detecting disease in beehives

10 Signs of Disease in Beehive Inspection

Have you ever wondered how to identify signs of disease during a beehive inspection?

Picture this: you open up a hive and notice a sudden increase in bee aggression, with bees darting towards you in an unusually hostile manner. What could be causing this change in behavior?

In this discussion, we will explore the ten signs of disease that can be observed during beehive inspections. From abnormal brood patterns to the presence of pests, these indicators can help beekeepers ensure the health and well-being of their hives.

So, let's dive into the fascinating world of beekeeping and uncover the secrets that lie within the hive.

Key Takeaways

  • Unusual bee behavior, such as decreased foraging activity and aggressive behavior, can be signs of disease in a beehive.
  • Lack of food stores, including empty honeycomb cells and scarcity of pollen, can indicate potential food shortages and inadequate nutrition for the brood and colony.
  • Abnormal cell patterns and size variations, such as multiple eggs per cell and abnormal cell sizes, may suggest issues with the queen or the presence of disease.
  • Queen absence, low bee population, and hive infestation or damage can also be indicators of disease in a beehive and should be addressed promptly.

Unusual Bee Behavior

Unusual bee behavior, such as decreased foraging activity or lack of pollen collection, may indicate potential issues within the hive. These symptoms are often associated with underlying problems that require attention.

For instance, aggressive behavior, excessive fanning, or repeated bearding can be signs of stress or hive issues. Bees exhibiting these behaviors may be experiencing environmental challenges or facing threats that disrupt their normal routines.

In addition, unusual flight patterns or disorientation in bees could signal possible disease or pesticide poisoning. When bees appear confused or disoriented, it's crucial to investigate the cause to protect the colony's health.

Furthermore, clustering at the entrance or on the ground could indicate swarming or absconding, both of which require careful monitoring and management.

Lastly, if you hear unusual buzzing or humming sounds from the hive, it might suggest a disturbance or discomfort within the colony. It's essential to pay attention to these behavioral changes as they can provide valuable insights into the overall health and well-being of the hive.

Abnormal Brood Pattern

When inspecting your beehive, it's important to pay close attention to the brood pattern. A patchy brood pattern, characterized by spotty brood cells and irregular brood development, can be indicative of underlying issues.

This abnormality may suggest problems with the queen's egg-laying behavior, such as a lack of nutrients, a queen-less hive, or diseases.

Monitoring the brood pattern closely can help you identify and address any potential issues in your hive.

Patchy Brood Pattern

The presence of a patchy brood pattern in a beehive can be indicative of issues with the queen's egg-laying behavior. A healthy brood pattern is characterized by a uniform distribution of brood cells, indicating a well-mated queen.

However, a spotty brood pattern may suggest problems within the hive. It can be caused by occupied cells, where worker bees are occupying the cells to store nectar or pollen. It can also result from hygienic behavior, where worker bees remove diseased or dead larvae.

A brood pattern score of 4 or 5 indicates a queen-right hive, while a score of 1 may signify a lack of nutrients or a queen-less hive. Therefore, observing the brood pattern is crucial in assessing the health of the hive and ensuring the presence of a productive queen.

Spotty Brood Cells

Does a spotty brood pattern in a beehive indicate irregular egg-laying patterns by the queen?

Spotty brood cells may indeed suggest such irregularities. This abnormal brood pattern can be caused by various factors, including hygienic behavior or occupied cells.

It's important to note that a lack of nutrients or a queen-less hive can contribute to this irregularity as well. Hygienic bees, which uncapping cells with pests or dead larvae, may also play a role in the appearance of spotty brood cells.

When assessing the severity of the brood pattern, a score of 1 may indicate the presence of diseases or a queen-less hive. Therefore, closely monitoring and addressing any issues related to brood cells is crucial for maintaining a healthy beehive.

Irregular Brood Development

Spotty brood cells in a beehive can indicate irregularities in the queen's egg-laying behavior, potentially suggesting the presence of irregular brood development or an abnormal brood pattern. A good brood pattern is characterized by the queen starting to lay eggs in the middle of the frame and spiraling outwards towards the edges. However, irregular brood development can disrupt this pattern, resulting in spotty brood cells. There are several factors that can contribute to this irregularity, including occupied cells, late bloomers, or hygienic behavior of the bees. To help understand the significance of the brood pattern, a brood pattern score is often used. A score of 4 or 5 suggests a queen-right hive, while a score of 1 may indicate a lack of nutrients or a queen-less hive. Evaluating the brood pattern is crucial during beehive inspections as it can provide valuable insight into the health of the hive and help identify potential issues that require further investigation.

Brood Pattern Score Hive Condition
4-5 Queen-right
3 Average
2 Below average
1 Queen-less
0 Severe issues

Lack of Food Stores

Inspecting the hive for signs of disease, you should pay close attention to the presence of empty honeycomb cells and a decreased pollen supply. Numerous empty cells in the hive may indicate a lack of food stores, while insufficient pollen scattered throughout the hive suggests a deficiency in balanced nutrition for the bees and brood.

It's important to monitor the nectar levels as well, as scarce or absent nectar may require the feeding of sugar syrup to ensure adequate food stores for the bees.

Empty Honeycomb Cells

Empty honeycomb cells can be indicative of a lack of food stores within the hive. When the honeycomb cells are empty, it suggests that the bees have consumed or moved their stored honey and nectar. This situation can lead to potential food shortages for the bees, as they rely on these food stores for sustenance.

The absence of capped cells, which are sealed with beeswax to preserve the stored honey and nectar, further confirms the lack of food stores. Additionally, a scarcity of pollen in the honeycomb cells could signify a deficiency in essential protein for the bees.

Insufficient food stores in the honeycomb cells can negatively impact the hive's ability to survive winter or periods of low nectar flow. Regularly monitoring and addressing empty honeycomb cells is crucial for maintaining the health and stability of the hive.

Decreased Pollen Supply

The decreased pollen supply in the hive can have detrimental effects on the overall nutrition and health of the honey bee colony. When bees have empty or nearly empty pollen baskets, it indicates a lack of pollen stores in the hive. This can lead to inadequate nutrition for the brood and the colony as a whole.

It's essential to monitor the pollen supply to ensure that the colony can rear healthy brood and maintain a strong population. A decreased pollen supply may be a sign of reduced foraging success or limited access to pollen sources in the environment. Addressing this issue promptly is crucial in order to prevent potential negative impacts on the hive's development and productivity.

Presence of Multiple Eggs per Cell

When observing the presence of multiple eggs per cell during beehive inspection, it's crucial to consider the possibility of a laying worker rather than a queen. Laying workers can occur in a queenless hive or a hive with a failing queen. This abnormal behavior can have detrimental effects on the brood development within the bee colony.

To emphasize the importance of this issue, consider the following points:

  • Multiple eggs per cell are abnormal and can lead to poor brood development.
  • Identifying multiple eggs during inspection may require intervention to reestablish a healthy brood pattern.
  • The presence of multiple eggs per cell may warrant further investigation into the hive's queen status and overall health.
  • Laying workers can negatively impact the genetic diversity of the colony, as they're unable to mate with drones.
  • Introducing a new queen or providing the colony with a frame of eggs from another healthy hive can help suppress laying worker behavior.

It is essential to address the presence of multiple eggs per cell promptly to ensure the hive's vitality and productivity. By understanding the potential causes and consequences of this issue, beekeepers can take appropriate measures to rectify the situation and maintain a thriving bee population.

Supersedure or Swarm Cells

When inspecting your beehive, it's important to pay attention to the presence of supersedure or swarm cells.

Supersedure cells are typically larger and fewer in number than swarm cells and can be found in the middle of the frame. These cells may indicate that the bees are preparing to replace their queen, either due to age or poor performance.

Identifying supersedure cells can prompt you to consider getting a new queen or providing the bees with a frame of worker brood to create a new supersedure cell.

Cell Patterns Indicating Disease

Supersedure or swarm cells within the beehive indicate changes in the queen's status or the bees' intent to swarm, requiring careful evaluation and potential hive management decisions. These cells can provide valuable insights into the overall health and behavior of the hive. Here are five key points to consider:

  • Supersedure cells are typically larger and fewer in number compared to queen cells for emergency replacement.
  • Supersedure cells are usually found in the middle of the frame, while swarm cells are located on the lower parts of the frame or at the bottom of the comb.

The presence of supersedure or swarm cells may indicate the need for queen evaluation and potential hive management decisions. Monitoring the presence and development of these cells is crucial in understanding the hive's future and addressing potential issues.

It's essential to assess the presence of worker brood alongside these cells to determine the health and reproductive capacity of the hive.

Abnormal Cell Size Variations

After examining the cell patterns indicating disease in beehives, it's now important to focus on abnormal cell size variations, specifically those associated with supersedure or swarm cells. These abnormal cell size variations, often characterized by larger peanut-shaped cells, are indicative of the presence of supersedure or swarm cells.

Supersedure or swarm cells are created by the bees to replace an existing queen or prepare for swarming. It's crucial for beekeepers to regularly monitor the presence of these cells as they can provide valuable insights into the hive's population and overall health. However, it's important to note that the presence of these cells may require the beekeeper to take action to prevent swarming or manage the hive's queen status.

Additionally, it's essential to consider the impact of Varroa mites on the development of abnormal cell size variations. By understanding and addressing these variations, beekeepers can ensure the health and productivity of their hives.

Queen Absence

The absence of eggs or young larvae in the hive indicates a potential queen absence. If you observe a lack of brood pattern or capped brood, it could be a sign that the queen isn't present in the hive.

Another clue to look for is the presence of supersedure cells with eggs. Supersedure cells are created by the worker bees when they sense the absence of a queen and try to replace her by raising a new queen.

If you notice a decline in the overall population of the hive without new brood, it's likely that the queen is absent. Additionally, pay attention to any unusual behavior among the worker bees such as increased aggression or confusion. These behaviors can be a result of queen absence, as the colony may become disoriented and restless without a leader.

In order to address a queen absence, it's important to take action and introduce a new queen to the hive as soon as possible.

Low Bee Population

A decrease in bee population within a hive is a potential indicator of underlying issues that need to be addressed. When observing a low bee population, it's crucial to assess the need for intervention to prevent hive loss. There are several factors that may contribute to a decline in bee population, such as swarm season, the absence of a queen, or the need for a new worker brood frame. Evaluating the current hive fullness and observing the rate of hive growth can provide valuable insights into the issue of low bee population.

To determine if the low bee population is due to the absence of a queen, it's important to check for the presence of supersedure cells with eggs inside or the presence of a new queen. If the queen is absent, introducing a new queen or a new worker brood frame can help replenish the bee population.

Additionally, assessing the overall health of the hive and looking for signs of disease is essential, as diseases can significantly impact bee population.

Significant Population Change

To accurately assess the health of a beehive, it's crucial to monitor any significant changes in bee population. The population of honey bees within a beehive can provide valuable insights into the hive's overall condition. Here are some key points to consider when evaluating population changes:

  • Pay attention to any decrease or increase in bee population as it may indicate significant changes within the hive. A sudden decline in bee numbers could be a sign of disease or other issues that need immediate attention.
  • During swarm season, it's important to assess if the hive needs intervention such as introducing a new queen or worker brood frame. This can help maintain a healthy population and prevent the loss of bees due to swarming.
  • Evaluate the hive's current capacity and determine if additional boxes are needed based on population growth. Providing enough space for the bees to expand is essential for their well-being.
  • Observe the rate of hive growth and consider external factors like pests, predators, and diseases to anticipate future hive needs. These factors can impact the population and may require proactive measures to ensure the hive's health.
  • Note the number of seams in the top box that are full of bees. This can provide insights into the population's growth rate and overall strength.

Excessive Drone Population

After assessing the hive's overall population, it's important to focus on the subtopic of excessive drone population as it can indicate an imbalance in the hive's reproductive system and potentially impact honey production.

An excessive drone population refers to a high number of drones relative to worker bees within the hive. This imbalance may suggest a lack of a mated queen, which can have negative consequences for the hive's health and stability.

Excessive drone population can be identified through the presence of an unusually large number of drone larvae. Drones are male bees whose primary role is to mate with queens from other colonies. While drones play a crucial role in the overall reproductive cycle of honeybees, an excessive population of drones can disrupt the hive's dynamics.

This imbalance can lead to diminished pollination efficiency and a decrease in overall hive productivity. Additionally, an imbalanced drone population can be a sign of a failing or absent queen, which requires evaluation and potential intervention to rectify the issue.

Monitoring and addressing excessive drone population is crucial for maintaining the hive's reproductive health and ensuring its long-term sustainability. By ensuring a balanced drone population, beekeepers can promote a healthy hive environment and maximize honey production.

Hive Infestation or Damage

Inspecting the hive for signs of infestation or damage is crucial for ensuring the overall health and productivity of the bee colony. Here are some key indicators to look out for:

  • Presence of unusual pests or parasites: Varroa mites, small hive beetles, or wax moths in the hive can indicate infestation or damage. These pests can weaken the colony, spread diseases, and damage honeycomb.
  • Abnormal brood pattern: Keep an eye out for spotty brood, discolored larvae, or sunken cappings. These irregularities may be signs of disease or damage within the hive. It's important to address these issues promptly to prevent further spread.
  • Presence of excessive dead bees: If you notice an unusually high number of dead bees in or around the hive, it could be a sign of infestation or damage. Additionally, be alert for any unusual odors or moldy and fermented stored food, as these can also indicate problems in the hive.
  • Physical damage to the hive: Inspect the wooden components of the hive for any holes, cracks, or warping. These signs of physical damage may suggest environmental damage or pest activity. Repair or replace damaged parts to maintain the structural integrity of the hive.
  • Decrease in bee population or aggressive behavior: A sudden decrease in bee population or increased aggression among the bees can be indicative of stress caused by infestation, damage, or disease within the hive. Monitor the colony closely to identify and address the underlying issue.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Identify a Bee Disease?

To identify a bee disease, look for common signs and symptoms like a spotty brood pattern, aggression or calmness in behavior, and the presence of a well-mated queen. Take steps to prevent and treat diseases to ensure hive health.

What Do You Look for in a Hive Inspection?

When conducting a hive inspection, you should look for signs of disease. Common indicators include abnormal brood patterns, dead or dying bees, foul odors, and unusual behaviors. Identifying bee diseases is crucial for maintaining a healthy hive.

What Does an Unhealthy Bee Hive Look Like?

An unhealthy beehive may exhibit a decrease in bee population, aggressive behavior despite smoking, lack of honey, spotty brood pattern, or a change in queen marking. Understanding common bee diseases helps identify these signs.

How Do You Know if You Have Foulbrood?

To know if you have foulbrood, watch out for a foul smell, irregular or sunken brood cappings, discolored or perforated brood cells, dead larvae with stringy texture, spotty brood patterns, and scale-like remains.


In conclusion, by carefully observing and evaluating various signs during beehive inspections, beekeepers can effectively identify potential diseases and issues affecting their colonies.

Monitoring bee behavior, brood patterns, food stores, egg laying patterns, queen presence, and the presence of pests or damage can provide valuable insights into the health of the hive.

This scientific approach allows beekeepers to take necessary measures to ensure the well-being and productivity of their bee colonies.

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