hive death

by mary aldrich
(columbia missouri)

This was my first year with bees and at mid July - the hive was jumping with two deeps full of bees and i added a shallow which was partially drawn out.

then i wrote you because they looked like they had eaten a good portion of the honey and they may be starving. it also appeared to be very little brood but you had hope because the brood i did have were centered in a frame. so i began feeding them and i called around for a queen but no luck.

I thought it was safer to leave them be and let them eat and hopefully recover.

i thought it was getting cold and that i should put an entrance reducer in (Mistake it got warm again - but i forgot to remove the reducer). then i saw wasps trying to get in the top where the sugar feeder was so i finally removed the entrance reducer so the bees could enter and exit more easily. I decided should probably check the hive again.

i opened the hive and saw that i have 6 frames full of honey and maybe 150-200 bees.

it was truly depressing and i was hoping you may have some ideas on how i managed to get to this point.

i thought perhaps i killed the queen and they were unable to replace her. but i also didn't treat for anything (varroa mites included) so i don't know if that did it. when i took some time to look at the remaining bees they did not appear to have any mites on the outside, but when i emptied the base board there was perhaps some significant debris....i just dumped it though and did not keep the contents.

any help is appreciated - i will do it again in spring and will do two hives and will move them to a shadier


Hi Mary,

Sorry things didn't turn out so well. That happens, though. These days it's a lot harder to keep bees alive and well than it used to be.

But I'm glad you're not going to quit. And having 2 hives next year instead of 1 is an excellent idea. It'll offer you a number of advantages.

Now, as to what happened to your hive, my best guess is that you most likely lost the queen somehow.

I couldn't tell for sure, but it looks like there's either no brood in the photos, or just a few scattered cells of brood.

No brood would obviously indicate no queen (assuming they've had food). And if there's just a bit of scattered brood, that could be from laying workers, also indicating queenlessness.

(Laying worker brood would all be drone brood. And if the colony has been queenless long enough for laying worker brood to have emerged, a disproportionate percentage of the remaining bees would be drones.)

Of course, any number of possibilities exist. But based upon your description and the photos, my best guess would be queenlessness. If you could get an experienced beekeeper to take a first hand look, that would be best.

Hope things go better for you next time. Being a beekeeper is kind of like being a sports fan - there's always next year!

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Dec 19, 2011
dead hives
by: Bill

I have had a lot of questions about this phenomenon.

I have only seen it once in my operation when the tracheal mite went through many years ago. We recovered that year back to our numbers after a 66% loss and had a fair crop.

It appears that the queens today are being weakened by the pesticides, herbicides, mitacides and fungicides that are being sprayed on the fields.

Those of us that replace the queens as soon as we see a problem like poor brood pattern, spotty brood or low laying ability have been able to stop summer dwindling.

The queen is subjected to a host of sublethal doses of chemicals that act like a aging agent on her and she might only last a short time depending on the load and types of things sprayed.


Thanks for your comments Bill. I know that there have been a number of reports in recent years of sub-par queens coming from package suppliers. Bee suppliers, of course, have to deal with the many modern beekeeping problems that all of us must contend with.

Mar 10, 2013
Four years of beekeeping & ordering new hives
by: Jim Noelker

Our son, Jim lost 3 hives this winter. We were talking on the phone & he said he didn't see any activities from his hives. He ask me if mine were out. I went out & looked & had 15 or 20 bees around my single hive. When I told him, he open the covers on his 3 hives and found clumps of bees huddled together, dead. These hives were about 4 years old & produced a lot of honey. No indication that the bees were distressed. He took photos to record any strangeness that he might miss. Any help will be appreciated

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