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Author Topic: Dead bees on snow - is this normal?  (Read 2808 times)
Davepeg
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« on: January 05, 2011, 08:45:29 AM »

In front of two of my hives there were A LOT of dead bees this past weekend.  I know the hives have thousands of bees but seeing hundreds of dead bees is a bit upsetting - is this normal for this time of year?  Live in Rockland County NY - yes we got hit with the blizzard last weekend.  One of the hives did have some activity going on - it was a sunny day and I saw a couple of bees coming and going.

We also had one lid blow off, the bees are all clustered on right against the inner cover - I did see some movement, not much.  We quickly put the cover back on (and strapped it down).  Hoping for the best as that was one of our stronger hives this past year.
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T Beek
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« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2011, 09:39:58 AM »

"Hundreds" seems like a lot.  I typically will have maybe up to fifty and as few as 1 or 2, left out front by the undertaker bees.  If you had a significant warm up and a hives with lots of dead inside  I suppose your undertaker bees could've been extra buzy, but hundreds still seems like a lot to me.  Do you see poop stamps and death swirls in the snow too?  What were your temps right before you noticed them?

thomas
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BjornBee
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« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2011, 09:53:13 AM »

Anytime the bees are found up against the inner cover, some concern should be noted as the bees have already eaten straight to the top, and many times are there trying to conserve energy by benefitting from the trapped heat at the top of the hive.

You may may plenty of stores below the bees, but unless they have ample opportunity to get to it, they may die in any prolonged cold snap.

I'd consider some feed.
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gardeningfireman
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« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2011, 10:37:00 AM »

I had a lot of dead bees on the bottom board. I wiped them out with a stick, and ended up with quite a pile. Last year was the same thing. I think right now it is mostly the older bees dying off, not "winter Kill". I know it is upsetting to see, but don't worry. I would be concerned though, about the cluster being so high up already. Mine did that last year, with loads of honey underneath them. I did a quick box rotation on a warmer day to put that honey above the cluster, and it turned out okay.
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Davepeg
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« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2011, 03:15:47 PM »

Thanks for the replies - I'm hoping that we have a sunny warm (40 degree) day so I can take a quick look and maybe feed.
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T Beek
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« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2011, 03:26:58 PM »

Don't wait for forty, 35 , sunny and no wind will alow you to take off the top cover, inner cover, place a sheet of newspaper over the frames leaving an inch open in the front, put a empty medium or shallow box on top of the paper, fill with dry sugar keeping open end open, replace inner and top covers, done.  It'll take less than five minutes, 2 if your quick.  Thanks MB! Smiley

Waiting could mean starvation.

thomas
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Acebird
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« Reply #6 on: January 05, 2011, 03:41:01 PM »

Quote
We also had one lid blow off, the bees are all clustered on right against the inner cover - I did see some movement, not much.  We quickly put the cover back on (and strapped it down).  


We have a ritual up here.  It is almost a religion.  Put a big rock on top of the cover.  If nothing eles it will upset the wing effect of the wind blowing over the cover and kill the lift.  No matter how hard it blows it won't come off.
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Brian D. Bray
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« Reply #7 on: January 05, 2011, 05:04:57 PM »

Anytime the bees are found up against the inner cover, some concern should be noted as the bees have already eaten straight to the top, and many times are there trying to conserve energy by benefitting from the trapped heat at the top of the hive.

You may may plenty of stores below the bees, but unless they have ample opportunity to get to it, they may die in any prolonged cold snap.

I'd consider some feed.

I highly respect BjornBee's experience and knowledge but I must disagree with this statement.  In my experience (50+yrs) The bees will cluster at the top of the brood chamber, where they remain for the entire winter.  They  may cluster to one side of the hive or the other if a given side recieves more sun than the other but they will always be at the top of the brood chamber.  So, if bees are kept in a 2 deep brood chamber the cluster will be at the top, right under the inner or magritory cover. 

If a super of honey, that has never had brood in the combs, is placed atop the broodchamber the cluster will not move up.  The bees will break periodically from the cluster to travel to the further reaches of the hive to bring stores back within the combs surrounded by the cluster.  They do this during those times that they are also doing their cleansing flights and as long as the tempertures are above freezing, at below freezing tempts the bees won't break cluster and can starve when a prolonged cold snap of sub-freezing temps occurs.

If you happen find a hive that has starved to death with honey in the outer reaches of the hive, where a large number of the cells within the cluster area show bees bottom up it tends to indicate this fact.  I had been beekeeping for over 30 years and found lots of hives, my own and those of others, in this condition, often with signs of the honey in the corners of the hive being tapped, before I reached this conclusion.  In the 20 years since, I have found nothing to discredit my conclusion and musch to confirm it.
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Acebird
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« Reply #8 on: January 05, 2011, 06:02:55 PM »

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where a large number of the cells within the cluster area show bees bottom up

Is there any reason why the cluster would not just move over to where the honey is without breaking cluster.  Why would they choose to starve to death?
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AllenF
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« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2011, 06:07:48 PM »

The cluster is normally sitting on a very very small amount of brood.
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T Beek
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« Reply #10 on: January 05, 2011, 06:12:57 PM »

Right, they'd die by starvation rather than allow their brood to die, sometimes (too often) resulting in complete colony death

thomas
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Davepeg
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« Reply #11 on: January 05, 2011, 06:23:40 PM »

We also had some hives, that had plenty of honey die over the winter.  They were clustered to one side and the honey was just a few frames away.  I expect, as mentioned, that they would not leave the brood and died.  Sad but it happens.  In the past I have tried the newspaper and sugar on top of the frames, the bees just don't seem to take it.  I may try it again if we get the right weather.
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Acebird
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« Reply #12 on: January 05, 2011, 06:29:10 PM »

So I guess the next million dollar question is how long is this "prolonged" period of sub-freezing temperature?  It suggests that you could break the freezing spell with a timed heater long enough for the cluster to break and get some honey.  Any guesses on how long is too long of a cold snap?
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AllenF
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« Reply #13 on: January 05, 2011, 06:31:23 PM »

If the cluster is warm enough, they can run out and get something to eat.   They also take out the dead and make potty runs in the snow.
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Acebird
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« Reply #14 on: January 05, 2011, 06:32:09 PM »

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In the past I have tried the newspaper and sugar on top of the frames, the bees just don't seem to take it.

That makes sense.  If they won't break cluster to get the honey why would they do it to get the sugar?
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T Beek
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« Reply #15 on: January 05, 2011, 06:49:12 PM »

Warm enough and "BIG" enough.  Another reason to go into winter with strong colonies.  Sugar is a "just-in" as in just in case, as above where clearly the bees had run out of stores and it was warm enough for them to be flying around with nothing at all.  Dry sugar they would find under such circumstance.  As they would their own honey had they been left enough or had they gathered enough themselves.

Prolonged cold snap.....hmmmm.... 2 weeks staying below zero with sub teens and 20's at night.

thomas
« Last Edit: January 05, 2011, 07:00:42 PM by T Beek » Logged

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Acebird
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« Reply #16 on: January 05, 2011, 07:13:39 PM »

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Prolonged cold snap.....hmmmm.... 2 weeks staying below zero with sub teens and 20's at night.

Below 0 or below freezing?
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T Beek
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« Reply #17 on: January 05, 2011, 07:55:35 PM »

pretty sure I said below zero  grin you check
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Acebird
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« Reply #18 on: January 06, 2011, 09:19:09 AM »

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pretty sure I said below zero   you check

I just wanted clearification.  So if it is below freezing but above 0 it doesn't count as a cold snap.
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BjornBee
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« Reply #19 on: January 06, 2011, 09:39:14 AM »

I suspect much of these colonies that get stuck not leaving brood, might be due to the use of standard Italians and not Russian and/or carni bee lines, or acclimatized local survivors.

My lines shut down in a dearth, and going into winter. My experience is that Italians many times will not shut down for anything, eating themselves out of house and home. They will brood right through winter for no other benefit other than a small 2-3 inch patch of brood, that makes no impact on hive survival other than killing a hive as mentioned when bees refuse to move off the brood.

When the Russians were first brought over, some southern breeders used them for a year or two. When they found out that the Russians in particular, would shut down and go through winter with a smaller than normal cluster, it was realized that their use was not in line with what they wanted. They want Italians that brood all year long, and with a little feed in December or January, will have the colonies ready to shake bees from in early February.

It is also this brood break in the summer dearth, and again going into winter, that adds to the Russian strain being somewhat more mite resistant compared to the Italians that never shut down.

And no, my bees do not start at the top of the second box going into winter and remain there all winter. Of course, I don't lose bees due to not moving off brood. And I don't use Italians raised in the south and genetically more in tune with warmer climate dynamics.

Talking about dead bees and why they don't move off the cluster means little unless you understand why that happens and what you can do about it.

BTW....a sealed hive, void of top entrances and a constant break of the propolis seal by the beekeeper, allows bees to deal with issues better. Having top entrances, extra boxes on the hive beyond what the bees need, all play into the little things that make a difference.

Use more northern hardy strains, understand the bee's natural cycles, and give the same benefits they seek in nature, and you will lose less bees.
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