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  1. #1
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    Jun 2003
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    End of my first winter of beekeeping and one (out of two) of my hives died.

    For a short history I saw everybody was ok back in December when we had some warm days.

    Then came January in New Jersey: two weeks of below 30 and sometimes below 20 degree days. I think it's at that point that all activity in that hive stopped.

    I finally got myself together to see what I could find out and here's what I saw:

    - *plenty* of honey stores, esp in the lower deep.
    - piles of bees in the lower box of course
    - many bees just sitting on the sides of upper frames looking as if they were alive
    - very few bees head-in in empty cells
    - Aside from being dead they all look good. no deformities or anything.

    Any guesses what killed them? I'm thinking the could prevented them from breaking cluster and they starved? the few survivors eventually died of "loneliness."

    What should I do with all these frames of honey? Can I just leave the frames there as a gift for the package bees I'm ordering?

    Or will that attract wax moths?

    The other hive will likely decide to rob it out before the new bees come, but *if* there was a disease would it be
    dangerous to let them (or the package bees) have it?

    Thanks. I hate being a newbie and being so ignorant.

  2. #2
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    >>New Jersey: two weeks of below 30 and sometimes below 20 degree days.

    I think you are talking in F being from the US. And if you are, that is like a nice mild winter day up here in Canada. It would not have been too cold to prevent the bees from consuming honey.

    >>here's what I saw:

    - *plenty* of honey stores, esp in the lower deep.
    - piles of bees in the lower box of course
    - many bees just sitting on the sides of upper frames looking as if they were alive
    - very few bees head-in in empty cells
    - Aside from being dead they all look good. no deformities or

    Actually, if I had to put my money on it I would suggest T mites. Sounds like many of the symtoms. Hives severly infected with T mites tend to not be able to form proper cluster, so when a cold spell comes, they freeze. So you will see a loose cluster of dead bees when you inspect them in the spring.
    Or, T mite infected hives tend to have a pile of dead bees found infrount of the hive after winter. They cant usually fly, because their wing usually are detatched and fall into a pile infrount of the hive. I think they do this because they are dieing from thier infestion, and like to die away from the hive. So on mild winter days, they fall into a pile infrount of the hive, by not being able to fly.
    Just my thoughts, if it makes any sence

    Ian

  3. #3
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    >>What should I do with all these frames of honey? Can I just leave the frames there as a gift for the package bees I'm ordering?

    Close up the hive and leave it for your packages. It will be an excellent start by providing all the resources for your new colony.


    Ian

  4. #4
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    >Any guesses what killed them? I'm thinking the could prevented them from breaking cluster and they starved? the few survivors eventually died of "loneliness."

    Did you look for Varroa mites in the pile of dead bees? Usually when the bees just die slowly from a dwindling cluster because of not enough bees to keep a brood nest going or just not enough bees to keep warm, they still manage to carry out the dead whenever it's warm enough. So although there will be the last of them dead on the combs, the bottom board won't be covered with bees. With the Varroa it seems like they just crash and burn with lots of dead bees everywhere. If it's Varroa mites you will see, once you recognize the little purplish brown specks, lots of mites on the bottom with the dead bees. Other possibilities are Nosema, but that usually leaves yellow and brown streaks all over the inside of the hive, which you may also get from long confinments or dysentary. Tracheal mites are another possibility. Were there any crawling bees out front on warm days? Of coure deformed bees are a sign of various viruses often carried by the mites.

    >What should I do with all these frames of honey? Can I just leave the frames there as a gift for the package bees I'm ordering?

    Definitely. Just close them up to keep out the moths and the robbers.

    >Or will that attract wax moths?

    They will definitely attract moths, but hopefully you'll get a package before the moths get going. As long as you still get freezing nights the moths won't get any foothold. Once it's not freezing your time is limited until the moths take over the combs. You could buy Certan and spray it on the combs to kill the moth larvae. www.beeworks.com has it under wax moth control. http://www.beeworks.com/uspage5.asp The other possibility is to just give it to other hives so they will keep out the moths and have a head start on the year. They will be more willing to raise brood with lots of stores to spend than if they are short on stores.

    >The other hive will likely decide to rob it out before the new bees come, but *if* there was a disease would it be dangerous to let them (or the package bees) have it?

    It's doubtful that any serious brood disease killed them in the winter. These usually strike when brood rearing is seriously going on. You can investigate the brood chamber and look for any signs of brood disease if you're worried about that. Mites, either Varroa or Tracheal, is a more likely scenario and the mites died with the bees.

    I try to avoid letting the bees rob it out because it sometimes sets off robbing of other hives too. But it sounds like you only have one other hive. But that doesn't mean there aren't other bees in a two mile radius. Also the bees seem to THINK they are robbing even though the hive is unpopulated and bees from competing hives often fight over it. Also, it's a big boost to a package or your other hives to just give it to them rather than make them move it. But it won't hurt too much if they do rob it. You can stop it, however. Simply put the bottom box on a flat board (plywood is nice) at least the size of the box or close up the entrance with a one by cut to fit the entrance. Or set the bottom box in an outer cover upside down. Make sure if you have a notched inner cover that the outer cover is slid back to block the notch. Make sure you block any other upper entrance holes anywhere. If the bees can't get in they won't rob it out. If they are already in the process of robbing, wait until dark to close it up.

    >Thanks. I hate being a newbie and being so ignorant.

    It's where all of us started.

    After a while you get a feel for what the bees will do and what the moths will do and how long it will take and under what weather conditions.

  5. #5
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    Jun 2003
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    <i>It's doubtful that any serious brood disease killed them in the winter. These usually strike when brood rearing is seriously going on. You can investigate the brood chamber and look for any signs of brood disease if you're worried about that. Mites, either Varroa or Tracheal, is a more likely scenario and the mites died with the bees.</i>

    Thanks for the fast replies, everyone!

    I don't know if mites would be the problem since a local beekeeper gave me Apistan strips as well as showed me how to use grease patties.

    It's depressing to look at all those dead bees, but I'm willing to nudge through the corpses for signs of mites.

    They weren't all piled up in the front of the box, btw. There was a nice thick distribution of bodies all over the bottom.

    Wings looked in good condition too.

  6. #6
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    <i>If it's Varroa mites you will see, once you recognize the little purplish brown specks, lots of mites on the bottom with the dead bees.</i>

    Waaaaaait a minute. Mites are like little spiders, right? and when my house plants get mites I see webs on the leaves.

    When I scraped out under the screened bottom board there was the usual hive debris (chewed cappings etc) but all was held together with some kind of webbing. ????

    I thought it was a type of mold from all the decay. Could this be another sign of mites??

    and if so what can I do to protect the other hive? they surely have mites too, in spite of the medication I put on in the fall.

  7. #7
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    The Varroa mites look more like a dot about the size of the period on this sentence. Unless you look very close you will not see their legs as they don't protrude very much.

    The webs are probably from wax moths.

    Using Apistan does not insure that you have killed the Varroa. Many Varroa are now resistant to the Apistan. If you don't monitor for mites by doing rolls http://entomology.unl.edu/beekpg/tid...0.htm#Article2 or 24 hour drop counts, then you don't know if you have Varroa or not. The grease patties will help with the T-mites. It does not kill the T-mites but keeps them from reproducing as much. It is possible the cluster just dwindled until there weren't enough left, but cold itself is not usually the cause of the bees demise.

  8. #8
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    Jan 2003
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    Kiel WI, USA
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    Was the webbing only under the SBB? If so, it was probably wax moths that laid eggs under the screen last year.
    It's possible the Apistan didn't work, did you do a mite drop count? I would do one on the other hive now, to make sure they aren't loaded.

  9. #9
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    Jun 2003
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    This is a great discussion. Thanks so much, everyone for taking the time to answer.

    Yes the webbing was only under the sbb but there was no sign of dead wrms/caterpillars or cocoons. When I scraped all the debris it came away in a mat, all that junk held together with fine web.
    --
    I'll do a sugar roll on my living bees (thanks for the link! terrific pictures to help me do it right)

    If I find a bad infestation what's my next course of action?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
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    Bangor, PA, USA
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    So glad that you posted 'cause both my hives died this winter and they look pretty similar to yours...cluster of bees, a bunch dead on the bottom of the hive, no deformed bees. In addition, I didn't see any varroa, and the hives smell OK...like clean beeswax, and the brood looks as OK as my inexperienced eye can tell. Some honey stores remaining so I don't think the bees starved, but these were in frames that were several frames over from where the bees were clustered. But I did have some bees that were head into the cells. Tonight I'll use the advice others gave you, clean out the dead bees and close up the hives against robbers...

    I was puzzled that there was no staining on the hive at all...so the bees must have died before that really intense/prolonged cold snap hit the NE (I'm in eastern PA). I'm leaning toward tracheal mites...although I did do FGMO.

  11. #11
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    >Yes the webbing was only under the sbb but there was no sign of dead wrms/caterpillars or cocoons. When I scraped all the debris it came away in a mat, all that junk held together with fine web.

    Definietly wax moths.

    >If I find a bad infestation what's my next course of action?

    That's a personal decision. If you do and you used Apistan in the fall then you apparently have Apistan resistan mites, so I wouldn't bother with Apistan again. If it was me with a severe infestation I wouldn't use FGMO for that because in my opinion (IMO) it's more useful for keeping the population down with no poisons, but it doesn't have the effectivness to knock down a severe infestation quickly. I would use BWranglers Oxalic acid evaporator if it was me.
    http://www.geocities.com/usbwrangler/oxal.htm

    The oxalic is available at my local hardware store in the paint department as wood bleach. You can also buy it online, but then you'll have to pay the shipping. http://www.chemistrystore.com/oxalic_acid.htm

    A few ounces will go a long way. You only use about a half to a tablespoon per hive per application.

    Other choices are Check-mite, which I wouldn't personally use. Thymol, which I don't like the smell of, but from all accounts will work well, formic acid, which is hard to find in the gel packs and is pretty temperature dependant.


    >truebluefarm

    >So glad that you posted 'cause both my hives died this winter and they look pretty similar to yours...cluster of bees, a bunch dead on the bottom of the hive, no deformed bees. In addition, I didn't see any varroa, and the hives smell OK...like clean beeswax, and the brood looks as OK as my inexperienced eye can tell. Some honey stores remaining so I don't think the bees starved, but these were in frames that were several frames over from where the bees were clustered.

    In a long cold spell bees often starve a short ways from some stores.

    >But I did have some bees that were head into the cells. Tonight I'll use the advice others gave you, clean out the dead bees and close up the hives against robbers...
    I was puzzled that there was no staining on the hive at all...so the bees must have died before that really intense/prolonged cold snap hit the NE (I'm in eastern PA). I'm leaning toward tracheal mites...although I did do FGMO.

    FGMO fog? Cords? The fog is very effective on the tracheal mites. I can't say about the cords. Were there bees crawling on the ground on warmer days earlier? I can't say it couldn't be T-Mites. But the FGMO fog seems to handle them well.

  12. #12
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    Could also be that your hives went into winter queenless and with old summer bees. If none of your diagnosis leads to disease of pests, then that might be the simple answer.

    Ian

  13. #13
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    Or, as Bjorn has pointed out, in a drought sometimes you go into winter with summer bees because the queen shut down laying in the summer and never layed any in the fall.

  14. #14
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    >Or, as Bjorn has pointed out, in a drought sometimes you go into winter with summer bees because the queen shut down laying in the summer and never layed any in the fall.

    That was my first guess. The remaining hive that is so healthy was also the one that swarmed then made a new queen. Plenty of young blood in that hive.

    Bob called me tonight with the same idea about T-mites. It looks like this season I'll be investigating ways to keep them under control so I don't get wiped out again next year.

  15. #15
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    Nov 2002
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    Ames, Iowa
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    Ok, what do you guys think about the brood remaining in the frames from a dead hive? I have one frame from a dead hive with a small amount of brood in the center on both sides. The cells are not perforated, sunken in ect. I took a toothpick to a few and pulled them out to smell, no bad smells. I did pull out a couple that were somewhat ropey. They were not yellowish or brown, just a white / slightly greyish color mostly with some of the more decayed brood being much darker. Is this just from normal decay, and should this be given to a new hive to clean out?

  16. #16
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    Oct 2002
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    You can remove some of the brood by tapping it sideways on something hard or your hand to dislodge the loose brood.

    That will create a little less work for the next colony. The new bees will clean it out on their own. In general it will be a good boost for the next occupants.

    The comment about the ropeyness does concern me.

  17. #17
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    "Ropey" in the terms of AFB is that a match stick (or whatever stick) will string when you push it in and put it out. This string is fairly singnificant. You can get just dead chilled brood to string out a little ways (1/2" or so) but AFB will string out a couple of inches or more.

    I just do like Bill says. Shake out what you can and let the bees clean the rest.

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