Question About Dead Bees

I am located in Southeastern Ohio and installed a 3# package of Italians 132 days ago. I have two deep boxes and the flow frames on top. I have the screened bottom and the board is out and the entrance is reduced to the second position, about 2 inches.

All has been well with this package as they were calm, activity has been great, and the queen was producing well. I went to the hive two days ago and all seemed normal, but I did not go inside.

Today I go out and find lots of dead bees on the concrete pad where the hive sits. 1291 to be exact, as a beekeeper friend suggested I go through them to look for the queen. She was not there, and I plan to open the hive in the next day or so to try to locate her. Hive activity seems the same as before, and there are bees at the entrance going in and out. There has been no spraying or anything nearby.

Anyone have any ideas about this? Robbing? I am a second year beekeeper and lost my bees last year during the winter.

Thanks in advance,

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Most likely varroa, unless you have treated. I would suggest Oxalic Acid vapor or Apivar strips ASAP, or you will be starting again with another package/nucleus next year. :cry:

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As @Dawn_SD
Have you been checking your varroa levels?
Are any of the bees deformed? The signs to look for in the dead bees are stubby or non existent wings and shortened abdomens


Thanks for the reply. I had not been checking nor have I treated as of yet. Upon examination of all 1291 bees, I only saw a few varroa mites and no deformations of any kind. I have Hopgard which I have used in the past. Any idea why/how all of them ended up below the hive on the concrete pad? Seemed odd for sure.

Thanks again for the help.


The healthy bees threw the dead ones out. Most varroa are inside the brood cells where they do most damage. The ones on the adult bees hide between the tergites. If you are seeing varroa on bees they have a very heavy load. You need to do something about it. Listen to Dawn. Hopguard wont work quickly enough.

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Thanks Dawn, I will do as you advise pronto!


Would Apivar work quickly enough? Or should I get the oxylic acid and the device to apply it?


For reasons unknown to me, I’ve seen bees congregate and eventually die under my remaining screened bottom boards. They cling to the underside until death and then drop.

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I am considering all possibilities! I need to treat so it falls into the can’t hurt category. An experienced local beekeeper told me something similar. I really do love the complexity to this hobby, but geeez…:slight_smile:


What does the inside of the hive look like? Any crawling bees? Pesticide poisoning is a likely cause as is robbing and starvation. But without more detailed observations it’s hard to say. If there is no food left in the hive then starvation is likely. The cause of starvation could be any of several things. If the combs are ragged then they were probably robbed. If they are nicely uncapped, then they ran out of food. If there are a lot of crawling and shivering bees, then it becomes likely that they were sprayed with pesticides.

I am not @Dee, but I am Dawn. :blush:

Before you use anything, I would do a proper mite count using a sugar shake or alcohol wash of 300 bees. Here are the two ways I have tried, I prefer the Gizmo device method:
As @Dee says, you can’t tell what the varroa load is from just looking at the bees. As Michael says, it could also be pesticides, robbing or starvation, so you need to know what is happening inside the hive. I would not start any treatment without knowing the results of an inspection, plus a mite count.

To answer your question directly, Apivar would probably work fast enough. Although it is recommended to leave the strips in the hive for 6-8 weeks, you can see a significant mite drop within the first 24 hours. I think that Oxalic Acid is probably faster and better, but the equipment is expensive. You would need to do 3 treatments of Oxalic at 5 day intervals if you have capped brood in your hive.


Thanks Michael and everyone else for the replies.

I went into the hive today and was shocked at the lack of honey, but amazed at the amount of bees. I did not see the rough edges that Michael mentioned. There may be two frames not quite 1/4 full of honey, but that is a stretch. There were larvae of varying sizes, despite me not finding the queen. In the attached picture I think I am seeing the grains of rice indicating recent activity, but will defer to some expert eyes. My son confirmed all of the dead bees were there Saturday when he mowed the grass. I also had a frame that was pretty full of drone brood.

I did reduce the entrance to the smallest opening and put in some pollen patties. I am assuming some sugar water would be a good addition as long as I am careful not to spill it.

I still need to do a mite count, but did put in my Hopguard II just to be safe until I can get the Oxylic Acid as part of my treatment plan.

Here are other pictures from the inspection:

Thanks again for any advice.


That looks like worker brood to me. Drone brood is a lot more domed and “knobby”. With so little food, either you have had a dearth for a long period, or they swarmed, or lost all of your foragers to insecticide some time ago. You have uncapped larvae, so chances are, you have a laying queen.

I would do that mite count and feed them ASAP. :blush:

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I would feed them immediately. Once they start to starve they all starve quickly. Bees share food…


Thanks again all. I am feeding them like crazy and hoping to build them up for the coming winter. I really appreciate your expertise.



Actually not sure whose bees they were. Since first finding the dead bees under the hive, I have seen no more. I did notice a severe lack of honey in the hive, and have hopefully helped that a bit with pollen patties and sugar water. I am hopeful the reduced entrance has repelled the robbers if that is what is responsible.


Thanks again Bill. I appreciate the link and information. I think they are doing well now.