summer starvation

by mary aldrich
(columbia mo)

typical frame status

typical frame status

typical frame status
some with tails out of comb
one frame with honey
the one i saw with brood

not so good. went to check the hive and the goal was to check the bottom deep. both sets of deeps look very depleted in terms of honey with little to no capped brood. there was some uncapped brood. some of the bees appeared to be sticking their heads into the comb - i read that this is sometimes the way you will find a starved hive at the end of winter. I didn't see any queen cells and thought she either slowed way down, died recently or gave up. it did not seem as if the brood i saw was being cared for.

this was a big difference from two weeks ago when things were pretty sweet. they had a supply of water but something still went wrong -but 108 degrees could probably do that.

so i put in a sugar water feeder and am hoping for the best. i called the supplier here and was told there wasn't a great deal of hope to be had for getting a new queen.

so i was hoping you may have some suggestions.


Hi Mary,

Your hive isn't starving (yet). You wouldn't see half a frame of capped honey in a hive that was in the final stages of starvation.

The bees with their rears sticking out of the cells were probably either cleaning the cells, or gorging on honey from smoke (if you were using a smoker.)

It's true that when a hive starves, you'll sometimes see dead bee bodies sticking out of the cells, tail first. They died in a desperate search for a final drop of honey. (A very sad sight!).

That's not what you're seeing.

Now, it is entirely possible for a hive to starve to death in the middle of the summer. So feeding is the right thing to do if they are low on stored honey. But judging from the photos, your bees aren't starving. And they won't starve if you keep them fed.

If you're having the kind of drought that we're having in Texas, you may have to feed them a lot to get them through the winter. But that's doable.

Now about the queen...

If the queen is gone, and you can't get a replacement, then of course you're in trouble.

If you happen to have another hive with a laying queen, you can take a frame that contains eggs and give it to this hive. They would probably raise a new queen if they haven't been queenless too long.

However, I'm not sure that your hive is queenless. The one photo with brood shows fairly young brood. And it's in a tight pattern, indicating that the eggs were layed by a queen, not laying workers. (Laying worker egg patterns are usually scattered and random.)

And the bees are still caring for the brood. There wouldn't be little fat grubs curled up in the bottom of the cells if they weren't being fed regularly and continously.

If your queen is gone, she's not been gone long, based on that photo. Are you sure there are no eggs? Wherever there's a small amount of brood, look around the edges of the brood concentration and see if you can spot some eggs.

My guess is that she's there, but egg-laying has been severely curtailed due to lack of incoming food and weather conditions.

But without being able to examine the hive, that's only a guess - take it for what guesses are usually worth!

I would keep feeding them, make sure they have a source of water, and see what happens. They might still be OK. Check again in several days for eggs or extremely young larvae.

I'll keep my fingers crossed for you!

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Aug 10, 2011
by: mary aldrich

Boy am i glad you are here/there! My husband thinks i should put you on retainer.



Ha! Thanks Mary. I'm glad I'm here too! :)

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