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House Bee
Sep 5, 2009
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OK, bee gurus, help me out here.

My small colony has died. I am no longer a beekeeper :-(

The history of this colony is in my blog if you want to catch up with what happened.

I'd be very grateful if you could have a look at images of the final frames and see if you can give me any advice.

Frames 4 and 9 were quite heavy with capped honey; the rest had less or no stores; there were no brood left anywhere.

Fairly high-def images of the frames are available here.

Particular questions are: what happened? what should I do with the frames? what should I do differently?

Thanks in advance for any help.

Firstly dont beat yourself up about it. I have lost one of the association colonies recently and know how you feel.
A lot of the stores seem to be crystalised. This along with the cold weather could have caused them to starve (there are one or two pics with bees head in the cells). There doesnt seem to be a lot of fully drawn out frames, either.
So they may well have been a weak colony to start with.
Did you brush off the dead bees from the frames to take the pictures? or were they just in a pile on the floor?
They were all on the floor. I didn't brush any off frames.

There weren't many of them (the bodies). They had been flying, a little bit, until recently - only on the very few warm days we've had.

Most likely nosema,lots of poo on combs, did you treat with oxalic?
No, I'm afraid not. I thought the weather was too bad and the colony was too small - probably unwise as it turns out.

There was a lot of poo on the mesh floor below the initial and second cluster site.

I would burn the combs,or boil up and re-foundation,you could also test for nosema out of interest,suspect that was the problem.
Is that something they could have recovered from without medication if they were a larger colony? Or something that brings down any colony it infects?

Looking at the drawn out frames it looks like:
1/small colony going into winter.

I see you said you never treated during the winter with OA.
Did you treat for Varroa with Thymol last summer/autumn ?
Yes, I did treat (a bit) with Thymol. The first dose was full (pro-rata with their small size), the second dose was fairly minimal as I was worrying about killing off the colony itself and lost my nerve.

It has a bad effect on even a strong colony,nosema apis weakening them in spring,called spring dwindle,and can even prove fatal to them,athough most strong colonys survive and build up slowly during the summer only to go down with the same the following winter, if not treated in some way,feed supplements help.Nosema ceranae is the more evil of the two,can persist even through summer,and a heavy infection can wipe out a colony much faster.
Dysentry - possibly due to nosema apis. Nosema is endemic with some in most colonies but they dont show symptoms. Most colonies recover by themselves from lite infections.
You could reuse the frames but it would be advisable to sterilize them first using 80% acetic acid. They dont look that great though I'd be tempted to follow hivemakers advice
Forgot to mention if the queen also gets it she can lose the ability to lay eggs,and infected bee's are unable to provide proper brood food also.
DONT TRY THIS AT HOMEbut one way of dealing with dead outs from nosema is to put the box over a strong healthy colony - it may set them back a bit but they normally pull through with hardly a blip leaving you with a useable box of frames. Not very wise as you could be spreading worse nasties than nosema but it does highlight how innocuous nosema can be to good bees
Nice one mbc, great advice. Would you also use a sheet of newspaper?
Not so sure about nosema ceranae being innocuous. But not likely to be any dysentry.
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Nice one mbc, great advice. Would you also use a sheet of newspaper?

Please dont take that as advice unless youve got plenty of expendable bees to play with. As far as i know I've only got experience of nosema apis, nosema ceranae could be a different beast altogether

Newspaper is used to delay bees mixing - I've only tried this with deadouts ( no bees )
I've not listed some of the other things that have already been covered (nosema etc etc), instead I thought I'd throw in what stands out to me.

Tiny colony in such a big hive - Should of put them into a nuc for winter. (I lost a colony for the same reasons)
Feeder - definite signs it leaked over the brood area possibly directly on to them which is fatal when its cold.
Feed - Frame 9 east clearly shows the sugar water you gave them was stored but they couldn't convert it and cap it. What ratio sugar water did you use for the feed?
Ventilation - I guess you had a mesh floor and the hive was in a windy area and or the entrance block was left out until well in to Autumn. If the frames were at 90' to the entrance (cold way) I think the hive may of been badly positioned and had far too much air flow inside. They only drew out the upper back half of most of the frames which meant they were trying to stay away from the cold & wind or as I've said already they were just too small for such a large hive.
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Thanks for all the advice.

The feed was initially bee candy; I gave them some Ambrosia (which is 2:1 and inverted) last week, but I'm not sure they had any of that.

The colony was very small in the Autumn - I'll make sure I put them in a poly nuc if I get to that stage again.

The location probably didn't help - it's pretty cold and damp all winter and doesn't warm up fast in the Spring, but it IS out of the way. There are warmer places I could use, but then Mrs FG wouldn't be able to do the gardening without getting v close to their hive; I guess this would be bad if a colony developed a stroppy attitude at some point.

Maybe I need some bees more adapted to cold, damp locations with long, dark winters? Or just learn from this what I can and get some more bees as soon as possible?

There is a very long article in the SBA mag this month by Willie Robson of Chainbridge Honey Farm Northumberland and he says quite a lot about Nosema and how it is an underlying condition which with stress and careless handling, which can be argued are the same thing will flare up and take a colony down.

Article runs to some 7 and a half pages which I would scan in but am not too sure of the copy right situation.

Stress....yes,like opening up a nice warm colony in freezing cold weather and pouring oxalic acid over them,which buggers up there internal organs,and must cause untold stress,and at a time of year when bee's are weak anyway.
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