Winter Loss: A Beehive Dies

February 7, 2014
Activity in front of Willow but none in front of Briar.

I had a bad feeling going into winter with the Briar hive. The hive should have been re-queened as they had many issues last season. But sadly, there were no queens available due to the unexpected large death of so many bee hives across the United States. Last year, the US lost about 30 percent of all the existing hives. So I crossed my fingers that they would survive until spring, when I could requeen.

They went into winter with excellent honey stores and a decent population. They were still mean as ever. A couple of weeks ago, I went out after the last snow storm to clear the piled up snow on the bottom board. In the 19 degree weather, the bees should have been in their cluster. Instead, they zipped out of the hive, ready to fight. Sadly, they instantly were stunned and fell to the ground. It was not a time to be outside the hive. Thirty bees must have flown from the hive until they finally stopped.

Yellow bee “waste” dots the snow along with dead honey bees.

Then we had a deep cold snap with sub-zero temps. I knocked on the hive for signs of life. It was faint, but I could still hear them buzzing. However, a few days ago we warmed up and I could see bees flying and flitting in front of the hives. The bees were out on cleansing flights but I didn’t see any bees coming from Briar.

As bees die, fellow worker bees remove them from the hive. This normal. This hive is still alive. Typically in the summer, the worker bees fly away with the dead bees but in the winter, they just push the dead ones out on the bottom board as shown here.

I peered inside Briar and heard no buzzing. Found no signs of life, only dead bees. I lost my first hive. From a quick inspection, there was still ample food and honey and the bees were not in the cluster. I’ll be doing my first hive autopsy come spring. I will be curious to see just what happened.

No signs of life. Poor girls.

Photo Credits: Tilly’s Nest


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17 thoughts on “Winter Loss: A Beehive Dies”

  1. I am so sad for you. I never knew the bees had to be re-queened. More and more of us need to be raising these amazing creatures. I want to do this, but I have a lot to learn. Thank you for your posts. I really learn a lot!

    Take care.

    • Oh I miss the way things grew in So Cal! I would love to have that basil here. One time, my sister planted a small dusty miller in a neglected corner of the garden, my goodness that thing grew so big it needed its own zip code. I also miss the way the jade plants grew. I had an incredible one that was 5 feet tall on the side of the house.

  2. I'm so sorry to read this. Our constant sub-zero temperatures have had me worried about our hive as well…but until we get a day warm enough for cleansing flights, it's hard to tell what's going on inside. My last tapping on the hive did bring a buzz…but that was before the string of relentless bad weather. There's always something for me to learn…thank you for sharing your knowledge. -Mary

    • I hope that your hives do survive. Glad to hear you heard that buzz upon your last tapping. After last year and this year's winter, I am dreading the national statistics that come out. We needed to bump the population in the US. I am worried.

  3. Oh my, that IS sad. Looking forward to seeing the process of figuring out what happened and the requeening of the hive. Aren't they just an amazing critter? SO SMART! Sending strength to the survivors!

  4. Melissa,
    Very sorry to read your post. I know that we will all learn from your discoveries this Spring. Hopefully, you will be able to make a split this Spring and re-Queen with a more gentle Queen. Look forward to learning more!

  5. I wish everyone realized how sad the situation is becoming with the bees. I attended bee classes so I could learn how to take care of hives. I ordered hives last year, sadly due to the weather and other factors I never got the hives. The seller told me in all his many many years of doing this he had never not been able to fill his orders for nucs and hives. It as a first for him.

    I wish everyone understood whether they wish to raise bees or not, just how important the bees are to all of us!

    Do you have African bees in your area? Is that why your bees were mean? Here where I live African Bees are a issue, further south of where I live they are just simply part of having hives, not a matter of will you deal with them but that you will deal with them and re queening is the way you deal with them.

    • Luckily no African bees so far here in the Northeast, but I do remember them from my days living Southern California. I hope you can get your hives this year. But now, I just heard we Zombie bees were found in Vermont. I'm going to have to research them. Poor bees, they can never seem to get a break.

  6. Sorry to hear about this but it's fairly common to lose hives these days. I went from 3 to 1 this year. I'll buy another package in the spring and hope to take a swarm as I'm on the local swarm list with the bee guild out here.


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Sharing an inspired life from the New England seaside. Chickens, Bees, Gardens, Art and Yummy Goodness.