Killing a Beehive

Now that is a phrase I never thought I’d write….

I was going to do it tomorrow, but I got home from work with a chill breeze on the air, a hint of frosty snow, and an hour of daylight. That all adds up to finally doing what needed to be done weeks ago–the actual demise of hive 2.

At this point, this is purely scientific. It was not fun. I did not enjoy it. And I hope that is both a first and a last.

When I opened the hive, I did everything I could to find even a single reason to spare the hive, but the literally thousands of big, drone eyes staring at me…. There is nothing for it.

I started by pulling the top brood box off, which exposed the cluster. The bottom box was largely empty, so I set that aside for everyone inside to freeze overnight. Then I spent the next hour pulling each frame out of the top box and dumping the bees onto the ground. They were more than a little angry about that, but they fought only a minute or two each before they’d drop to the ground and, well… die.


When I left, there were clusters of bees scattered all over the ground trying their best to stay warm. Small clusters. There are maybe 500 – 1000 still in the hives, and they’ll die tonight in the freeze.

While the thought of the thousands of bees dying tonight truly depresses me, know what depresses me the most? The fact that there is plenty of honey on the hive. At least nine completely full frames. Front and back. They had 10,000+ bees in there still. They had EVERYTHING. Everything they needed to make it.

I wish I knew what finally happened. I do know that there was no queen at least. There were only maybe a hundred cells of capped brood, all of it bulging with drones. There were no eggs. No larva. Whoever was laying hasn’t layed an egg in at least a week or so. There was no organization in the hive. No clearly defined cluster (although there was a cluster). No brood pattern for the few brood. When the bees were dumped, they made no effort to find a queen, to track her pheremone.

But oh the drones! Thousands of them! In December!

I know I’ll have a better attitude come spring when I can return the saved honey and wax to new hives, but right now I’m simply depressed. I can’t stop thinking about them out there freezing to death, especially the small clusters that would form on my back and neck. The ones that didn’t seem to get that I was killing them.


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7 Responses to Killing a Beehive

  1. Anthony says:

    I nominate this post as the most depression post you’ve ever written.

  2. Sarah L. says:

    So sorry you had to do that. 😦

  3. Emily Heath says:

    What a grim thing to have to do. But they would have died out anyway, it’s for the best.

    No brood pattern indicates laying workers; a drone laying queen would still lay in neat rows.

    What have you done with the honey frames? Best not to leave the honey unguarded as it might encourage robbing; also other insects apart from your remaining bees might find it. Perhaps store the combs inside your house or on top/below your remaining hive – honey combs make great insulation.

  4. daveloveless says:

    I have one response to Anthony…. 🙂

    Emily–I left the frames out overnight so that the survivors would freeze. This morning I’m going to go out, wrap everything in plastic, and put it all in our shed. Hopefully the combo of plastic and consistent nightly freezes will protect everything. Do you have another suggestion?

    • Emily Heath says:

      This month’s British Beekeeping Association magazine has some tips on storing comb – it says “Do not store drawn combs in plastic bags as they are then prone to mould”. They need to be kept somewhere dry and well ventilated and where mice can’t get in. Freezes will protect against wax moth.

  5. daveloveless says:

    I just saw your insulation idea. I like that.

  6. daveloveless says:

    Excellent. I had not thought of the mold. I will probably stack the boxes full of frames in the shed and seal off the entrances.

    Thanks for all your help!

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