A Dying Beehive

August 19, 2014
Burning frames filled with wax moth eggs and larvae.

I watched one of my beehives die this past Thursday. Wax moths moved into the hive.

Someone must have sprayed their blooming plants. The plants were full of blossoms and my unsuspecting bees went. They drank the nectar and shared the bounty and location with the rest of the hive. There I sat in front of it, watching dying bees literally fall out. I sat there until dusk. Hundreds were dead. Some barely still alive in the pile outside the hive. There was nothing I could do but sit there and pray for them to be out of their misery quickly. I am hoping that none of the other hives went to that location. In nursing, I’ve seen many terrible things that have left a mark on my memory and heart that I can never forget even if I wanted to. Thursday, was another one of those days.

Friday I returned. There were scores of dead bees outside the hive. I opened the hive. Sadly, I found the queen. She was flailing around and curled up. She appeared to be dying. The hive was also being robbed. Inside I found yellow jackets and bumblebees. I also found wax moths. There were a few larvae of the wax moths and wax moth eggs. Working quickly, I removed any frames with signs of wax moths.

I then went across town to my strongest hive. From that hive, I took two frames full of brood and the bees. I also retrieved two deep frames full of honey that I had in reserve. I returned to the ailing hive and placed those frames and honey in the upper deep with a layer of newspaper between them. This hive needed numbers. The newspaper would allow the bees time to accept one another before they chewed their way through. I closed it up and let it settle. I reduced the entrance.

I visited again today, I found the dead queen. I shrank this hive down for lack of population to one deep. Some decisions need to be made. This hive will never survive in this state-queenless and depleted.

I have a couple of options, There is a nuc that my friend and I made earlier this summer that I might combine with this hive. I fear it is too late for them to make another queen, although it is not impossible.

Early this evening, my Mom and I burned the frames with the wax moth eggs and larvae. This is one way to eliminate them. The other way is placing the affected frames in the freezer for a few days. I stood there and watched. All of the bee’s hard work was gone in flames and smoke. Out of respect I waited until the flames went out.

I will do what I can to rebuild this hive or combine it with another. I have pledged a commitment to the honeybees and their cause. Tomorrow is another day.

If you are a homeowner, please consider how, when and why you apply chemicals to your yard.

Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest


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23 thoughts on “A Dying Beehive”

  1. Thanks for sharing your story. So sad. So many folks don't realize the damage they do when using chemicals. Just the other day at a yard sale a man was saying that the easiest way to weed is to use Roundup. I tried to gentlly enlighten him. Hope he does his research.

  2. Oh wow, I guess we gardeners don't really consider the damage our spraying does 🙁 Would this be the result of local gardeners weedkilling etc or farmers spraying their crops? I must admit during the times I used weedkiller I do worry about the robbing the pollinating bees of the nectar source but I have never really thought about the poor bees that feed on the poisoned plants – it sounds ridiculous to say now 🙁 I promise in the future that I will try to look for bee friendly alternatives for my garden and I'm sorry you lost your hive, hopefully you can bring some awareness to the local community about the dangers of this practice?

    • Thank you Linda. It will make a difference. Homeowner are just as dangerous as large commercial farms. All chemicals herbicides and pesticides can harm the bees. They will fly up to 5 miles from their hive to forage. It's a great big world out there!

  3. So very sorry for this loss. I would be devastated. You have learned so much, I hope you have helped the hive. How far do they forage for nectar? Such a cometary on why we are losing these precious creatures.

  4. So sorry to hear about the Hives, It's crazy to me that they are still selling chemicals in the stores when they know what affects they pose to humans and insects, birds etc. I have introduced more organic seed started plants into my garden this year as you cant be sure about the ones purchased in the stores. Most plants in garden centers have been sprayed and alot are GMO.

  5. That's awful! And a little scary. I would imagine yours wasn't the only hive effected. I have been to several beekeeping seminars lately and they all say that a bee will fly up to 4 miles to find nectar, but if they find it in their own backyard, they will stay home! Unfortunately, in an urban setting, there isn't much you can do if you next door neighbor wants perfect vegetables and fruits. Don't they realize there will be NO vegetables and fruits if everything is killed off??!! Ugh! I don't mean to sound angry (well, maybe I do) but it seems so many people are sticking their head in the sand when it comes to issues like this!
    Okay, I will get off my soapbox now. 😉 But seriously, I think your situation is all too common and something really needs to be done to prevent it, before we all starve!

  6. Our hearts break as we read of the loss of all those friends, so unavoidable. We are 3 yr beekeepers, still learning along the way. We try to educate friends and neighbors, hope it will sink in with them eventually. I too am a nurse, and see the effects of the environment on people. Hoping for good results for you. I have learned something reading your essay. Best of luck to you and yours.

  7. Oh, that is so awful. I really feel for you and I wish that people would stop spraying things on their yards, too. It is very frustrating to those who want to help all of the pollinators. It is more awful to realize that it is not just you but many many beekeepers who go through this year after year. I just recently wrote a book about urban beekeepers (www.hivesinthecity.com) and I learned that problems with pesticides are just as heavy in urban and suburban areas as they are in farmland. Those that assume their pesticides will do no harm in the city do not realize that they are impacting many pollinators for miles around, especially honeybees.

    I am so sorry and I do feel for you. It is very tough to love bees and respect the many ways they serve our gardens and then watch them die. Take care!

  8. This is heartbreaking. I want to keep bees and the flagrant use of pesticides is one reason why I hesitate to begin. Our acreage is organic and I don't even pull dandelions because I know the bees need their nectar. So sad and horrifying what happened to your girls.

  9. I am so sorry for your loss. We had a similar experience with a wild hive that took up residence last year in an empty owl house in one of our trees. We loved our beautiful bees and planted even more bee friendly plants in our organic, pesticide-free yard to keep them happy. We even set up chairs below the hive so we could watch them up close. Unfortunately, most of our neighbors spray and I came home to a dying hive one day. It was a terrible thing to see and I cried and cried. I can only imagine how hard it must have been to go through this with a hive that you had put so much time and work into. Hope that eventually more people will see the light and stop poisoning our world.

  10. So very sorry for your loss. I too am very careful about any spraying that goes on because of my chickens and Dachshunds, so I guess I have inadvertently helped the local bee population too. I'll try to do more and more each spring as I plant new flowers; it seems that the ones I like are also liked by the bees 🙂 MaryJane

  11. I heard of a chemical free herbicide that uses white vinegar, add some salt, and dish washing liquid as a surfactant.this would not be harmful to the bees would it?

  12. How terrible! My stomach literally dropped when I saw this and it make’s me so angry. I know I shouldn’t be angry at people using chemicals on their plants but it’s upsetting. People need to stop so that they can let bees thrive in a day and age like this. Maybe pop around to your neighbours and tell them about your bees next time if you haven’t done so already.

  13. I had this very thing happen to my hive. I blame it on the crop duster I saw flying over to spray the neighboring corn fields! It is quite traumatic. I’m sorry your bees had to suffer. Were you able to save the remaining bees?

    • I am so sorry to learn that this happened to you too. No, all the bees died. I had to throw away all the foundation and their food stores for fear that the pesticides would still linger and kill future colonies.


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