Thursday, 6 July 2017


I still don't know what went wrong here.  I previously wrote a post about a colony that swarmed leaving no brood or queen cells behind.  It was a split from the mother colony below and had been in air and pheromone contact since the split through the mesh in a two-queen board.  As it is queenless I decided to unite it with the colony below.  Although they have had contact I used newspaper anyway, pinning it in place of the mesh and leaving the queen excluder on the other side of the board.  We have had pretty wet weather recently and next day it rained all day.  When I ventured out in the evening to have a look there was a pile of dead bees outside the main front entrance, looking like the scene after a gruesome mediaeval battle.

Yesterday morning it was worse and bodies were regularly being dumped outside or carried away by struggling undertaker bees.  This continued all day.

It was the saddest day of my beekeeping and I couldn't think of anything useful to do.  In all there must have been thousands of dead bees.  The strange thing is that they are all sisters - all offspring of the same queen in the lower colony as there hasn't been a queen in the upper half - and they have always been in air contact.  I even erred on the side of caution and used newspaper as well but it still didn't work.  Dave Cushman's website says the method is usually successful but will fail occasionally.  I have used newspaper to unite other colonies successfully but this failure is puzzling.  Even though the bees in this hive are very good tempered (to me at least) they certainly behave strangely.


  1. And so goes the lot of a beekeeper. We are occasionally puzzled about aspects of their behaviour and can only guess at the reasons for tragic hive events such as this. Beekeeping is never boring!

  2. Oh poor you, that's so dreadful!

  3. I suppose there's no way this could be a pesticide issue? That's a lot of dead bees for 24 hours.

    1. No I don't think so. All the dead bees were coming out with the newspaper fragments and all the other hives are fine. It all stopped after 48 hours and the hive now looks back to normal from the outside. I haven't yet looked in to see that the queen is OK.

  4. I had look through the hive this afternoon, four days after "uniting" the two halves. Inside you wouldn't know there had been a problem. The queen is laying well and has seven frames of brood. The top contains only nectar. The honey in the super looks great and the bees are as nice as pie. I suppose most of the dead came from the top box but I'm sure the hive will get over it. I am going to be anxious when I next have to unite two colonies.