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  • Swarm dies in hive entrance

  • General Q&A, Bee chat and only Bee chat please
General Q&A, Bee chat and only Bee chat please
 #7346  by Boz the beekeeper
 23 May 2020, 21:28
Hi, I’ve been keeping bees for over thirty years, and this is a new one for me! I had an empty hive so set it up with drawn out frames in the hope of attracting a swarm.

On going over today to do my weekly inspection I saw as I approached that there were quite a few bees flying around and so assumed, rightly, as it turned out, that a swarm had moved in.

However, as I got closer I could see that the bees appeared to be using a very small hole they had found at the back of the hive as their entrance and exit, and that immediately in front of hive entrance was a large pile of dead bees. From a distance they looked as though they were a swarm marching in.

As I opened up the hive I realised that the reason the front entrance wasn’t being used was because it was blocked on the inside by a mass of dead bees that covered much of the mesh floor.

There were still enough bees alive to be active over two or three frames, but a considerable proportion - two thirds? - of the swarm seemed to have died either whilst, or just after, entering the hive. There was no evidence that the bees had been there very long - my guess is less than 24 hours. I made a cursory search for the queen, but couldn’t find her, preferring to clear away the dead and give the survivors - assuming she might be in there somewhere - an opportunity, however small, to establish themselves over the next few days.

Had this happened two weeks ago - I inspect this hive every Saturday - I could have put it down to the sudden drop in temperatures we experienced then, with relatively warm, sunny, days being followed by below freezing nights. There would then, I suppose, have been the - albeit slight - possibility of a swarm flying to its new home late in the evening and being caught out by the sudden cold. But even if that were the case, it would seem to be extraordinary that part of the swarm was unable to enter and so died outside.

Any suggestions as to what might have happened, would be very welcome!
 #7351  by Steve 1972
 23 May 2020, 22:41
Boz the beekeeper wrote:
23 May 2020, 21:28
Hi, I’ve been keeping bees for over thirty years, and this is a new one for me! I had an empty hive so set it up with drawn out frames in the hope of attracting a swarm.

On going over today to do my weekly inspection I saw as I approached that there were quite a few bees flying around and so assumed, rightly, as it turned out, that a swarm had moved in.

However, as I got closer I could see that the bees appeared to be using a very small hole they had found at the back of the hive as their entrance and exit, and that immediately in front of hive entrance was a large pile of dead bees. From a distance they looked as though they were a swarm marching in.

As I opened up the hive I realised that the reason the front entrance wasn’t being used was because it was blocked on the inside by a mass of dead bees that covered much of the mesh floor.

There were still enough bees alive to be active over two or three frames, but a considerable proportion - two thirds? - of the swarm seemed to have died either whilst, or just after, entering the hive. There was no evidence that the bees had been there very long - my guess is less than 24 hours. I made a cursory search for the queen, but couldn’t find her, preferring to clear away the dead and give the survivors - assuming she might be in there somewhere - an opportunity, however small, to establish themselves over the next few days.

Had this happened two weeks ago - I inspect this hive every Saturday - I could have put it down to the sudden drop in temperatures we experienced then, with relatively warm, sunny, days being followed by below freezing nights. There would then, I suppose, have been the - albeit slight - possibility of a swarm flying to its new home late in the evening and being caught out by the sudden cold. But even if that were the case, it would seem to be extraordinary that part of the swarm was unable to enter and so died outside.

Any suggestions as to what might have happened, would be very welcome!
Good to hear of a good outcome..but you need to join a group where folk can help you hands on.
Edited to add..Sorry i should have read your post properly.. :oops:
Last edited by Steve 1972 on 24 May 2020, 09:46, edited 1 time in total.
 #7352  by Patrick
 23 May 2020, 23:20
Hi Boz and welcome to the forum.

Grisly or what! No I don’t know either. My initial thought is pesticide poisoning. You could try contacting the Defra Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme.
 #7355  by Japey Edge
 24 May 2020, 09:28
Yeah I thought poison of some kind. Is there the possibility that something poisonous to bees got into the bait hive?
 #7358  by Patrick
 24 May 2020, 11:54
Been mulling this over Boz.

I have seen chronic bee paralysis virus In my bees and there are some similarities but yours sounds more drastic.

When we say pesticide poisoning, I think a lot of people leap to the conclusion we are talking about agriculturally sprayed pesticides but in reality householders often have an arsenal of noxious stuff years old under the sink or in the shed. Entirely crackpot theory. but in the current circumstances wonder if someone had the swarm turn up and sprayed them with whatever they had to hand and they moved on and then rapidly died off with you. The first die off would have been chucked outside but eventually it would overwhelm the remaining bees.

Bearing in mind the (understandable ) absence of swarm calls so far this year, a lot of “self help” must be going on.
 #7360  by AndrewLD
 24 May 2020, 12:05
I was thinking poisoning as well and it might be good to send a matchbox sample off to the NBU for analysis. I think it is a service they still offer (call your bee inspector for advice)

I'd keep it well away from your other hives and perhaps the best thing to do would be to seal them in tonight and cull it because in their final stages they could drift to other hives.

As Patrick wondered, a swarm sprayed with insecticide?
 #7367  by Boz the beekeeper
 24 May 2020, 14:14
Many thanks for all your thoughtful replies. I think the growing consensus that it could well be some sort of spraying of pesticide/insecticide that took place prior to their arrival is probably the most likely. I’ll collect some samples and see if I can find someone somewhere in these strange times to do a scientific analysis. Many thanks again to everybody.
 #7378  by AndrewLD
 25 May 2020, 06:39
Boz

As I said above, you can contact your Bee Inspector or go through the NBU:

http://www.nationalbeeunit.com/index.cfm?pageId=84

No need to find someone.......