Dead Out - what to do next?

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New Bee
Apr 23, 2022
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Donegal, Ireland
Hive Type
Number of Hives
First winter as a new Beek with 3 hives, 2 started from nucs and 1 swarm from one of the original nucs. The two original hives have done well. Warm weather over the last couple of days has seen both hives out in big numbers and I see a good bit of dark yellow pollen coming in. One has a super on, the other doesn’t.

The swarm on the other hand seemed abnormally quiet given the good weather, a couple of bees flying around outside and maybe seeming a bit disorientated or lethargic. I decided today to lift the lid briefly to confirm my fears - and it did. Maybe a handful of bees clinging onto a frame. Huge amount of bees dead below the cluster. Photos will show evidence of dysentery and therefore possibly nosema? Will see if I can get a microscope to confirm. Photos will also show the queen was in there and laying at some point but the bees don’t seem to have capped or cared for the brood. Possibly too small a cluster to keep them warm? Huge amount of stores around the hive, maybe 2 frames in the BB and the majority of the super. Mainly heather honey. The hive was siting on top of a pallet on a raised bed facing a southerly direction. Maybe too much moisture coming up from the raised bed?

So many questions!

The main thing I want to know is what to do now? Do I just leave the small and queenless cluster to dwindle out before actioning anything? What I don’t want to happen is for my healthy hives to start robbing and pick up any diseases so should I close the hive up (while leaving ventilation)? Maybe that’s cruel. Do I need to get rid of the hive, frames, tool and gloves or can they be cleaned and reused without the comb? All brand new (except the gloves and tool) in August when I hived the swarm.

A very disappointing find but hopefully I can stop it progressing to any of the other hives which are located about 75m away facing the opposite direction.

Any help is greatly appreciated as always.


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We will all be guessing but the direction and what they sat on would have little or any bearing. As you say could have been nosema and if you have a microscope have a look. Colony’s do fail it’s part of nature, the usual question is what did you treat in the autumn with.
If you want to deal with the remainder of the bees I’d open up and spray with very soapy water and chuck the frames on the fire, pretty points mucking around doing much else.
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Queen failure or them having swarmed late in the season are possible too. Seeing eggs could just mean laying workers. It's not always disease.
Do I need to get rid of the hive, frames, tool and gloves or can they be cleaned and reused without the comb?
Do as Ian suggested: kill the bees with a soap spray then burn the bees, combs & frames; save the rest.

Scrub the poly hive parts in a big box of hot water & washing soda, rinse thoroughly and leave to dry. Do the same with any tools used.

Leather gloves? If so, bin them and change to nitrile. Leather offends bees at certain times and they will attack mercilessly. Leather hardens after washing and it's downhill from there.
2 apivar strips in the brood box in October for 4 weeks. Maybe not long enough?
That's too little, too late. The varroa treatment needs to be completed to reduce the varroa load before the winter bees are produced, so ideally August. If you remove the treatment before the time indicated in the instructions, a) the treatment will not be effective and b) the mites can develop resistance. It's always sad to lose a colony but as others have said there's not much you can do at this time of the year.
Photos will also show the queen was in there and laying at some point
Queen failure
The few emerging brood in photo 1 are drone, and in photo 4 there are a couple of cells with two eggs each. Both factors suggest laying workers.

Swarms with older queens usually re-queen once established, and it looks like this colony failed to go into winter with an effectively mated queen.

Dysentery does not = nosema, and in this case may well be the result of a stressed and dysfunctional colony.

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