Returning to a beehive after a winter break to find that all the bees have perished while you were away is incredibly unfortunate. It’s especially frustrating when you don’t know the cause of their deaths. How can you, as a beekeeper, possibly avoid the same mistakes in the future unless you understand what happened in the past? That’s why all beekeepers should pick up some detective skills and learn these steps to diagnosing a dead beehive.
When conducting an autopsy for a dead beehive, start at the least invasive spot and progressively work deeper and deeper into the hive. With that in mind, begin your search by examining the outside of the hive, looking for dead bees.
A healthy hive with working undertakers will assuredly have a few dead bees on the ground outside it, but a pile of them could indicate pesticide poisoning. If you return for your first springtime inspection and find a pile of dead, pale-looking larvae, that’s an indicator of chalkbrood, a springtime disease.
A thorough examination of the bottom board will help you determine if the cold or an infestation could be to blame for the dead beehive. If you see a lot of dead bees on the floor, it’s possible that those bees were on the outside of the cluster, grew cold, and fell, paralyzed, to the ground.
While following the steps to diagnosing a dead beehive, a large pile of wax fluff could indicate that the colony was robbed. You may also find a dead mouse or a mouse nest. Mice can eat honey and honeycombs, causing a beehive to die by starvation.
When you look at the cover and frames, you’re looking primarily for mold or other indications of condensation. Bees die from too much exposure to cold water. If you see an inner cover or frames soaking wet, possibly with black mold or fungus, the bees could have died from the moisture.
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