This is our second summer with bees. We have two hives, and we medicated both hives in the fall. This spring, one hive seemed very damp, almost wet. The bottom was covered with dead bees and it seemed that the dead bodies may have blocked the opening. It had maybe one-fifth as many living bees as the other hive. I cleaned the hive out and switched the hive bodies because most of the bees left were in the top frame. I have been feeding them pollen and syrup for two months. I could find no dystentary, strange wings or mites.
Yesterday I discovered that the end frame in the now upper hive is black - it looks like it was burned - sooty. There were some burned looking dead bees in it. I switched it out of the hive and replaced it with a fresh frame. There is a weak and scatted brood pattern and I don't see any honey that I could recognize. I looks like they are just storing the syrup? It does seem that there are slightly more bees, but there are dead bees on the bottom of the hive again.
What could that be? Is there anything else that I should be doing to help? Poor bees are at my mercy.
Thank you for your ideas.
Judy and Martin
I'm guessing poor ventalation and a moisture problem.
>Yesterday I discovered that the end frame in the now upper hive is black - it looks like it was burned - sooty. There were some burned looking dead bees in it.
If the frames are shiny and black and look scorched this is normal for frames and for comb. It gets darker and darker as the bees rub propolis and pollen and whatever over them. If they are fuzzy and black, this is fungus and would indicate that you need more ventilation. A Screened Bottom Board, a top entrance or both would help. I don't know what a "burned bee" looks like, but dead ones always look dark and shiny.
>It does seem that there are slightly more bees, but there are dead bees on the bottom of the hive again. What could that be? Is there anything else that I should be doing to help?
How strong is the hive? There are always bees dying even in a healthy hive, but in a strong hive they have enough workers to carry them out. Are there a lot more dead ones on the gorund in front of the hive? If so, then the accumulation is due to the large amount of deaths. If not, then maybe there are not enough bees to keep house?
My general theory is if there isn't any sign of disease and the hive is failing, either kill the queen and combine it with a stronger hive, or if you think there are enough bees to keep five or more frames covered, I'd get a new queen.
Before I combined them I would try to make sure they are not diseased. What does the brood look like? Pearly white? Gray? What does the brood pattern look like? Solid? Spotty? Are there little white kernels like corn in front of the hive? Are there a lot of yellow streaks on the bottom board and the front of the hive?
Thank you for your thoughts. I now have a better idea of what a normal hive looks like.
The brood looks like the pictures in the books, except is is scatered and sparce. There are no yellow streaks on the hive fronts and I don't seen any white things like corn kernels. The hive doesn't smell as sweet as the other hive, but my thought is that it smells like dead bees.
Someone emailed me who lives in our area (the maritime Northwest), and he discussed the moisture problems that he was well familiar with. Ht said it was mold. We know mold here. He suggested a screened bottom board, and as soon as I figure out what and where that is, I'll do that.
Brushy Mt. Bee farm has SBB. http://www.beeequipment.com/search.asp
http://www.beeworks.com/ModKitdetails.htm is a ventilation unit that is awesome. You can easily cut out a place for an SBB on it and add the mesh.
Also, you can do things for more ventilation. You could build a vent box for the top. Cut a couple more holes in the inner cover and cover all the holes in screen wire. Drill some holes in the side of a super and cover those with screen wire. Put the super on top of the inner cover and the cover on top of the super. It's a vent box.
You could even drill a hole in the front of the top box and either cover it, to prevent robbing, or let the bees gaurd it. A hole in the top lets the hot moist air rise and exit the hive. You could cut a hole in the bottom board and cover it with screen. If you only have one hive, you can put a couple of blocks or four bricks next to the hive and stack all of the boxes over there with the lid on top. This makes an open bottom but a closed top so the bees can get in but won't get TOO upset while you do your work.
Cut a hole in the bottom board leaving an inch or more around the edge next to the rim to staple the mesh to and a couple of inches inside the front entrance area to keep out the drafts. Depending on how the bottom board is built you may need to nail it together better now. Get some #8 or #7 hardware cloth and cut it to fit the bottom. Staple it (on the top of the bottom) over the hole. Put it back on the stand and move all the equipment back onto the new screened bottom board. The other plus side is that you now have mites falling through and dying on the ground.
Michael, I'm interested in making a vent box - here in the damp NW I need all the moisture control I can get. Thanks for the great description. What I don't understand is the top entrance. Why can't it be in the vent box (then I would have to not screen the inner cover)? Isn't the top box constantly changing, so it may end up in the middle next year? And how much of an extra stress is it to guard another entrance? In other words are there certain hives or certain locations where a top entrance is not that beneficial?
>What I don't understand is the top entrance.
In the DE system it is on the bottom of the inner cover. It's just a toggle. If you look at the double screen board in the plans section it's a door similar to that.
>Why can't it be in the vent box (then I would have to not screen the inner cover)?
Because the bees would simply fill the vent box with comb.
>Isn't the top box constantly changing, so it may end up in the middle next year?
I don't put it in the box. Bjorn has a system where he puts a hole in every box and uses corks to stop them up. That way you can have it wherever you like to have it and not have to move boxes around.
>And how much of an extra stress is it to guard another entrance?
On a strong hive it's not a lot of stress, but the bees in the super will be more defensive when you open up the hive, because there are gaurd bees there.
>In other words are there certain hives or certain locations where a top entrance is not that beneficial?
I mostly use it in the winter so they can get out if the snow gets deep or the heat of the summer for more ventilation and to handle the heavy traffic. The rest of the time I leave it closed.
I'm sorry Michael, I still don't understand. The images for the DE show the inner cover, then vent box and then vent lid. What do you mean "toggle, on the bottem of the inner cover"?
And how is it that they have 2 types of ventilation options (summer & winter) "the vent box is turned over reducing the thru ventilation"?
>I'm sorry Michael, I still don't understand. The images for the DE show the inner cover, then vent box and then vent lid. What do you mean "toggle, on the bottem of the inner cover"?
Here's a picture of a double screen board. The "toggle" is similar to these. It can be opened and closed. It is on the bottom of the inner cover so that it opens up a "notch" or closes it by pivoting the toggle.
>And how is it that they have 2 types of ventilation options (summer & winter) "the vent box is turned over reducing the thru ventilation"?
Yes, If you turn the bottom vent box over the vents get covered by the "lid". If you turn it the other way it exposes these vents. There are some vents in the "lid". So the amount of ventilation is adjustable. With the vents down it's about three times as much ventilation as with it flipped so the vents are up and blocked.
Thanks. I think I understand the toggle now. Seems like the holes with cork might be easier.
Ok, one final question (I think). If I am going to feed from a top feeder, can I still do that if the inner cover is screened? That way my vent box doubles as the winter feeder source. How do you feed in the winter/early spring?
I use a variety of feeders. The only one I REALLY like is a rapid feeder from www.beeworks.com (again). I have one hole in the middle of the inner cover that is open and several others that are screened. When I'm not feeding I put a brick over the hole. The feeder allows me to fill it without facing any bees so I can feed without suiting up. It's cheaper than a miller feeder. I holds about a half a gallon of syrup.
Another option that I use is I put two holes the exact size of a mason jar lid (or a boardman feeder lid) and screen it with hardware cloth on the bottom. Then I can put a feeder on one hole and have the other for ventilation. Since it's screened I can refill without facing any bees. I just lift the jar, remove the lid and refill it. Because of the #8 or #7 hardware cloth the bees are still inside the hive and not hanging on the jar lid.
They take syrup faster from the rapid feeder and there are holes in a jar lid for them to plug with propolis.
I should say, the DE inner cover already has the hole in the middle and all I did was remove the screen to use the rapid feeder.