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What’s wrong with this colony?

Are you ready to determine what’s wrong with this colony? We’ll do this together, starting with a differential diagnosis. In case you’ve never watched medical dramas on television, I will explain. A differential diagnosis is a procedure that doctors use to help determine a disease or condition. It is used when the signs and symptoms could be the result of several or many different things. In short, it’s a way to muddle through the confusion.

In practice, the doctor may perform a physical exam and take a health history. The patient may be quizzed about lifestyle choices, the health of family members, as well as his workplace conditions, diet, activity levels, and sexual preferences. He may be asked about travel to foreign countries, exposure to chemicals, or bouts of unexplained illness. And if the patent is a television character, the doctors end up going to his house and examining the contents of his garbage and refrigerator. All this is followed by a battery of lab tests.

A failing colony

In this instance, the patient is a colony of honey bees. The photos were sent to me a few days ago, and I offered my first impression opinion. I don’t know whether is was correct or not, and the more I think about it, the more I’m unsure. In any case, I’m not going to tell you my conclusions. Instead, I want to you to submit yours. So let us know what you think. I’m sure there is something to be learned here.

The case of Molly’s bees

The patient arrived in a package and was hived on April 30, 2019 in Ohio, USA. After six weeks, the patient presented with shot brood, dwindling numbers, very little honey storage, and overall failure to thrive. What’s wrong with this colony?

Facts determined from interviews

The follow background information was derived from emails between the owner and an experienced beekeeper, also in Ohio.

    1. The owner is a first-year beekeeper.
    2. The first half of May was rainy with cold nights.
    3. A boardman feeder was in the entrance until May 19. Afterward, the feed was placed above the brood area.
    4. The bees were given a patty of pollen substitute.
    5. The queen’s wings were clipped.
    6. The owner hasn’t seen the queen since installation.
    7. The two frames shown contained the only drawn comb in the hive as of May 25.

Additional notes

I also have a set of photos that were taken later, but I will save those for next time. For now, all the information you need is included above and in the two photos below. Have fun.

What's wrong with this colony? Figure 1. Photo © Molly McMillion.
What’s wrong with this colony? Figure 1. Photo © Molly McMillion.
What's wrong with this colony? Figure 2. Photo © Molly McMillion.
What’s wrong with this colony? Figure 1. Photo © Molly McMillion.

Rusty
Honey Bee Suite

Comments

Phillip
Reply

My guess: The queen may have been injured or a poor layer from the start, and then she died or got killed during an inspection a week or two before the photos were taken.

But what may have doomed the colony from the start is the use of a feeder that didn’t allow the bees to break cluster and access the syrup. The syrup in insert feeders, for instance, isn’t easy to for a small cluster of bees to get at. It’s too far away.

Add to that the bad weather that prevented foraging, and the colony — and the queen — perished from a lack of resources.

Cyrus Farivar
Reply

The pictures suggest queen issues. My guess is there never was a queen and what you have is a laying worker. The pictures aren’t great but the brood looks mostly like drone brood which a laying worker could make. The spotty pattern to me also suggests a laying worker.

Jess
Reply

Queenless hive. I see worker brood.

PHILIP HOPKINS
Reply

The near total lack of worker brood and near total predominance of drone brood suggests a failed or unmated queen with laying workers.

vince poulin
Reply

1. April 2 package – Queen is accepted or not accepted – if yes, should see eggs on about April 5-6. Leaves 13-days for queen to lay eggs and for bees to cap her eggs (May 19 image). She could easily have laid 750-1000 eggs per day. Here we see just 100+. Spotty throughout. Capped cells are drones. Suggests – a laying worker. Queen was not accepted. Bad deal.

john Zone 5
Reply

Queen was killed or dropped during a previous hive inspection. Hive is now queen-less and older brood has hatched out.

AramF
Reply

Are there any eggs in the cells between the capped brood and what’s the mite count?

This looks like it could be secondary EFB infection, caused primarily by Varroa and/or stress of establishment. It could be a failing queen, if empty cells don’t have young brood, but it’s unlikely. Badly mated queens would have laid a bunch of drones between brood, this looks like dying brood cleaned out by workers. For a package to have dying brood, it would most likely be from a brood infection. Good feeding on fresh comb would have cleared EFB fairly effectively, and she’s been feeding both syrup and patty. So that’s why I presume mites (Parasitic Mite Syndrome) could be at play here, acting as vectors for reinfection of nurse bees.

These would be my culprits:
1. Varroa / Parasitic Mite Syndrome
2. Brood Decease
3. Queen Failure

Mark
Reply

Rusty,

Failed queen from the get go. Queen wasn’t accepted & laying workers started to lay drone. No signs of any old supercedure cells which means no viable eggs ever.

It would be roughly 24 days for a laying worker to lay a unfertilized egg ( roughly 2 weeks) plus another 10 days for the drone cell to be capped, which all lines up. Even a worn out drone laying queen would have a better pattern.

Hope the weather is good down there Rusty!

This is the best game I have played in a while, you should make an app game & call it “Busted Hive.”

Mark

Terry
Reply

Hi Rusty,

I’m a relatively new beekeeper but I would guess the colony is queenless with a laying worker or workers. Also noted how the workers are holding their wings, offset and away from the body. Also there looks to be lots of drones. Is that the correct diagnosis?

Granny Roberta
Reply

This isn’t anything I’m good at. My only guess is they didn’t have enough feed to build enough comb to replace the normal attrition of a package. (“The owner has never seen the queen.” I hope that means never since the owner hived her.)

Westernwilson
Reply

Jeepers! Were they ever queenright? The shotgun brood pattern can come from foulbrood or the queen being mated with full brothers (producing a lot of diploid eggs), poor mating numbers or laying workers. But… the only cappings I see are drone brood, Dr. Rusty. This indicates a poorly mated/unmated/failing queen or laying workers. Given the queen has not been noted in this tiny colony, I would expect this is a laying worker hive.

Was the exisiting brood healthy?

Jeffrey Stachnik
Reply

Rusty,
Just my thoughts: Possibly, Diploid drones used to inseminate the queen, or poorly mated queen. Find queen and remove. Take 1 frame of unhatched brood, close to hatch out, from a viable hive and add to dying hive, re-queen ASAP.

Kelly O'Bryant
Reply

Okay,

I’m a new beekeeper. It appears the brood is all drone brood. So I believe Molly has a laying worker.

Herb
Reply

Failed queen. Get a new one in pronto. And don’t clip it this time!

Likely chilled brood. These bees don’t seem to like plastic foundation.

Peter London UK
Reply

Hi.

Great mystery:) How come owner never seen a queen in the package? I never installed package but read that queen always arrive in individual cage.

It looks to me that brood in the pictures is drone brood (can’t tell for sure as when enlarging, picture goes blurry), so either queen was never there or was rejected by the bees. Lack of queen and worker brood pheromones allowed laying workers to develop and lay drone brood.

Rusty
Reply

Peter,

Sorry if I wasn’t clear. I believe the queen wasn’t seen after it was released to the colony.

Holly
Reply

Released by a human or by the package bees?

Stephen Moreau
Reply

Hard for me to tell from pictures on my phone if that’s drone brood? Appears to be a laying worker to me. Hard to tell from the photos on my phone but is that eggs on the side of the cells near the bottom of the first picture?
If it’s not all drone brood I’d guess old queen.

Buddy Irwin
Reply

The queen for whatever reason is dead and not replaced and now there is a laying worker producing drones. Equals dead colony.

Debbie Wong
Reply

Failing colony problem:

Laying workers

Susan Mitchell
Reply

Could it be that they clipped the wings on a virgin queen? I only see drone brood and she would be small and hard for a new beekeeper to see. Either that or she killed the queen and now has a laying worker.

Sharon
Reply

The colony ended up virtually queenless. Either she died, or isn’t laying well if at all. Maybe the cold nights did her in. Maybe she wasn’t mated well and her resulting eggs are not viable. The declining numbers would indicate the package bees are dying off and not being replaced. White spots in cells in picture 1 could be eggs but no one is caring for them. Only capped brood looks like drone cells. The picture would not enlarge clear enough to allow me to look for the queen. My diagnosis: Queen failure

eileen
Reply

I think her queen went south and she has laying workers.

Elena
Reply

My guess would be a failing queen. All those open cells, and I’m going to assume no visible eggs or larvae.

Alan Henning
Reply

Not seeing any brood pattern. Too grainy to see any eggs. Looks like drone cells, scattered around. Probably have a laying worker. My thought is, queenless.

Greg Smart
Reply

Varroa mite damage, probably no varroa mite treatment in spring.
Clipping the queens wings can’t help ever. Crazy thing to do in my opinion.
Perhaps meddling beekeeper opening the hive too often.
Imported bees won’t ever do as well as local bees.
Poor bees….

Alice
Reply

Differential diagnoses, highest suspect to lowest:

Protein sub stimulated too much brood laying for amount of bees and cool temps. Workers ate larvae to match their ability to care for brood. In one picture it looks like there may be a couple/few cells uncapped with larvae exposed.

Along same lines, package likely from south with less cold tolerance. Too much brood won’t allow bees to cluster properly, queen dies due to cold/lack of care and no eggs/young larvae to produce new queen.

“‘A’ patty of pollen substitute” might have run out, again creating initial egg laying with no continued way to support brood rearing.

Package came with massive VD infestation. Hygienic bees uncapping and disposing of infested brood,
Queen poorly mated. Hard to see in the pictures, but appear to be a number of drone cells, perhaps including drone with same alleles (creating diploid drones).

Same poor mating along with clipped wings perhaps being rejected by colony, but no supersedure cells that I can see.

Boardman feeder could have induced robbing, creating fighting and loss of colony strength which could have contributed to some of the above.

My list will probably grow as I think about it, but these are initial thoughts. Looking forward to reading what others say.

This is fun – I like it!

Chinquapin Honey
Reply

I would do an alcohol wash to rule our varroa syndrome. I would then do some quick squash wet mounts of some older bees near the honey frames to rule out nosema. Next I would check for tracheal mite infestation.

Could be any number of causes…perhaps the queen was poorly mated.

Tommy Hodge
Reply

Laying workers. Original queen may have perished for some reason.

Terry
Reply

1. Poorly mated queen
2. Sometimes bees don’t work plastic foundation well until there is a strong nectar flow and all packages installed on all new foundation are on a track of declining numbers – at least for a short period of time.
3. It seems the queen never got going and the colony continued going in the wrong direction.
4. Appears that the new beekeeper may not have had a mentor who was willing to come along beside her during that critical initial period to help ensure he colony was getting off to a solid start.

Don
Reply

The first thing I notice is there’s not much brood (capped anyway) and most of it is drone. So my question is, is there eggs, is there larva? With the info provided I’d venture to guess the queen was killed and there’s a laying worker. I’m a newish beekeeper as well. First year as one who’s trying to learn.

Sheila Retherford
Reply

I suspect missing queen.

Harris Luscomb
Reply

This is only my third year, but I really enjoy reading most of your posts, and I particularly enjoy your passion for all bees.

I was wondering where the subject colony came from: swarm, package, or nuc. Since there were only two frames with drawn comb, I would guess it was either a package or a swarm. One thing that perplexed me was the dark comb around the bottom, and then I realized that must be black plastic foundation, and the bees never completed drawing comb even on these two frames.

I was originally going to suggest heavy varroa, but unless the bees came loaded, they haven’t been around long enough. Clearly (which I say even though I can’t really see well into the comb) there are not many eggs or brood, and it looks like what brood there is might be capped drone, and that is well scattered.

I think the colony is queenless and there is a bit of worker laying going on. Which explains why the population is dwindling as well, despite the workers’ valiant efforts to cap some honey. That’s my best diagnosis at this point.

Looking forward to ’rounds’ with you.

Harris

Ann Onstott
Reply

Long time reader, first time commenter! I would guess the queen is long gone and they have a laying worker?

Lyn Soeder
Reply

OK, the workers are obviously doing their part; there is new comb and capped honey on both frames. (Are these the only frames? or are there more similar? Is this all the bees?) So, it looks as if the queen is a dud. The brood is spread out, spotty, and very little of it. Was she mated before the package (I assume it was a package) arrived? Is there any young larvae? (that is, is she still there and working?). If the nights were cool, a respectful queen would not have spread the brood out all over the place, making it hard for the workers to keep warm. I’m pointing to the queen. Best I can do with this info.

Daniel Hiller
Reply

Looks like a laying worker pattern. Check for eggs and if they are singles in the bottom of the cell. If a laying worker, it may be too late to save it as the numbers are very low. With no new worker brood, the bees in the package will be near the end of their lives by the middle of June which is not enough time for requeening to work. I would get a nuc and try combining it.

This brings up a few questions, was the queen mated and laying brood before she was caged and shipped?

Marla Belzowski
Reply

I’m also in Ohio and it’s been a miserable wet, wet, wet and cold spring so far. Did I mention it’s been terrible wet this year?

First of all I would make sure the hive has really good ventilation, screen bottom and maybe a Vivaldi board on the top (I know most people only use these only in winter, but as wet as it has been I have left mine on my largest hive and they are booming). Have a 2″ block of insulation that you can slide in under the screen board for those cold nights (anything under 50F) if you have a small colony, without enough bees to cover the brood on the cold wet nights it will certainly die. If this is a package set of bees and a brand new hive without a lot of drawn comb, I would certainly top feed a 2:1 solution (yes a heavy syrup so they can pack it away and cap it quickly and not have to deal with extra moisture in the hive…did I mention it’s been terrible wet in Ohio this year?)

I would have also given a pollen substitute early on, but now I would put up a dry pollen feeder about 10-15 feet from the hive. That way they can go and get it if they need it and not attract beetles and ants into the hive. If they don’t need it, they will ignore it.

Secondly, the two frames of the brood I’m looking at on the photo really looks like a laying worker to me. I see some drone cells and a few worker cells which might be the last of the original queen’s brood from 3 weeks ago. Search for the queen again and you can’t find her, then likely she’s dead or she abounded because of the moisture level in the hive. I had this happen last year when it was also wet in the fall, yes with a clipped queen. I re-caught her five times out of the hive walking along the ground and swapped hive boxes to give her a dry one, but she had it in her mind that it was way too wet and eventually she got away (or eaten by a bird). That hive failed within 3 weeks of her leaving. They didn’t have enough viable eggs to work with to strengthen the hive and one of my larger hives robbed them out.

I suspect the hive is in need of a queen and the laying worker is just laying drones in a scattered pattern. The key is to look into the cells and see if the egg is on the wall or in the bottom of the cell. Workers can’t reach the bottom of a drawn cell like a queen can, so they lay on the side wall.

If you do find the queen, I suspect she’s poorly mated and you might still need a new queen.

Regardless, try to do everything you can to keep the moisture down in the hive and keep good air flow…Bees really do not do good with high moisture in the hive. The drier, the better.

Did I mention it’s terrible wet here in Ohio this year?

Hope that helps…
🙂
Marla B. – NE Ohio

Jeanne Lane
Reply

A virgin queen?

Cz
Reply

I’m guessing no queen (died or not accepted and killed) I would have said absconded since it looks like a very small colony but not with clipped wings. If there is a queen possibly not properly mated.

Sean Govan
Reply

Based on the four package queens I’ve had in the two short years since I started beekeeping, my first impression is that she has a poorly mated queen who’s laying drones all over the place. Maybe the workers are hauling out the drones and leaving the worker larvae. My second guess would be that they have a brood disease and are cleaning out the infected larvae.

Swarm Queen
Reply

The queen must have died. Give a frame that has eggs and see if they make a queen cell.

Tracy Klein
Reply

Looks like a drone laying queen. If caught earlier, a new queen could’ve quickly turned things around. Now the remaining bees are too few and too old to effectively take care of the queen and feed the brood. I’d add a frame of capped brood and a new queen. I hope she bought 2 packages!

Bob
Reply

Looks like they’re drawing random drones in a field of worker cells. My guess is laying workers, queenless hive.

Vince Alongi
Reply

Somewhere along the line, he lost the queen, and workers began laying. Spotty pattern and lots of drone cells.

Daniel
Reply

Looks like from the pictures there is a drone laying queen (worker bee trying to fill the position of the queen). Could be a bunch of different reasons I would think, first comes to mind is did the beekeeper check a few days after introduction? When was the last inspection between installation and the pics? How long was feed being put on the hive after installation? These are a few questions I would have, and many more before I could come up with a reasonable answer. First thought is either the queen was not mated well, then was superseded. Since it was rainy, the new queen did not have an opportunity to get mated well, or she died during mating flights. A few thoughts of what could have happened anyways ?

Jeff
Reply

Well, it is fairly obvious- but I won’t spoil the fun.
It does however give a perfect example of why a nuc is 100% a better option than a package.

Stephen Troll
Reply

I would say its a dead queen but not sure why the remaining bees are not drawing more frames.

rel
Reply

A queenless colony……

Mike
Reply

In the description of the Patient hive, you don’t say if there are any eggs. I don’t look for my queen when I go to my hives, I look to see if there are eggs. If I have eggs I know she was there recently.

Michael Judd
Reply

Rusty,

The hive has lost it’s queen, and further the workers have started to lay unfertilised eggs.

Action is needed to rid the hive of laying workers and then needs a new queen.

Michael

ioana
Reply

Something happened to that queen. Laying workers.

JohnnyRedWalker
Reply

Looks like there is no queen. Not sure but the brood is all drone. Laying worker(s) not good.

Michael Judd
Reply

Rusty,

Those photos show a hive that has lost their queen but worse as the workers have started laying unfertilised eggs.

Urgent action is required to rid the hive of laying workers and then requeen.

Michael

ET Ash
Reply

A close up shot of the frames would have provided the critical information. At this point looks like a failed queen which by this time has reasonablye proceeded to a state of laying workers.

Difficult to say if this package even attempted to replace the queen.

Gene in Central Texas…

Daniel Lieter
Reply

Without seeing inside the cell to rule out laying workers, I’m feeling a bad queen.

Dean
Reply

Nothing appears to be wrong with this hive, though it is very small. It requires more drawn comb to expand if it only contains these two partially drawn frames. Brood can be seen in all stages of development in this image. A novice keeper may not be able to ID the queen.

Rick A - Warner
Reply

Just looking, no queen laying worker all drones.

Randy Lilly
Reply

Queen is absent for unknown reason.
No supersedure cells means no new is queen on the way.
Laying worker… all capped brood cells are drones.
Food reserves are dangerously low…not enough forage bees to bring in pollen or nectar.
If the hive core is weak, the outer frames are probably empty.
Hive is dwindling.
Patient needs to be moved to the intensive care unit. Prognosis critical.

I always look for brand new leather gloves in photos = newbees.

William Hesbach
Reply

-Laying workers

From the photos, it’s hard to tell if some of the capped brood are female workers but most look like capped drones to me. Closer examination of the eggs in the cells would help diagnose what’s going on. Many eggs in a single cell, with perhaps a few on the cell walls, would indicate that anarchy among the ranks stimulated by the absence of a queen gave rise to laying workers. Ample time has passed for laying workers to develop and the beekeeper has not seen the queen in some time so laying workers are a possibility.

-Improperly mated queen

Of course, this colony can still have a queen which is why identifying worker brood and examining the egg pattern in the cells is important. If the cells have a single egg placed in the center then it may be that the queen is there but not properly mated or is deformed in a way that’s not allowing her to lay many fertile eggs. Again, it’s had to tell from the photo but it doesn’t look like many or any of the capped brood are workers but if some are, the colony may have an improperly mated queen.

Skip Del Vaglio
Reply

The spotty laying pattern, the absence of a pollen arc and the lack of visible eggs and larvae indicate that the queen either failed or is badly damaged. Perhaps the wing clipping adversely affected her?

However, the absence of supercedure cells, may suggest another diagnosis??!!

Keith Schultz
Reply

Hi Rusty,

At first glance the hive either went laying worker or the queen is only laying drone cells. Ashe has not seen the queen, I would vote laying worker.

Thanks for the chance to guess,
Keith

Jamie
Reply

It looks to me like the queen is gone and the workers are laying. It looks like mostly scattered drone brood. There is minimal honey stores because of the rainy, cold days, so less foraging maybe….plus the worker population is less and less every day if only drones are emerging from the cells. Also, you mentioned that the first half of May was cold and rainy…there could have been a swarm after that weather ceased.

Tom Morrow
Reply

From the appearance of drone cells and only a few worker cells I suspect that the queen had started laying but was killed or died otherwise and a laying worker went into action. Very interesting topic!!!

Greg Smart
Reply

P.S. Also looks like plastic base foundation. I was taught to never use plastic in a hive. Or plywood which has formaldehyde in the glue. Toxic to bees.

Julie Kemper
Reply

Yikes! This scenario makes my stomach hurt! My guess would be the queen is either gone or deficient and needs to be replaced.

Bill T
Reply

Lost queen so laying worker.

Mark Axelson
Reply

Looks like there has been no queen for some time since there doesn’t appear to be any capped worker brood. But there is drone brood, so suspect laying worker(s). Not sure why the queen initially failed/died though. Seems like some queens just do with no way of figuring out why. Need a new queen and a frame of brood/nurse bees to get things jumpstarted again!!!!! 🙂

Robert Lamothe
Reply

My guess is that it is European Foulbrood. I see scattered brood with dead larva in uncapped cells. Typical signs of EFB.

Damon
Reply

I couldn’t get the pictures full screen, but is that all drone brood? – Maybe no queen and instead have a laying worker at this point?

Steven
Reply

My guess would be that they’ve been in a constant state of dearth from the start, with the rain preventing them from doing much meaningful foraging when they first arrived. The cold nights have kept the liquid feed chilled enough to be inedible for the bees. On top of that, the bees might have tried to supercede the queen but failed to produce a new one.

Linda M Wall
Reply

Badly chilled brood maybe? They’re in Ohio, and said “cold nights”. I’m in Texas, so to me a cold night is in the fifties – in Ohio, that’s probably balmy. Chilled brood would explain the shot brood (workers taking out dead brood), along with the dwindling numbers and not many stores despite feeding – the workers are so busy cleaning out the chilled brood that it leaves fewer to store the feed and build new comb for the queen to lay in. This situation was likely exacerbated by the older workers dying off leaving more things for the few remaining to do (taking out the dead bodies since the rain kept them from flying, so they died inside). All the while, not many new ones being born to replace them.

Alternate theory: queen problems – maybe inbred queen? That would explain the shot brood and drone brood being present so early after being hived. I’ve not had many packages, but I wouldn’t think a new package would start making drone brood right away like that since they’re not yet strong enough to devote resources to it. Or not-well-mated queen? Workers could be removing a lot of drone eggs because they know they’re not yet strong enough to devote resources to raising them, so shot brood develops.

Side note: she has to be there, or have been there after hiving. We know she wasn’t squashed at hiving because there is brood present. The low amounts of it now could be because she just doesn’t have any more room to lay due to the lack of workers building comb. I can’t see if there is any open brood. Was there?

Doud
Reply

Queen failure… limited mating before caged with the package.

Doug
Reply

“Doud” (??) is actually “Doug” on one mug of morning coffee ?

Todd Smith
Reply

Possible EFB from food stressors has taken a hold in the wet cold spring ?

ron
Reply

No queen

Mark Haworth
Reply

While it doesn’t say who clipped the queen, I’d say the queen was damaged in clipping and died or was rejected and those few intermittent capped cells look like laying workers’ eggs, drones. Don’t think point 3 is crucial and point 4 probably helped.

So my guess is queen killed and while poor weather doesn’t help that wasn’t crucial.

Jill
Reply

Laying worker?

Frances Moore
Reply

My first thought is the queen was not mated well; that is a terrible brood pattern. Also, the bees are getting old and dying off. Also she will only lay the amount of eggs that the nurse bees can take care of and there is not a whole lot of bees there at all. It depends on the breed of bee they have, but if there is not a nectar flow and pollen supply, the queen will not lay a lot of brood. Hope they are feeding them. If I had a couple of frames of capped brood I would give it to this hive to help her and see if she will do better. This will give her young bees, and this would encourage her to lay more eggs. If the pattern does not get better, I would give them a new queen or if it is late in the year combine her with a queenright hive with new paper. Anyway that would be my guess. And that is what I would do and have done in the past.

Ron
Reply

Rusty,

I see a very poor brood pattern with adequate honey supply (capped), but no noticeable pollen stores. The bees seem to be favoring one side of the frame. I do not like entrance feeders, especially during cold weather. A poor queen seems to be a possibility.

Ron

Shari Shattuck
Reply

My first impression is that the queen has been damaged or destroyed and a drone laying worker is present. Having a boardman feeder on, with liquid feed, during cold wet weather is exceptionally hard on the bees here in Southern Oregon. I would suspect it’s the same in Ohio. Since there does appear to be some (small amount) of worker brood, perhaps the queen is still there, but not very effective. I would look carefully through the hive for the queen and probably replace her.

Paulette
Reply

Differential:
1. Starvation— likely secondary to external feeding source in cold weather and use of sugar water in cold weather. An accessible internal feeder with solid sugar in some form was needed. The internal food placed likely was too little, too late. The bees must have had some resources though as they were able to build a small amount of comb and the queen laid a few eggs.
2. Queen problems: may have contributed— queen’s fertility not known and wings removed ( both?) so she was damaged. Now dead?
3. Disease
A. Varroa and associated viruses. Not likely secondary to brood break with packages.
B. AFB- Not described.
C. EFB- possible- certainly hive stressed- May be a secondary cause.
D. Chalkbrood-Not described.
E. Nosema—also a possible contributing factor due to hive stress.
4. Toxins:
A. From plants— not likely secondary to presumed dearth due to cold
B. Pesticides— possibly some sub-lethal contribution but not likely.

Conclusion: hive decline most likely due to inadequate food availability but a package of bees is already stressed and a queen problem, nosema and/or EFB may have played a secondary role.

Charles Carlson
Reply

Clearly, the hive is dwindling. Probably not due to lack of food resources, which were provided by the beekeeper. Patchy brood pattern, along with many capped drone cells and a lack of queen cells, indicates the likelihood of a missing reproductive, and laying workers. Clearly the original queen did not fly off since her wings were clipped. It’s likely that she was either killed or died shortly after the hive was installed. A closer inspection of brood is indicated to confirm my preliminary observations.

Graeme
Reply

Drone laying queen both frames.

Deb in Western MA
Reply

This looks like a queen-less colony. Although it’s hard to say with certainty, I don’t see any eggs or larva on the frames. Assuming about 3 weeks from egg to hatched bee, I’d say it only had a queen for about a week after installation.

Why it’s queen-less is another question. Obviously there was a queen as there is some brood. So either she died, was killed, or took off, the latter may be less likely as her wings were clipped. If her brood pattern was as spotty as shown in the photos I’d posit that she was killed, although it is curious to me why the bees didn’t raise a new queen. Unless the beekeeper was the type to remove all queen cups?

I wouldn’t hold out a lot of hope for this hive unless it can get an infusion of new bees and a fresh queen.

Archie McLellan
Reply

Hello Rusty

The bees should have been well fed above the brood box as soon as they arrived, especially if it was too cold to go out. They’ve drawn very little comb. I would have given 5 litres of feed, 1kg sugar to 650ml water.

Without comb, the queen can’t lay and the bees can’t store. Other things may be wrong, but that’s enough to cause this situation.

One other detail. Clipping the queen’s wings – plural? I’m told it should be just one of the back wings.

Marisol
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The queen was injured or killed, otherwise went missing.

Deb
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I think it is a queen/package issue? Old foragers that have died off, queen not mated properly maybe not enough pheromones. No pollen that I can see. Then I thought n. cerana.

Jim Davis
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I’m with those saying EFB. There has been a substantial increase in the number of cases, and the weather has been perfect for the disease. Colony started ok, then became infected. Too few bees to save it now.

Kalevan
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If the beek was a total newbie and misunderstood the book(s) description of package installation, perhaps the queen’s wings were clipped and then she was dropped into the colony instead of being set up for timed release with candy, or freed 3 to 5 days after the package was “installed” into the hive box. Unfamiliar queens get killed!
Package producers claim they ship mated queens with packages.

Package producers bank queens as soon as they see eggs. They don’t let queens lay long enough to mature their ovaries. There’s a small window for that. Maybe she was stale.

Sometimes there is a loose queen in the scoop of bees, perhaps an old one. Maybe they fought it out.

mel
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We always hear that all beekeeping is local. Ohio has inspectors that could be called in for an onsite diagnosis that could eliminate certain causes of the hive’s decline and who would know what conditions impacted other colonies near the subject hive (disease/cold-wet weather).

gap
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Looks like one of my colonies, although my shot brood is even sparser. I re-queened a failing hive with a proven queen, and added brood frames from my thriving nuc to give her support. Weather’s been hot and dry here (east TN), with lots of clover and other nectar flow, and the colony had lots of nectar and capped honey to work with so I didn’t feed. Now, 2 wks later, there’s very little new brood and we can no longer find the queen. In my case, I have 2 possible queen cells. I will probably steal another frame with open brood from the nuc and hope that a successful supersedure occurs.

gap
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So I didn’t actually suggest a diagnosis. . .
I don’t think disease is a problem, and it doesn’t even look like that many drones. I’d guess that in Molly’s case and mine, the queen got a slow start. The “bad” weather (Molly’s cold and wet, mine maybe *too* hot and dry) may have irritated the colony and made them impatient, and they’ve done her in. After the initial spurt of shot brood, no one is laying eggs anymore. Without a continuing pipeline of workers, the population is dying off. Even a new queen may be too late to save Molly’s colony.

Vic Tallahassee fl
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I have studied the frames with great interest, and my conclusion is:
ALL OF THE ABOVE

Robert Rickert
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Maybe I am looking at the photos incorrectly but I am seeing a lot of flat capped brood. That means not enough time has passed for a laying worker. But it does seem there is no queen. But I should not be seeing flat cappings if there is a laying worker. So a bad queen of some kind.

Robert Rickert
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Maybe a package of older workers at the end of their life? Brood needs nurse bees. No nurse bees no brood. There is worker brood, drone brood. Maybe no queen. But even if there is a queen the hive has very little nurse bees the feed the larva. A I can see older larva but I am unable to tell what it is. So I am going with packages produced from lost bees after a commercial move. Sorry wild guess.

Wanda
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A package of honey bees need lots of 1 to 1 sugar syrup to grow lots of wax to get the brand new foundation drawn out.

With the syrup being in a boardman feeder in the entrance to the hive, it was just too darn cold for the bees to take it in, so they did the next best thing.

You can see in the photo these bees have harvested the wax which had been around the perimeter of the frame and brought it to the center to pull those cells out, so HRH could start laying. Smart little bees 🙂

You can see how little an area they were able to draw out because of their lack of food. And that area was all the queen could lay in. Sometimes a new queen lays a bit spotty, this could be the reason their are sporadic empty cells.

There is a black shiny bee at the top of the frame in the first photo. And I see some bees with their wings standing out from their bodies. Possibly this package has Chronic Bee Paralyses Virus also?

KathyCox
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Rusty,

I’m guessing that she was never mated (when were those wings clipped.) Then the queen is a drone layer. Without seeing if the eggs were smack in the center of the cell or on the sides, I can’t say if it is a drone laying queen or a laying worker.

The reason I think the clipped wings were the problem is because the bees had NO FERTILE EGG FROM WHICH TO SUPERsEDE HER.

NOTE: We have consistently had a nuc vendor sell nucs with queens in cages, among other problems here in Seattle. Some vendors don’t seem to understand what a nuc should be. In addition, I don’t think queens should be clipped. Sometimes the bees think she is damaged and they supersede her. I have found swarms on the ground with a clipped queen. She CAN’T FLY!

scott burnette
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Looks like the queen died. Not sure how soon laying workers takes place, but that may explain the drones.

If new eggs and larva were not present week 1/2 the queen was probably not accepted and killed.

Robert Rickert
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I am not seeing signs of disease nor am i seeing the signs of a laying worker. Maybe a package of older workers at the end of their life? Brood needs nurse bees. No nurse bees no brood. There is worker brood, drone brood. Maybe no queen. But even if there is a queen the hive has very little nurse bees to feed the larva. I can see older uncapped larva but I am unable to tell what type it is. So I am going with packages produced from lost bees after a commercial move. Sorry wild guess.

Scott Lawrence
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There was never a queen.

Jerry
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Agree with most everything that has been said but would like to add that this looks like new frames. Combine this with a wet spring and lack of simple syrup for building good combo for the queen to lay and it’s a recipe for desater.

Mark
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Poorly mated queen, looking at the far from perfect brood pattern, intermittent laying of worker and drone.

Kristin Marie Lassen
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I think I see varroa deposits (light coloured spots) on the lower sides of the cell walls on the second picture at the bottom of the brood area. I guess the wrong colour (creamish) and wrong shapen (twisted) of the few larvae in the first pictures are due to viruses transmitted by the varroa mites.

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