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Pesticide Poisoning or CCD. What can be done?


Hi folks. Awful things happening in two of my apiaries. I’d really appreciate some input on what it could be and what I can do to try help my bees survive with winter just around the corner.

I first noticed a large pile of dead and dying bees in front of their hive about two weeks ago. I have four hives in this home apiary and only one is badly affected (one other just showing a bit of the symptoms). A number of them had died with their tongues out, but less than half. The dying bees looked twitchy and drunk. Many were crash landing on the garden path many meters from the hive and appeared unable to find home. Lots of the live bees, particularly on the hive doorstep, were madly cleaning themselves.

Varroa levels are low, no sign of DWS or any other disease. I have checked in the hive and it seems pretty much business as usual, except a bit cranky. I saw the queen and she is still laying.

A week later things seemed to be going back to normal then all of a sudden the same thing happened - a big pile of dead and dying bees… I have been in touch with a number of other beeks in the valley and some of them are experiencing the same to a greater or lesser degree. We are in Christchurch, NZ, it is autumn and starting to cool down towards winter.

Today I went out to feed a couple of hives at another apiary, over 15km away from home, only to find a big pile of bees dead in front of one (out of four) hive. Unrelated in terms of area and plantings - country vs city.

Below are some photos. The first one is on a wet day (not particularly good evidence sorry) One photo is of the inside of the hive and is looking full, but probably nurse bees rather than foragers. I have collected some of the bees just in case I can do something with them, but don’t really know what to do.

Any suggestions appreciated. Cheers, Paul



Not to be obvious but you said it has been raining. Really the wrong time of the season for spraying pesticides too. Our last Fall I
experience this type of bee dying off several time (big time twice)…

With it being Autumn DownUnder could it be the hives decreasing worker production n those foragers just coming to the end of their life cycle. An average going from 60 to 80,000 or more down to 15,000 is going to have several die-offs to get down to that number. Sooner or later I’ve seen piles of old bees out front. It’s also per your vid happening at one of your other apiaries.

So I’d add that possibility to your conclusion as well. Only other piles like this up here is mites or pesticides n I’m doubting that one. At least throw that into the pile of ideas for your declining population.

Keep an eye on them but if it is fall bee population decline all your hive (maybe not at same time) will come with some piles of dead n dying old foragers soon. Ohhh ! Usually CCD there are no bodies laying around just an empty hive (no or almost no bees) inside the hive.

Good luck n keep on keeping on,


Thanks Gerald,

I’m certainly hoping it’s natural, but I’ve never seen this in this quantity, and tongues are hanging out. Other beeks have said it is def poisoning. I’m really hoping that they will bounce back. But in the mean time I am going to shift a frame of brood from healthy hives into the wounded ones to give a bit of a boost if they can support them. And, I’m going to contact the councils to see what spraying operations they have going on. I saw one this morning and spoke to a woman spraying the verge of the park across the road - killing the flowering weeds…

ps. the rain came after the thousands of deaths, that is simply when I took that photo.

Cheers, Paul


Let’s not confuse herbicides with pesticides. I wouldn’t imagine spraying a small section of weeds would make such an impact upon a colony.
How are your bees stores going? I had a colony half starve and they had their tongues sticking out too, my immediate thought was poisoning however Starvation was the likely suspect, especially when they have such a large range.
Are all your hives in the same location suffering the same issues?
Sorry to hear about your bees it’s a shame they can’t talk.


Hi again Paul,

It’s a bit difficult at times as we are not onsite or often don’t know the exact timing n sequences of events. But at least we give each other ideas so we aren’t totally encompassed by a bad outcome.

As the other person suggested … Don’t get herbicide usage n pesticides mixed up. Herbicides might make the bees a bit sick maybe (depending on chemical used) where timing n kind will really do our bees in !!

I hope you find the dead bees to be just autumn declining populations… All my hives are different amounts n timing … Adding a frame of brood could be helpful as those will probably be part of your winter worker gang !

Keep us up to date … Hopefully we can all glean a bit or more from others experiences n (parish the thot) mishaps !

Are we having fun yet ?! Good luck Paul,



Each autumn into winter as my bees decline often rapidly I reach in with a long string stick n try to rake/sweep the screen or bottom board. I’ve had to at times sweep so many out that the dead bees were blocking the bottom entrance totally.

. I just add cleaning the SBB or solids to my normal Fall to do list.



Herbicides affect bees when they go to flowers that are still wet from spraying, so always best to spray when bees are going to bed.

Plenty of food in the affected hives, both pollen and nectar/honey stores.

Less than half my hives are affected.

Thanks for your thoughts.


I thought I saw ice or snow on one of your pictures, but it is early fall. I would suggest that you gather a small container of dead bee with some description and comparison with neighbors hives and send it to your apiary inspection service for analysis.



Those are examples i posted not Stings bee loss. I was just showing my dead bees in front of my hive because of declining colony population. Ohhh ! I live in northern Hemisphere near Seattle. We had a rather off/on cold n snowy winter.



Yes, I have gathered up a pottle of bees, but only for comparisons at the mo. Our ‘inspection services’ only check for serious disease (AFB), and there is no sign of this.


Your photos look like my hive did after hive was flooded and Apithor inside hive became wet poisoned my bees. They too were frantically trying to clean themselves & each other. It was horrible. I will go back & try & locate the short film & photos I took at the time so can compare if you like.


Interesting. This incident was discovered about 5 days after I put bayvarol strips in. But I did all four hives and the others are okay, so prob not relevant.


Update. I’ve lost the queen in the sick hive at home and now they are being robbed! Poo

Think I’ll merge it with another hive when I get home.


I think it’s best to go down the maverick route & not use any traps or poisons whatsoever to treat SHB.


Hi Kirsten_Redlich I’d be interested to see your pix. I’m struggling with SHB at the mo and need to know more about it before i can better control it.


I had the traps in 2 hives, only 1 was affected. However I removed the other one immediately & will definitely not be putting anything other than bees, frames or food into my hives again. It is amazing what sort of decisions you make when under stress. I would never normally have made the choice to put them in normally.


I have the photos of them exiting the hive, it’s pretty awful for me to look at , I felt so guilty. I will try & locate those ones in next couple of days. I have a lot going on at the moment & can’t always be very prompt in my responses. Honestly I found a hive mat, & the black beetle trap you insert between the frames, plus regular inspections as, if not more effective than the Apithor. Oh & as @JeffH always says keeping the colony strong in numbers, is so important & makes such a big difference. The bees are very good at managing them. The 2 hives I did use the Apithor in were not as strong in numbers as my other 2, & this was part of my reasoning for using the Apithor originally.


Hi Kirsten, even with a weak colony, there is still no need for any traps. The main thing to make sure of with a weak colony is that the frames the bees don’t occupy are free of brood or pollen. Even the frames the bees only half occupy should be free of pollen or brood, honey is fine. Part of my “no trap” strategy is to find out why a colony is weak & fix the problem straight away & start boosting the population as quickly as possible.


Hi Kirsten, I can’t always reply to posts instantly, so don’t worry about that. The rest of life often gets between me and the computer.


JeffH, sorry if this is a really silly question but, how do you keep a frame clear of pollen?