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Colony Conditions




Division of Plant Industry – Apiculture

8995 East Main Street       

Reynoldsburg, Ohio 43068-3399




Starvation: Starvation can occur in a colony if there is a lack of honey or the bees are unable to reach the honey in extremely cold temperatures. The larvae are removed by the nurse bees if short of food. When colonies are found during the spring to have died in cluster, head first in the cells, a diagnosis of starvation can be determined.


Dysentery: Dysentery is not a disease but a condition where the bees are unable to eliminate themselves away from the hive, and therefore defecate on the frames and combs or on the outside of the supers, appearing as dark spots and streaks. The lack of elimination flights and consumption of high moisture honey can cause the problem.


Chilled Brood: Chilled brood is a condition which occurs mostly in April and May, when the weather is unusually warm and there is a sudden cold snap. The outer edges of the brood pattern are chilled and die, because there was more brood than the bees could keep warm during the inclement weather. Both larvae and pupae are killed by the cold. The dead larvae many times are removed by the bees very quickly. The chilled brood’s color appearance is often yellowish-white, tinged with black. The texture can be dry, greasy or watery, but never ropy. The odor is faint and can be sour.


Drone Layer: When a queen is unable to lay fertilized eggs either because of not mating or her lack of sufficient spermatozoa, she is considered to be a drone layer. Drones are produced in worker sized cells, with the cappings being more pronounced, extending out from the comb surface. The colony usually tries to replace queens by supersedure.


Laying Worker: If a colony has been queenless and unable to requeen itself, a worker bee can begin to lay eggs. The worker’s egg laying pattern many times, is scattered and several eggs are placed in one cell. Since the worker’s abdomen is considerably shorter than a queen’s the eggs are usually deposited on the sides of the cell instead of the base. It is impossible to introduce a new queen, unless frames of unsealed brood with bees are added and all the frames where the worker has layed are moved.


Prepared by: Gordon Rudloff
State Apiarist
Ohio Department of Agriculture