The Queen is Dead

Following my last post concerning my first bee hive colony I took some advice from experienced beekeepers and gave them more freshly made sugar syrup. It was late (October) for this but I felt I had to provide them with something to make food for the winter months ahead. Two weeks later I noticed that they hadn't touched it, so I took it away and placed some fondant directly above/on the frames. I noticed the colony were down in numbers but not drastically. I also placed the mouse guard on the entrance.

Yesterday, 10 days later, I watched the hive entrance for a while and saw no activity. The sun was up and was hitting the hive, it was a cold day but warm in the sun. I noticed a few bees flying but they could either not find the entrance and flew away or they were bees from another colony.

I had assumed that it was too cold for them to be out or due to lower numbers needed to stay close to the queen. I couldn't resist lifting the roof to see what was happening and to my horror I found it empty apart from maybe 50 bees huddled together, presumably around the queen. I quickly put back the roof but realised that they wouldn't survive like that. I also noticed there were many wasps around probably because of the dead carcasses around the hive and blocking up the entrance.

The next morning I was proved correct, the queen was in fact dead and lying on the floor of the hive along with about 40 bees. Where are the thousands of others that were there two weeks ago? Would they have died outside the hive?

I took the hive apart and inspected all the frames to see if I could find out a cause. I photographed them too, you can see them below.

I'm not sure now what I am supposed to do with these frames, as I do not have any other bees. Should they be stored, spun-off, destroyed? Not sure yet if they were diseased or not but there are some bodies part in/out of cells and the floor board has many heads amongst the other debris which had fallen through.

I have kept some of the dead bees and the queen, in the hope someone can look at them to help me evaluate the cause. I'll put up some closer images of what I find in the next blog.

11/11/11 a sad day indeed.

For any other beginners to beekeeping, I would highly recommend this book, The Complete Gudie to Beekeeping by Jeremy Evans. I have it and found it very instructive and easy to follow.
This comprehensive guide on how to do beekeeping is the perfect advisory manual whether you are starting from scratch or are an experienced beekeeper.
Taken from the forward:
First and foremost a practical guide to the first three years of beekeeping. In the first year it tells you how to start and what you need to buy, how you cope with the bees, and how to prepare them for the winter. In the second year it tells you how to spring clean etc and the third year it looks at swarms in detail and so on…
A lovely hardback with loose cover, inside the book is filled with plates, illustrations and instructive diagrams. Written by Jeremy Evans in collaboration with Sheila Berrett this is very good value and is full of useful information.


  1. Alex, sorry to hear of your troubles. What well behaved bees those are (sadly were). First tip, when you restock get some thin nitrile gloves or tight washing up type gloves then you won't find it awkward to handle the frames..and you will be able to feel the bees. Second, when you go through a brood box start with a dummy frame and remove it. This gives space to go through the box without rolling the bees and you put the frame in at t'other end for next time.

    How much brood did you see during the inspection - as in winter bees begin made? You need to put your hand back towards the frames and move them about looking for brood in all stages. Get a copy of Hooper or Clive de Bruyn's book for winter reading. Join the in the UK and ask loads of questions, you'll be very welcome.

    The queen here is seen scurrying about but making no attempt to lay, I'd guess they'd stopped feeding her due to lack of stores. Your varroa count was very high. I looked back at my counts during treatment and the worst had 167 in a a full double brood box so I'd guess - though it's really hard from incomplete puzzle - that a combination of starvation and serious varroa infestation has led to there being no winter bees, perhaps stores robbing (Italian strains are renowned for it), and the end of this small colony.

    None meant critically: read, ask, learn, and try again. Good luck :).


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