Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sunday Reading - A Dead Hive

While I was putting the plastic bottom inserts in the hives the other day I noticed Plymouth colony (my oldest and strongest hive coming into Summer) had absolutely no activity at all.

I went ahead and popped the top and discovered the hive was almost completely empty.

Two full sized brood chambers of drawn comb on a hive that was over five years old and it was now completely empty. After I brought the boxes home I had to wait until yesterday to start pulling em apart and maybe see what had killed the hive off.

I found maybe two dozen dead bee bodies that were stuck in the comb head first. This could maybe be from starvation or it could be foragers from the neighbor hives that had died while robbing. There simply were not enough bee bodies left inside to say one way or another.

The Green Drone frame had a few unopened cells of brood left but very few. That little lighter spot in the top left is where I found maybe a dozen bees headfirst in the comb and their bodies had started a bit of fungus growth which happens fast around here when it's warm.

I did find a number of emergency queen cells on the other brood frames. The lack of bees left and the number of emergency or replacement queen cells tell me this hive almost assuredly somehow managed to lose it's queen and simply died out.

If you remember I mentioned it was looking really light on bees last month. As luck would have it it I noticed it right after I had put in a queen order and it was too late to order another queen then. Oh well thems the breaks I guess. When I had three or four hives I would have noticed this one declining a lot earlier than I do with 15 hives. Monthly inspections become more of a time issue once you get up above half a dozen or so. Guess I just missed this one soon enough to reverse the damage. The real money is in the woodenware and drawn comb anyway and with two full brood chambers of comb it will give a couple of hives a real boost during next year's swarm and split season.

The bottom board is a complete write off. I noticed the back part had dry rotted and a huge hole was in the support brace on the back, while the side board had rotted down to mush as well. One reason I began making my own bottom boards as the thin pine boards available commercially just can't stand the pressure as well.

The only sign of any pest infestation I could find were a dozen or so hive beetle bodies. It's possible the hive beetles got so strong they drove this hive out but I think if that had happened I would see more beetle bodies laying around. Of course I guess most of them could have fallen out the bottom. Still the replacement queen cells tell me they had lost their queen and that seems more in line with my observations of a slowly dwindling population.

Really I should have allowed the hive to swarm this year but I didn't. Had they swarmed earlier the queen would have been replaced with a new one. It is also possible of course that they did grow a new queen and something happened to her on the mating flight. At least I am reasonably sure it wasn't a pest problem or I would have seen more damage inside the remains I think.

These things happen. Still I got five years of good production off this hive and to tell you the truth some of it's boxes were getting a bit worn like the bottom board and need replacing. The 20 frames of drawn comb will allow me to get two or three new hives a good jump start next year while the two brood chambers will be used as a new swarm trap and a trap out box for that hive of feral bees down the road I need to get yet and have been putting off.

One of the best things about bee keeping is even when you lose a hive you still have plenty of resources left over to build back up with.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!


  1. You are still doing far better than the bee keepers around here from what I have heard. Just some minor set backs compared to losing half or more of your bees.

  2. Bummer! One of my hives was raided & killed by robbers from the really strong feral hive in the eaves of my house. They snuck in the back way through an unguarded crack on the rear of the hive between the brood deep & a super of honey I had left on for the winter. I saw it too late, when I noticed the traffic back & forth between the hives. I did get a nice swarm from the feral hive so I guess we're even. The boxes were old & shold have been replaced.

  3. Ugh. Sorry Preppy. I've had that disappointment more than once.

  4. That had to be disappointing. Your composure is commendable.


Leave a comment. We like comments. Sometimes we have even been known to feed Trolls.