Winter bee loss

Hi there from New York State,

The winter has started to let up. The temperature today was around 55 to 60° so my wife decided to have a look and see how the bees are doing and unfortunately she didn’t hear any activity so she decided to open up the roof and noticed nothing no activity.

So upon further inspection we have found that we completely lost our bees. We have no idea what went wrong they had plenty of stores of honey we only noticed two hive beetles and didn’t notice anything else out of the ordinary. That beginner beekeepers would notice. Please have a look at the photos of the frames and let me know if you notice anything that we may have overlooked.

My wife just mentioned and she’s right that they didn’t seem to be a lot of dead bees in the hive. Her theory is that most of the bees left the hive not sure when or why but she could be right.

I look forward to your questions or comments thank you again.

My diagnosis is Varroa destructor. Did you treat for Varroa or do mite counts? Meanwhile, have a read of this and see if you think it is a reasonable cause:


I’m not personally experienced with Varroa but all of the signs in the photos point to American Foul Brood (ABF) to me. The punctured and sunken cells, the ropey brown goop in the cells. If so, AFB is a really serious disease and easily spread so careful management steps need to be taken to avoid spreading it to other hives. These steps vary across different jurisdictions so I recommend asking your local beekeepers or authorities for advice.

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Wow, Dawn_SD, you hit the nail on the head with that article. Everything I read seems to point to an infestation of varroa. Is there a way to determine whether it was varroa?

To answer your question no we did not check for them when we don’t know how to and to we were naïve because when we were sold the bees we were told that they were for varroa resistant. Am I supposed to call someone regarding the varroa infestation?

Thank you very much for your quick response The article is very very informative.

Michael Smart,

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Hi Bianca,

Thank you for prompt response. Dawn_SD, sent me a article which pointed directly to Varroa. But to be on the safe side I will call by local authorities just to verify that it’s not a ABF.

Thank you.

Michael Smart,

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

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Varroa is no longer a reportable pest in beehives in the US.

You should seal up the hive so that no robbers try to clear out the honey and nectar while you wait for confirmation about the AFB.


Hi Mike, sorry for this loss. I hope it will help solidify your understanding of these all-too-common pests in beehives so you can take more proactive steps this season. I took the liberty of properly categorizing your post into Pests and Diseases - I encourage you to do more reading here as spring is just around the corner in our region! As I recall, this was a topic you discussed here last summer and fall, so dive back in and we will help you improve your practices this time around.

Some bee breeds have more hygienic traits than others, meaning that they are better at grooming themselves and each other and this helps dislodge more mites from their bodies. It might be worth a follow-up discussion with your supplier to learn more about what characterized the bees you got last year as “varroa resistant”. I personally would not rely on hygienic traits alone in my varroa management plans.

I agree with Dawn that varroa wipeout is the most likely cause of your colony loss, but Bianca’s point is valid: there are many possible threats to colony health, and we need to consider them carefully. I am hoping your problem was not AFB, because as bad as varroa mites are there are good choices and effective ways to prevent damaging infestations. Still, better safe than sorry - get your hive tested for AFB, and do share updates and questions about this so we can support you in your next steps!

PS: your signature is nice, but as we can see who is posting at the top of every post, signatures can become more like clutter over time. Just a friendly tip :hugs:


Hi Eva,

Thanks you for your response. I am going to have a closer look today and do the toothpick test and see if anything comes out that remotely resembles AFB, and will post pictures, I have sealed the hive already. Can I still test for varroa? Also, would you or anyone know who I can send samples to and check for AFB?

I am going to order more bees now and start over. Would you know of a reputable place where I can get bees from?

Also my signature comes out when I reply through my email does it still appear on this post as I am posting directly in the forum?

Thank you again.

That link is what I found when I googled New York State agriculture and went thru a few pages on the site. The phone number might get you close & go from there to more bee-specific help.

If I were you I’d concentrate on ruling out AFB with help from the state, and then deciding how you’ll deal with mites this season. Testing for them now won’t really matter so much - they’ll be back :unamused:

(I don’t see your signature now by the way)


Hi Eva,

Thank you for the link I greatly appreciate you taking out the time. After a few calls they were able to get in touch with the right person someone from the New York State agricultural department is coming to my house sometime next week to have a look and verify exactly what it was that killed our bees. I will post the results as soon as possible.

Thanks everyone for your help and guidance.

Michael Smart,


That’s great to hear Michael! I’m glad to help out a fellow beek :hugs:


This is awesome!! I look forward to getting the results too

Hi there,

Up date on the cause of the loss of my bees. The official coroners report is in, it was death by varroa mites. The good news in it’s not AFB so I don’t have to touch my hive. This also means once I receive my new flow hive 2 I will have 2 hives :grin: hope I receive it sooner than later.

I have a new 6 frame nuc coming mid May. The lady from the NYS agricultural bee department said I should leave 2 frames of honey that I currently have and 2 drown out combs, she also said the bees will clean them and reuse them and this will give the bees a head start. Not sure if this is a good idea.

She also said, since I am getting a nuc in mid May I should treat for varroa mid June then again before we winterize the hive.

Thanks again for your help.


Thank you for the update! Sounds like you have an excellent inspector there. I like her advice too - if she says you can leave the frames for your new bees, you are pretty safe to do so. I would make sure the frames are stored somewhere out of reach of robbers though, otherwise all of that honey will be gone by May… :dizzy_face:

All the best with your new colony. :blush:

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Hi Dawn_SD

Yes she was very helpful. She did tell me about robbing. I have my hive sealed at the moment. I am thinking of getting package bees for my second hive since I have already done nucs. Aside from it taking longer to build up the hive is there any disadvantage or advantages to getting package bees for my second hive.

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This has been discussed recently in quite some detail, so I would humbly suggest that you try the search tool at the upper right of the screen (try package bees and package nucleus) and have a read. That will save everyone from reading more lengthy repeated messages from me… :joy: Meanwhile, here is a sample of what a search turned up for me:

Thank you Dawn_SD didn’t think of that :crazy_face:


Hi There, Once I receive my nucs in mid-May, should I treat for varroa in mid-June then again in September, October before winter?

Thank again Mike

Hello there Mike, somehow I came across your last post about a year later :laughing: I guess it’s all a distant memory now! But I still thought I’d reply and see if you and your bees had a good season, and how things look for you now that spring is coming to our region?