Sunday, August 01, 2010

Trouble in the Hive

Material at Bottom of Frame

Today, when Robb and I inspected the Elizabeth Taylor hive, things looked wrong.

The texture of the comb was strange, and we saw pinholes in the cappings on the brood comb.

What is this?

We have no idea what this material on the bottom of this frame is. It looks a bit like some of the propolis (plant based glues the bees create) that we see in other parts of the hive. But what are the bees doing?


Here are more of the "pin holes." Also, the capped brood is scattered all over a mostly empty field of wax cells. Ideally, capped brood should be all clumped together.

Brood Caps

More of the same.


It looks like there are dead pupae in some of these cells.

We're really concerned that this hive may have been infected with American Foul Brood. This is a very serious disease of the hive, and we need to find out what California law says we have to do. Some states require that beekeepers burn infected colonies. Some mandate treatment. Our internet searches offer no clues about what the state of California requires us to do.

The best option seems to be to remove and destroy all the wax and brood, scorch the insides of all of the hive boxes, and then move all the adult bees into a disinfected hive with all new frames. This sounds simple, but it's going to be upsetting, disgusting and expensive. Since adult bees are not affected by this disease, we'll "only" have to kill all the developing bees.

I'm not happy about all this carnage.

Further reading suggests that we may be dealing with a varroa mite infestation. Apparently, pinholes in the brood capping show up in both cases.

Folks who got some honey from us, don't worry! Honey from hives with American Foul Brood is not dangerous to humans.


Stefaneener said...

Have you done the matchstick test? Smelled it? I found this website, and if I could find my notes from Randy's class he had something about it too:

Carol said...

I sure hope this is not the case. So tragic for the bees and for the keeper. Good Luck!

Christine said...

Oh no, this is horrible! And sounding very complicated to remedy. I remember searching online for a document that said I'm legally allowed to keep bees after a neighbor complained, but couldn't find anything remotely related, so I'm not surprised you are having a hard time researching this latest problem.

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

No weird smells. Not much actual dead brood.

It may actually be varroa, which I've no learned also causes pinheads.

We're looking into getting our brood tested, but with state and local budget cuts, this is moer complex than you'd think.

Meredith said...

Varroa mite is thought to be partly responsible for colony collapse disorder, I think I read not too long ago. Something about them having always been around, but the bees that succumb having less immune resistance than usual because of exposure to pesticides, etc. But I cannot right now put my hands on the article.

Anyway, it won't help you with your plight right now. I am so sorry you have to go through this. It must be incredibly disheartening to stand by helplessly and wait for testing. :(

Sending you and the bees both a lot of positive energy...

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

Lisa, just in case, and for our own future reference, I can ask what the State requirements are in regards to American Foul Brood at our next Bee Guild meeting on Wednesday. I'm curious too what the requirements are, if any. In the meantime I hope it turns out to be something more manageable. I'll let you know if I learn anything significant.

eric said...

The USDA will test your brood for free! Here is a link to the information:

I hope it isn't AFB. Good luck!

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

Thanks, Eric! We're planning on sendng a chunk of brood to the USDA in Maryland, since we couldn't find a closer option.

Joseph said...

Oh my, I sure hope it's not what you fear and that you figure it out soon. Good luck with the bees, if the hive is infected, it sounds like a lot of work ... and upsetting. :(

Heather said...

Hi Lisa.
I probably should have asked permission before, but... I've been working on a drawing and kept looking for a bee photo to use as a model. Failure after failure led me to hunt through your images, where I found a perfect bee. So, I hope you don't mind, but one of your bees made it's way into a drawing (which will soon become a painting).
Here's the piece pre-color:
And a close-up of the bee:

Thank you for taking such beautiful and inspiring photographs.


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