This blog explains how I keep bees. It works for me, it might not work for you. Use my methods at your own risk. Always wear protective clothing and use a smoker when working bees.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Is this a common picture across the state of MN?

An e-mail sent to me.

On 2/13/11 6:48 AM


I went out to check on my hive yesterday and found all the bees had died. I went thru all the frames and found the following:

Nearly all of frames in the bottom box and some of the frames in the top box had capped and uncapped honey on them.
Where the honey had been removed from the frames, there were bees face first in the comb....looking for honey?
One frame had capped brood on it but it had a funny odor.....I don't remember what the AFB frame smelled like from the beekeeping class but that was my first thought.
The rest of the frames did not have that odor. Were the larvae "rotting" as the weather warmed....and not AFB?

A little more background: when I extracted the honey last fall, the deeps were nearly full of brood and two frames ....outside frames....were solid capped honey on one side only. The capped and uncapped honey in the hive now came from the goldenrod and aster during the wonderful fall weather. I did NOT treat for mites or Nosema by choice because, at the time I harvested the honey, I would have bet the hive would not have time to collect and store enough honey....and there was no place for them to put honey replacement if I had fed them.

Conclusions and questions:
The bees could not get to the honey in the hive....prolonged cold spell?
What to do with that frame in question? I was at the meeting on Tuesday and I think someone said they would bring in a frame with AFB.
If it is AFB, is removing the one frame going to be enough?
What to do with the honey that remains in the hive? Leave it there and let the package bees deal with it? Try to extract it?

I did remove the moisture board, put the outer cover on straight and cork the top hole so no critters can get into the hive.

Thanks in advance for your assistance.

My reply:

Most likely your bees starved to death. The cold weather last week and having brood in the colony added up to a colony killer scenario. The bees won’t leave the brood. When the honey was depleted around the brood it was too cold for the cluster to reach out to more frames of honey. This scenario will be common across Minnesota this year. This is why beekeepers need to check their colonies now while there is still time to order replacement bees.
The way the honey was distributed in the colony, you said that the lower box was full of honey? If the bottom box was full of honey it should have been on top of the colony. Bees move up in the winter and never move down. They can starve with 90 lbs of honey right under the cluster.
As far as the AFB, you need to check the frame of brood for AFB symptoms. Capped brood have perforated cappings? Discolored brood? Larvae the color of milk chocolate? Puncture test, does the larvae rope out over an inch?
It more than likely will not be foulbrood, more likely an odor of a dead colony.
If it is not AFB, clean up the loose dead bees, clean off the bottom board. Seal up the hive so it doesn’t get robbed out. If it is not AFB using the honey for a new package of bees should be fine.