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Death of a Hive

Death of a Hive

Posted by Bruce Clow on 25th Jan 2022

I have been keeping bees for just two years now. One does try to pick up some pointers from more experienced beekeepers, but there is nothing like experience to teach you about the craft.

One lesson I learned at the expense of a hive was how quickly things can happen. On the 31st of March I did a full disease inspection of my two hives. I had last inspected the hives about 6 weeks prior to this time. Both hives were headed by swarm queens which had been very successful all season, with good laying patterns. But I found that one of these hives was now much weaker than it had been. I found things that I had never seen before, such as a very high number of deformed bees. Bees that were much smaller than normal, bees with deformed wings and even bees with no wings. There were low numbers of young larvae and a very spotty brood pattern. On some bees I could see varroa mites. But there were still a good number of adult bees working away although there were also a significant number of wasps wandering around the comb unmolested. I did find the queen and she looked fine, being long, plump and lively. There were certainly adequate stores; at least one full box of capped honey.

So I added one Apistan strip between the two combs of brood, cut the entrance down to about 30 mm wide, and caught a wasp to put in the refrigerator to use as a leader to the wasp nest (I never did get around to tying a bit of cotton to his leg and following him to the nest). I also resolved to check that hive again in two weeks.

Exactly two weeks later I opened up the hive again to find it dead. Dead as a door nail. No live bees at all (the bottom board covered by dead bees), and many wasps roaming freely over now completely empty combs. The wasps had cleaned out not just the honey but all the eggs, larvae and pupa. Nothing left and so fast.

I hope you new comers to beekeeping will take more aggressive action if you see the signs I saw. My slackness caused the death of a hive. Warnings I received from my more experienced colleagues was passed over with a “ho hum” attitude. I will be more attentive to their stories and experiences from now on, (maybe)!