So we were told that the bees could overwinter without protection in Oregon and then we had one of the worst storms in 100 years in this area... cold, snow, ice, etc for at least a week, and we lost our bees. This was our first winter with them. As far as the frames in the hive now, what should we do with them? Try to extract, or will the honey be crystallized and impossible to get out? Keep them as they are for some new bees to eat and use?
Any advice would be helpful, thanks.
Are you sure they are dead ? If they are the cause wasn't a week of bad weather. My hives have been burried in snow past the second deep for weeks at a time and we have not seen temps above 5 degrees for a week now. If they are dead I would look for another reason then bad weather.
Mother nature CAN and WILL kill off the weakest of any species. Whether it is deer, birds, or any other, a harsh winter and mother nature culls the weak.
A healthy, strong hive will survive most winters. Thats not to say that every healthy hive will survive. Old bees going into winter(no fall brood), extended extreme cold not allowing them to move where the stores are, deseases, bad genetics(not all individual animals of any species is perfect without fault), T-mites, a late season non-queenright situation, and many other reasons could attribute to a dead winter hive. The thing to get from this is the learning experience so you can adjust/correct/gain experience and move forward as a better beekeeper.
Becky, what part of Oregon are you from? I am near Medford and I had plenty of snow and Ice and everything, the hives were covered in snow except right at the entrances where it seemed the snow had melted do to the ventilation of the hive. It may not have been the cold necessarily, but the wetness inside the hive that caused the bees to give in. I have had problems with too much moisture in some of my hives to the point of mold this winter. The one hive I did lose was to lack of queen going into winter, mating failure I think.
I don't wrap my hives and I've never seen a hive die from cold and I've seen it 20 below for a month at a time. It's hard on them, but didn't kill them. I think they can suffacate if the entrances are left shut for too long, but I've left them buried in snow for a week before with no problems.
My guess is you have another problem.
As for what to do, if you are getting a package in the spring I would give the honey and pollen to them. You can also give the brood comb to them if it's in good shape and let them clean it out.
The honey will not crystalize because of the freezing, but fall honey often has already crystalized by this time of year. Bees will gladly eat it regardless. The problem in the spring is that the wax moths will lay in it and the larvae will tear it up so you will need to either give it to some bees, or put it in the freezer.
If you want to salvage it as honey instead of feeding it and you haven't had chemicals in the brood nest, you can just mash it up. If it's not crystalized, just drain it. If it is crystalized, you may have to put the combs in something and warm them up just until the wax melts and the honey runs and seperate them.
[This message has been edited by Michael Bush (edited January 17, 2004).]
Thank you all,
I don't know exactly what went wrong, but they were alive before the storm and now they are dead. The ice was the bad part, and maybe it did coat the boxes enough that they suffocated and/ or the moisture overcame them when it started to melt. We got them late in the year, and they only filled 8 frames with honey, so they only had the one box, so maybe they just weren't strong enough to make it. We treated for mites, and the hive smells really good, even with the dead bees all over, so I'm pretty sure it isn't foulbrood.
We'll freeze those frames, clean up, and try again in the spring.
We're west of portland a little ways, for the kind person who asked.
Where did you get your bees from? You need a strain from a similar climate, preferably local, for the best chance.
>>they only filled 8 frames with honey>>
That probably had a lot to do with it.
What did you use to treat the mites? I've heard of people who were using check mite losing all their bees. I think the check mite is too poisonous to the bees.
Yes, the bees were local. They were carniolans from a guy who lives about 45 minutes drive from here. He assured us that they would build up enough to overwinter (I think we got the nucs in mid-june) and that our only worry would be maybe needing to feed them in the spring.
We used a thing called Utresept for the mites. It seemed to work, lots of dead mites on the bottom of the hive. It is a mix of essential oils that was, apparently, developed originally as a non-toxic alternative to chemical lice treatments for kids.
Any thoughts on whether we should go to the same guy again or try elsewhere in the spring? Until they died, everything seemed great (I know that sounds stupid, but it is true!).
Even good nucs from a reputable provider may perish. I'm wondering how good of a mite kill you got. Did you do an ether roll either before or after treatment?
If you live west of Portland, cold weather was not your problem(I spent five years in Corvallis). My other question would be,"How many frames of bees did you have going into winter?"
Our normal death loss is about 20% but sometimes the bees that looked great in the fall die and some puny little colony that looked like it had no chance will live.
We had 90 days with little to no rain this summer in the PNW and a fairly short fall. So the bees were really struggling to have enough stored for the winter. The guy you bought them from was most likey assuming anormal yaer. I started feeding in Aug when there was little blooming due to the dry conditions to make up for the lack of natural sources. Hopefully I will make it. They were flying last week when it hit 60.
Yo Becky, drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am keeping hive in the scappose area. Sounds to me the hives were a little weak. Oregon had a terrible bee year and I have been feeding my hives like mad this year so chalk this misfortune up as a "learning experience".
You may want to check out ruhl's bee supply in portland. There queens are excellent and their prices on all equipment is terrific.