4 Common Signs Your Hive Is Failing

It’s important for beekeepers to listen to their honey bees. Your productive, buzzing little friends might not be as obvious as a sick cat or upset dog, but they’ll still display a few sure signs when something is wrong in their colony. By paying close attention when your colonies are sick as well as when they’re in their prime, you can catch and address problems quickly. Keep your honey bees happy and healthy by watching out for these four common signs your hive is failing.

There’s No Queen

Honey bee queens are the most important members of the hive. Without a productive queen, your colony won’t last long. There are a few different signs your colony is queen-less to watch out for. The earlier you catch and identify this problem, the better chance you have of correcting it. If you notice your honey bees struggling to raise a replacement queen, you can buy a queen bee to take over and get the colony back on track.

Laying Workers

Laying workers are symptoms of a queen-less colony, but they present another problem in and of themselves. Because worker bees haven’t mated like the queen has, they cannot produce fertilized eggs. This results in them laying only drone eggs and throwing off the population balance. You can identify laying workers by the haphazard way they lay their eggs. Laying workers will place multiple eggs in one cell, while a queen knows to place only one egg per cell.

It Smells Bad

Your nose can help you identify one of the most common signs your hive is failing. After months or years of regular hive inspections, you should know what a healthy honey bee hive smells like. If your colony is doing well, the hive will smell sweet and warm like the honey and wax within. An unhealthy colony, on the other hand, will often emit a sour or rotten odor. These scents often indicate diseases such as foulbrood. They might also be signs of pest control issues—you might be smelling mice or other invaders hiding around your hive.

The Population Is Down

If you’re used to a thriving honey bee population, you’re sure to notice when those numbers drop. If you find your previously healthy hive suddenly empty, your honey bees might have fallen victim to colony collapse disorder. An emptier hive might also mean that your honey bees needed to find a new home, possibly due to pests such as mice, ants, or wax beetles. Similarly, you should keep an eye out for dead bees littering the hive. Honey bee death is a natural part of owning a colony, but the worker bees usually do a good job of clearing out the bodies and keeping the hive clean. If you see an excess number of dead bees, it’s probably a sign of other troubles within the hive.

If your hive isn’t doing too hot, Kelley Beekeeping wants to help. From the answers you need to the equipment that will solve the problem, we’ve got everything you need to get your hive back on track.

4 thoughts on “4 Common Signs Your Hive Is Failing

Leave a Reply to Bobby Perkins Cancel reply

  1. Mark Episcopo

    I bought a colony from you about 8 weeks ago. I wasn’t able to find the queen after installed and waiting 3 days. I opened the hive yesterday and I still can’t find the queen. That might be me, I’m relatively new at keeping. There are some white capped cells (honey?) and brown capped cells (brood?). The brood cells are on the center frame where I installed the queen. They are “organized”. Some of the brood cells are open and there are tiny shiny larvae? in the bottom. There appears to be a queen cell (big cell sticking up from the rest). How can I tell if I lost the queen? Can I install a new one? Thanks
    A worker did get into the queen cage before I could put the marshmallow in

    1. Fred Reese

      I know this is 6 months too late, and I hope you worked it out. I assume you used a 3 lbs. box o’ bees and bare foundation. It takes a bit for the bees to build out the foundation, and queens can be hard too find, look for the circle of workers around the laying queen. Look where fresh eggs are laid. But if you have eggs, larva and capped cells that cover most of the center of the frame, you are probably okay.. Eggs don’t lay themselves. So long as your worker population is steadily increasing, don’t get wrapped up in finding the queen, frame manipulation can cause injury/death to the queen if you crush her.

  2. Bobby Perkins

    Is it best to have 1 brood hive chamber or 2
    I got my bees from you guys April 4th and they have filled out 9 of the frames so I didn’t know if it’s best to add another brood chamber or honey super

  3. Don Watson

    i seem to have lots of bees , but when i remove the lid they all have the abdomens sky word /Why. i have several hive none of the others are action line this,,, it is an 8 frame and that super is full of honey,,, for the winter…