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Author Topic: Yet another "possibly dead hive" question  (Read 2501 times)
Linda G
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« on: October 27, 2010, 03:19:33 PM »

Bear with me, I am new at this.
We started with a purchased box of bees in April and hive was doing great.  Since we are new, we checked on them about every one to two weeks.  Saw no problems.

Here in the Santa Clara Valley, San Jose, CA we had decent weather until about one week ago.  We extracted honey - two medium supers on October 15 and bees still seemed normal. 

Since extraction, noticed signs of robbing and yellow jackets entering hive.  We closed the entrance to one - two bee size and still saw robbing and yellow jackets.  We closed the hive entrance completely and opened it for one hour at sundown to allow the bees to fly.  Every day we opened it, there were piles of dead bees at entrance along with debris from comb and some dead yellow jackets.   

On Monday, October 25 we opened the hive to inspect the brood chambers and found the bottom chamber virtually empty.  The top brood chamber has seven frames with brood, honey and bees.  We did not see the queen or eggs.  Since monday, each day has more dead bees when we open the entrance and we are pretty sure this hive is a goner.  So, my questions are:

What do we do to save the frames with comb so that we can start up new in the spring?
What do we do with the honey supers that they did not clean up - they still have honey on them from the extraction?
The frames in the upper brood chamber still have some brood and honey - what do we do with that?
We are concerned about wax moth - what do we use to prevent that?

We only have the one hive, so combining is not an option and while we are not sure what happened, it is probably beekeeper error that stimulated robbing that killed off our hive.

Thanks in advance for any help.   Linda
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AllenF
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« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2010, 07:42:10 PM »

Freeze the whole hive or at least the boxes with drawn wax.   Honey and brood will be fine in the freezer.   Your new bees in the spring will do the house cleaning.   
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fish_stix
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« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2010, 08:29:49 PM »

Before you do anything drastic go back into the hive and recheck for a queen. Queens shut down laying completely at times and since you're headed into colder weather this might be one of those times. The only thing you can do if you have to kill off the hive is to freeze the remaining good frames and honey. For empty drawn frames stack the supers and use Paramoth crystals available from the bee suppliers. Do not use moth balls. You can get the paradichlorobenzene crystals at Wal*Mart also, just make sure you get PDB only! Just pour some crystals on a paper plate on the top of the stack and cover with a plastic garbage bag, replace as they dissipate. Air them out for a couple days before putting them back on the bees.
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tecumseh
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« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2010, 07:56:07 AM »

Linda G writes:
On Monday, October 25 we opened the hive to inspect the brood chambers and found the bottom chamber virtually empty.  The top brood chamber has seven frames with brood, honey and bees.  We did not see the queen or eggs.  Since monday, each day has more dead bees when we open the entrance and we are pretty sure this hive is a goner.

tecumseh:
I know this is not in the question you asked but your description so clearly presents a very common newbee problem than I wanted to add a few comments with a question or two added along the path.

when you took the two supers did you thing the bottom box was empty?  for most first year hives and beekeepers the best advice is to take a little honey if you have had a good year but be especially careful to not take too much.  a frame or two is usually all I suggest folks remove.  when you remove the honey via tipping determine if there is anything at the bottom of the hive.

the bottom box was empty and since the bees in the top were suddenly without food they were good targets for the yellow jackets and robbers.  at the bottom of the stack empty stuff can encourage this problem since the guard bees are unlikely to guard empty frames.  breaking the burr comb when you pulled the honey may have added just a bit of encouragement to the robbers.  in the future place the empties at the top of the stack and consolidate the brood nest and honey downward... as much as anything else this informs you the beekeeper as to the resources available for the hive.

I am not certain if you use solid or screened bottom boards???  if you use the solid variety and you closed off the entrance completely and at anytime during the day the sun shone directly on the hive you may have overheated the hive (which would explain the mass of dead bodies at the bottom of the hive.

I would guess you need not look for the queen since I  suspect she is done.

moth crystals work fine as will freezing the frames (minimum for 24 hours).  there is some small hazard of contamination from moth crystals.  once treated (either method) in a few weeks (at your location) when the cooler season sets in the frames should be fine until spring.

good luck..     

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Linda G
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« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2010, 01:08:41 PM »

Thanks to all of you for the advice and information. Today is a sunny and relatively warm day. We will take the empty bottom brood chamber off. The top brood chamber did have a good store of honey along with the brood so we will check to see if it is still there or has been robbed out totally.  

During the summer inspections, we had to balance the need to inspect everything with the fact that the bees were putting comb everywhere. They filled in between the frames so that we could not remove them without cutting them apart. We were concerned about two things A. damaging the queen and B. stimulating robbing with all of the dripping honey from the cut frames. They also built comb on the top and bottom of the frames and at one point had connected both brood chambers together. They were putting honey everywhere except the honey supers. They did fill two medium supers after they had turned the bottom boxes into solid comb. IN the future, if bees do that - what do you recommend in regards to inspections? Should we cut it all out even though it is messy and we may damage the queen?  

Again, thanks for the help - I will let you know how it turned out.   Linda
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hardwood
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« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2010, 02:48:05 PM »

Were you using a queen excluder? Sometimes they will not cross the excluder and begin building comb everywhere they can below it often leading to a honey bound situation. Make sure the super comb is drawn out before using the excluder. That will entice them up. A top entrance can help as well.

Scott

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Linda G
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« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2010, 01:48:36 PM »

Well, we decided to move the upper brood chamber to the bottom of the hive.  Did a cursory inspection and did not see any eggs, again.  This time did not see any brood.  Did see lots of honey in the brood chamber.  Within one hour of the change, there were bees everywhere - flying around my house and garden and of course, the beehive.  Today, one day later, there are lots of bees flying around the hive.  I am pretty sure that they are being robbed.  I do not know what to do at this point.

To answer questions from helpful folks - we have a solid bottom board and the bees were probably overheated when we closed them off.   Also, we did use a metal queen excluder and the bees filled two medium honey supers and started working on a third before they suddenly stopped.  We figured it was the end of the honey flow and never thought that they were in trouble until it was too late. 

Again, thanks for the helpful suggestions.   Linda
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kathyp
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« Reply #7 on: October 29, 2010, 02:03:19 PM »

north central CA covers a lot of climates.  can you narrow your location down a bit?

the first thing you need to do is determine whether or not you have a queen.  if you don't and can't get one, this hive is done.  if you live in a warmer part of the state and can get a queen, you might be able to save them. 

if the box you pulled off the bottom is empty, and if your temps are dropping, you probably need to remove it completely.  if you still have some warm weather you need to feed the living tar out of them if they don't have adequate stores.  if the weather is to cold to feed, you can try to save them by putting dry sugar on the hive.  in a dry climate, you need to moisten it a bit with a spray bottle.  if you live in a wet climate, leave as is.  it will absorb moisture.

because you moved the stores to the bottom, robbing will be easier.  reduce the entrance.  they will manage the heat. 

1st find your queen.

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Linda G
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« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2010, 05:25:31 PM »

OK, We moved the empty box (it had some nectar and pollen stores in it but no bees) to the top, moved the brood chamber with bees, honey and no brood to bottom and sealed the entrance to one to two bee widths.  The robbing started in earnest this morning and is not the leisurely kind.  Tonight I plan to pull the brood chambers, check if we have any bees left and store the empty supers and brood chambers until spring.  We will then start over with a new box of bees. I do not believe that we have a queen since I have not seen any eggs the last two times I checked.   I appreciate all of the advice.  Linda G.
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AllenF
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« Reply #9 on: October 29, 2010, 08:27:56 PM »

Just how many bees are left in the "dead" hive?   If just a handful, you have a lost cause there.   And no brood or queen?   I would combine the leftover bees with your good hive and leave what's left open to be robbed out and cleaned up by your good hive. 
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Linda G
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« Reply #10 on: October 29, 2010, 09:11:58 PM »

Thanks, I only have one hive.  It is the one that is being robbed.  I just checked and the entrance reducer has been moved out of the way, possibly by the bees and the robber bees have had clear entrance to the hive all day today.  Linda G
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Linda G
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« Reply #11 on: November 03, 2010, 07:42:30 PM »

Well, we finally got to inspect the hive and brood chambers.  The robber bees were very active and kept us away from the hive.   When I checked the brood chamber, I found this on one of the frames and I would be very interested to find out if it is normal.  Is it a massive queen cell or something else.  There was a corresponding empty space on the frame next to it because it stuck out so much.  I am requesting that a photo be added to my post so hopefully it will show up.  Thanks, Linda
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tecumseh
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« Reply #12 on: November 04, 2010, 06:53:26 AM »

is this the bottom most box?

the picture shows an irregularity in the comb which is not that unusual.  attached appears to be a dry queen cell cup.. also quite normal.  some honey is in the corners of the frame which the robbers have not pilfered yet.

nothing so unusual except the condition of the comb itself suggest very little robbing too place (you would expect it to appear somewhat tattered and/or rough).

and finally some more questions..
1) are you using 10 frame equipment and how many frames did you have in the lower box?
2) at or about the time of the hives demise what was the maximum day time temperature?
3) did the hive have any kind of upper entrance?
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Linda G
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« Reply #13 on: November 04, 2010, 11:10:30 AM »

Yes,this is the bottom most box.   I am using standard ten frame equipment.  There are ten frames in each box.  I had two brood chambers and three medium honey supers.  We extracted on October 15 and left part of one honey super and noted that there was suficient honey stores in the top brood chamber.  The temp was around 70 and overcast on the days when robbing was the worst.  We tried closing off the entrance but the robbers still came.  They actually moved the entrance bar and cleaned out the hive.  There is only one entrance and that was at the bottom of the hive.  The yellow jackets were very active during the robbing, also.    Linda G
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tecumseh
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« Reply #14 on: November 05, 2010, 08:14:39 AM »

freeze the frame or spray BT on the comb and store until spring (which for you is not that far off).

next time (year/season) you may want to reduce the bottom box(s) to 9 frames since this will improve air circulation in the brood area. 

at this time I would guess that the bottom box was empty, the cluster moved upward and no longer guarded the bottom box.  the queen at the top of the stack may have ceased brood rearing due to little to nothing coming in the front door + the barbarians at the front gate likely made all members of the cluster nervous.  the proper manipulation at that time would have been to remove the empty space (sometimes stack on the top most position) and thereby bringing the brood area down towards the bottom board.  then by applying a bit of feed and waiting 10 days or so you could have looked again to see if the queen was still in the box.

almost always (has happened to me on numerous occasion) an empty bottom box means you have a tendency to take too much honey from the top of the stack.

and good luck...
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BjornBee
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« Reply #15 on: November 05, 2010, 08:25:06 AM »

Linda,
While you should always make an attempt to replace frames back in the same order you found them, this is a case of some needed easy comb management.

Take your hive tool and scrape off the bulging area of comb seen in your picture. That includes the drone and burr area. Then place this frame, and the frame that has the area with little comb (The one that faced this bulging area, putting them between two straight and full combs of other frames.

This will get the comb fixed when you get bees again.  Wink
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Linda G
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« Reply #16 on: November 05, 2010, 11:01:37 AM »

Wow, I really appreciate all of the information.  I have several beekeeping books that I use for information but nothing beats being able to ask a question and get a personal answer.  I am sure that you will hear from me again as I think that the only dumb question is the one you do not ask. 

I went through the hive boxes, scraped off the burr comb and drone cells and anything that looked weird.  We are treating the comb and storing it until spring.  I will be starting again and hopefully do not make such a severe mistake again. 

Bye the way, the California pepper trees are blooming now and I can go out and stand under them to listen to tons of happy bees collecting nectar.  This part of California, I love.   Linda
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Grant11
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« Reply #17 on: November 09, 2010, 04:09:58 PM »

Linda

Your first post is just what happened to me .  Noticed allot of yellow jackets opened the hive and no bees, no dead bees on the bottom board just gone.  There was about fifty bees in the second super, No queen. The bees were in there robbing . This  is my second year of the new  bee packages that died before
Thanksgiving . They were in two diffrent locations The bees were purchased somewhere in CA .
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Linda G
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« Reply #18 on: November 10, 2010, 11:25:53 AM »

Hello Grant.  I am still not sure what happened to my bees.  I think that they were going strong until around the first of October.  They were certainly storing honey like crazy.  Based on all of the queen cells that I found, I can only assume that they lost the queen some how and had trouble replacing her and the hive just died down and then the robbers (bees, wasps and ants) were able to overcome the last of the worker bees.  Next year I plan to spend more time checking out the brood chamber to make sure that I have a live queen.  I hope that helps.  I had a new package of bees this year from an established provider in CA - they were Italians with a new Kona Queen.  I think the bees were fine, they just suffered some event that led to their end.  I am not sure if it was beekeeper error (although it probably was) or just bad luck.  Good luck.  Linda G
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Grant11
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« Reply #19 on: November 10, 2010, 12:02:49 PM »

Linda

I talked with Jason from Sherwood farms He thought it could have been a bad queens  he was not sure but he had lost 30 hives 12 to bear damage . . Just Bad luck not beekeeper problem I guess we just have to try again , Mine also had stored allot of honey over the summer but all was robbed .
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