Dead hive....what to do now?

instar8(Z 5 N.IN)April 19, 2007

I have two well-established hives that were here when I bought this house.One has been a little weaker since I've lived here (Nov '05), but they made it through the winter, and still had tons of uncapped honey, at least 3 full supers, in March before the cold snap.

Last week there was still activity on one warm day, today nothing with the weak one...I opened both, the strong colony had so much honey I didn't even put on the feeder I'd bought, and they've definitely hatched out some new brood, and are bringing in all kinds of multi-colored pollen.

The dead colony was also full of honey, and the bees were scattered throughout the hive, i didn't take it all apart because #1, I was suffocating in the bee gear, and #2, I wasn't quite sure what all I should be looking for. The top three supers were all pretty normal looking, except for the dead bees, random sections had been emptied out. I didn't see and brood, but I'll look when I take it all apart. Maybe the queen died?

I would appreciate any suggestions to help me determine what happened to the hive, and need to know what to do with the hive itself. DO you think I should get it away from the other colony? they're maybe 6 feet apart.

I want tobe able to reuse the hive, it would be nice to have handy if my prospering hive gets overcrowded. Any suggestions or wisdom are appreciated regarding cleaning out the dead bees and honey and making it safe for future use.

Thanks in advance for your time and trouble!


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It may have died from any number of things including starvation ( even with lots of honey stored)if it got really cold and the cluster couldn't move. Unless you had something like foulbrood you should be fine using the hive over.You can see examples of and read about foulbrood on the web if you suspect it. Do you know why so many supers were left on? If the bees were medicated in the fall you won't want to use the honey for your own consumption.What I did with my 2 dead-outs this year was open them up (sooner is better)Take out the frames one by one and brush off any dead bees(ones still in cells will get cleaned out by the new hive) Scrape of any bridge or burr comb and propolis from the frames and inspect the comb to see if any frames need replacing, then set aside. Do the same with the hive bodies, cleaning off the frame rests etc. Work your way down to the bottom board getting everything cleaned up. Paint anything that needs it and you should be set. When you install a new package you can give them some of the honey left over from the dead hive. If you let that hive sit as it is now, it will get robbed out by other hives. Hopes this helps and maybe someone with more than a few years experience will add their advice. Tony

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 3:51PM
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instar8(Z 5 N.IN)

Thanks Tony!

I left them on because it was my first summer taking care of them, and i wanted to make sure they had plenty for winter. The old beekeeper fed them in spring, and I was not real sure of the timetable for that, so erred on the plus side.

I only took off a few frames from each and got several pints, and left the rest...I didn't realize just how much honey there was in there!

I didn't treat for mites because I missed the time to do it in spring. At any rate, they've only ever been treated with thymol, and that's all i'll probably use.

I was reading about this sudden bee disappearance problem, and something that caught my attention was mention of how bees show darkening when exposed to immune stress...i noticed last Fall and also this Spring that the bees from the dead hive were noticeably darker than the others, I hadsn't noticed that previously, and i often watch the bees , just for my own enjoyment. Maybe I should start a new thread to see if others have noticed such a thing in declining colonies.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 5:42PM
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Yes. It's amazing hom much they store. I got 400 lbs last year for only three brand new hives I started in the spring.The darkening or the beesmight just be because they are dead. A test for foul brood besides bad odor it taking a toothpick of small twig and poking into the dead cells. Twist it around and pull out slowly. If there is foulbrood you'll get a long stringy thread from the cells. With CCD people are only finding the queen and a very small handful of bees left in the hive. If you have a dead cluster or many dead bees on the screen it's probably not CCD because most bees would have just disappeared.Do you have a local club or mentor? Nothing like hands on advice.One place I go for answers is There are loads of great people there who are more than willing to help out with any possible question you could imagine. And it's educational just to read the Q's and A's posted. I just posted there for advice on a hive manipulation I did today. My name on that forum is berkshire bee

    Bookmark   April 20, 2007 at 7:37PM
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ccrb1(z5 IND)

Indiana had a varying year last year, but generally it was a poor year for honey production.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 11:51PM
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instar8(Z 5 N.IN)

Wow, that was a poor year?? I should definitely repopulate this colony and maybe start a third, cause this must be a REALLY good spot.

Hi again Tony, I actually did join the local beekeeper's association, but most of their activities are on weekends, and as a nurse, that's when I work...I pick people to pester from the list with questions, trying not to bug anyone tooo much.

The old beekeeper i bought the hives from stopped by the other day to see how things were going...he decided to try to take off the metal reducer he put on last fall (because I managed to misplace the wooden ones)without bee gear and got us both good and especially cause I was dressed for hauling manure in 75 degree weather, 6 stings i think.

Needless to say, we didn't get much time to chat!!!! But he did agree that i probably lost the queen at a time they couldn't replace her. The reducer is still there, BTW, I'll get it off tomorrow when it hopefully stops raining, and clean out the dead colony.

I think I'll pull off the old honey frames from the dead hive and save them to refeed the other, or as you said, to bolster a new colony. I have some plastic storage bins with lids, i'm thinking they will do, then powerwash, sun-dry and repaint the supers, and put in new frames with foundation.

Oh, and when i was talking about the bees from the dead colony being darker, that was while they were still alive, this spring they were at the numerous birdfeeders i have haning from the gazebo outside my back door, and side by side there was a big difference in the dark banding on the abdomen, and at the hives, the dark ones were going into the doomed colony.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 4:58PM
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The darker bees may just be a different kind. I have some nice pretty orange Italians and some very dark bees with at least some russian genetics. Did the old guy use a smoker when he tried to remove the metal reducer? I'm glad to hear that you aren't discouraged by the stings. It sounds like you have one good strong hive to work with. The freezer is a great place to store frames of honey if you have the room. As far as getting the second hive going,You might be able to get a nuc from a local club member or do a split from the hive you have when it's built up enough. Don't be afraid to ask club members a lot of questions. Everyone was a beginner at some point. Two books that will be very helpful by Richard Bonney are Beekeeping, A Practical Guide and Hive Management, they are available new from most Bee Supply places and you can probably find some good used copies online at or Good luck and Keep us posted Tony

    Bookmark   April 29, 2007 at 1:08AM
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