Chalkbrood in hives - checking for pests and diseases to ensure the health of your colony


#1

Whilst in Barton today helping an elderly beekeeper with their bees, they had noticed a collection of chalkbrood mummies starting to pile up at the entrance to their hive where the bees had discarded them. This is not an uncommon event at this time of the year and also through Spring where chalkbrood mummies are gathered up and expelled from the hive by the worker bees. The problem isn’t one that should be ignored as it signifies that not all is well with the colony and that the hive requires your assistance and the beekeeper (their Landlord) to step up and help the colony manage the problem.

What’s to be done? I am always interested in your thoughts but have provided the below for those seeking answers or guidance whilst waiting on others to reply to this post.

Typically I would recommend the following course of action;

  1. Sweep up the mummies and dispose of them into landfill, never add these to your compost or vegetable garden as foraging bees will commonly visit gardens looking for water and will there pickup these spores to either infect or reinfect their hives again and again.

  2. If you haven’t previously considered replacing the queen do so this season, after all a significant number of the eggs that she is laying are never developing into live bees and this problem will slowly get worse. Place your order for your new queen bee now as you aren’t the only beekeeper after a new queen bee and demand typically out supply so order now to avoid disappointment and ensure availability.

  3. Weather permitting, look at rotating out 50% of the frames in the brood box with new foundation frames, moving the older brood frames above the queen excluder for the brood within the frames to hatch out and join the colony before then placing the old brood frame into the solar max melter for the wax to be harvested.

  4. Feed your bees, with sugar syrup, to mimic a honey flow and in doing so the bees will more quickly draw out the foundation for the queen to lay into, the artificial honey flow also stimulates the remainder of the colony to clean out any other chalkbrood they may have as they now have an added reason to do so, namely to store the nectar (sugar syrup) before it ends……………. Note: If you have discover a pollen / bee bread frame or two, loaded up to the hills, leave these frames in the brood box as the outer most frames for the bees to reserves from during Spring as the best place for these is in the brood box where possible.

  5. Weather permitting, and after 2 weeks or so, swap out the remainder of the brood frames again with foundation frames as per the previous step and continue to feed the colony sugar syrup. Once you are in possession of your newly ordered queen bee, replace the old queen bee with the new remembering to thank her for her guidance, wisdom, energy & efforts…… Note: If you have discover a pollen / bee bread frame or two, remember to leave these frames in the brood box as the outer most frames for the bees to reserves from during Spring as the best place for these is in the brood box where possible.

  6. Leave the colony alone now for 10 days or so for the bees to accept their new queen and to get settled in, everything should then be set for the season ahead from a chalkbrood perspective.

Fingers cross this all makes sense,

Regards

Eric


#2

Eric, Thank you so much for your six points and measures to take to revive a colony affected by chalkbrood. I was wondering also about the cold weather which might have chilled the colony, thereby weakening their capacity to resist this fungal disease. Moving the hive into a sunny position facing north - northeast and releasing the accumulated humid air would reduce the chill-factor and make the bees stronger. Cheers Agi


#3

Cheers and another thanks for the information!

Q: When putting in the new frames do you checkerboard them or place on one side with the older brood directly above the main group?


#4

Hi

sorry for the delay in responding, yes checkerboard them in all instances as they will be drawn out faster & much more uniform that the alternative which creates more of a physical barrier for expansion for the bees than one might reasonably expect.

Agi - with regards to a sunny & facing north-ish position for the hive, a big YES this would be very much preferred and should be the default position unless it cannot be helped but cannot always be achieved by all beekeepers due to the size or shape of their garden.

regards