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Author Topic: Frustrated by losses.  (Read 1789 times)
alfred
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« on: March 07, 2012, 09:51:20 AM »

Yesterday it got warm enough for me to open hives and see what is happening. What I found was that all but one of my five collonies is dead. I am highly bummed. I had a clue that they weren't doing well because there was no activity but I had not had a chance to look inside until now.

What frustrates me is that I felt that I did every thing that I could to help them survive. Because I have had significant losses in previous years my goal this year was to have more survival. So I did every thing I could think of to build up the collonies for fall last year. So going into fall my collonies were very strong with high numbers. I also left way more honey supplies for them this year than in past years. I wintered them with four mediums each. Very full. I also wrapped them with insulation. I use top entrances so there was plenty of ventillation. I did however reduce the entrance to a little more than a bee space so that there wasn't too much heat loss. I took out the screen bottoms so that there was more heat retention.

When I dug into the hives what I found was plenty of food stores. I didn't see very many bees. The hives weren't abandoned however. Some of them were up in the comb and there were a few small clusters of dead bees here and there. Most were dead on the floor of the hives. But again not many of them. In the order of several hundred.

The hive that is still alive also has extreemely diminished numbers. I saw the queen. I didn't see any signs of laying or eggs or larve. I was reluctant to dig into the hive so I simply took a few frames out of the top box which is where they have congregated.

Please any help, advice or suggestions, observations....

thanks,
 Alfred
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CVBees
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« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2012, 10:07:50 AM »

Alfred,

Sorry man all I can offer is sympathy because I went through the same thing 2 years ago.  This year will be my first return to trying to help the honey bee thrive.  I at least had something going on here in PA.  We had a real warm snap in Jan and my queen started laying again (eggs and larvae present)  Then I don't think they wanted to move off the brood once it got cold again.  Lost my strong hive that way the other two not really sure what happened all three poof.  Starved it seemed but I had a full med on top.  I harvested it immediately to keep the pests off it.  I am sure some pics or a better check to report on something might give someone a clue as to what happened but It sounds like you tried hard which makes it all the more discouraging.  Good luck
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mikecva
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« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2012, 11:31:52 AM »

Sorry to hear about your loses. I lost two of my 'home' colonies this winter (winter here was warmer then normal with some sudden drops in temp.) I do not wrap my hives. I found the insert to my screened bottom boards about 30 feet from the hives because I forgot to go out and cover the slots with tape. I think the cold came in and up the hive. In short, my bad, I think I am to blame for killing those colonies. I designed a new base that I think will solve my cold air draft next winter. I will let all know if it works or not.  -Mike
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okbees
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« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2012, 11:41:43 AM »

Went into Winter with over 100 hives....lost over 50% when I finally got to look inside all of them.  Tough year for the bees, and beekeepers.  The best I could figure out was a calamity of errors, with the biggest problem being Nosema Ceranae in the hive.  I don't have any hard fast proof, but my Mite count was small going into winter, and the Mite count the other day was not high if existent at all. The bees just left and only a very small cluster was found in each hive and then the cold killed them off.  Don't know if this helps, but just don't beat yourself up.  Farming is tough...and you will make it.
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kathyp
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« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2012, 11:42:58 AM »

some years are like that.  i had six in the fall, and i'm coming out of winter with 2.  i did not have a heavy mite load, but i did have an awful time with the yellowjackets last year.  it was the worst anyone remembers.  one hive i know i lost because of a late swarm and no new queen.  my guess is that i might have lost other queens after my last check while the yellowjackts were still active.  don't know.  may never know.  just have to catch more swarms this  year and build up again......
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stanisr
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« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2012, 11:52:04 AM »

Sorry for your loss, Seems to me that when I have a great plan for the year something always happens.
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Rick
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« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2012, 01:09:48 PM »

I was in that boat last year.  It is very discouraging!

Did you medicate them at all last year?  Low numbers, plenty of honey - sounds like something like varroa or nosema sapped their strength quickly.  Probably a combination of the two.

I've tried to go medication free (mainly from getting too busy in aug/sept) and it hasn't gone too well for me , although this year is looking better so far, probably from the warm winter.  I think I'm going to go with apiguard again this fall, it has done excellent for me the few years prior.

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Rick
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« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2012, 01:18:12 PM »

Not a scientific report, but of the beeks I know in MI, we have had very low losses this year.  That after losses of over 60% in most in the State last year.  It has been a mild winter (for us) with very few arctic blasts here.  Just a few nights down around 0F.

As to the original poster, it kind of sounds like you did everything right, so Iím not sure if anybody will have definitive answer for you.  Iím sure youíll get the usual inquiries about mite counts, treatments, stores, moisture, bad queen, nosema, etc. 

I would suggest next fall that you find another beek or two in your area to take a look at your setup and see what they say.  There might be certain configurations that do better in your climate than others.  I would worry myself about limiting the colony to a top entrance (breathing hole) that is only 1 bee space big, but I have no evidence that would kill a colony.  My jumbos also just have just a top entrance in them, but it is 50mm x 9mm (2Ē x 3/8Ē).  It gets pretty cold in Michigan too, but these hives are booming with bees right now.  Personally I donít think that much heat is lost through a 50mm x 9mm top entrance.  Well, at least not enough to affect my bees.

What worries me about your story is the lack of bees (dead or alive).  It sounds like you went into fall with a boat load of summer bees, but those bees die off quickly in the fall.  Itís the new bees the hive broods up in late summer/fall that survives until spring.  Those are the important bees.  So maybe something went amiss during your late summer and fall brood cycles?
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Vance G
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« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2012, 02:04:38 PM »

I doubt that your configuration played any substantial part in your losses.  Was it a wet soggy mess?  If it was, you lacked ventilation.  If it isn't, it was almost certainly some pathenogen or the Varroa Distructor.    Since the CCD burst on the scene, many very good beekeepers have had their stock wiped out.  So do not despair or beast yourself unneccessarily.  Talk to others in your area.  People with and without major losses.  Compare the commonalities that might explain things.  Talk to your state enomologist and or bee inspector.  A lot of people looking for the same answers.  Good luck.
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rdy-b
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« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2012, 03:21:54 PM »

when and what did you treat for mites --RDY-B
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Finski
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« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2012, 03:29:57 PM »

.
OK, you have a queen still there?

Deminish the space to 2 frames with extra wall. Then take from other hives two frames of bees.
Protect the queen that bees cannot kill it.

It is not rare that you find after winter a cupfull of bees and the queen.


The smallest colony after winter what I have heard is 5 workers and the queen.

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BlueBee
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« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2012, 04:12:24 PM »

Finski, did you say 5 workers and a queen!

Tell me that didnít fill 2 double deeps by fall  grin
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BlueBee
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« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2012, 04:21:19 PM »

Iím not so sure I would write off hive configurations as a cause for winter losses.  If you look at the losses around my area this year vs last year, there is a 600% increase/decrease that sure seems to track the weather!  Clearly cold DOES kill bees in Michigan regardless of other issues.  A little warmth seems to go a long way to keeping bees alive here.  That is more a function of hive configuration than mites.  The mites are the easiest thing to blame though.

If youíve been suffering these losses for many years, youíre probably starting with an assortment of new bees/splits each spring and that will naturally result in lower mite numbers anyways.  Iím not saying itís not mites, Iím just saying to keep an open mind and look at all the variables.
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rdy-b
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« Reply #13 on: March 07, 2012, 04:28:54 PM »

**The mites are the easiest thing to blame though.**
 thats where the viruses come from the are vectored by mites--its probably the most
 common cause of collapse-RDY-B
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splitrock
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« Reply #14 on: March 07, 2012, 04:45:00 PM »

Any hive loss is tough to take. And I hope we have all seen the worst this winter has to offer.

Knock on wood, but as of yesterday I've still got 31 out of 38 left, all but one looked very strong. The upper 50's degree temps yesterday permitted a good look and the opportunity to get some feed into the hives. Hopefully the rest will make it yet.

Joel
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rdy-b
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« Reply #15 on: March 07, 2012, 05:04:43 PM »

 thats a good survival rate did you treat for mites--RDY-B
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splitrock
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« Reply #16 on: March 08, 2012, 06:10:33 AM »

"thats a good survival rate did you treat for mites--RDY-B"

No, I didn't.
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JackM
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« Reply #17 on: March 08, 2012, 07:49:52 AM »

A point I find interesting in this is that these high losses are sporadically popping up all around the country, not isolated.
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derekm
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« Reply #18 on: March 08, 2012, 08:03:35 AM »

I suggest all those who have lost bees, buy a 15W heater, a digital thermocouple thermometer(not IR) and a hive of the opposite type (wooden vs poly).
then conduct a series of experiments to see how much temperature rise and condensation you get with
  • bottom entrance vs top entrance
  • solid vs OMF
  • poly vs wood
  • with one box vs several
  • hot sun on one side
  • heater  in a water bath to produce water vapour to see condensation
In these postings you have told me how you killed your bees, and how close some others are to killing them, but you are not going to hear the answer unless you find it out for yourself.
Do these experiments this year for your bees sake.
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FRAMEshift
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« Reply #19 on: March 08, 2012, 09:11:23 AM »

 one hive i know i lost because of a late swarm and no new queen.  my guess is that i might have lost other queens after my last check

I think that's what happened to us.  We lost 25% this winter and none of those losses was from varroa, as far as we can tell from drop tests and the lack of dwv.  The lost hives showed no other overt signs of disease.... just a slow withering away until they froze.  I went into one hive and sorted through the dead bees until I found the queen.... a virgin who apparently never mated. 

Our loses this year were very disappointing because we had zero losses last winter.  We thought we had the winter configuration worked out for our area, but I guess we still have work to do.  An interesting point is that the losses occurred in the same queen line... descendants of a particular queen.  Maybe there is a gene for late supersedure?  grin  If so, it's going to get selected out real fast.
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