One dead hive, one still living...barely
Please help us! We opened up our hives yesterday (on a very mild day) to find one hive with very few bees and no stores (we've been feeding them for months though), and our second hive dead. Our dead hive looks just like the pictures dux posted on this thread: (except we have a langstroth style 8 frame hive. Like dux, there were some stores in this hive). We are sending off samples of our bees to Beltsville (actually, we're going to try dropping them off, as we live only a few miles away!) to check for any diseases.
Other pieces of information: both hives were moved on November 18. There was buzzing in both hives at that point and bees in and out of both on warm days after the move. The hive that died was the heavier of the two hives, and the stronger all year. They were both new hives, started from nucs in May 2012. For pictures of the hive through the summer, see our blog.
We have a few questions that we really hope you guys can help with:
1. Since people in dux's thread seem to think it was varroa mite collapse, should we treat the other hive for varroa? Is it too late in the year to do that? What's the best treatment since apistan seems to only work in some cases.
2. There were queen supercedure cells in both hives. Do you think there is a queen in the still-alive hive?
3. Since the still-alive hive has so few bees in it, should we consider trying to over-winter it as a nuc instead of a 8-frame hive?
4. In the dead hive, even the hive beetles were dead. Thoughts?
Re: One dead hive, one still living...barely
There are so many things pictures can show, and people on this site are so good at reading the pictures.
Did you monitor you mites. Counts? Treatments?
1. It is probably to late to save a falling hive at this point. Most likely it was varroa. Alot of treatments don’t work this time of the year. Oxalic acid vapor can be effective on mites this time of the year (not approved treatment) but again probably too late.
2. Do the queen cells have larva in them? Are they it capped? Are bees tending to the queen cells? Open one of the capped queen cells is it dead? (If you just open a little to take a look and not hurt the larva, the bees will seal it up if it’s still good)
Do you have any fresh eggs (you have a laying queen within 1-4 days), open brood (a queen was laying within 8 days), capped brood (a queen was laying 8-21 days). If you don’t, don’t worry this time of the year the queen stops laying.
3. How many bees are left, I think you need at least 4 frames of bees to have a chance for winter. You could try to heat the hive with a thermocube and under tank heater. Also hear people garaging over winter.
4. When it got cold the beetles died too, they winter in the hive cluster to stay warm.
This is the best place to learn what you need to know for next year. Protect the old hive from pests and being robbed. Freeze the frames kills pests and store until spring. The drawn comb, honey and pollen will give your bees next year a good start. You might look into VSH queens.
Re: One dead hive, one still living...barely
I did a little looking on your blog and it seems you have neighboring bees that are robbers. That may explain why your hive is dead, but also perhaps why they may have absconded if that's what happened. Robbing would also explain why you've been feeding and there are no stores and a low qty. of bees. Mites can and will take over a hive, but typically it's the second year. My guess would be that you got a young queen in May right? Was it an overwintered nuc or a spring made nuc? My guess again would be you got a young queen. This being the case as long as the queens were properly produced then mites I wouldn't think mites first. I'd look at other things. I've had a hive abscond when pressure from robbing set them off. There were enough bees to keep the entrance from being penetrated, but the pressure sent them packing. If your dead hive has some frames with stores on it you can try to give those frames to your weak hive. I'd want to freeze them first for a day or two, but from what you said about the beetles being dead I'd not be concerned with that at this point. I'd give them a frame with some open and capped stores and try to put it as close to the cluster as possible. Tomorrow should be a warm enough day for you to open them up and swap a few frames out. I would make sure that the beespace is only 1 bee wide on the entrance. What I would do if I were you is use the dead out combs as a swarm trap early next year. Use them to "lure" a swarm from where ever those robber bees are coming from so that you have the strong / local bees. Treatments for mites is a long shot from what I have understood at this time of year. You might just end up doing the other hive in. Now I've read of people overwintering 2 frame nucs sucessfully. I think Michael Bush did it a few times and perhaps Michael Palmer but I'm not sure. I know they both overwinter nucs and last year I sucessfully overwintered a 4 frame nuc. There is hope for even a small hive at this point, but they'll need help in a major way as far as stores. You can also look into the mountain camp method. Basically put dry sugar on top of a sheet of newspaper on top of the top bars with a 3" or so spacer on top. (or an empty shallow super or whatever you have) I also saw a picture of someone that had drawn frames and he simply put the newspaper on top of the box that the bees were in and put the box on top of that with the drawn frames in it. He then poured the dry sugar down inbetween the frames. This seems like a cool ideal also.