Starving Bees

I am in shock. On Saturday (just 4 days ago) I was really happy as my bees were busy and there was lots of activity. In two days time I would have removed the Apiguard and fed them. There are still lots of flowers about and the weather has been pretty good, until the start of this week.

Today, I popped down after work to find Hive One was very quiet.  I opened it up to find lots of dead bees and a few bees moving around very slowly.  I pulled out a frame to find dead bees with their heads in the comb.  I lifted off the brood box to find a pile of dead and dying bees. They had starved to death.  There was nothing I could do as all the brood had died and the Queen was probably dead. Note: I did not harvest honey from this hive (I harvested from Hive Two).

This had been a healthy hive with a 2013 Queen.  In my dreams it was going to produce 50lb of honey next year.

In my shock and state of denial (the first stage of bereavement) I have fed this hive. By tomorrow I will have accepted the inevitable, I’ll pour their syrup into the Hive Two feeder and clean up.

The videos and photos below say it all. So sad to see the remaining bees moving around slowly trying to do their chores.

I’ve now fed Hive Two (which seemed OK).  Check your bees.

Starving Bees

Starving Bees With Heads In Comb

Dying & Dead Bees

Dying & Dead Bees

Read More


Starving Bees — 15 Comments

    • They simply ran out of food in their hive. It appears they didn’t have enough spare stores to even last them a few days. Which surprises me but otherwise they were a healthy hive. In hindsight I should have fed them rather than treat the Varroa with Apiguard. With new colonies I will feed them early in their first Autumn and the Varroa treatments can wait till December or the following year.

  1. If there’s still flowers in bloom, why did they starve? Was the hive too big to support itself? Did they have some disease which killed off the workers leaving no one to feed the house bees? There must be more to it than simple starvation. How dreadful!

    • I know it is surprising. I think the hive was too big to support itself. It had built up a lot of bees and it looks like it did not bring in enough stores. The bee inspector (Post: An Inspector Calls) came out just a few weeks ago and their was no sign of disease. I think it was just starvation. My lesson is to read the frames better and be more attentive to feeding them in September and to consider not using Apiguard at this time if I think they need feeding.

  2. Sorry to hear this sad news. Those 25 jars of honey couldn’t have been as spare as you thought, could they?
    I too am a newbie (newbee?) my mentor gave me a full super of honey as winter stores for the swarm he gave me in May, and told me to feed them a heavy sugar syrup, which I have been doing for a couple of weeks, and will continue to do until they stop taking it down.
    I live in Northumberland at present, but lived for many years in Bristol. I know there is an active beekeeping association there, I hope you are a member. My mentor has been keeping bees for 56 years and says the single biggest cause of bee deaths is beekeepers. Do you have a mentor?
    Will you now be uniting the surviving bees with your other hive? I am keeping my fingers crossed for you. :/

    • Hi Janet. I’ve updated the post above to clarify that the hive that starved was not the one I harvested the honey from. I won’t be uniting as there are few surviving bees – though any remaining bees might fly into Hive Two.

    • Hi Ches. I’ve edited your comment so that it makes sense now that I have updated the post to say that I didn’t harvest any honey from this hive. Hope that’s OK? They started as three frames and no Queen on 9th June, raised an emergency Queen, she mated successfully and on my last inspection, there was plenty of brood and some stores. The hive I did harvest from appears to be fine and I have now started feeding them. They started with a laying Queen on 9th June so perhaps had more time to create sufficient stores in the brood box.

  3. I’m afraid the same thing is going to happen to my top bar hive. They don’t have a lot of honey stores. Luckily I discovered the dearth of honey a few weeks ago and have re-filled the feeder numerous times, but there needs to be at least 2 weeks of warm temps. after they take from the feeder to give them enough time to cure the sugar water. If they eat the sugar water before it’s properly cured it can make them sick.

  4. This is awful news, but at least i am not the only one… I have been trying to stay out of our new hive and not bother the girls. We stopped feeding them when we put on the second super earlier in the summer – around July. They had a deep brood FULL of bees and honey and a medium super SLAM FULL of honey. We decided they needed more room cause we had SO MANY bees. I would crack the lid and look down during the summer and saw they are very active in the second super, but they never drew out the fresh foundation. Then one day 2 weeks ago i decided to do a more thorough inspection – when i got down to the hive i saw a TON of dead bees lying all on the ground and no activity. I quickly broke down the hive and found they had starved. Who knew they could eat that much honey between July to mid September when there were still a lot of flowers (we live in NC). My wife and i cleaned up the hive as much as possible – we still had about a frame and a half of bees left – and have been feeding them like crazy. I am keeping my fingers crossed they can make a comeback and survive through winter, but i just dont think they have enough time. We believe we found the queen – although she looked very sluggish and sick. They have been feeding on pollen patties and sugar syrup for 10 days now and they are MUCH more active. I am just afraid it is too little, too late.

    I hate this happened to you, but i am glad to find out we were not the only ones who had this happen. As you have learned, we will keep a MUCH better eye on their rood stores if they survive the winter. Best of luck and think you for posting!


  5. Thank you for your post. It is mid-August and I discovered one of my hives has no stores of honey. I began feeding thin syrup yesterday and it is nearly gone today. Obviously my bees were hungry. I live in Nevada and although we have hundreds of acres of alfalfa in bloom, we have very little nectar flow due to the drought. We are experiencing 100° days and our temps won’t cool off until mid-Sept. We will have freezing nights by mid-October. If I switch to heavy syrup by mid-Sept will my bees have enough time to build up good stores for winter? Should I take time in Sept for v-mite treatment? Thank you for your help.

    • I am a novice – but here are my thoughts
      I would feed the bees now so that when the temperature range is correct for Apiguard (10C / 60F to 40C / 104F) or MAQs treatment, you are in a good position.
      Read the Apiguard instructions, it can be used up to 104F and it mentions using a half dose above 25C (77F) and maybe using three doses.
      I would then start feeding again after the Apiguard treatment until hives reach the right weight so survive the autumn/winter.

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