I have lost one of my bee-hives! 🐝

WannaBeHillBilly

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Hi Friends,

last Sunday, after a very bad storm with 100+ mph wind gusts was done, i walked up my hill and found one of my bee-hives completely empty and i wonder if any of the experienced bee keepers has an idea what had happened.
I started this spring with two hives, Italian Blonde bees that have been over-wintered here in West Virginia, so they were two established hives, already accustomed to the WV climate. The hive that disappeared started off as the stronger one, but did not really develop in comparison to the other one. End of April, i added the queen separator and a honey super to both hives. While the now surviving started to fill the super with honey almost immediately, the now lost hive never even used it.
I had noticed one or two hive beetles whenever i checked on the hives (they got the hive tool treatment) but it never looked as if there was an issue with those. Nevertheless i have installed traps into the brood boxes of both hives.

I have disassembled the hive for a postmortem analysis and found a lot of interesting things:
  • There were a lot of ants in that hive everywhere. Not the large black ants that i know about here, but 1mm small ones, that i have never noticed before. I don't know for how many days the hive was sitting abandoned,, so i don't know if those ants were the reason why the bees disappeared or weather they were just using the opportunity.
  • The beetle-traps: While the one in the upper brood-box had a single beetle and a single dead bee in it, the trap in the bottom box was filled with a disgusting mass of dead beetles, larvae and something that looked like sawdust. Here are two pictures:
    20220702_150322.jpg 20220702_150521.jpg
  • Most of the frames were empty, just a few capped and uncapped honey cells and a couple of breed cells, but all dead. Except for one frame, where i found this:
    20220702_150943.jpg
    20220702_151002.jpg
    It almost looks like some fungus was growing there. Any idea what that might be?
  • Is it normal for the bottom board to be that dirty?
    20220702_152954.jpg
  • There are also some insect larvae and worms(?) visible on the bottom board:
    20220702_152959.jpg
As said the other hive seems to do very well, i have observed that they fiercely defend the entrance against all kinds of other insects, but i wasn't able to closely inspect the inside due to the persistently rainy weather that we currently have. With my luck i have just disassembled the hive when a thunderstorm moves in…
About three weeks ago this hive's honey super was about 60% full, the inner frames completely capped, so i assume i have to harvest my first honey within the next two to three weeks… Including a thorough hive inspection, mite-test and a lot of really p¡ssed bees…
 

Field Bee

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Wax moths, ants, and hive beetle damage are common when a colony gets weak and dies out. If I had to guess the hive swarmed and the new queen didnt make it back from mating flights or the original queen failed and wasn't successfully superceded. Weekly or biweekly quick checks for eggs, larva, food is very important during the active season along with monthly mite counts. Photos 2 and 3 are damage from wax moth larva and the bottom board mess is from the larva eating pollen, dead brood and defecating in the hive.
 
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Margali

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The mold on underside of bottom board may mean your hive is too low to ground or other stand issues. I don't runs solid bottoms so unsure. I agree with @Field Bee on the rest. Even if you can 't open the hive every time a weekly check by walking up and observing the hive will tell you a lot.
Are there a fair amount of foragers going in and out?
Are they bringing back pollen?
Are there a fair number of guard bees hanging out on the front stoop?
Are the house bees carting out dead bees or beetles?

To clean out the hive and setup again, scrape the frames with wax moth casting and lots of damage down to foundation. The other frames stick in the freezer for a few days. Scrape rest of wooden ware clean. Then you can do a walk away split by taking a couple frames of brood and pollen and a honey frame from other hive. Make sure you don't get the queen. Put on an entrance reducer so it's easier to defend and cosset them.
 

NLHomestead

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I'm not really the bee person, that's entirely my mother...I just supply the mini beekeepers and take pictures/watch/listen from a distance lol
However, I do agree with the wax months. The mold issue that was brought up is an interesting thought. We have our hives up on cinder blocks with a board between the blocks and hives.
 

WannaBeHillBilly

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Hi friends,

thank you very much for your answers! - So pests have either killed or driven out the hive.
I have built two platforms out of cinder blocks and a painted pallet (red barn & fence paint) and set up the hives there. Both hives were about a foot off the ground. However, for some reasons the grass was growing much faster under the hive that has disappeared than under the other one, basically i could barely keep up with cutting it away. - Which might has allowed some of the pests (ants) to get to the hive.
Lessons learned. I have recently sprayed the area around the hives with a weed-killer - no, not with round-up, something simpler that kills the roots and is not dangerous for animals if not swallowed. I am planning to create my berry-garden in that area during fall and winter, so all that grass and weeds had to go anyways…
 

WannaBeHillBilly

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The mold on underside of bottom board may mean your hive is too low to ground or other stand issues. I don't runs solid bottoms so unsure. I agree with @Field Bee on the rest. Even if you can 't open the hive every time a weekly check by walking up and observing the hive will tell you a lot.
Are there a fair amount of foragers going in and out?
Are they bringing back pollen?
Are there a fair number of guard bees hanging out on the front stoop?
Are the house bees carting out dead bees or beetles?

To clean out the hive and setup again, scrape the frames with wax moth casting and lots of damage down to foundation. The other frames stick in the freezer for a few days. Scrape rest of wooden ware clean. Then you can do a walk away split by taking a couple frames of brood and pollen and a honey frame from other hive. Make sure you don't get the queen. Put on an entrance reducer so it's easier to defend and cosset them.
The other hive is doing very well - a bit too well for my taste, as the bees behave somewhat aggressive, bumping into my chest when i step too close... And yes, there are a couple of dead bees under the entrance on the ground - and not only bees, even a dead lizard. 😮
20220713_154032.jpg
At the moment i am busy with cleaning and disinfecting the wood-ware of the hive. So far i am using my solar wax-smelter to retrieve the wax from the foundation-less frames:
I don't know what to do with the foundation-based frames, the smelter is getting too hot for those, warping the plastic foundation:
20220713_154046.jpg
I want to "cook" as many of the hive-parts in the smelter as i can, including the bottom board and the boxes to make sure that they are sterile.

As for the »walk away split« - Is it really that easy to split a strong hive into two? Just take away some brood frames (with bees i assume!) and put them into an empty hive? From where will a new queen emerge?
You see, i am an absolute beginner…
 

Margali

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I want to "cook" as many of the hive-parts in the smelter as i can, including the bottom board and the boxes to make sure that they are sterile.

As for the »walk away split« - Is it really that easy to split a strong hive into two? Just take away some brood frames (with bees i assume!) and put them into an empty hive? From where will a new queen emerge?
You see, i am an absolute beginner…
To clean the frames with plastic foundation, use a wide plastic spakle tool to scrap everything off the plastic. The remaining wax will be fine.

A walkaway split is that simple. Basically split the brood and supplies into new hive. The bees in queenless half will take several larval worker bees and feed them royal jelly. That turns them into queen bees. There are several good youtube videos. Here's a link to written description.

I mulch under my hives with all the random plain cardboard boxes we get thru Amazon. Keep them layered and grass can't grow.
 

WannaBeHillBilly

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To clean the frames with plastic foundation, use a wide plastic spakle tool to scrap everything off the plastic. The remaining wax will be fine.
[...]
I did that today and the old stuff that came off looked disgusting. Lots of dead brood and pollen, some frames showed traces of mold. I have scraped the plastic foundation as clean as i could an removed everything from the old foundation-less frames. Everything is now in a garbage-bag in the freezer for at least 48 hours (or until my wife discovers it 😉). The hive-boxes, inner cover, bottom board and lid will go into the solar oven and bake at 80° (176F) for a full sunny day. That should kill everything.
The moldy frames will be used as kindling - not taking any risk with mold! And the old wire-frames i will do my best to convert those to plastic foundation.
 

WannaBeHillBilly

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[...]
I mulch under my hives with all the random plain cardboard boxes we get thru Amazon. Keep them layered and grass can't grow.
Can't use these Amazon boxes for the bees! - The ducks have the older rights, they love them as nest-boxes. 🤣

But i do have a tree-removal service as my neighbor, meaning i have an endless supply of wood-chips! So today i used my electric trimmer and mowed the dead grass and whatever has grown back since my weed-killer attack, around the hive and did not got stung. The bees were bearding outside of the hive like in the picture below:
20220713_195352.jpg
Which is, i assume their way to say »Humon servant! It is too hot inside our box, do something about this or else...«
 

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