Mar 20 2018

Back to the beginning….

This is a late entry. Actually about 3 weeks ago we had an unusually warm day. It had been below freezing and suddenly it was 56 out and sunny (then it froze again that night). I looked outside and noticed – not a single bee was flying. Odd.

So I decided to go out and take a peek and remove all the insulating panels from the hives. As I went to each hive, there was no outside activity. I put my ear up to them and banged on them. No sound. Barely lifted the lids and banged – no sound. Not good.

So I pulled all the winter insulation off the hives, the top and the sides, went ahead and put on just my gloves and veil and went out to see if it was what I thought it was.

All of my hives are gone or dead.

Here’s what they looked like.

yellow hive all dead

yellow hive all dead

The yellow hive clearly died of something. There were about 3 inches solid of dead bees in the bottom of the hive. There were a couple good sized shovel fulls of dead bees on the ground in front of the hive. No moisture, no mildew, no bees with their head burrowed in and butts stuck out (so not starving), no capped brood. There were about 3 frames of food left.

Thoughts: If they had frozen, they’d all be stuck in place, in their cluster, and probably would have mildew since their warm bodies died on the combs and then created moisture. These bees probably died of something like varroa mites. I picked through the dead bodies to see if I could identify varroa mites on any bodies, but that would be tough since everything was dead and the mites probably dropped off to the ground beneath.


Orange and Blue hives – no here’s where it gets really weird.

orange hive bottom screened board with scant dead bees

orange hive bottom screened board with scant dead bees

Both of these hives had at least a good full box of honey in place, capped, anywhere from 8-10 full frames. Both had nary a single bee or capped brood anywhere in any of the frames. As you can see from the pictures, maybe a scant 1/4 – 1/2 cup of dead bees (150-300 bees) on the bottom of the hive. Maybe 6 dead bees on the ground out front. No moisture, no mildew – because there were no warm bodies left in the hive and to create moisture.

They’re just – gone.

This is not swarming. This is all the classic hallmarks of Colony Collapse.

I took the pictures on my Iphone to the Wiz that Saturday. He was gone but there were other beekeepers working in the bee house. They all looked and said – whoa, wait a minute. This looks like Colony Collapse. But Colony Collapse also has certain pretty well known indicators. Those are: the bees main source of food is a large crop of something that has either been sprayed commercially or treated with neonicotinoids. The main source.  The bees are stressed – such as moved on trucks or plagued by varroa or both.

blue hive screened bottom board with scant dead bees

blue hive screened bottom board with scant dead bees

The orange hive was treated for varroa last fall. The blue and yellow hives were not treated but a reliable mite count showed extremely minimal mites. There is no main source of food around here that is a field of anything – I’m in a suburb with neighborhoods. There is no commercial spraying done in the city and the bits of spraying and treating the neighbors do in their gardens on their own plants – while many times heavy handed – isn’t enough to cause Colony Collapse.

So – I’m basically back to the beginning as a newbie beekeeper. No bees.

I went ahead and ordered 2  packages of Carniolans that will arrive on April 14. Definite much cheaper to just keep bees – 2 packages cost me just over $300.

But I did clear everything off the bee deck. I then killed all the weeks in between the pavers. I cleaned off the deck. HB took the badly sagging hive stands and fortified them with metal so they should last another 10 years. I’ve been cleaning and scraping the hive boxes. So I’ll be all ready with good equipment when my new bees arrive.

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