Beekeeping / Maintenance and How-To

Dissecting a Dead Hive

Today the temp was in the low 50’s, so it was a good day to get out and take a look at the hives and perform a hive autopsy, if you will.

The Nuc

We attempted to winter a small nuc. Five of the ten frames were full of honey and we wondered, when temps were holding steady at the minus -20 mark, if that hive would stay warm enough. It wasn’t that big (bee population-wise) and I think the honey provides some insulation, and this hive didn’t have much honey. Well, needless to say, it does look like they might have frozen. What’s cool about finding them this way is that you can really get an idea of what the winter cluster looks like. Normally we don’t get to see this because, when they are clustered for warmth, it’s too cold to open the hive. So this is cool from an educational standpoint, but sad, obviously because they died.

Here’s a top-view. If you look closely, you can kind of see the bees clustered in a ball in the center:

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Here’s a view of the frames pulled out and opened accordion-style. The bees seem to be literally frozen in place, which is why we think it was just too cold for this one to survive. Here’s you can see how they were clustered in a ball:

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Here’s an example of how close the bees were to the honey. The honey is the lighter patch to the right on the frame in the bottom portion of the photo. They won’t leave the cluster to eat if they are too cold. The fact that honey is present tells us that they didn’t starve to death.

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The Big Hives

The larger hives showed signs of dysentery. Dysentery is basically diarrhea. Evidence of this is the black spotting on the tops of the frames:

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More on the inside of the inner cover:

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In the larger hives, the bees were all over the place, which is what you’d expect to find if they died at different times of sickness (unlike the cluster where they seem to have frozen together).  Here’s the bottom board – this is just an insane amount of dead bees:

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And so we begin the clean-up process. All the frames with dysentery need to be scraped and cleaned. We’re hoping to get our new packaged mid-April.

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