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Author Topic: They're still alive but lots of dead bees...  (Read 782 times)

Offline Sean Kelly

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They're still alive but lots of dead bees...
« on: January 05, 2008, 09:15:54 AM »
Yesterday it warmed up to almost 50 degrees and both my hives had bees coming and going!  Made me feel really good knowing they are still all okay.
BUT, when I walked up to the hives I noticed a ton of dead bees on the ground, like 10 cups each.  Big piles.  Looks like they've been dead for a long while (some mold and kinda soggy).

So have the bees just been really busy house cleaning?  They've been cooped up now for almost 3 months straight.


Sean Kelly
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Offline NWIN Beekeeper

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Re: They're still alive but lots of dead bees...
« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2008, 11:13:51 AM »

My concern would be the quantity of bees still remaining. There must still be a big enough cluster of bees to prevent the population from dwindling to below a warming critical mass. If your temps provide, I would try to evaluate the cluster size. I would also check to see where abouts in the hive the cluster is located.  In reference to their location, where and what quantity of stores remain, are these stores enough to sustain them until your spring.  If the cluster is small, try to make provisions to assure the bees have to work as little as possible to stay warm (make sure SBB are closed, perhaps tape any questionable seams, or wrap with tar paper to get some solar gain as the days grow longer). Keep in mind, as the cluster is kept warmer, so will it also consume more stores (and that doesn't even consider the soon to come brood build up and consumption).  This is way it is important to evaluate the stores.  Depending on your season, you may need to supportively feed (liquid, dry sugar, or candy board) based upon your temps and personal beliefs.

Currently it is mid-winter for me, ok it's mid winter for everyone but its the middle of the worst cold (some people get a late start on the cold, others just experience rain, etc etc).   For my area, I can't chance a wet frozen cluster so feed must be either dry sugar or a candy board.  I like candy boards because they provide just enough room to also pollen feed under them. Pollen could also aid in your situation if the population is tapering to a critically low level (it stimulates brood rearing and would increase the population (provided enough bodies are available to keep the brood warm until emergence).

Some folks will also move dwindling hives into nucs to minimize cold exposure or set the hive on top of another stronger hive for some added warmth.  I can not say that I have found either to be the saving grace needed to save hives. My ideals are the bees have laid out their combs for the winter in a certain pattern for a reason.  This reason is beyond my own reasoning and any changes I make may require the bees to re-change (consuming extra energy that the compromised hive direly needs). The best I feel I can do is support their decision with feeds to keep them energized and in good health (regardless of population).

Hope this helps, and that it doesn't instill any poor or incorrect beekeeping morals I might have.

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Offline Brian D. Bray

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Re: They're still alive but lots of dead bees...
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2008, 10:22:30 PM »

With the weather we've been having it is going to be a challenge to get into the hives for any kind of assessment.  I always wait until the 2nd day of near or above 50 degree temps before popping the top on a hive.  For December that just didn't happen.  Still hasn't for January.  I need to get into mine, especially the nucs and take a look also.  I've found that many times bees won't really break cluster to any degree, even for cleansing flights, until the 2nd day of 45+ temps. 

From the weather forecasts I'd say it will be a while before those of us from Vancouver, BC to Medford, Ore will really have an opportunity to due much, if any, checking.  I also want to rotate (east instead of south--to much of the wind comes from the south in the winter) my hives and move them a few feet, which I'll do as soon as I finish making a few more hive stands.
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