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Author Topic: Winter loss and some comments  (Read 2434 times)
BjornBee
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« on: March 24, 2009, 09:32:34 AM »

After having  great loss in my nuc yards this winter, I was very nervous about going out and seeing some of the full size colonies. Although the nucs were sitting next to full size hives that seemed good, suggesting it was the cold that wiped out the nucs, I was still laying awake at night worrying about the full size colonies.

So this past Sunday, I had two local beekeepers, both beemaster members, assist me to visit one of the areas I pollinate. This what we found....

1) 15 alive  6 dead
2) 19 alive  5 dead
3)  9 alive   2 dead
4) 13 alive  4 dead
5)   7 alive  4 dead
6)  2 alive    1 dead
7)  8 alive    5 dead
8.)  2 alive    9 dead

At least 18 of the 36 dead, were completely ravaged by wax moths. One hive was a massive yellow jacket nest. An indication that half my winter losses were actually dead hives last summer or fall, and were not really winter killed hives. So if I had been doing my job, I should of combined and probably would of saved at at least 36 boxes of comb. Not counting the hives that died last fall, my winter loss stands at 19.3%  Not bad for hives I do not treated and had not fed, and were sitting in orchards.

Site #8 was a test site for queen evaluations. I expected no loss at all. All had ample food stores and looked great upon inspection in September. Why my losses were so high is unknown. Maybe a case for the location being exposed to chemicals as it is an isolated yard from the others. If I further subtract the 9 hives from this site, which I feel had something effect the kill rate, the rest of the yards would be at 10.9% loss.

Sites 1 through 7 are permanent yards in apple orchards. I had not visited them since last August.

This was a year where colony size mattered. My nucs had a poor fall flow and poor brood buildup. This no doubt caused small clusters. And this year, although we lacked any real snowstorms in this area, was a brutally cold winter. Small clusters that overwintered in years past, were knocked out.

I'll need to reevaluate my operation when it comes to overwintering nucs. Was it the cold, or the lack of a good fall nectar flow resulting in poor brood production? Would wrapping of helped? So many questions. Every year I tweak something. I'll look at what I could of done based on what I see now. I guess I should start by looking at my hives going into winter in this particular area. And my nucs may need to be wrapped or 'bundled" instead of stand alone units.

I'll be checking another group this coming week. If I do no worse than what I found on Sunday, I'll be pleased.

« Last Edit: March 24, 2009, 08:40:47 PM by BjornBee » Logged

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BeeHopper
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« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2009, 10:51:43 AM »

Bjorn,

It is disheartening to see other Beeks like yourself having losses such as this, I have overwintered 12 hives and 3 Nucs only to lose 5 hives and 2 nucs due to starvation. My last surviving Nuc is queenless. I am also reevaluating my management techniques and hive configurations, last summer I made some changes to maximize ventilation, but apparently it looks like I'm going back to what worked in my first 2 winters. I do recall having a below average nectar flow last year and some serious robbing between my hives in late fall, I may consider these as 2 of 5 possible factors in my losses.

I suppose events like this will force us to learn to be  better beekeepers, I know I'm learning from them. I wish you success in 2009  Smiley
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« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2009, 08:13:34 PM »

 I also wish you recovery in 09.
 I am "scared" to expand this year due our drought in my area. My "winter" dearth is Jul, Aug, Sept.
 Beekeeping has gotton tough in most of the US.
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beehuntertrapper
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« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2009, 09:28:10 PM »

I have yet to have a nuc overwinter. Although there is still hope I have 2yards unchecked. I dont think I am totally safe yet ,it appears that I have lost 6 out of 21 established hives and 3 out of nucs. I am as usual hoping for the best and using no pesticides.
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kathyp
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« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2009, 10:26:30 PM »

it's been a crappy couple of years.  last year was no good here.  very wet spring with starvation loss if you were not right on top of things.  poor flow later in the summer.  then a cold winter this year with a wet and cold start to spring.

i am moving some of my  hives in a few weeks.  hoping for  better foraging and less competition from the two commercial operations in my area.  don't think it can be to much worse than last year!

anyway.....one loss so far, and one that will probably be lost.  the second chalkbrood hive so i'm not going to combine or try to save it.  if it makes it, it makes it.
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« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2009, 11:00:13 PM »

I started with two hives last year and now I am down to one (strong) hive. Undecided

Report: I must report on my weaker bee hive, that finally met its end this week. At my last inspection I suspected that it had indeed gone queen-less (again) but waited until the weather warmed to again open it, inspect, and act if need be. So last week I opened it up on a warm afternoon and there were barely any bees inside the hive. Cells with numerous eggs on the sides of each confirmed my suspicions that there were laying workers. So, I disassembled the hive and shook what bees there were onto the grass about 10 feet from the other hive.  The hive still had at least 30 pounds of honey (!) in two deep boxes, with oodles of beautifully drawn out comb. I sorted it all out, filled 2 nucs and one deep in readiness for packages (3!) that I have arriving next month. I sealed each one in a giant trash bag. I will check them once a week until I use them. There was only slight evidence of wax moth which I removed, so hopefully they will be fine....(note: crying about wax moths is like blaming the maggots when you find your dead cow. They just get what can be gotten. Weak hive = wax moth opportunity)

Anyway, I am real happy and hopeful about my one strong hive and am not mourning the loss of my other hive.  Cry ...well...i am a little... They put in great effort and I will benefit from it. The packages that I install into their wonderfully drawn comb with stores of honey in place, will be poised for an impressive build up.

I understand now the need to have (way) more than one or two hives. You need other hives to absorb the stores of any failed hives, and you need the stores of stronger hives to help supplement the growth of weaker ones. Onward.

I have three packages arriving mid April and am already planning my new and improved bee yard.  Wink
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Chef Isaac
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« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2009, 11:18:50 PM »

It is good that you are documenting and thinking as to the "whys" regarding what happened. I think a lot of beekeepers, myself included until a few years ago, would just grab the dead outs, clean up and go. I think it is good to figure out the whys to things.
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homer
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« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2009, 11:51:53 PM »

I have yet to have a nuc overwinter.

Being from an area where winter are long and cold, myself, I was wondering if anyone has much success with overwintering in nucs.  It just seems to me that there is really no way of getting enough bees and stores in that small box to sustain themselves through a long winter.  And if so many are having problems with overwintering in nucs, isn't there a better option for those bees.... like combining in the fall or something else?
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blckoakbees
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« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2009, 04:16:30 AM »

Talking to members of my local bee club in Sacramento alot of experienced beekeepers had major losses.  Like they lost all their hives or most of their hives.
I lose a hive in the fall and just did the end of winter inspection to find my hive in town so full, I had to make a split.  I was lucky, I just missed having it swarm.  I had two deeps completely full of bees and lots of brood.  My other hives have made it through and have brood, but are not in as good a shape.
The weather this winter was really different.  We had warm days like spring in January and then very wet and cold in February.  The bees must be totally confused.  I was. How much did you all think the weather affected your hives.
As a relatively new beekeep I was so happy to see everything make it through the winter
Our weather was really weird. I understand the loss as I went through that last year.
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Jack
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« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2009, 08:03:08 AM »

Beekeeping can be tough in these parts and difficult as a whole. In three years I have lost my only two the first year, lost two out of three the second year only to have a visit from the bear all but destroy the remaining one. This past winter I went in with three and looks like I lost only one to a starvation. Plenty of food in there so how it goes. In all three years I have bought two packages each. This gets costly for the hobbiest, so, you gotta love it. I hope to split my remaining two this spring and nurture the five hives through the year. Takes a long time to build up at this rate and this is why die outs such as we see with Cindy are particularly disappointing.
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ArmucheeBee
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« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2009, 08:23:36 AM »

How was the fall in the northeast?  We were under severe drought in the SE and I was wondering if you had a similar drought in the NE.  I know the midwest was flooding at some point in the fall.  All my hives were started after July 20 and so never could build up in the drought.
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« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2009, 08:28:45 AM »

It's tough for a nuc to survive through the winter because there's not enough space for sufficient stores.  Probably best to move them into a full deep in late summer and feed them so they can build up enough honey to make it through the winters.
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BjornBee
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« Reply #12 on: March 25, 2009, 08:35:23 AM »

How was the fall in the northeast?  We were under severe drought in the SE and I was wondering if you had a similar drought in the NE.  I know the midwest was flooding at some point in the fall.  All my hives were started after July 20 and so never could build up in the drought.

Starting last fall and all winter, I had discussions with probably more than a hundred beekeepers, and one theme was repeated over and over...What happened to the fall flow? Unlike years past, when drought was obvious or an early frost hit. last year no clear item was available to put your finger on. But even if beekeepers fed later after the flow, I feel the brood production was probably effected, causing smaller clusters than normal.

Northern areas should really have about 60 days of brood production in the Sept/Oct timeframe. I think we were drastically cut below that, and seems to be a pattern of late. I think some hives just never raised enough brood, and others that did, instead of using a fall nectar flow, just used up too much stores in their efforts and ended up making themselves light in the process.
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gmcharlie
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« Reply #13 on: March 25, 2009, 09:25:01 AM »

Bjorn,  looks to me like sites 5-8  all had high death rates........(over 50%)   do they have something in common?Huh


As for overwintering nucs,    everthing I have read form people who are succesful at it mention bundeling or some sort of community shielding from the elements.


I have ponderd (just that mind you)  puting nucs over a regular hive with a seperator screen or queen excluder....  sharing warmth thought.......

A also wonder how much the type of nuc box matters?   if beemax boxes help so much then would a foam nuc box be the answer?
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BjornBee
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« Reply #14 on: March 25, 2009, 09:50:23 AM »

Bjorn,  looks to me like sites 5-8  all had high death rates........(over 50%)   do they have something in common?Huh


As for overwintering nucs,    everthing I have read form people who are successful at it mention bundling or some sort of community shielding from the elements.


I have pondered (just that mind you)  putting nucs over a regular hive with a separator screen or queen excluder....  sharing warmth thought.......

a also wonder how much the type of nuc box matters?   if beemax boxes help so much then would a foam nuc box be the answer?

Charlie,

5-8 are all separate yards. 5 through 7 are in orchards, and #8 is an isolated yard for breeding.

I do not group yards when dealing with death rates, other than when talking about my overall operation. Each site is effected by many things such as location with differing environmental factors, exposure to pesticides, etc. Yes combined 5 through 8 was high, as you stated over 50% (actually it is 50%... not over), but individually, only site #8 had over 50% loss. Ironically, this yard was part of the ongoing Belgium research study, and was looked at in September. The highest mite count they found in shakes was two, they tested for zero t-mites, and had very low nosema levels. None have been treated with anything. All had clean comb. To lose 91% of that yard is baffling. Perhaps when the second part of the testing is complete (Full viral and bacterial testing) more will be known. I personally think that one yard was hit late season with chemicals, but we will see.

As for overwintering nucs, I had great success the past four years. Granted, this year mother nature reached out and smacked me, and will be something to guard against repeating.

I have also considered beemax hives, but cost has kept me from buying any. I have actually had great success putting any nucs that were strong enough in a 10 frame standard hive, and putting foundant over the inner cover. If I do this in July or August, they seem to fill in the deep, and with the extra fondant on top (placed late fall), they seem to survive just fine.
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beehuntertrapper
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« Reply #15 on: March 25, 2009, 07:57:11 PM »

My nucs have been four or five frame and they were packed with bees. I have not been able to bring myself to combine them in the fall as they are all new queens and I was hoping for the best. I think this fall I will try the bundle and wrap if I have any. I don't wan't to feed and create welfare bees.
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Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #16 on: March 26, 2009, 01:56:22 AM »

I have yet to have a nuc overwinter.

Being from an area where winter are long and cold, myself, I was wondering if anyone has much success with overwintering in nucs.  It just seems to me that there is really no way of getting enough bees and stores in that small box to sustain themselves through a long winter.  And if so many are having problems with overwintering in nucs, isn't there a better option for those bees.... like combining in the fall or something else?

I've overwintered several times using 2 medium 5 frame nucs, same as a 10 frame medium but more upright and bee friendly when it comes to their controlling brood chamber temps.  If you have a deep nuc I'd suggest topping it off with a medium nuc of stores.  The cluster will be smaller in the nuc but the stores will last just as long as in a regular hive for size of cluster.  This year I plan on doing splits in early July and overwintering with 2 medium nucs again this winter.  Then sell them as overwintered nucs next spring. 

It is easier with Russians or Carnies as they are naturally a more cold weather bee and have smaller clusters anyway.
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Gware
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« Reply #17 on: March 26, 2009, 08:03:04 AM »

i dont know if some of the full colony loses were double brood boxes, but the bees that i have the bigger colonies did much better. I have read in some old books that you need the double brood boxes because a good queen cannot lay to full potential in anything smaller because she is waiting on brood to hatch and free up more space.I know that my double brood box hives survive better this winter and is already boiling with bees and my smaller hive boxes look like they are just getting started. I guess I feel like two brood boxes are best but everyone does things different. i did feed my bees as is was dry last fall as I think it was most places
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tlynn
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« Reply #18 on: March 26, 2009, 08:37:57 AM »

I am really starting to see how differences in climate and location affect management strategies and hive performance.  Going into my second year here in the burbs in Florida, if I hadn't stayed abreast of the happenings with folks in other areas I would assume all you have to do is put out some boxes, keep an eye on the beetles and mites, and pull off supers.  Since last Spring there might have been 2 months that my 2 hives were not bringing in nectar and consuming stores.  I definitely count my blessings where I live and wish everyone the best for a strong, healthy bee year!
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beehuntertrapper
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« Reply #19 on: March 26, 2009, 09:18:02 PM »

I have actually tried double decker nucs, the problem seems to be too large of a cluster. I thought with a 4 frame deep and a 4 frame medium packed full of honey it would be enough stores, but they starved as well.
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« Reply #20 on: March 26, 2009, 09:43:36 PM »

sometimes I think I do better keeping my yards closer and larger-than getting to scattered-everybody wants bees on there locations -and it is hard to tell them no but if you have to replace them because they died you are forever playing catch up-good locations that support bees with minimum work are worth there weight in gold and those are the locations you should cultivate your efforts-myself i usually know what the count will be in october-and build my strategy from there-you have got a handel on it and have your hands full -happy keeping  Wink cool  RDY-B
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Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #21 on: March 26, 2009, 10:08:45 PM »

I have actually tried double decker nucs, the problem seems to be too large of a cluster. I thought with a 4 frame deep and a 4 frame medium packed full of honey it would be enough stores, but they starved as well.

If you reduce the hive down to a double decker nuc then you will have too big of a cluster for the size of the space and available stores.  To successfully overwinter bees in a nuc they need to be kept that small and then fed to the point of being honey bound and drawing burr comb. 
If Collapsing a Hive is a must, especially after it has already laid the eggs for the late hatch, over winter, bees leaves the cluster to big all winter.  The hive must be reduced to a double decker nuc prior to the development of the late hatch bees.  Collapsing before the late hatch bees are laid as eggs dictates to the hive how much brood is necessary.  They produce the population dependent on the size of the hive boxes.
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