you describe, and of course the beetle population benefited from it.

By the way, cells becoming progressively darker in new comb is normal as brood is raised in them. This is because the larvae spin cocoons to pupate in, which then are left behind when the fully developed bees emerge.

All in all, you still have valuable equipment with decent frames of drawn comb, so don’t feel too badly. Even better, you have a valuable experience that will serve you well as you progress as a beek! :honeybee::orange_heart:

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Thanks Jeff, so much to learn.

I’ll get in there this afternoon and remove the dead bees and frames that look particularly unhealthy. I think i need another look to reassess the whole situation. I was shocked yesterday and need to review what I think was going on.

I’ve been reflecting at I think you’re right, The hive was robbed and then the beetles did damage to the weakened hive.

Hi Scolarious, thanks for your reply and thoughts. As youve suggested I’m afraid my colony is now too weak to survive. I’ll be taking another look later today and going in to clean up the dead bees and any nasty frames. Hopefully it can be salvaged but im not optimistic.

Thanks for your thoughtful input Eva, especially your research regarding my queen possibly being a drone layer. Ill definitely be pulling out any decent frames and popping them in the freezer.

You’re right about the gaining of experience, I was once told there is no such thing as a bad mistake provided we learn from it.

Thanks Again

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Again, you’re welcome Hamish. Yes there is a lot to learn. Like Eva said, those wet sections on the frames are from hive beetles. That wet slime is the bee repellent. The beetles soak their bodies in honey, before walking it all over the comb, creating that wet appearance. Their bodies carry an enzyme that quickly turns the honey rancid. At the same time they are laying eggs, that hatch quickly, before the grubs fatten up on brood, dead bees and pollen, as well as honey I believe. However it’s the protein they are after. Within about 5 or 6 days the grubs are big enough to exit the hive, searching for soil to bury themselves in about 4" deep, where they will complete their life cycle.

The trick is to understand the hive beetle’s strategy. Then we can manage our colonies in a manner so as to minimize any damage they are likely to cause.

One easy tip to remember is that worker bees, being defenders will not allow beetles to do any damage, while drones, not being defenders will allow beetles to do damage. The lesson is: keep the worker population up, & the drone population to a minimum.

Another tip: Don’t have any frames containing brood or pollen, without a decent covering of worker bees on them.

Finally avoid honey spills onto the brood, & keep bee deaths to a minimum. Especially bees trapped between combs during/after an inspection.

PS. I saw those dead bees emerging, I guessed that was a result of the hive getting robbed out. Maybe the robbers were killing them during the process.


Thank you for the valuable insights on this topic Jeff. Im trying to gain a basic understanding of pests and diseases so that i hopefully can protect my colonies. I also hope other new beekeepers can manage the same with such insights too.

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You’re welcome Ryan, I’m not sure if beetles are in your area yet. According to @Semaphore a few years ago there was none. That may have changed since then. Anyway it doesn’t hurt to be armed with the knowledge, in case they do turn up.

Thanks again Jeff, you are very knowledgeable. Really appreciate the help. I must conceed that I did spill some honey on one inspection and was also prone to squashing a few bees during inspections, guilty on both charges. Do you think there is any value to the SHB traps that are advertised? I have a couple but they never seemed to catch many beetles.

I’m still mourning my loss a bit but am complete fascinated by this whole process.

Hi Hamish, I don’t use any beetle traps. I just keep my strategy in place as outlined in my last reply.

If I said any more than what I said in my last reply, it would only confuse people. It is as simple as those few lines I wrote.

Just to clarify the honey spills: Workers are usually keeping beetles at bay, in a propolis jail, for want of a better term. When honey spills into the brood, the bees are all hands on deck cleaning up the spill, which allows beetles to break free, mate & start laying eggs in unattended brood, provided they get enough time before the spill is cleaned up. If a spill is bad enough, a lot of bees can drown in the honey. Those drowned bees are a magnet for beetles to lay eggs in.

PS. I have a little story to illustrate: When I sell colonies (nucs), I transfer the frames with bees into the customer’s brood box. While doing this, we hardly spot a beetle, if any. I always find, & I generally point this out to the customer, that after the bees have left my brood box, beetles generally break out of hiding places around the bottom board, and anywhere else they can hide. The worker bees have been doing a great job of keeping them at bay, & out of harms way. Sometimes I’ll bump the box hard on something, which will shake more out, before I squash them.

I have some photos of my own to share after me letting my guard down & failing to check this 4 frame nuc (making a new queen) at the appropriate time.

I’d been meaning to check these 4 full hives, with 2 queen-rite nucs, plus one nuc making a new queen for quite a while & kept putting it off until this morning.

Everything looked good with the 4 full hives & queen-rite nucs, except the colony making a new queen failed to do so.

I found much the same as in this thread, as the photos will reveal. They are a bit more advanced, with mature grubs. You can see how robber bees tore wax cappings off the capped honey, as well as the sticky slime.


Thanks for this Jeff, these beetles really are insidious! I pulled my hive apart yesterday and found no bees and nettle larvae through many of the frames. There must have been thousands of them! I put those frames in the freezer to euthanise anything that was living there but am just going to scrap those frames and clean them up.

Can I ask what you would have done in your circumstance if you had identified the beetles earlier? Is there a way to get them back under control once they’ve moved in?

I’ve hopefully found myself another nuc and a local mentor which is exciting.

Hope you’ve all had a great day!

The beetles are forever present. It’s the absence of sufficient workers that allow them to mate & start laying eggs. The only time I see the beetles mating is while they are in the middle of taking over a hive.

In my case, I should have checked on the nuc one month after setting it up. If I didn’t find evidence of a new queen, I would have added another frame of brood in all stages, which will give the bees another chance to make a new queen, plus the brood will emerge in time, boosting the population. What happened was: the population dwindled to the point that they couldn’t prevent bees from robbing their honey, as well as beetles from laying eggs in the remainder of what was in the frames. Two frames were salvageable, while the two in the photos had to have the comb removed.

Be aware that the beetle slime has a foul odor, therefore I wouldn’t put it in a freezer. What I did yesterday was boil it down with other wax that needed rendering. What I’ve done in the past was put it in a bucket with the lid on in the sun. That kills everything. Then I can render it down next time I’m rendering wax.