Well, thats disappointing

So about 4 weeks ago I noticed a huge loss of bees outside the hive. I rarely see any dead bees, and now the ground was just covered in them. I did a little inspection, never found the queen, but there still seemed to be a lot of bees in the hive. I did notice that activity outside the hive since then was greatly reduced. 2 weeks ago I did another inspection and was going to get the hive ready for winter. Stores looked good, bees were pretty defensive though. Early this week there was hardly any activity outside the hive, and barely any inside. So today i did a full inspection, nothing. No queen, few bees trying to raise a queen, mostly robbers in the hive I think.

So what went wrong? Why such a huge sudden die off. I have hundreds of yellow jackes, hornets around as well, could they have gone in and killed the hive? My entrance reducer is 3-4 inches (now 1").

I think its too late to save this hive! But any advice for next year is greatly appreciated!

Sounds like typical fall varroa mite over-load to me. What were your mite levels and how did you manage them?

1 Like

@Anon well, if that is true, then that’s my first mistake. I bought bees that are/have “Varroa Sensitive Hygiene” (whatever that means) Maybe not though i guess. When i did hive inspections and looked at the SBB i never saw any signs of Varroa, not that i didn’t have any, it just didn’t appear to be any.

The die off though seemed to be a 1 day event, not over many days. Do you think that would still be varroa?

@tredekop are you Northern or Southern Hemisphere? If Northern have a closer look they may well be Drones being kicked out for the winter

Did you treat for varroa?
Did you check the varroa fall level? Even “Hygienic bees” need to be checked
What doe the dead bees look like?
Are their tongues hanging out?
Have crops been sprayed near by?
Is there food coming into the hive - heft the hive and check
What Pollen is coming in?
Have you taken off honey? Did you take off too much?

Yes. When I tried treatment free that’s how my hives died; a sudden crash.

@Valli there were a lot of drones. I live in Colorado, its been pretty mild still. Temps so far are usually in the 60-80, and at night 40. We did go down to 31 (-1C) last week, but this happened well before that. I never had an overabundance of drones, they seemed to fill the drone cells with honey pretty quick during the summer. I would usually see 3-4 outside in the afternoon coming and going. This die off literally covered the ground, I should have taken a picture! I also should have looked right then and there to see what was going on. Its hard to inspect the hive now, I moved out on the plains, and its always sunny, and windy. Hard to smoke the hive when the wind goes sideways :slight_smile:

@Valli hmm didn’t see the rest of your questions. So two weeks ago I took off the honey super, 2 weeks after the die off. There was plenty of honey and pollen in the hive upon inspection today. The bottom box had 3 deep frames full of honey, another 5 frames full of pollen, with some honey. The next brood box on top had 2 full frames of honey, 1/2 frame of honey, and the other 5 frames were like a normal brood nest, honey on top, then pollen, then where brood should have been. My mistake I guess was not to check for varroa :frowning: As the hive is pretty much empty i’m sadly counting this one as a loss. I still have lots to learn! I may just have to go and introduce myself to the neighbor down the street that has 4 hives and see if they can be of any help for me next year.

@Valli as I live out in the country now i was worried at first about crops being sprayed. The only “crop” close to me that is actively works is a sod farm. I’m not sure my bees are interested in grass. The rest out here is just prairie grass. I didn’t notice any tongues sticking out, but i was getting bumped a lot by the guard bees :unamused: They never were nice after that.

Whenever there is an explainable event - it is wise to

  1. Gather evidence - as much as possible - photograph small numbers of dead bees
  2. Look at all the facts
  3. Check the hive has weight, plenty of food (nectar and pollen coming in)
  4. Do a varroa count on the SBB Tray
  5. Look at brood patterns and numbers
  6. Most important - if you can’t find the Queen are there eggs or Queen cells ?
  7. What is the age of the youngest brood?
  8. Does the brood look healthy?
  9. Is there signs of disease?
  10. Do you know how to detect the various diseases?
  11. Have the dead bees Got their tongues out?
  12. Does your area get sprayed for Zika?
1 Like

Hi Tim, it sounds like getting to know your neighbor down the road is a good idea. Also see if you can find a local bee club & gravitate towards the members that are most successful with their bees.

Learning to read the brood with regular checks is very important.

Therein lies the rub. VSH queens usually come from either an instrumentally inseminated (less common) or a naturally-mated “Queen Mother” (more commonly and cheaper). The offspring genes are variable in naturally mated offspring. I have had 3 good VSH hives and one with DWV and likely significant varroa. As I am not a commercial beekeeper, and I can’t split multiple hives to replace my colonies, I treat the bees if the VSH genetics fail me/us.

1 Like

@Dawn_SD so basically (if this was Varroa) I may have had a VSH Queen that didn’t necessarily get the gene she should have. I didn’t notice any DWV though on the bees i saw dead. Just looked like normal dead bees, just a lot more of them.

I wish it was that simple. I think that the VSH trait is not related to a single gene, but rather to a group of them. It is possible that your queen did not have a favorable combination of genes. Hard to tell unless you have a big research group and $$$$ to test the bees. VSH is helpful, but not the whole answer. I think we need to be balanced in our approach. Yes, it is better to breed bees which can resist pests and disease, however, it is better to have live bees than dead ones.

1 Like

@Dawn_SD So you said you treat if the genetic fail you, does that mean you only treat if you find the mite load to be high, or do you treat all your hives regardless?

I do sugar roll mite counts and only treat if they are above the threshold, or if I see several bees with DWV.

I took the whole hive apart today and took some pictures. I found lots of mites but also noticed lots of bees with their tongues stuck out. Any thoughts on why the tongues are out?

This has a few mites, the SBB had a lot more!

This pic shows the ones with their tongues out.

Thanks for all the help!

Most likely reason is insecticide poisoning. Have your neighbors been spraying? Or is there a Zika alert in your area? :cry:

Also, your plastic slider under the SBB could do with a really good clean… :blush:

@Dawn_SD yeah thats what i was wondering. No one was spraying that i know of, but I do live in the country now, and its possible a farmer was spraying their crops. I’m wondering if that, plus the mites overload, was just bad timing and why the hive just up and dead so fast.I think the SBB looks bad as the hive was partially robbed after the bees died and before I could close it off. It is now clean :slight_smile:
I do plan on moving the hive(s) (going to try 2 next year) to a place where they have more shelter from the wind and closer to the house so its easier to keep an eye on them.