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Author Topic: Hive Dying? Help Please!  (Read 1621 times)
Abelistino
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« on: February 28, 2011, 12:12:24 PM »

I am a first year beekeeper in Maryland. I have 2 hives. One hive has always been a problem hive for me. The bees are mean, they build wonky comb (foundationless) which they would rebuild when I cut the wonky stuff out, they only built one medium of honey over the brood, they SWARMED in late October when they had a full box of empty frames still on them!. The other was perfect (or so I thought). Beautiful comb, calm, 2 full boxes of honey over brood. Lots of bees. I put dry sugar in both boxes over the winter. The bad hive totally ignored their sugar and ate all of their honey. The good hive ate the sugar and ignored their honey. Up until 2 weeks ago all seemed well in both hives. On warm days both were flying. Yesterday I checked and was nearly in tears to see hundreds of dead bees on the hive porch and the ground around the hives. With dread I opened the hive and there were hundreds of bees between the frames and on top of the frames alive but just barely moving, I mean BARELY. It made me sick. The problem hive was out flying in full force. The good hive, no bees at all flying, just crawling around on top of the frames and on the wax. There was still plenty of sugar. Are they dying? Is there anything I can do? Our winters were not too bad. Mostly in the 30's day, teens-20's at night. Thanks in advance.
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kathyp
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« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2011, 12:20:49 PM »

sometimes the least cooperative hive are the best survivors. 

some things we need to know:  first, please go into your profile and put your location.  what was the temp when you checked the hive?  some bees will be active at a much lower temp than others.  was there any honey left in the "good" hive.  what have your temps been like before you checked.  is there any brood or did you see the queen?  were the bees on the frames, or were they stuck head first into the comb?  were these packages or did you get them somewhere else?

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.....The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved.....

 Alexis de Tocqueville
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« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2011, 12:32:02 PM »

Kathyp; All questions worth consideration for any newbeek and requiring answers from op. 

Even dead, bees can be good teachers.  That said, Examine them closely again when temps are above freezing, they may not be dead, so don't write them off yet.  Many a newbeek has unknowingly dumped a live hive that was just slower coming around and not dead at all, once dumped its too late.

thomas
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Michael Bush
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« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2011, 10:13:24 PM »

First, one "wonky" comb leads to another.  So cutting some of them out is not the solution.  Cut them out and tie them into the frames.  that will help.  A comb that is running straight acts as a guide for the next comb.  Some hives build them straight even when you do everything wrong, but again, if they start off that way they tend to keep going that way.  Some just don't get it.  But if you tie the combs into the frames so they are within the frame, the next comb will tend to be within the frame.

If they are mean I would requeen.  You may luck out and this also may help the "wonky" comb.

Sometimes cold makes them lethargic, but in general I don't see that as a good thing as they should generate enough heat not to be.   Starvation also makes them lethargic.   Make sure they are in contact with stores and the hive is heavy enough.  Are they in contact with the sugar?  Or is it above an inner cover or somewhere else that they have to leave the cluster?

As for hundreds of dead  bees, there are always hundreds of dead bees over winter.

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hivemind88
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« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2011, 11:29:35 AM »

I have 2 hives and live in Indiana. We get some crazy weather during the winter, warm one week and then a foot of snow and freezing the next. My bees have always died in the hundreds every year. It is natural, but it is a bit sad when you see all the dead bees. Bees will be slow moving in the winter. My 2 hives are the same kind of bees but they are on 2 totally different schedules when overwintering. I think your bees will be fine, it all sounds like normal behavior.

I would definitely re-queen your mean brood in the spring. They might start building straight!
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Abelistino
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« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2011, 12:20:32 PM »

The temperatures were in the upper 50s sunday. Temps over the past few weeks have mostly been in the 40s with a few days colder and near hurricane force winds. Temps were much milder than they were 2 weeks before when I last checked and all was fine.  I was afraid to break the hive apart to see if the bees were face first in comb or if there was brood. I didn't want to hurt the ones that were left. There is still honey left in both of their honey boxes in that hive. Lighter than at the start of winter, but some still there. I bought both as packages from the same bee supplier. They came from Georgia, but were late getting here (May 20th). I fed sugar water until fall and then switched to dry sugar under the inner cover directly over the frames (half of the box so ventilation was there). They went through 2 5lb bags of dry sugar in a month and half. I checked the hive again yesterday (temps in the 50's, rainy but I didn't get them wet-just lifted the top and inner cover to peek). They are still alive, still lethergic but seeming to move a little more than Sunday. The mean hive was out flying in the pouring down rain. Many in the sick hive were on the sugar mound. Much more than on Sunday. No more dead bees on the bee porch. I cleaned out the bottom board. Only 3 dead bees there.  Oh, and re: the wonky comb on the problem but healthy hive: When I cut the wonk out over the summer, I rubber banded it to an empty frame and put it back in. The frames have popsicle sticks glued in to give them a guide. They would eat the rubber band (chew it in half) and the comb would fall to bottom board. Then they would build wonky comb where the comb I rubber banded was removed! Once they didn't even chew the band but built wonky comb on both sides of it, leaving a 6" diameter old wonk in the middle surrounded by full frames of new wonk, in a week! Yet they ignored the box above them that was empty. I even tried to put a frame of comb from the good hive in. I put it in the center of the box as a guide. They built comb on both sides and bridged it together. *sigh*.
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hankdog1
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« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2011, 03:23:37 PM »

were all your frames drawn out on your so called mean hive before you put the other box on that they haven't touched?  also kinda curious as to what your definition of a mean hive is?  we all have different standards i don't mind a hot hive as long as they produce and i know they are hot.  also a hive being hot may be a sign of stress.  i'm not one to jump on the requeen band wagon as queens aren't cheap especially if you don't know how to make your own.
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« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2011, 09:15:42 PM »

I have little experience with cold weather but, think about checking where the honey is in the supers instead of just lift-testing them. If it's outside the cluster even FL bees won't eat it. Move the honey frames that are left directly over the cluster of bees so they can get to it. As for the "wonky" comb, lots of luck. Some bees insist on doing it their way no matter what you do. Try using a couple frames of foundation between the foundationless frames and jam all the frames tight together in the middle of the hive. If they still draw wonky comb then give up and use foundation.  grin
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kathyp
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« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2011, 10:04:25 PM »

if the wonky comb is bothering you, start replacing it with foundation.  put another box on in spring with all foundation in frames.  work the messy stuff out as you can.  the messed up comb is more a problem for you than for them.  they don't care.
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.....The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved.....

 Alexis de Tocqueville
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« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2011, 12:16:30 PM »

By mean hive I mean they are tempermental, even in good weather. When I checked them last week, as soon as I opened the hive, a dozen of them immediately went straight for the face like little killers (no, they are not killer bees, I know), Others went looking for exposed places (wrists, ect). I could barely see out of the veil. I had to sweep them away. I normally don't wear a veil, or gloves, but for this hive I do. They were like velcro on the veil and buzzing furiously. When my husband helped me last month, we have no idea HOW, but one got into his jacket and stung him in the armpit as we were walking back to the house! OUCH! They always try to sting, whereas the other hive is so gentle I can do everything I need without a veil or gloves or even smoke. I don't smoke them in the winter. 

I don't put an empty box on unless at least 5 or 6 frames are mostly drawn out. For some reason, they ignore the outside 2, so I try to watch and put the new box on at 5.

I peeked again yesterday and the movement on the sick hive was greatly improved. The temperatures were cooler so they were in their cluster (bigger than softball sized) and several were fanning like crazy. That's the best I have seen since before 2 weeks ago.

The messed up comb doesn't really bother me except for having to break it apart to get down in the hive. I have a couple of icecream buckets of it to play with. It's just more frustrating after trying to "teach" them to do it right. Since I have not done anything in the cool weather, between the mess and temperment of the bees, I am DREADING digging in.
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kathyp
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« Reply #10 on: March 02, 2011, 12:38:58 PM »

if a hive is bad enough that you dread going into it you probably should requeen it and if it's big enough in the spring maybe consider splitting it.  i would not buy a queen if they are that hardy.  i'd pinch the queen and let them requeen themselves.  wait for drones.  split the hive with eggs in each box. between splitting and requeening, you should see a better attitude in a few weeks.

do you smoke them?
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.....The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved.....

 Alexis de Tocqueville
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« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2011, 10:12:19 PM »

MMMMM smoked bees!

Scott
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« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2011, 10:49:42 PM »

"I don't smoke them in the winter."

That is likely your problem. Not smoking them is detrimental to bees and beek alike.   
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« Reply #13 on: March 02, 2011, 10:52:33 PM »

 Undecided  thanks iddee.  missed that. 
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.....The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved.....

 Alexis de Tocqueville
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« Reply #14 on: March 03, 2011, 11:22:27 AM »

I have some wonky comb builders but they were a feral hive that I cut out last spring with some "training" they are doing much better.  I put in foundationed frames and didn't give them much spaces after I cut out those areas that bothered me.  Weather wise you are going to have to wait a bit longer before they get really active.  I am on the other side of the beltway from you in Frederick.  But my girls are on a organic farm in PA.  I hope they pull through for you and keep sending the questions this forum has been my saving grace.  I am only in my 2nd year. 
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« Reply #15 on: March 04, 2011, 05:27:07 PM »

If the "wonky" combs were cut out, time after time, then the beekeeper, in his insistance for perfection, chased his bees away.
They got frustrated and absconded because somebody kept wrecking there house.

Were comb guides used?  Why not place a empty frame next to the best of the lot and move the others up to the next box then ut?  Rotate the bad combs out but don't destroy, or the bees having nothing to build from.  Every hive will have some bad combs. 
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