Can’t Win Them All

I noted in my post about the Blue Pollen below that there was some sad news from Meyer’s Outyard that I had been hesitant to share. I mainly hesitated because I didn’t have very many answers as to why the swarm colony was so weak. When I opened the hive I thought it was a late winter dead out. I came to find out very quickly that they were actually still alive. I found the queen and about 100 workers give or take a few with a very small batch of brood.

Photo Apr 05, 2 53 04 PMPhoto Apr 05, 2 49 53 PMPhoto Apr 05, 2 50 20 PM

The picture above with the queen is probably 90% of the population in the hive. I did take a sample of the dead bees that were littering the bottom board in hopes of having them tested for nosema or other potential causes. I had already put the sample in the freezer before I talked to an experienced beekeeper friend that told me to preserve them in alcohol. I’m hoping that the sample is still viable, we will soon find out. Upon his advice I moved the colony into a nuc box with two frames and insulation on either side.

I checked on the colony this weekend and there were almost no bees except for the queen. She was not heavy with eggs because she could fly. Its hard to tell if any of her capped brood in the picture will emerge. At this point I will just keep checking on them and see what happens. I’m not trying to save this colony for any other reason than experimentation, in fact as far as I’m concerned they are written out of the plan for this year. My goal is to see if they can build from such a dismal state or continue to diminish and die out completely. I will post updates in the comments until the bitter end.

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6 comments on “Can’t Win Them All
  1. SimpleP says:

    Sorry for you loss. Always disappointing to lose a hive. Hope the experiments provide some useful information!

  2. Brian says:

    So far no luck on information. Also the colony has completely died out. If a colony comes through winter like this chances are they are going to reduce in numbers until the eventual demise. Hopefully there will be something to learn in the future

  3. Jason Morgan says:

    Brian, I had 4 (count them!) FOUR hives fizzle out. They started building up fine in Feb. I was diligent with the pollen and 1:1… then all of a sudden two inspections before the locust bloom, I noticed serious decline. All queens present… and crappy laying patterns. These were good queens too. First, I took samples. I did my own mite counts. Zero mites in multiple tests. I went ahead and sent samples to Beltsville too and I’m still waiting on those results. I immediately re-queened all of them. Here is my theory (thanks to my notes). As long as the samples don’t come back from Beltsville saying Nosema, I am settling on late/poor mating last fall. All these queens were late ones and it’s very possible that they didn’t get out to mate enough… or they mated poorly just due to being so late in the season. I’ll always make sure these tasks are done sooner now. I’ve also started OA treatments and got set up with a vaporizer. Remind me to tell you more about this if you want to hear. I’m blown away with its efficacy. Anyway, do you think your queen could have possible been poorly mated last year?

    • Brian says:


      My loss started in the winter. I had been worried those bees wouldn’t make it since sometime in December. In your case I would suspect your theory to be correct. To my understanding queens store semen from the drones they mate with. If they were only to mate with say one or two drones instead of 20 or so (no one really knows the number) she could have ran out of semen. To me that would explain the good laying pattern turning into a poor laying pattern. I think there is a very good chance that is what happened. I’m no authority on the subject of losses but were all learning together. I suspect Nosema in my loss. I’m still not sure if my sample will be viable. Time will tell I guess.

      • Jason Morgan says:

        In the June meeting, we’ll be talking nosema and hopefully looking at some spores under a microscope. If you happen to bring a sample, it’s very possible we’d have time to test it. A sample is about 30-40 bees collected from the entrance (to hopefully get the oldest bees).

      • Brian says:

        I could probably work that out.

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