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Dead bees

 
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rendauphin
House Bee


Joined: 28 Sep 2011
Posts: 15
Location: United Kingdom, Dorset, Bridport

PostPosted: Mon Sep 18, 2017 8:42 pm    Post subject: Dead bees Reply with quote

I have looked in a friends top bar hive today and all bees are dead. The colony was a package put in early July and it appeared to progress well with a good increase in bees. There had been lots of activity the last time i looked about a month ago. The colony has been fed a couple of time a week. There were no stores on opening the hive today. what could have gone wrong? Thanks
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AndyC
Scout Bee


Joined: 04 Jul 2014
Posts: 303
Location: Uk/Horsham/RH13

PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 7:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sad day. Sorry to hear of the loss.

Sounds like loss of queen and/or robbing out.

Apart from the dead bees what else can you see especially on the combs and floor of the hive?
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Barbara
Site Admin


Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1582
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 11:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi

I am also sorry to hear of your friend's loss. Can you take some photos of the comb and post them. It can sometimes give an indication of the problem. Is the hive in your friend's garden or an out apiary? Being able to monitor the hive daily can really help to spot problems before they become terminal.
As Andy says, the most likely scenario is that there was a queen loss/failure and then robbing out, although the feeding may have encouraged robbing and the queen perhaps got damaged during the ensuing battle. Does the hive have a mesh, solid or eco floor? What type of feeder was used and where was it located. Were the entrances closed down to a single hole or half hole whilst the feeder was on. It's really important to ensure there are no cracks or holes anywhere in the hive where robbers can find a way in other than through the main entrance where the guards are usually posted. Observing the hive for wasps buzzing around or tussling bees at the entrance should tip the beekeeper off that robbing may be happening and needs to be nipped in the bud very rapidly or the colony are overrun before you know it.

Starting with a package is not an ideal situation, especially if the queen is an unrelated queen to the bees and possibly more so if she has been artificially mated. July is also quite late in the season to start a package. From what I have read it seems they often supercede her in the first season. If this happened, you should see a supercedure cell on one of the combs. The new queen may have failed to mate due to bad weather or perhaps failed to return from a mating flight.
There is also a very outside chance they built up quickly and swarmed in which case you would see the remnants of swarm cells.

Maybe the queen got dropped out of the hive or injured during your last inspection..... It can happen to the best of us which is why I always try to stress how important it is to keep combs over the hive during inspection, so that if she drops off, she falls back into the hive.

It is unlikely that varroa would be a problem in their first year but looking at the top of the cells in the brood nest will show white clumps of fras from the mites in numerous cells if that has been part of the problem.

I would encourage your friend not to purchase a package next year, but try to bait a swarm to the hive. With all that comb, there is a good chance that bees will find it an attractive place to come and live.

Regards

Barbara

A laying worker will produce very uneven surface to the brood comb and might have developed if the queen got injured or lost.

So quite a few possibilities
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BBC
Scout Bee


Joined: 11 Jul 2012
Posts: 398
Location: Bicker, Lincolnshire, UK

PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 2:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some time early July, August, mid-September - now all bees dead. So - a colony which survived for maybe 8 or 9 weeks ?

Question: was there a laying queen included in the package ? i.e. was capped worker brood ever seen in that hive ? If not, then your friend was sold a pup.

I agree with Barbara - a package is not a good way to buy bees. But I disagree about choosing a swarm - I'd recommend buying a nuc from a reputable beekeeper - that way you can judge the queen's performance (laying pattern etc) before parting with your money.
Colin
BBC
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Bees build Brace Comb for a reason, not just to be bloody-minded.
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AndyC
Scout Bee


Joined: 04 Jul 2014
Posts: 303
Location: Uk/Horsham/RH13

PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 5:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

BBC wrote:
Some time early July, August, mid-September - now all bees dead. So - a colony which survived for maybe 8 or 9 weeks ?

Question: was there a laying queen included in the package ? i.e. was capped worker brood ever seen in that hive ? If not, then your friend was sold a pup.

I agree with Barbara - a package is not a good way to buy bees. But I disagree about choosing a swarm - I'd recommend buying a nuc from a reputable beekeeper - that way you can judge the queen's performance (laying pattern etc) before parting with your money.
Colin
BBC


I was thinking the same but he says they increased so Madam must have been laying at some time.

Also agree about knowing where your bees come from but I use swarms a lot but mainly for rapid increases and mixing the genes.

Used in their own I find they often get feisty and need requeening with a lady from a known source.
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Barbara
Site Admin


Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1582
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 7:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I only ever deal with swarms and very rarely get temperament issues, but I will say that my bees are probably not as productive as more commercially available options.
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AndyC
Scout Bee


Joined: 04 Jul 2014
Posts: 303
Location: Uk/Horsham/RH13

PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2017 6:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am beginning to come round to the conclusion that this is a competition issue.

My established hives are pretty well behaved, it's the newly established colonies that can get touchy and it seems to run along with their first full season and food stores.

My apiary is in an area with a lot of woodland, some farmland that is often monoculture with mainly grains and the town is over a mile away.

The town is on the fringe of a new town and the houses have small gardens that have few flowers in.

Competition for food sources must therefore be pretty fierce.

It does seem if the issue can be tolerated and the hive is just fed and left alone as much as possible to get established and the number of bees increases, the temper improves, but I have no evidence to back this up.

It also seems less of an issue if swarms are combined to make bigger colonies that are demand fed for the first month.
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biobee
Site Admin


Joined: 14 Jun 2007
Posts: 1055
Location: UK, England, S. Devon

PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2017 12:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The honeybee population of the UK has probably at least doubled in the last ten years, but the food supply has not. If anything, it has probably declined.

I have noticed this year that many of my hives have been hungry for weeks at a time, despite relatively good weather and being in locations where virtually no pesticides are used, and within range of gardens.

I have also noticed a greater propensity to rob, and I am pretty sure that robbers are flying in from other people's hives.

I have heard talk of significantly reduced honey yields in London, believed to be caused by "too many new beekeepers".

It is possible that, in some places, the honeybee population is actually unsustainably high.
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Barbara
Site Admin


Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1582
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2017 5:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
It is possible that, in some places, the honeybee population is actually unsustainably high.


There is a difference between unsustainably high for the beekeeper to harvest a crop and for the bees to survive. I have to confess that my honey harvest has been very minimal in the past few years, but my bees produce enough to survive. There are more and more beekeepers in my village now though. I can certainly see how there is a limit to what is sustainable in many areas.
Is this a topic that we as "natural beekeepers" should be discussing with a view to formulating a plan or at least having some guideline on, especially as we are promoting "beekeeping for all" I am very keen to encourage new beeks and help them get set up. Maybe this is something I need to rethink... at least in my immediate area.
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biobee
Site Admin


Joined: 14 Jun 2007
Posts: 1055
Location: UK, England, S. Devon

PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2017 6:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I suspect that the number of people wanting to take up beekeeping is levelling off. It's harder to fill classes than it was five years ago. Younger people are more likely to be living with parents or in rented accommodation, and given the media attention on bees over the last decade, if you haven't started by now, unless your circumstances have changed to become more conducive to keeping bees, the chances are that you probably aren't that serious about it.

There is certainly a distinction to be made between sustainable beekeeping on the scale of the individual beekeeper and on the village/town/regional scale. I suspect that some areas are approaching maximum capacity and we may even be endangering other pollinators in the process. For the first time this year, I found bumblebees attempting to rob out an empty mating nuc, in competition with honeybees and wasps.
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AndyC
Scout Bee


Joined: 04 Jul 2014
Posts: 303
Location: Uk/Horsham/RH13

PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2017 7:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok so maybe my experience is being repeated.

I believe there is evidence of the loss of wild areas and an increase in intensive farming.

My own observation suggest these large mono culture fields are pretty much dead as far as birds are concerned so it follows that insects are rare too.

it could well be we have hit on something here.

I had already started using swarms to augment my colonies rather than increasing the number of hives but a single national BB has a limit so maybe bigger hives are called for.

Double BB polys maybe managed as low intervention . . . . . . . .the problem with that being the overall height.

So it's back to the TBH.


Last edited by AndyC on Thu Sep 21, 2017 6:55 am; edited 1 time in total
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Adam Rose
Silver Bee


Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 586
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2017 6:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

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Adam Rose
Silver Bee


Joined: 09 Oct 2011
Posts: 586
Location: Manchester, UK

PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2017 6:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

biobee wrote:
is certainly a distinction to be made between sustainable beekeeping on the scale of the individual beekeeper and on the village/town/regional scale. I suspect that some areas are approaching maximum capacity and we may even be endangering other pollinators in the process. For the first time this year, I found bumblebees attempting to rob out an empty mating nuc, in competition with honeybees and wasps.


I think I'm pretty lucky where I live that you would really have to go some to exhaust the carrying capacity of the area. There is for example an apiary of twenty hives in an old sewage farm by the river Irwell. Personally I wouldn't manage a collection of hives in the environment in that way, but I don't think even that is beyond the reasonable capacity of what is now very fertile low management forest/pond/swamp type area.

I have always been sympathetic to the ideas of extensive beekeeping :
http://www.beesfordevelopment.org/documents/e/extensive-beekeeping/ as a way of thinking "beyond the hive" or "beyond the apiary".

The problem is establishing some kind of self regulating community. In the park where I have half of my hives, that's easy, because I am the community. I think Andy ( peopleshive ) may be in a similar position. But in a more general sense, it's a hard thing to do. Beekeepers may or may not attend a club, but generally they act more or less as individuals when actually doing their beekeeping.

Adam.
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AndyC
Scout Bee


Joined: 04 Jul 2014
Posts: 303
Location: Uk/Horsham/RH13

PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2017 7:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe the key sentence in that link is this one?

One quickly appreciates that extensive beekeeping is most viable where natural environments have not been degraded and population pressures of the human kind are not excessive.

I am not sure many parts of the UK meet that viability criteria.
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