- Jun 5, 2013
- Reaction score
- Scottish Highlands
- Hive Type
- Number of Hives
I just went up to top up the feeders and to put some insulation on the hives, and one of them (the swarm I caught in June) is, I'd say, dying. When I got there it was after 4pm, 11 degrees, calm, and damp after a day of rain & drizzle, but not currently raining.
The first thing I noticed was the number of bees outside that one hive, around the entrance, and on the landing board and front of the hive. Going closer I saw the entire front of the hive up to the roof was seriously splattered with dysentery, and there were dead and dying bees everywhere on the ground and on top of the hive. They were all lethargic and seemed confused, like they were struggling to find the entrance, but I couldn't see any shaking. While I was watching, one dropped out of the air onto the ground, and another fell off the face of the hive. When I took the roof off there were a few bees tucked inside the top lip of the roof, like they'd gone in there instead of in the entrance.
They'd barely touched the syrup (it was refilled from empty on Sunday), and the cup of the feeder was full of dead and dying bees. Under the crown board at first glance there was barely a bee to be seen. I found the remnant of them clustered down in the bottom corner, but there weren't many, maybe just over a cupful. They were listless, no defensiveness at all. There were stores but no brood. I closed up, just in case they'd decided to cluster this early. It's been mild though, and we've had no frost yet.
This was a small swarm caught in June, but they had a queen and built up really well (all newly-built comb, I didn't give them any from other hives). They were looking strong, covering around 10 frames at the end of summer with loads of brood. I'd even questioned whether they needed more space and whether I should put them on brood and a half, but decided against. I thought they had a really good chance going into winter. I didn't take any honey from them, hoping they'd make enough of their own stores that I wouldn't have to feed them. But I noticed they were getting light so they've been getting 2:1 little and often (last year I think I over-fed, so I've been trying to be cautious).
They did have a high mite drop at the beginning of September, so I've been treating them with ApiLife Var - last weekend was their last treatment (I know it's colder externally than recommended, but I'd seen discussions about this on here about internal hive temperature being quite consistent and so it could be done in autumn. The 3rd & 4th doses were delayed a little because I had flu). This is my biggest fear - that I've messed up by giving them this treatment too late in the season. They clearly object to the stuff. Could they have been staying out of the hive because they can't stand it, and the cold's got them? But what about the dysentery? The other two hives have had the same treatment and seem fine (mite drops were lower, and much lower). I used ApiLife Var last year and saw nothing like this.
Whatever's happened, it's been a dramatic decline between Sunday and today. There was no sign of this at all on Sunday - no dysentery or lethargy, no marked increase in the usual little scattering of dead bees under the entrance. Could it be pesticide poisoning? I'm terrified now for my other two hives.