Greetings . . .
How long is the life expectancy of a "normal" hive?
(I guess that normal hive is one that is Requeened, Split, Combined, and swarms during its lifetime.)
At a meeting, someone mentioned, "5 to 7 yrs", and I remember reading that somewhere (internet???).
How does this relate to a 15 to 20% winter loss?
For a northern temperate environment, 3years is about the maximum. Much depends upon the vitality of the queen. Extensive studies conducted in Canada have shown that just a few percent make it beyond three years.
Only about 60% of the hives that supercede or replace a failing queen will be successful. I verified this figure with my own set aside tests. So around year three about half of the colonies will fail simply due to factors associated with queen replacement.
Toss in a little disease, a dash of drought, two shakes of bad wintering and a skunk or two and a hive has a very rough time making it past the third season.
With a feral hive, the broodnest is scavanged and the cavity cleansed for the next swarm.
It's interesting to look at swarm survival statistics. Less than half of them will survive the first season. Combining the survival rate for the parent colony and the swarm colony it's easy to see why bees aren't found hanging off of every tree. :> )
soooo my hive is about 5 years old it has swarmed a couple of times last year but is full of bee's this spring what should I do?
do I need to clean my hive and how do I go about it what should I do with the bee's I have. I am new to this hobby and I sort of inherited it.any info you can afford would be greatly appreciated
I'm a bit confused. I thought that the question assumed regular requeening, but the answer implied that queen problems were the primary cause of hive demise. So if a hive is regularly requeened, monitored for disease and treated if necessary, I don't understand why it wouldn't essentially live as long as the beekeeper.
Guess Im dumber than dumb. I assumed a colony was "perpetual". Kinda like sour dough, just add a few chemicals, replace the queen and/or add other bees (combine), and let it grow. Then, if the skunk stays away, you have "extra" bees for a swarm and/or split.
I sure have a lot to learn!
depends a bit on how much attention you spend on your hives. I think he was refering to commercial type managed hives. I can see a hobby hive living for a lot longer. I if I only looked after three hives, I could make them live longer than three years.
I cannot speak to the life of a swarm in commercial beekeeping, but I never had swarms die other than the occasional winter death, and darned few of those. If you watch them and make sure that they have a fecund queen they just don't die. I'm sure that disease takes a few here and there. I did once lose a hive to foulbrood.
Since the Varroa mite came on the scene it is a pain in the behind to protect them, but they can be kept alive. The tracheal mite has never bothered my bees, or at least any trouble they caused has not been apparent.
Of course my experience counts for nothing in the grand scheme--I've never had more than a dozen hives at one time.
Keep watch for disease and pest and with making a split a hive will never die out. This is why the books say to start with 2 or more hives. With proper requeening the chances of loss each winter is the same if weather and pest are the same. If your hive is healthy keep doing what you are doing. Bees are like any livestock in many ways. I being a farmer have lost many animals but still got an increase. But if you only have one mare and are having her bred every year and selling the colt and something kills her you have lost everything. But if you have 5 mares and lose one you can keep a filly and in a couple years have another mare. Bees have much faster results than horses but I hope you got the point. I have 2 healthy colonies coming out of winter. Now I never plan on buying another package in my life time. I am making splits to increase the number of hives so that my risk of loss is spead out more. All I have to do to try another race is requeen or buy a queen for a split. And with close monoriting of mites and other diseases my losses should be less than 30% for the worst year. Commercial guys can not baby their hives like I baby mine and have more losses from the lack of attention. I see my hives at least 2 times a week as they are at my dads farm 6 miles away where I have other animals(chickens and quail). This summer I will be there daily growing veggies. Just being able to watch the bees without opening the hives is something we have over the commercial guys. For one we will not miss many swarms which is a time that colonies are depleted or end up queenless because the queen is lost on her mating flight, ect. Dad kept 20 to 40 colonies in Peoria IL. If he ever got below 20 he would split to make his numbers up. The years he had 40 he caught alot of swarms and swarms can have a hard time building up and storing enough for winter.
I guess my thoughts are that a hive might live forever. I know of feral colonies that have been there for fourty years. The bees are constantly renewed. Of course every winter is a gamble and some hives fail, but I don't see it as an issue of "life expectancy", just the rigors of unpredictable climate.
It's not like a hive of bees gets old and dies.
Some hives die the first year because they picked a bad site. Some die because they don't have the genetics that cause them to do the right thing at the right time. Some hives die because, although their genetics work well with the climate most years, the weather one year is unusual enough to hurt them enough that they got wiped out. But I don't see this as "life expectancy", just luck of the draw.
[This message has been edited by Michael Bush (edited March 15, 2004).]
> I guess my thoughts are that a hive might live forever.
> The bees are constantly renewed.
> It's not like a hive of bees gets old and dies.
Agreed. It's just like my Great-Great Grandfather's axe,
a family heirloom. Of course, grandpa replaced the
handle, and my Great-Grandfather put a new axe-head on,
but it is still my "Great-Great Grandfather's Axe".
The long-standing feral hives mentioned might be worth
checking out, as 40 years in impressive, but most likely
are easy to verify as within the swarming range of a
beekeeper whose hives generate swarms every year. Year
after year, the feral colonies may die, but new tenants
move in year after year.
There's one in the panhandle (Morril NE) that has been in the walls of a house that long. The lady who lives there won't let me take them out (because she loves them) and I'm 550 miles away, so I can't easily catch a swarm from them . She watches them everyday and has done so for decades. I'm quite certain it's the same hive. She would have noticed if they died out. I haven't checked with her in a couple of years, but last I checked it was still there.
It would be nice if you could place a couple trap hives there. She may let you and even call you when she see bee working them. You would have a good chance of getting the gentics from that hive if not from that hive directly.
I used to live there and it would have been a nice idea. But now it's a 1100 mile round trip just to go set them up with no gaurentee I'd get anything. I begged her to let me take them out of the house and put them in a hive for her so I could get some queens.