Bee update: Dealing with the dying off of a hive

Bee update: Dealing with the dying off of a hive

Note: In a previous post, Amrutha wrote about the two beehives that were installed on the roof of the MaRS Centre last summer. She’ll give regular updates throughout the summer about their progress. 

Last month, the weather started getting warm enough for us to check up on our two beehives. Going into winter, one of the hives was extremely strong and the other was a definite underdog. When we opened the hives up we discovered that the strong hive had survived, but the weaker hive had died off.

So what happened? Hives can die off for many reasons, including disease, colony collapse disorder or, as in our case, starvation.

During the warmer months the worker bees (infertile females) forage for pollen and nectar to produce enough food to sustain themselves over the winter. The queen bee (the only fertile female bee) regulates the population of her hive over the seasons by the number of eggs she lays. She increases the hive’s population during the summer months and slows down over the winter to manage the production and consumption of food. If the queen mismanages her population the bees don’t produce enough honey for the winter and they all starve.

This is what starved bees look like. Their entire bodies are in the honeycomb with their rear ends sticking out.

We had to clean the thousands of dead bees out of the hive. It was a heartbreaking job, one of the most unpleasant parts of beekeeping.

We’re now in the process of getting more bees to start up a second hive, which will entail  obtaining a new queen and some worker bees to get the hive started. Stay tuned for an update when this happens.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments you can send them to And to feast your eyes on all things bees, check out our Pinterest page.