It has been many weeks since the last update on our hive. Projects have been done, the season has changed, and the status on our colony has also changed. We recently added a top hive feeder to the hive to give them and extra source of food.
Left: Bees drinking from new feeder
In our last two inspections, we have noticed many changes in the hive. The cluster has decreased in size, and an estimated 1,000 bees are left, compared to the 3,000 bees that we started with at the beginning of the spring. Cluster size can range from basketball size to baseball size, and the larger the cluster the more likely for the hive to survive through the winter. The bees have stopped tending to the brood, eating their winter stores, and now are completely relying on our sugar water despite having their own stores. Since the temperature is too cold to fully open the hive and take frames out, we can only inspect from the top of the hive and by looking through the entrance. Despite the large reduction in cluster size, not many dead bees are at the bottom of the hive. However, hundreds of dead bees are piled up outside of the hive.
Through much research, I have concluded that the hive is dying from pesticide poisoning. The four symptoms of a hive with pesticide poisoning include:
1. Dead and dying bees outside of hive (can be normal during winter)
2. Dead bees with proboscis extended (proboscis= tongue like extension; used to drink nectar)
3. Nearly dead bees spinning in circles and/or twitching
4. Substantial drop in population of hive in short period of time
All of these symptoms have been observed in the last few weeks, but nothing can be done to save the hive. Pesticide poisoning does not always kill the hive, but since it's so late in the season, it is unlikely that the hive can recover.
Luckily for us, the beeswax, honey, and other bee products are not affected by the pesticides. When honey is made by the bees, it is chewed and evaporated by the bees themselves, which extracts chemicals and unneeded nutrients. The nectar that honey is made from can possibly have trace amounts of chemicals, but it is removed when processed by the bees. Beeswax is secreted from glands on the bees, so it is very unlikely to come in contact with chemicals.