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Author Topic: Lost Hives?  (Read 823 times)
KatBee
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« on: May 26, 2011, 07:51:49 PM »

We recently removed our winter covers (it's been a painfully overcast, cold spring) to find that we'd lost 6 of 7 hives- and, as young, new beekeepers, we're baffled as to why. I wonder if someone here might be able to help us trouble shoot..

First of all, they didn't starve. There's still honey in them. A couple of hives had had mites in the fall, but we'd treated. There was no sign of dysentery. There were still lots of bees in the hive when we found them- and a curious thing was that in one of them that was being robbed of honey by the surviving hive, a couple of bees were removing the dead (would they do this if it wasn't their hive? There was a pile of dead at the top of the frames, under the cover, that had started to mould, so it's not as though they stood a chance at getting it cleaned up, but is it possible that they were survivors- if they weren't, wouldn't they just rob?).

Is it possible that we left our covers on too long? It's been a really overcast, cold spring, and it's when we were told by a nearby (long-time) beek to remove them, but..?

I've attached a couple of pictures, which might or might not show any clues (again, I'm at a complete (uneducated) loss)- but I'd appreciate any thoughts you seasoned folks have, immensely. We really want to keep keeping bees, but with a loss like this, we're a bit daunted..

Now off to order a few books to use as reference so I don't have to boggle down the forums in the future..

Oh- And the hive that's left? Everyone looks healthy & happy. Lots of workers, brood, queen looks good.

*Photos to come when admin approves them- oh, being a newbie.  Wink







« Last Edit: May 26, 2011, 09:16:48 PM by buzzbee » Logged
buzzbee
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« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2011, 09:22:19 PM »

When you see heads first down into the comb in large numbers,it is a sign of starvation. Even though there may have been sufficient quantities of honey in the comb,if it was too cold to break the winter cluster to move onto new food stores,they could have starved in place.This can happen even to the strongest colonies,but more so with smaller colonies or ones with too much space in the hive.
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Bee-Bop
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« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2011, 10:18:51 PM »

Must agree with Buzzbee, just because there is honey left in the frames don't mean the bees could reach it !
Some say cold temperature does not kill bees, however when its so cold they cannot break the cluster too reach the honey cells they starve to death.

In the fall a small hive population needs a small hive area for the winter.

Good Luck in finding a more correct answer.

Bee-Bop
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kathyp
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« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2011, 10:38:18 PM »

i'd vote starvation.  that's not much honey showing and if there is more along the sides they probably never got to it.
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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
KatBee
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« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2011, 09:27:59 AM »

Thanks folks, I really appreciate the input.

The thing that I guess confuses me about them possibly having starved is that there *aren't* a significant number of bees head down in the comb. An acquaintance of ours kept a hive out here a couple years ago and it starved, I remember her telling me that that's how you'd know- but while with these ones there might be a couple head down, the overwhelming majority look like they were in the middle of something else like in the first photo. It's like they were frozen in time- which is why I wonder if they could have cooked under the covers? (But then, wouldn't they have just left the hive or swarmed before that happened?)

A couple of things to go with those photos:

In the first one, the bees are dead. They were like this in a couple of hives, just frozen in place on the frames. I'm gonna go back out today if it stops raining now that I'm not in so much shock and see if I can find a pattern in the losses. If it was starvation because of cold, would they all be in relatively the same area on the frames? Or mostly, at least? I hadn't thought about them needing to be able to get to the honey vs the cold. This said, those photos don't accurately represent the stores of honey. I'm talking full frames in some of the hives.

In the second photo, can anyone explain the smashed in areas to me? The mouldy one seems like it would be rot, but the larger area next to it has rough edges- is that a mouse or some other insect (perhaps post-death of the hive)? There were entrance reducers on the hive..

And in the third: That's a surviving bee taking honey from a dead hive. a) is it safe to leave them out there to be scavenged by the survivors (they have been) and b) why is the honey all so... shiny and open?
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AliciaH
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« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2011, 10:12:13 AM »

Unfortunately, that cold and starvation thing is a downward spiral.  They go up for warmth so it makes sense that you found a lot of dead bees on top of the frames and in the inner cover.  It also makes sense that you found some bees "frozen in time" as a few would have been brave enough, if it got warm enough, to venture out for food, only to get cold and not be able to move back to the cluster.  Once the numbers start dropping, it's harder for the ones that are left to stay warm, and that's where the downward spiral comes in.

What did the food stores look like where the dead bees were?

I've had bees tested, but I've never done it with bees that have been dead for awhile.  Maybe someone else has and could say whether or not it helped.  Might help you in knowing for sure what happened.

Either way, sorry about your lost.  6 out of 7 is a lot.
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Beesville
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« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2011, 11:01:16 AM »

   That's not a starved hive rolleyes. Haw much snow did you get? and is there some kind of vent holes near the top of the hive that did not get covered with the hive wrap?. If you get enough icy snow pack blocking the entrance they can suffocate. The co2 builds up it will anesthetize the bees then the cold gets them. Always leave an open vent on the upper hive body and hive wrap. They don't have to be large vents. But you need something that will stay open.
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caticind
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« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2011, 11:10:49 AM »

As for bees looking "frozen in time": when the temperature drops to a certain point (somewhere in the upper 30s, low 40s, I think) a lone bee's metabolism and nervous system will shut down and they will not be able to move.  If they are rewarmed within a day or so they will get right on with their lives, otherwise will starve.  I often see this happen with foragers in the morning in early spring - they emerge a bit too early, and have to stand their until the sun warms them up.  If you prod them, they are clearly alive but unable to move or respond.  This is the whole purpose of the cluster - to make it possible for the bees to continue functioning when the ambient temperature would shut them all down.

As for the cause of your losses....you did have some kind of ventilation opening, right?
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kathyp
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« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2011, 11:10:58 AM »

the smashed in areas are actually ripped up areas from robbing.  

you may have tons of honey in a hive, but if the cluster does not break and they bees don't get to it, they will still starve.  

i'm still guessing starvation going by your pictures.  there appears to be very little honey where your bees are.  contributing factors may be too much space, mites, virus, etc. that caused numbers to dwindle, moisture issues.....
there's also the SH factor.  some years are just so bad that lots of hives don't make it.
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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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