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Author Topic: How many dead bees in winter is normal??  (Read 5630 times)
Dr. B in Wisconsin
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« on: December 16, 2010, 05:58:58 PM »

Hello
Just kind of curious, I live in Wisconsin and it was down to -10 F the other day and with snow on the ground its very easy to see how many dead bees are being carried out and left in the snow. I think I may count them and keep track, but when its so cold outside it may not be much fun. So my question is, in a cold climate like mine about how many dead bees will be brought out in one normal day during winter? This is my first year winter.
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kathyp
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« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2010, 06:30:20 PM »

when they drop on my snow, it looks like the snow is sprinkled with pepper.  it's a good sign that they are cleaning house.  sign of a healthy hive.
in spring, when you clean your BB, you'll probably find another pile of dead bees.
i can't give you a number, but lots of bees die over the winter....and all year....i think we just see them more at this time of the year.
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« Reply #2 on: December 16, 2010, 10:11:28 PM »

Another thing to consider is how many birds are flying in your area.   They clean up around the hives also so the dead bees are disappearing.
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Finski
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« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2010, 01:25:15 AM »

Hello
Just kind of curious, I live in Wisconsin and it was down to -10 F the other day and with snow on the ground its very easy to see how many dead bees are being carried out and left in the snow. I think I may count them and keep track, but when its so cold outside it may not be much fun. So my question

Makes no sence to calculate them. You cannot find them.
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T Beek
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« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2010, 05:28:19 AM »

I'm in Northwest Wisconsin with temps the last 4-5 nights down to minus 18-22, and on average I guess I'll notice 20-50 dead bees scatered in front "IF" its been 20+ something, sunny and calm during the day.  Have you noticed little death swirls in the snow?  Don't know if its the undertakers who couldn't make it back or sick bees (they look healthy).  Although they have their own schedual.  I try to check out my hives at least everyother day even during winter, using a stethascope to check on cluster location.  Sometimes only one has cleaned house, some times they all do, but I trust they Know what they're doing.

Yesterday only my long hive had bees in front.  Todays another day.

thomas
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Acebird
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« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2010, 11:28:35 AM »

I always thought they didn't go outside when it was so cold.  I am wondering if it is some that took a chance to go out and take a dump but didn't make it back in in time.

Count all you want but what ever is happening I wouldn't open that hive up just now.
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T Beek
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« Reply #6 on: December 20, 2010, 05:36:13 AM »

No-I never open my hives during winter.  I'll check on them listening with my stethascope and count any dead bees scatered around.  Sorry for the misunderstanding.

As for whether they fly around, I'm sure some of the dead are just what you discribe, and others were likely part of the clean up crew who also didn't make it back in time.  Its not uncommon for me to see one or two (on a more mild day, but still cold) buzz by me griping a dead sister flying into the woods.  I cannot help but think that those won't make it back. But who knows, its not like I can follow them grin

thomas
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« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2010, 08:32:51 AM »

I always leave a small spacer rim on the hive over the winter.  That way, when the weather isn't too bad I can crack the top and see where they are and what they are doing.

If they are all packed up at the top, I'll also try seeing between frames...if I don't see honey, then it is time to pour on some sugar or crystallized honey.

I've never had a hive die from peeking in the top.  I have however had a few die from starvation from my miscalculating how much honey to leave.

Rick
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Rick
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« Reply #8 on: December 20, 2010, 09:14:10 AM »

If it stays too cold, too long for the cluster to move to their stored honey, they will starve, sometimes right next to their stores.  It happens all too often to Northern Beeks.

thomas
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« Reply #9 on: December 20, 2010, 09:53:24 AM »

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If it stays too cold, too long for the cluster to move to their stored honey, they will starve, sometimes right next to their stores.  It happens all too often to Northern Beeks.

Any known solution to this problem?  Logic says add heat.  That creates two other questions: How much? and When?
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« Reply #10 on: December 20, 2010, 10:49:29 AM »

I've been asking that question for several years.  The Old-timers (older than me anyway) used to bring their hives inside their basements or rootcellars.  I don't like the idea of heating them, I think its best to allow them to acclimate, which means "doing what ever you have the heart to do" to keep them alive.  At least for the first few years as you learn and they hopefully survive.  That's the "keeper" in beekeeper I've found out.

thomas
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« Reply #11 on: December 20, 2010, 11:49:11 AM »

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I don't like the idea of heating them, I think its best to allow them to acclimate,


If they are dieing they are not acclimating.  When I say heat I was thinking just enough heat to break the ice so to speak.  Maybe a day or two to give them a chance to reach the honey and then turn it off for a week.  I wasn't thinking heating the whole season.  I agree that would be bad.
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« Reply #12 on: December 20, 2010, 11:55:52 AM »

if you "heat" them up they'll be "fooled" into thinking its time to break cluster, start nursing larva and all kinds of other Spring preparation activities that are best left for them to decide "once temps have warmed and there's forage available."

thomas
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« Reply #13 on: December 20, 2010, 12:26:50 PM »

OKay, what happens when it is single digit weather for two solid weeks and then you get a 40 degree day?  If you added heat in the middle of the first week just enough to simulate the 40 degree day wouldn't that be the same?

Last February we had a heat wave that put temperatures into the 60's and then nose dived back down in the teens the next week.  We usually get a January thaw that is very similar.  Does that screw up the bees or does that help them make it through?
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« Reply #14 on: December 20, 2010, 12:48:40 PM »

It is unusual for a strong hive to starve and die within inches of a cluster, although it can and does happen.  A weak hive will a lot quicker though.

Yes, that January/Feb thaw can hurt the bees, although it is much worse if it happens in March (here in zone 6).  You are best off making sure they have enough honey and that they are adequately protected, and then just stop worrying about them, there isn't much you can do.

On another note...my observation hive has a tiny cluster and 1.5 frames of honey, yet the bees have always made it to spring.  It is 70-80F in that room all winter, and they don't start raising brood till March.  (Then they crash in May when the beetles, who enjoy the 80F room, massacre them)
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Rick
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« Reply #15 on: December 20, 2010, 12:52:28 PM »

We've had weeks where it didn't get above zero and had bees thrive come Spring with no more assistance than a good dry sugar feeding in the fall and 2 inches of rigid insulation on top.  

I "think" that any warm up, whether artificial or natural that occures "before" there is available forage, causes trauma to the bees and will more likely kill them as help them.  For sure they'll start gorging on whatever stores they have put up only to have nothing available (unless you feed sugar) till Spring.  

But that's me, if you wanna experiment, go to it man.  I just don't think it would be helpful.  Bees have been kept in worse climates than ours without resorting to artificial heating.

the bees are the "only" experts.

thomas
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T Beek
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« Reply #16 on: December 20, 2010, 01:45:09 PM »

 8-)Wow! Just watched the latest video from "BEE NATURALl"  Amazing and timely for this thread/discussion.  Check it out.  If I wasn't such a technopeasent I'd link yas.  oh well.  I'm gonna go watch again cool

thomas
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« Reply #17 on: December 20, 2010, 02:21:45 PM »

Thomas, it sounds like this discussion is going is circles.  If the bees can't reach the honey because of extended periods of cold they are not going to reach the sugar either.  I am not talking about warming the box up to your living room temp I was only thinking out loud about adding enough heat just so they can reach their stores.  Feeding sugar or not feeding sugar has nothing to do with the bees starving when there was enough of there own food.

"Bee natural" is this another forum/ discussion on this site or something else?
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« Reply #18 on: December 20, 2010, 02:50:48 PM »

When its very cold they consume very little, they consume more as it gets warm, whether naturally or by any other means.  I still believe its best not to mess with them.  Did you check out the video? it explained alot to me.

thomas
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« Reply #19 on: December 20, 2010, 02:55:33 PM »

I'd like to but you got to give me an idea where to find it.
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« Reply #20 on: December 20, 2010, 03:02:55 PM »

Bee Natural is what its called. beenaturalwordpress.com

thomas
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« Reply #21 on: December 20, 2010, 03:03:59 PM »

thanks
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« Reply #22 on: December 20, 2010, 03:06:03 PM »

check out the one on bee HEAT, its simply amazing cool
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« Reply #23 on: December 20, 2010, 03:23:48 PM »

http://beenatural.wordpress.com/

I got it.  You were mising a period.  Nice video, thanks for the heads up.
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« Reply #24 on: December 20, 2010, 03:28:57 PM »

Sorry, but this won't be the first Time I've admitted to being a self-confessed tech-NO-peasent cheesy  Dennis site is full of good info for those wanting to keep bees as naturally as possible and the feedback can be very cool sometimes.  One of my favorite places to visit.

thomas
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« Reply #25 on: December 20, 2010, 08:14:52 PM »

I've been asking that question for several years.  The Old-timers (older than me anyway) used to bring their hives inside their basements or rootcellars.  I don't like the idea of heating them, I think its best to allow them to acclimate, which means "doing what ever you have the heart to do" to keep them alive.  At least for the first few years as you learn and they hopefully survive.  That's the "keeper" in beekeeper I've found out.

thomas
I am trying a variation of this. I moved my hives inside my cattle trailor. I believe it is more important to keep them dry and out of the wind. They can take care of the cold if they have enough stores. I'll let you know how this works in the spring. As far as dead bees I seem to get a handful each day that the weather is above 30 degrees.
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« Reply #26 on: December 21, 2010, 06:49:27 AM »

AGREED skatesailor.  There's another beek around here who does something similar, hauling his bees here and there in an old bus.  It works well for him.  Bees are kept out of any "wet or rainy/cold" with entrances facing outside for those moments they can stretch their wings.  Very cool and DO let us all know how it turns out.

thomas
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Tommyt
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« Reply #27 on: December 21, 2010, 09:02:13 AM »

This is unreal hope you don't mind me linking it

Bee Vision and Heater Bees
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« Reply #28 on: December 21, 2010, 07:57:49 PM »

Does anyone have any data to back up the statement made in the video about bees incubated at 34C becoming nurse bees and the bees incubated at a 1 degree C difference living longer? I was under the impression that honeybees went to different tasks based on age and not based on their incubation temperature.
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« Reply #29 on: December 22, 2010, 05:16:04 AM »

There's a lot we "don't know" about honeybees, that's the most honest reponse.  Technology, in this case infra-red photography, took us humans a little bit closer to understanding them.  I've watched at least a dozen times.

thomas
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« Reply #30 on: December 22, 2010, 07:31:01 AM »

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I was under the impression that honeybees went to different tasks based on age and not based on their incubation temperature.

I don't see why both can't be true.
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« Reply #31 on: December 22, 2010, 09:06:17 AM »

There's likely other (many) factors we're not aware of as well. 

I'm on my way out to check my hives right now.  I'll report on any dead since its 28F ABOVE zero, warmest in a couple weeks.  Some were cleaning house yesterday, got up to 26.  Kinda worried about 2  colonies.

thomas
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« Reply #32 on: December 22, 2010, 06:22:41 PM »

29 degrees and windy but the sun was out. About a dozen and a half dead bees out of 4 hives stored in my cattle trailor. Don't know how many the chickens got outside the trailor.
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AllenF
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« Reply #33 on: December 22, 2010, 09:16:31 PM »

I doubt many of the dead bees made it outside the trailer.
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Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #34 on: December 24, 2010, 06:48:50 PM »

The loss of 1/3 to 1/2 of the bees that went into cluster during the winter is not that unusual.  The important thing is to emerge with a queen and a cluster large enough to respond to spring stimulus.  This can be done with a softball size cluster come spring.  I've successfully overwintered bees in a double stacked medium nuc (2 medium 5 frames) and then had it go on to grow to 4 medium box brood nest plus surplus over the course of a season.  Late swarms or splits are ideal for this approach.  It is also a great way to develop survivor stock.

Currently I have bottemless hives facing a south wind and experience temps averaging the mid 20's for a week or more at a time and haven't lost hives except for blow overs.  Hives that get blown or knocked over during cold periods lose the ability to retain heat in the cluster as most of the boxes become exposed to the air at both top and bottom.

A cluster of bees will survive if they have sufficient stores, the hive integrity doesn't get compromised (knocked over), they don't get wet, and the temps don't dive to the basement for 10-14 days straight so they can't retrieve stores.
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« Reply #35 on: December 24, 2010, 09:06:43 PM »

I got to ask, how does a 60 pound hive get blown over if it is only 18in high?  Don't you set up a wind break for the prevailing winds (natural or otherwise)?
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« Reply #36 on: December 24, 2010, 10:16:25 PM »

The last hive I had to fall over was a foot off the ground on steel supports and a poplar limb broke came down on top of it during a bad storm.   Broke the top and warped the top super. 
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« Reply #37 on: December 24, 2010, 11:52:33 PM »

I got to ask, how does a 60 pound hive get blown over if it is only 18in high?  Don't you set up a wind break for the prevailing winds (natural or otherwise)?

Flying debris, 80-90 mph winds are known to be of low hurricane strength and a flying limb, 2x4, or what ever can knock a hive off its stand. A 4x8 sheet of plywood ripped from a neighbors shed took out 2 hives.
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« Reply #38 on: December 25, 2010, 07:18:30 AM »

In my limited experience over five seasons, my winter survivor hives loose "at least half their starter bees" by the time Spring arrives.  It would be discouraging if they didn't build back up so quick.

thomas
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