What do we think is going on here?

As you know, I’ve been battling a skunk trying to decimate my hives. I set up the motion-activated sprinkler, which seems to be working quite well and I’ve closed up the nuc every night.

Since Friday, I have noticed a lot of dead bees on the landing board and on the dirt in front of Demeter and Melissa. It wasn’t the spitballs of bees, it was just individual bodies, seemingly everywhere.

This morning, I saw more dead bees on Melissa’s landing board and none on Demeter. I brushed off Melissa to keep track of what was happening. It’s been raining since about 10am and quite cold out, not weather you would expect a bee to fly in. I went to check the hives around 6pm and found this:

Can you see the white blob on the landing board? Click to enlarge. That's brood that was pulled out of the cell before it emerged. I would consider this a lot of dead bees.

So this CAN be a lot of dead bees caused by something. What that something is, I can only guess at this point. One thing to remember is that the queen lays about 1500-2000 eggs a day. So everyday, about 1500 bees are dying off. If it’s raining, there’s no place for them to go (most bees die while foraging) and they just die right at the hive.

Demeter also had new dead bees but not nearly as many as Melissa.

What bothers me is that when I looked into the screened bottom board right under the hive bodies, there were a lot of dead bees and pieces of torn comb. I don’t know if that’s from robbing. And I saw a couple of bees fly off…in the rain and 40-something degree weather… It was so odd that I decided to close up the hives. I only have one solid entrance block (an entrance reducer with no cut-outs) and it went onto Melissa. I put a reducer on Demeter and then decided to stack another one in front to block the entrance completely. I’m going to keep them closed for a couple of days. If there are any robbers in there, they’ll be converted to hive members by the time I let them out. Plus, I can see if there are more bees trying to get in. I closed up the nuc too. The queen should be emerging (anytime from Friday until tomorrow) and I don’t want any robbers killing off that nuc.

I contacted Jim to see if he can get me a couple of robber screens.

Here is a closer view:

Here is the pupa (?) up close. It looks very healthy, I wonder if it was a robbing casualty or chilled brood?

At first, when I looked at this picture, I thought the absence of stingers on the bees meant the stingers were used in self-defense. But after looking at close-up images of honey bees, the stinger is not out all the time, it is extended when it will be used. So I still don’t know what’s going on.

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3 thoughts on “What do we think is going on here?

  1. Try nailing a lot of nails fairly close together in a piece of plywood so they stick out the back quite a bit (at least an inch) then invert the board and place it in front of the hive. The Skunk will not be able to aproach the entrance due to the nails. Usually works and they wont bother the hive.

    • Thank you svengali. I actually posted about the carpet tack strips I put up in the post before this one. Nails and motion-sensor = no skunk. Now I have another problem, oiy.

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