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Author Topic: how to know if the hive is ok in the winter  (Read 3430 times)
slacker361
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« on: December 26, 2010, 09:48:02 PM »

I am pretty sure i dont want to open the hive to much as the heat loss would be bad, I think..  But here in western PA it has been below freezing now for about a month, and I went and checked the hive, there are some dead bees at the entrance, and the top hive feeder still has plenty of syrup and is still in liquid form , so  I am sure the hive is making some heat to keep that thawed.  But is there an easy way to tell whether I should order one or two nuc next year  ( LOL I only have one hive)
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backyard warrior
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« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2010, 10:12:26 PM »

The liquid syrup does nothing for the bees this time of year they wont break cluster to feed on it. Also the liquid adds moisture to the hive and that isnt  a good thing this time of year.  U can tap on the side and listen to hear if they are buzzing at all.  The best thing to do is leave them bee till spring time.  Wink 
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AllenF
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« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2010, 10:17:47 PM »

Stick your fingers in the entrance and shake the box a lot to see if you can feel any bees.   grin

No really, the next time the temp gets up to 45, 50 degrees, you can quickly check on the bees when you pull that syrup out of the hive.
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« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2010, 11:44:34 PM »

I do as another poster stated.  Put your ear up to the hive body and have a listen.  If you cannot hear a low humming noise then gently tap on the box, you should hear the bees.
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« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2010, 02:35:09 AM »

I myself am not scared to pop the inner cover open to take a peek on warmer days to see if they still have honey left and are alive.  You will not kill them by doing this.  Best days to do this in my area are when its upper twenty's or into thirty's if lucky enough, no wind and sunny.

You can also put your ear to the side of hive and hear them buzzing.  If you hear nothing give a tap on hive with your knuckle and you should hear a buzz and know they are alive.  If you hear nothing they are most likely dead.  Once you know which ones are alive and dead look at top of hives.  On warmer days you will notice the ones that are alive will have wet tops under snow and dead ones will be froze solid.  Once you have this down you can tell by this alone which ones are dead or alive for the most part.

Some hives that have lots of bees in them, buzz so loud you can hear it plan as day just standing in front of hive.
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« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2010, 08:16:26 AM »

What ever you do don't put you ear to the entrance and start Knocking delivery
 JP got one in the ear in a Video  shocked
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jhs494
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« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2010, 12:25:35 PM »

I use a stethoscope. You can hear them without tapping on the box. I work my way around and see how high up I can hear them. (neighbors prolly think I am crazy)
I only open when it gets above 50 degrees and then only to add sugar candy if they need it. Last year we had some days in Jan. that warmed up and we took a quick peek.
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Joe S.
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« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2010, 07:56:38 PM »

When temps go up later this week Ill be peeking into the tops of the hives to see where the cluster is located.  If they are at the top, ill be adding fondant as an emergency feed.  if the bees are flying then I generally take that as a sign that I can make a quick check this time of year
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« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2010, 10:16:25 AM »

Get a metal clothes hanger. Bend it at the end to make a hook. Stick it in the entrance. Fish it around to clean out dead bees that could block the entance inside. If you do it long enough, you will bring the guards out to investigate. Then you will know if they are still alive. All you have to see is just one. While you are fishing, you can also be looking in the entrance with a flashlight. You should see bees moving around inside the floor. Then leave them alone. I find this method better then opening the top and taking a risk of chilling them. Then on a warmer day you can check their stores. This works for me.

I not an expert and don't claim to bee.
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Hethen57
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« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2010, 12:24:23 PM »

I have also found that fishing out the dead bees once or twice during the winter is probably beneficial to hive health because they can start to get moldy.  Unfortunately, I just found two more dead hives over the weekend which were probably the result of poorly performing queens, or queens that were killed during the fall robbing.  They had lots of honey stores, but the clusters were too small to keep the hive warm and they froze in the small clusters.
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« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2010, 04:15:09 PM »

Provide a top entrance and you dont need to worry about bees blocking the entrance.  A top entrance will also help moisture get out the top.  I find my bees like to cluster next to the top entrance for some reason.  Not sure why this is but they do.  I just checked nine colonies today and half were up top eating fondant in cluster right next to entrance.  Others were still down out of sight.

People are way to paranoid about opening the inner cover to take a peek at bees on sunny, low wind, upper twenty into thirty's days in my opinion.  If the bees can handle twenty or thirty below zero and fifty mile an hour winds blowing, popping the inner cover on a thirty degree sunny day for thirty seconds is not going to hurt them.

Ill leave it at that.  Bash me if you wish.
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rdy-b
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« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2010, 08:30:36 PM »

I use a stethoscope. You can hear them without tapping on the box. I work my way around and see how high up I can hear them. (neighbors prolly think I am crazy)
I only open when it gets above 50 degrees and then only to add sugar candy if they need it. Last year we had some days in Jan. that warmed up and we took a quick peek.
IF you cant afford the stethoscope use a piece of rubber hose-we do this at the farmers market
            for the kids with the observation hive always gets a smile-RDY-B
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« Reply #12 on: December 29, 2010, 08:58:25 AM »

Sounds like I do similar to bee-nuts....

First I check the snow at the top.  A live hive will have an indention in the middle as the snow melts from cluster heat.

Then an ear to the hive...has to be a good ear to hive seal, and a tap.

Last, only a couple times a year, I'll lift the top and peek in (I have rim spacers on, no inner covers, minimal hassle and disturbance).  See where the cluster is, quick honey check.  If they are packed up to the top or I can't see some honey in the frame tops, then they need some sugar put on. 

I have 1" holes in the boxes, so ventilation and entrances isn't an issue.

Rick
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Rick
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« Reply #13 on: December 29, 2010, 01:38:48 PM »

If you find the bees are not OK what are you going to do anyway?  We are suppose to have a 40 degree day this weekend.  Maybe I will take a peek just for the heck of it.
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slacker361
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« Reply #14 on: December 29, 2010, 06:35:18 PM »

well if they are not ok, i will do mouth to bee resuscitation LOL  no no   it is just to see how many bees i need to order for the spring
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rdy-b
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« Reply #15 on: December 29, 2010, 09:43:47 PM »

If you find the bees are not OK what are you going to do anyway?  We are suppose to have a 40 degree day this weekend.  Maybe I will take a peek just for the heck of it.
  there are many things that you can do -depends whats going on-perhaps move outside
frames of honey closer in so theres a frame against the cluster-or perhaps find a feeder full of rain water and empty
 it-sometimes i switch placement of strong for weak colonies giving them a chance to equal out so they get a even start-maybe they need more sub-or one sure fire way to tell if something is wrong is if they haven't touched there sub and the others finished theres -if the bees are flying take a look might just save them from Doom-RDY-B
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Acebird
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« Reply #16 on: December 30, 2010, 09:03:33 AM »

 
Quote
if they haven't touched there sub and the others finished theres


What is a sub?
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« Reply #17 on: December 30, 2010, 09:22:13 AM »

a sub, some people call then heros or porboiys torpedos , you know those sandwiches subway sells, i just didn't know they delivered to the bee hive......... ok i think he meant substitute but i could be wrong
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Acebird
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« Reply #18 on: December 30, 2010, 09:28:43 AM »

I could be wrong slacker but I made an assumption that you were starting out, maybe with only one hive like us so there isn't much for substitution is there?
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« Reply #19 on: December 30, 2010, 02:27:18 PM »

  pollen suplament-protien patty-(SUBSTUTE for lack of natural pollen flow)
but in your case Acebird it whould be BANNANAS- Wink  RDY-B
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slacker361
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« Reply #20 on: December 30, 2010, 05:48:53 PM »

@ acebird, I am a NEWBEE my hive will be one year old in april or may , can remember which, I was pretty happy with the 70 lbs of honey grin grin  I got from them, I hope that I didn't take to much
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L Daxon
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« Reply #21 on: December 31, 2010, 09:23:55 AM »

I briefly got into my two hives yesterday afternoon for the first time since mid-Nov.  Temp outside was in the mid 60s and the bees were flying like crazy.  I set out about 2 1/2  cups of syrup and it was gone in a couple of hours.
Girls looked like they had plenty of stores but I saw NO brood.  We've had a couple of weeks of sub-freezing nights (even down to about 15 degrees) but no days where the highs weren't at least above freezing.  Most days we have been in at least the 40s and I see the girls out quite a bit.
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linda d
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« Reply #22 on: December 31, 2010, 09:35:00 AM »

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I was pretty happy with the 70 lbs of honey

Sounds like a lot to me on the first year.  You didn't take anything from the deeps did you and you are wintering over with two of them or one?
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« Reply #23 on: December 31, 2010, 10:18:06 AM »

two deeps and a medium, I did not take any from the deeps. they also had a ton of brood going into the winter, so I am hoping that when I buy two packages this spring that I will have three hives and not just two   rolleyes
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« Reply #24 on: December 31, 2010, 03:10:13 PM »

I just wait until a day like today when it reaches 50°. All bees will be flying if the hives are in the sun... lots of bees flying from all hives, so I'm pretty sure no losses yet. Still, March is the critical month IMO. I'll be checking stores and putting patties on at the end of Feb. Candy boards are all still full and basically untouched. I don't like to break the seals on the hive before the hardest part of winter is over.
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« Reply #25 on: January 01, 2011, 04:54:36 AM »

If you find the bees are not OK what are you going to do anyway?  We are suppose to have a 40 degree day this weekend.  Maybe I will take a peek just for the heck of it.


This is one thing you could do.  These bees are as far up as they can go and its not even january yet.  They would not have a chance unless the honey fairy came and gave them a honey comb refill.

http://i642.photobucket.com/albums/uu144/mofrapy/201012292324371.jpg?t=1293875131

http://i642.photobucket.com/albums/uu144/mofrapy/201012292324374.jpg?t=1293875131

http://i642.photobucket.com/albums/uu144/mofrapy/201012292324377.jpg?t=1293875130

http://i642.photobucket.com/albums/uu144/mofrapy/2010122923243710.jpg?t=1293875130

I added a full deep of honey, insulation, and felt.  I will come back and give em a hive top feeder with a ventilation hole.  These girls had plenty of honey.  They are seriously hungry.  They are mean too.  They lit me up good a few times last summer.  I was kind of thinking they may have a touch of AHB and kind of expected them to be dead.  I really hope they have no AHB cause they look like they are going to give me some good splits come spring.
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« Reply #26 on: January 01, 2011, 03:08:59 PM »

bee-nuts, thank you for posting those photos! That is very similar to what my hive looks like now, except my whole entire top deep plus about 1/2 the one below it, is chock-full of extremely peckish bees. No amount of smoke is calming them, they are buzzing at me like mad. They had at least 130 lbs. when I checked in September: two full deeps I could barely lift, plus one that was about 1/2 full in late Sept. I reckoned that would be plenty, but it seems they have eaten everything. I see plenty of dead bees scattered in the snow--am not sure if this is normal die-off (we just had a couple weeks of frigid temps in the teens) and they are taking today's warm weather as a housecleaning opportunity, or what. So I peeked inside, and they are all there right in the top, most definitely very alive and very angry.

We had a late summer, the weather didn't turn truly chilly until almost November. I wonder if they expanded their brood nest in October? There were flowers for them to eat, even in October. Normally this hive is so calm I can work with only a veil, no coat or gloves necessary, and not get a single sting. But boy are they ever hot now! I needed the full suit just to give them an entrance feeder of sugar water, hoping a snack will calm them down enough that they stop buzzing when I walk by...

Anyway, great pics! Thanks again, that is really helpful!
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« Reply #27 on: January 01, 2011, 11:13:16 PM »

We had an early winter and cold for November and December.  We had 22 inches of snow a couple weeks ago.  I checked on these the 24th or 26th (cant remember for sure) and saw they needed honey.  When I added this it was 40+ degrees (warmest in probably over a month) and the snow had melted alot.  There was a large pile of dead bees right outside entrance too that I could not see untill snow melted.  Im guessing they did not shut down and kept raising brood.  I did not keep records and I really need to cause Im guessing they probably supercieded late in season and queen went to town or it is something we all hope cant survive up here.  I also took four frames or more of brood from this colony at end of july to make nucs.  The colony was a hive gone bonkers, made lots of honey, but was mean as all heck.  It left well over 50 stings in my jacket and veil when I pulled brood for nucs.  I alway worked it last cause they would follow me all over the yard and not five up.  I never counted stingers but there was well over 50, maybe a 100 or more that one time.



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« Reply #28 on: January 02, 2011, 11:06:19 AM »

I did not keep records and I really need to cause Im guessing they probably supercieded late in season and queen went to town or it is something we all hope cant survive up here.  
Oh my...Is it like Voldemort, you can't say the name a-H-B or they will show up? I had read somewhere (can't remember where) that Italians sometimes just do this sort of thing, they are not good about winterizing, hence one of the desirable traits of Russians.

Quote
I also took four frames or more of brood from this colony at end of july to make nucs.  The colony was a hive gone bonkers, made lots of honey, but was mean as all heck.  It left well over 50 stings in my jacket and veil when I pulled brood for nucs.  I alway worked it last cause they would follow me all over the yard and not five up.  I never counted stingers but there was well over 50, maybe a 100 or more that one time.

My girls seemed to settle down a bit when I gave them an entrance feeder. I don't blame them, I get snappy too when dinner is late.  Wink


Update: The sugar water feeder was really really helpful in getting them to calm down. I checked today to see how much fondant they ate (half of a big slab, they are hungry), put another 10 lb. of fondant on, and got about three stingers on my jacket. I had Spouse stand by with a sprayer full of sugar water, but there was really no need. Smoke was no help at all though. As soon as I put fresh candy on the top, they went nuts eating it up. Thought I would post just in case anyone else has this experience, so they will know the trick.
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Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #29 on: January 04, 2011, 09:18:06 PM »

See my comments under Progosticians in the Dark Side of the Moon section. http://forum.beemaster.com/index.php/topic,29999.0.html

From what my bees (and chickens) were demonstrating in Sept. and early Oct. I forcasted a long hard wet winter, all of which is coming true along with prolonged periods of below freezing temps.  The fact that my hives had almost full brood nests in early Oct. plus the fact that they were still actively foraging as if midsummer warned of the impending weather forcast from years (50+) of beekeeping.
I took my honey harvest and made sure the bees had 3 boxes of capped honey.  After redistributing the honey crop to fortify the hives for winter I got 4 pints for me.
I'm currently noticing that the bees are still foraging at temps of 35+ on mild days and are very active within the hive except on sub freezing temps.  This means the bees still are in a pre-winter foraging mode even though they have reduced the brood nest drastically.
The amount of dead bees attest to the amount of abnormal foraging and normal cluster loss for for this time of year.

I would suggest 1 of 2 strategies to help your hives survive the winter: 1. (best option) place fondant on the frames above the cluster, the larger the fondant slab the better., 2. (easiest option) Put out warm syrup on any day the bees are flying.  The syrup needs to be warm, the bees won't take it if it gets cold. It should be over 100 F when placed in the feeder.  The bees will stop taking it once it drops below around 50F.  It will take several hours for the syrup to drop from 100F to 50F with weather in the 40-50's F.  Pull the syrup and save it to reheat the next day the weather allows the bees to fly.


From the way the bees are acting we haven't see the worst of the winter yet (they're still foraging when they can), don't have sufficient stores as the unusually cold temps for fall forced them to use up what stores they had. Part of the lack of stores is due to carrying the brood production into late fall due to an anticipated long wet (cold?) winter.

Come spring a lot of bee keepers are going to find a lot of dead outs due to starvation from either lack of stores to carry through the winter or with some stores where the bees died from prolonged subfreezing temps that didn't allow them to access the stores they had.
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« Reply #30 on: January 04, 2011, 09:44:34 PM »

Brian, I need to have you pick some lottery numbers for me sometime...you've been spot on so far!

Scott
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Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #31 on: January 05, 2011, 04:09:49 PM »

Brian, I need to have you pick some lottery numbers for me sometime...you've been spot on so far!

Scott

Not me, I just listen to the Bees, and the cats, dogs, chicken, etc.  They have a lot to say if you take the time to understand them, learning Cat or Dog isn't any harder than learning Spanish or German.  Just call me Brian Doolittle.  applause
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« Reply #32 on: January 06, 2011, 12:43:04 PM »

Besides using my stethasope, Another non-invasive method "IF" Screened BottomBoards are used, on warmer (35 or above) days, I'll remove the trays and use a mirror to look up inside, if its cloudy I'll use a flashlight, otherwise the sunlight is usually enough to get a quick peek and you can check out the mite situation at the same time before returning the tray.

thomas
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« Reply #33 on: January 06, 2011, 03:30:47 PM »

I left my tray off....  should I not have down that?
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« Reply #34 on: January 06, 2011, 03:43:12 PM »

I and many others have had success leaving them open or closed.  I've done both but only for last five seasons with a 50/50 survival with both methods. 

Frankly I don't know what to make of it myself, but I've just got one open bottom Lang right now, my other three Langs have the trays in place which is the position I'm leaning toward at this moment in time Smiley  From what I've read, as long as they're not in a spot that gets too much wind, they should be fine in your neck of the world leaving it open.  That said, I don't think it would hurt to put it back on anytime during the winter season either. 

§¤«£¿æ has a hive that is completly open at bottom, not even a screen.  Haven't checked in there in a while but it was cool to say the least, but I think his climate is much less harsh than mine or yours.

thomas
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