Bee Buzz: Weak Hive Diagnosis and Possible Solution

A beekeeper sent an email asking for guidance regarding a weak hive, “Please give me your opinion on a hive problem. I had [a surgical procedure] and did not tend to my hives as I should have. One hive was overtaken by wax moths. I think originally, they had swarmed. I changed out the whole hive, boxes, frames, bottom board, including all frames. The only thing I kept were the bees, which I brushed off into the newly equipped hive. There were a small number of bees. I gave the hive 2 brood frames from another hive. I did not find a queen. Checked on them 2 days later. It seemed the hive was in the process of getting robbed. I had already reduced the entrance door and blocked the upper entrance door. I gave them sugar water. I draped the hive with a damp cover for 24 hours. Today I checked on them. One brood frame had tiny maggots, which I removed. On the bottom screen board were lots of dead adult bees and some pupae. Could robbing cause dead pupae to be on the bottom screen board? I inspected the dead adult bees. Many had their tongues sticking out. No feces staining on the outside of the hive. No mummified pupae. All pupae looked normal, just dead. No deformed wings. What is your opinion? I thought about combining the weak hive with the strong hive but decided not to because I might spread a disease to the strong hive. I would appreciate your opinion. Thank you.

Jenny later conveyed her concern about the tongue symptom. AHA consulted beekeepers on the “beemail” list and on various Facebook™ pages on beekeeping.

Terry, a beekeeper with decades of experience, shared his comments, “OK, well, I have my suspicions on what happened. First, she brushed a handful of surviving bees into a new hive with new frames. Then she added 2 frames of brood, no queen present. Then she began feeding them. My thoughts are the one frame had small hive beetle larvae which she did remove, but hive beetles likely were infested in the second frame as well, and not many bees to police them up. With minimal bee population, they could not cover brood, feed them, and fight beetles. With feeding (using an entrance Boardman feeder?) robbing began, and at some point, she covered the hive with wet sheet. Then it became hopeless. Surviving bees likely starved. Pupae on screen bottom board may be due to robbing frenzy or bees removing dead larvae from cells that hive beetles or temperature killed.

What might have been done for a potential better outcome--

  1. Put 3 frames, with bees hanging on, from a strong hive into a 5 frame nuc box. Make sure frames contain eggs, larvae, capped brood, pollen, and honey.
  2. Shake 2 more frames of bees into the nuc box. Put in beetle blaster or another trapping device.
  3. Place an internal feeder in nuc box (not an entrance feeder) and close entrance down to 3/4 inch to allow them to defend it. Keep feeding with 1:1 syrup.
  4. If possible, move nuc 3 miles away, preferably close to a goldenrod area.
  5. Check in 2 weeks for an emergency queen cell.

There are plenty of drones still around. With lots of feed, she could still get a good nuc, and carry it through winter, ready to install in 8 or 10 frame equipment next spring........”

If you want to contact Bee Buzz, please send your questions and pictures to Keith Hawkins, Area Horticulture Agent (AHA), 337-463-7006 or Also, you can be on the “beemail” email list by emailing your request to the address above.

“This work has been supported, in part, by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Renewable Resources Extension Act Award, Accession Number 1011417.”


A bee next to a small hive beetle, and an enlarged image of SHB.
Photo: USDA Agricultural Research Service.

8/11/2020 3:26:37 PM
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