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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Stillwater, Minnesota USA
    Posts
    62

    Post

    Today being our nicest day so far I went to check on my bees when I got home from work. Of the nine hives I brought into winter, I was pretty sad to see that I had lost another, bringing the death toll up to 5. When I took out a few frames where the cluster had been, starvation was pretty apparent, and the queen was easily found so I picked her up and set her on the clipboard I use for hive records and finish checking the other hives.

    When I came in I put the queen under my dissecting microscope, took out my dissecting kit and checked my hive records to see what I had written previously about food stores for this dead hive. I thought I’d try dissecting her to check her spermatheca and just look at her internal and external anatomy, but under my microscope I could see the faintest twitching of a leg or antenna every little while. This I thought was just due to the sharp change in temperature or nerves or something, but the more I watched, it seamed that these twitchings were increasing in frequency. At first the twitching couldn’t be seen except under the microscope, but after a while I could see just the slightest movement without it. In disbelieve I mixed up some sugar syrup and with an eyedropper I placed a drop on her mandibles. Nothing happened for a while, but then her mandibles parted and her tongue swung down slightly, not enough to tell if she was actually alive, and how could she be, coming from a dead hive during a Minnesota winter. After about half an hour being inside she righted herself and moved about a half inch and I couldn’t deny she was alive. After an hour she seamed to be doing ok, and I went out and brought in the four frames of dead lifeless bees that the cluster was formed in. After warming up these started making slight movements and now after about 5 hours a lot of them a quiet active.

    I’m not sure how long they can make it confined in a box indoors, and they don’t seam to pay any attention to the queen that I put in makeshift queen cage with a few of the workers, but I’m amazed that their doing as well as they are after they had to be right on the brink of death.
    For the love of bees

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Location
    Round Top, New York - Northern Catskill Mtns.
    Posts
    1,895

    Post

    I had a hive a few years back that had a small cluster. We had some cold weather over night and in the mid morning I was working the hives.
    This hive appeared dead, no movement at all from the cluster.
    When I started pulling the hive apart, I laid one of the frames with the cluster down in the sun after I had check for the queen.
    I picked up another frame / clump and then notice that the other frame had movement.
    I quickly put the hive bad together, and switched locations with a more populous to boost the population when they flew that day.
    The hive made it and did quite well that year raising a new queen and a good honey crop.
    It had been cold enough overnight to chill / freeze the small cluster, but not cold or long enough to kill them. It’s the only time I have seen this.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    College Station, Texas
    Posts
    6,973

    Post

    years ago I learned this from a minnesota beekeeper....

    if I experience a dead out (still lodged between the comb and not on the bottom board) from possible starvation one of the first things I do is drip a bit of suger water on the girls. on more than one occasion by the time you had inspected a yard this dribble or so of suger water had revived what appeared to be a dead cluster. and yes I did see this beekeeper equivalent of the story of lazarus on more than one occasion.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Blue Ridge, TX
    Posts
    85

    Post

    That is strange. I have never heard of that before! I'll have to make sure my hives are really dead. Did all the bees live, or just a few?
    TXBEE

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    College Station, Texas
    Posts
    6,973

    Post

    not all for sure, but the majority yes.

    if you poke around on them and there appears to be involuntary movement much like mpjourdan has described then the dead out still has a chance.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Totnes, Devon, England
    Posts
    1,019

    Post

    During a course at a lab in England last year I witnessed bees come back to life after having been frozen to -70 degrees celcius for nearly an hour!

    I wonder if anyone has done any research on this?
    The Barefoot Beekeeper http://www.biobees.com

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Whitefield, Maine USA
    Posts
    6,624

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    Makes me wonder how many of my deadouts were really dead........
    Dulcius ex asperis

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Crown Point , (NW) Indiana
    Posts
    529

    Post

    I have witnessed what MP is seeing in one of my hives.

    The big concern is that if your hive is like mine, there isn't a significant cluster to keep the queen warm. It is possible for her to die, rather than just be dormant, the next time it is really cold. It is also possible that she will become sufficently chilled enough to kill the sperm contained in her (I read this in someone's book).

    I am currently concern that my queen may have a poor laying pattern after my event. I'm even more concerned that she maybe sterile altogether. But even worse, I realized that the cluster was far too small to provide adequate heat. I have since pulled a soild frame of bees from another hive for heat. This has worked very well, and I have not noticed the dormant behavior we have witnessed since.

    While I think its important to "poke at your bees to assure they are alive" I am a little wary of tecumseh's advice to drip syrup on them. It's tough to keep warm, but its worse if your cold and wet. I might suggest dry sugar on the top bars, or feeding syrup so long as there is no possiblity of dripping directly on the cluster.

    Tecumseh, this isn't an attack, I just think you might have forgotten it is still really cold up here and the Texas climate is a lot different and more forgiving. It's still close to freezing and the days aren't very long or warm yet.

    I think what MP and I have seen is what every beekeeper wished they saw right before their hive froze to death. We have been very lucky.

    The hive that has presented this to me has been a great example for my experience. I know what has brought about this condition on my hive.

    First off I moved my hives when it was cold enough for them to stop flying. There may have been a loss of bees because they did not re-orient themselves with the new hive location. I should have been more patient and moved them more slowly (or better yet, not at all).

    Second I had a mouse in the hive in early-mid Decemeber. Upon inspection my bees were both very angry and moderately depleted in population.

    Third, with a much reduced population, only a small brood area could be kept warm enough to yield a small replacement population. The broad rearing ceased in January and populations have been slowing deminishing.

    When I found my nearly dead hive, there was scarely a measuring cup of bees, and I'm not sure how many of them were dormant, and how many were mortally frozen in position.

    Do note, that an immediately adjacent hive has 5-6 full frames of bees and was extremely busy and showed absolutely no signs of being the least be cold. (environmental factors (shade,etc,etc) were not the problem, this was strickly a population issue.

    Mite drops have not revealed any significant problem, but I have not tested/treated for tracheal mites. They could have been an issue, but the point that I am trying to make is that population has a primary impact (like starvation) on bees.

    I too wonder how long a dormant bee is dormant before just being frozen dead? I think it depends on too many a number of varying factors to really quantify an answer or establish a method of prevention to be any more than just plain old good general beekeeping skills. And those can vary by location.

    Good luck all, keep surviving,

    Jeff

    [size="1"][ March 10, 2006, 09:50 PM: Message edited by: NW IN Beekeeper ][/size]
    There is always more than one way to skin a cat, that's of course if you're into eating cats.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Rochester, Washington, USA
    Posts
    973

    Post

    Saw on discovery channel a cricket in the Himalaya mountains that goes into a state of suspended animation, literally freezing solid, and when spring arrives it thaws out to regain its old self.
    \"ONLY WHEN THE LAST RIVER HAS BEEN DRIED UP<br />THE LAST TREE BEEN CUT DOWN<br />THE LAST WILD FISH CAUGHT<br />WILL MAN REALIZE YOU CAN\'T EAT MONEY\"<br />GHANDI (?)

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    College Station, Texas
    Posts
    6,973

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    nw in beekeepers sezs:
    While I think its important to "poke at your bees to assure they are alive" I am a little wary of tecumseh's advice to drip syrup on them. It's tough to keep warm, but its worse if your cold and wet. I might suggest dry sugar on the top bars, or feeding syrup so long as there is no possiblity of dripping directly on the cluster.

    tecumseh replies:
    tecumseh knows full well how cold it get in indiana and michigan even during a mild winter. and that knowledge is exactly why tecumseh resides in texas. or as my momma sezs... even a duck is smart enough to fly south in the winter.

    trust me on this, granulated suger will not work. a bit of sugery fluid that starts up the girls mouth parts and the natural tendency to groom their neighbor (as we might say in calculus) are the necessary and sufficient conditions for this "POSSIBILITY" to work.

    I would recommend a spray bottle, but we rarely had one of these handly stashed in the bee truck tote box. besides in the tote box the spray bottle might get contaminated with the stricknine, the crackers and the sardines and that would have created even another larger problem.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    S.E. Oklahoma
    Posts
    337

    Post

    I suggest everyone follow the modern advice and treatment given to people in cold water drowning incidents. In the past we were all told a couple of minutes underwater and you're a goner. Now we've seen that humans also undergo a similar suspended state (in this case called the mamalian dive response) when exposed to cold water. Some may remeber Alvaro Garza (the kid who fell through any icy pond) who recovered after 68min under water. We now know that heartbeat and function can sometimes recover upon "warming" the body. The modern treatment declares that "a body isn't dead until it's warm and dead". On that next deadout (if conditions are cold- seem to be a waste of time in 70+ degree weather), before simply dumping on the ground, move them to a warm area and give them a couple of hours.

    David

    [size="1"][ March 11, 2006, 06:34 AM: Message edited by: Stewaw ][/size]

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Whitefield, Maine USA
    Posts
    6,624

    Post

    &gt;"a body isn't dead until it's warm and dead".

    Good advice.
    Dulcius ex asperis

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Crown Point , (NW) Indiana
    Posts
    529

    Post

    tecumseh says:
    tecumseh knows full well how cold it get in indiana and michigan even during a mild winter. and that knowledge is exactly why tecumseh resides in texas. or as my momma sezs... even a duck is smart enough to fly south in the winter.

    Jeff thinks:
    Yeah, that is good advice. The more beekeeping I do the more I wish I lived further south to have a longer workable bee season.

    I understand what you mean by motivating the bees by spraying them, I think this is good logic. I'm a little concerned (though most of have common sense) that some people might hose their bees (we all don't use that common sense sometimes). So people, spray your bees in moderation. My suggestion of sugar was not to awake the bees, but to merely minimize travel to food stores as/if they awake. This may minimize breaking the cluster too much and further depleating heat.

    I really like dave's advice to move dead-outs to a warm area just to assure yourself they are in fact gone.

    [maybe the kitchen, if they're really dead whatcha gotta worry about?]
    Actually I used my laundry room. I found that plucking a few off the comb, cupping them in your hand and giving them a couple puffs of warm breath brought them around in a couple minutes (maybe it was my bad breath that they wanted to get away from?)

    Jeff
    There is always more than one way to skin a cat, that's of course if you're into eating cats.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Central Wisconsin
    Posts
    342

    Post

    It's more than a coicidence or wierd circumstance I think...something different is happening here where it gets really cold.

    All winter I have been gathering hundreds of bees from the snow who flew out and appeared to have died. I take them in to check under the microscope for mites and a good number of them unfreeze their engines and come back to life and are found later on bumping against my sliding doors.

    A lot of these bees looked newly hatched, so that when the "more experienced" beekeepers I asked said they were just old bees coming out for a cleansing flight and then dieing naturally, I wondered. This has been going on all winter here in Central WI. I'm still clueless??? Well, ok, I'm usually always clueless, but that's neither here nor there...

    Surely there are some northern beekeepers who know what is going on?
    Buy locally, buy only humanely raised animals, eat in season, keep bees!

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Totnes, Devon, England
    Posts
    1,019

    Post

    Could it be that bees are 'fooled' into thinking that it is warmer outside than it really is, when light is reflected from snow into the hive (where it is, of course, warm) and they think "aha - spring must be here because it is so light" and rush outside, only to find that they freeze up and cannot return?

    Just a thought...
    The Barefoot Beekeeper http://www.biobees.com

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Kiel WI, USA
    Posts
    2,368

    Post

    Maybe their first flight out of the hive, making them clumsier? Or they look newly emerged for a long time in winter due to clustering, and they are actually "old"?

    Either way, I see it too, and don't worry too much.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Bartonville, TX USA
    Posts
    456

    Post

    so why don't we just freeze our hives in the fall, take the honey and reconstitute the bees in in spring.
    "Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes"
    Henry David Thoreau, Walden

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,142

    Post

    My guess is they were starving and got some food and warmth and that got them going again. I don't think they would recover after freezing.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  19. #19
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Location
    Danbury,Ct. USA
    Posts
    1,966

    Post

    I put a few dozen in a freezer overnight by mistake. Did not faze them one bit!

    Dickm

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Casper, WY
    Posts
    526

    Post

    Hi Guys,

    I've seen this many times as a commercial beekeeper. Thinking they were deadouts, I'd dump them out on the ground and cleaned out the boxes. Then I worked with another 4th generation beekeeper who wanted to know where the light sugar syrup was. I asked why and he sprinkled a little on one of those dumped out clusters. After a half hour or so in the sun, they came back to life, much to my amazement.

    So, I watched him for awhile. When working a deadout, he would very carefully remove the outer frames and then exceedly carefully remove a frame from the cluster. If it didn't have stinky, moldly or crispy bees, he would set it in the sun and go work another row of hives. Then return. If any bee showed any signs of movement, he would gently remove the rest of the frames, sprinkle the bees with a light solution of sugar syrup and place them in the sun. When they were up and running, he would set them together. Make sure they were in contact with some feed. And scrape some cappings off some honey so they could easily get feed for themselves.

    The recovery was absolutely amazing! I often wondered about the long term viability/longevity of such hives but didn't take the time to track them.

    I've also seen individual bees, that were hauled out as dead by the cleaning bees, revive when warmed by the sun. It's fairly common in late winter/early spring when the cluster breaks for a little flight on a warm day. I've often wondered how long they've sat 'frozen' in a remote part of the hive before being remove to 'thaw' out.

    And I've had a similiar experience when my interests were focused on morphimetrics. I'd take a baggie and gather up a few 'dead' bees from in front of my overwintered hives. Then, I go back inside to scan a few bee wings. It was easy at first, but after about 15 minutes, all those dead bees would be crawling around :&gt I know they had spent more than just several days out in the below freezing cold.

    Regards
    Dennis

    [size="1"][ March 13, 2006, 06:40 PM: Message edited by: B Wrangler ][/size]

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