A cry for honeybee help

Moldy bees stuck to hive

Moldy bees stuck to hive

Moldy bee at top of comb (bar upside down for inspection)

Moldy bee at top of comb (bar upside down for inspection)

Water pool on hive bottom with dead bees

Water pool on hive bottom with dead bees

Dead bees amid some sort of dusty particles

Dead bees amid some sort of dusty particles

Live bees working at honey cells at the top of a comb near the hive entrance

Live bees working at honey cells at the top of a comb near the hive entrance

Brood comb with pasty (dead) bee larvae

Brood comb with pasty (dead) bee larvae


What do you do with dead bees? I don’t mean the steady trickle of bees who have lived out their useful lives. I mean couches of bees in fungal shrouds. The ‘uh-oh, my bees are dying’ kind of dead bees.

We had a brutal week of sub-zero weather followed by warmer weather with buckets and buckets of water falling from the sky. Today was mild and sunny and, though windy, the Italians were out sunning themselves. The Carniolans, on the other hive, were dreadfully silent.

Looking at the hive entrance: One or two bees flying out. Looking through the observation window: Handfuls of dead bees on the hive floor. So, without even gearing up, we went in. There were bees in there, but orders of magnitude fewer than we expect (i.e. 100s instead of 10s of 1000s). And the newest comb, furthest from the brood chamber, carried dead bees married to the comb by puffy fungal threads.

Ruh-roh. Newest comb empty since summer. A few bars in, recently capped honey in the middle of the comb, but with dead bees below and within cells. In the middle of the hive, dead bees in what appeared to be a pool of water towards the broken window. At the back of the brood chamber, we found white larvae curled inside honeycomb cells, but rather than glistening white, the larvae were pasty white – possibly dried out – probably dead. Other cells appeared to contain putrescence.

As the sun was moving on towards the Pacific we closed the hive back up to try to figure out what the heck to do next. Is the hive dead? Did the bees die because water got in past my crappy lids and broken window, challenging the already-damp conditions? Do we sacrifice the moldy combs, contract the hive, and see if it can recover? How do we dispose of the dead bees (in case they are diseased)? Can we eat the honey in the capped cells even if there is mold present on parts of the comb (where dead bees are)? We could seriously use some advice.

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This entry was posted in bees, Fungi, honeybees, rain, top bar hive, winter and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to A cry for honeybee help

  1. solarbeez says:

    Ask your questions here…
    http://www.beesource.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?240-Bee-Forum
    There are many people more experienced than I who will look at your photos and weigh in.
    You might title your question as “Need Help Now.” or something like that.
    Good Luck.

    • jkmcintyre says:

      Solarbeez, thank you for the reference! We couldn’t finish inspecting the hive yesterday and today is way too windy to go in there, but I am in touch now with my ‘Neighbourhood captain’ beekeeper and look forward to learning more 🙂

  2. I am sorry to see you hive is not doing well. I wish you the best of luck. Keep us posted.

  3. Natasha Show says:

    Hi there! I’ve been reading your blog for awhile, but first time commenter. I’m so sorry about your bee loss. I don’t know anything about bees, but I wanted to comment because the devastation and the disappointment and sadness should be acknowledged. Good luck with saving the hive!

    • jkmcintyre says:

      Thank you Natasha and PerfectBurn. My aunt hooked me up with a local beekeeper who has directed me to the neighbourhood captain for my area in the Puget Sound Beekeeper Association! Who knew such a thing existed?! Very anxious to get in touch with her.

  4. We are glad you are getting experienced help.

  5. We do not wish to be a bother but is there an update?

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