Hardly any bees left in the hive

Hi, I am fairly new to beekeeping only a couple of years in. I had 3 hives going into winter which all seemed to be doing fairly well on last inspection. I recently noticed that the third hive had no activity at
all so I investigated and found that all the bees were dead in the bottom of the hive. I suspect they may
have run out of food but done so very quickly as a few days previously they were fine.

As a result of this I quickly wanted to make sure the other 2 hives were ok, one was very aggressive and did not have a large amount of food so I have fed them some pollen patties and they seem to be ok. The issue is the other hive which a few weeks ago was very active and happy. I wanted to double check on
food in this hive as well and opened it up and found a lot of honey in the frames but hardly any bees, and
they were not active but very slow, there did not seem to be many dead ones anywhere but I did not want
to keep the lid off too long and lose all the heat.

Can anyone give me any ideas about what might be going on with this hive and also what might have killed the other one so quickly ? any help would be gratefully received as I am very upset about it.

thanks and regards


Hi Helen,

Sorry for your loss, colonies can be lost quickly in a Canberra winter as the bees demand for fuel (food/stored honey) increases as they chew through it to keep themselves alive and also to help keep the hive warm so they can keep the colony going.

It certainly sounds like fuel reserves as stored honey was in limited supply and the cold has got the better of them, pictures of what your seeing are well worth posting as these can help significantly to determine the actual cause.

The following link, though from the US, may help you and other readers gain a better understanding of how to post mitten their beehive;

Feeding your colonies pollen patties in the mids of winter is a very short term fix, as they need pollen to grow brood not to keep themselves alive at this time. Your pollen patties may be of assistance at the end of winter as spring springs… out of interest what recipe are you using for this?

The questions I have are;

How many frames of honey did each hive have going into Winter?

Did you’re bees have access to any Carbs in the form of dry sugar (white sugar) to eat if they needed it?

How many boxes high is your hive, brood box plus Supers?

If you are using a queen excluder in each hive where was it positioned?

Are the hives north/north east facing?

Are your hives in full sunlight for most of the day?

How long have you been beekeeping?

I’ll likely have further questions once I see your photos and read your answers to the questions tabled,

All the best,


All of these considerations are good
But semantic. If there are bees around try feeding them and see what happens. Use a
2:1 mixture of sugar and water. May be too late but Worth a try
It has
Been a hard season for the bees this season

Hi Eric,

thanks for your detailed reply, this is my second winter of beekeeping started in November 2018, last year I had no problems but of course we had a much better spring before that. The hive I am most worried about because I dont understand what is happening is the one which still has plenty of honey at least 4/8 are all at least 2/3s full but hardly any bees are left and they seem very sad and lacking energy. The other hive which has very little food so I am giving it paddies (no idea of recipe they were given to me) and sugar syrup, both hives have had plain old white sugar as well, the hive with heaps of honey didnt touch the sugar whilst the other one ate it all up. Both hives are only brood box, super was removed as it was basically empty and I have removed the queen excluders as well. The hives face north east and get pretty good sunlight during the day.


Hi Mervyn,

thanks this is what I am now going to do, as well as the pollen and hopefully I can save them.