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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
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    Evansville, IN, USA
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    2,837

    Wink Diagnosing a Deadout

    Within the next few months, some may find (hopefully a few) dead colonies. It might be helpful to NewBees (and some ole-timers ) to know WHAT TO LOOK FOR and a possible cause.

    Comments please . . .

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Volga, SD
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    2,790

    Default

    Great idea, Dave W! I tend to read the threads with titles like, "My hive died; what caused it?" and find them among the most interesting threads posted here.

    The variety of opinions and suggestions is useful, I think.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
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    Round Top, New York - Northern Catskill Mtns.
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    Default

    I agree that the review and investigation of the cause (s) of a hive's demise are important to developing your techniques for the future.

    Too often the "standard" answer when asking why a hive was lost is the easiest and one that eases the keepers responsibility.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
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    Evansville, IN, USA
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    Default

    I wish all of you were better mind-readers

    My intent was that 500 or so of you "good people"
    would offer some suggestions of WHAT TO LOOK FOR,
    and possible causes?????

    I guess I need to use more ?????

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Boone County, West Virginia, USA
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    908

    Default

    Dr. Caron of UDEL was conducting surveys a few years ago on winter losses. I suppose he was trying to see a trend in the numbers due to certain practices. What was really sad is that out of five states, (WV, MD, DE, NJ, PA) only 75 people responded to the survey. That is an absolutely lousy response from the beekeepers here. I'm sure a lot of them didn't know anything about it, I know I didn't. If we want to improve the way we keep bees we need to help out the doctors, professors, or researchers when we can. I sent Dr Caron ane email to see if he was still doing the surveys. Maybe we can help him get more than 75 responses if he is.

    http://maarec.cas.psu.edu/pdfs/BeeawareNL404.pdf

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    El Dorado County, CA
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    605

    Default

    dead bees with their heads in the comb is a sign of starvation. remember that it's possible to have stores in another part of the hive that the cluster didn't make it to.
    all that is gold does not glitter

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    Default

    Significant things to look for in a dead out:

    Stores. Not just if there are any, but where are they.

    Dead bees. First, are there a lot of dead bees IN the hive. Second are there a lot with their heads in cells. Third, are those away from stores.

    Dead Varroa mites. Are there lots of dead varroa mites on the bottom board.

    Deformed wings. Are there a lot of bees with deformed wings?

    Wax moths. If you're in the North and there are a lot of wax moth webs, then you know they died early before the cold killed all the wax moths.

    Mouse nest. A mouse can devastate a hive.

    Keep in mind WHEN they died (like right after a hard sub zero cold snap in the winter, early in the fall, late in the winter).

    Then you try to reconstruct the whole thing based on when and what you found.

    If you keep track of this over the years you'll get more of a feel for things.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Johnston, South Carolina, USA
    Posts
    554

    Default SHB Deadouts

    Unfortunately I've had experience w/ a SHB dead out. I'll post links to pictures when I get home, but the comb is sticky and runs with fermenting honey, the bees look tired, worn, out and simply overwhelmed. The comb will have gross black areas where the beetles have deposited their excretions, and the cells are chewn all the way through. You'll also definately see more SHB and their little white larvae than bees. It looks very similar to Wax Moth damage only not as much web stuff.

    There's my hint.

    -Nathanael
    Beaches' Bee-Haven Apiary http://beachesbeehaven.com
    Aiken Beekeepers Association http://aikenbeekeepers.org

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    lewisberry, Pa, usa
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    6,080

    Default

    Stan,
    I'm sure many will go along with your comment. Don't be surprised, I don't...

    This past year around here, we had many "classic" starvation hives, just as you suggest, claimed by beekeepers. Bees in cluster with bee heads all sticking in cells. I heard then same story many times.

    Here is my take. Bees have a lifespan that is programed. The fall and winter bees shortened their life by being very active all fall last year. We had temps in the 50's and 60's all the way through January. And this extra activity took its toll. Although some hives were rearing brood, they were not keeping up with the losses that were occurring. So the clusters were getting smaller with what I think were faster than normal shrinking clusters.

    So when the cold snap finally hit in late February and March, the clusters were not able to deal with it as they normally could of. Larger clusters in November and December usually handle cold snaps well. But the later in the year we get, the risk of loss increase. Throw in the activity that a warm November, December, and January caused, and the speeding up of bees death rate, and late clusters were vulnerable.

    And many of these hives had bees found with heads sticking in cells. And some suggested that bees would not move off the brood. I think that's baloney too! Bees will cannibalize larvae and brood if they need too. To suggest they chose death over moving to feed a few inches away goes against mother nature in so many ways. And goes against what bees show us in many other ways where survival is chosen over volunteered death.

    What happened was these bees were raising brood as warm weather dictated and out of necessity to get their numbers up. But that last cold snap froze bees in cluster. And bees in cluster try to warm the cluster and brood, will fill in any cell they can find. Meaning they are all head first in empty cells creating heat.

    So finding bees head first in cells is not a clear indicator for starvation. I know you can read that classic comment in many books. But its not true just the same.

    Bees head first in cells can mean more than starvation. Sorry if it took a good bit to get that out.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Boone County, West Virginia, USA
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    908

    Default

    I haven't heard mention of trachael mites. Since TM affects adult bees and not larva, it is more common to have a deadout from TM in winter, usually within 2 to 3 months after your queen shuts down, when there is no brood to replace the infected adult bees. These bees will die head first in cells too even when there is stores for them.
    Dr. Caron of UDEL has replied to my inquiry about his ongoing study of winter losses. When I get the info I'll pass it on for those who wish to participate.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2000
    Location
    Birmingham, West Midlands, UK
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    751

    Default

    I'm not sure about the 'dead bees with heads in cells = starvation scenario either. i've found them like that many times when the hive has died out late in a very mild winter (ie one with very few, very mild, frosts), with plenty of stores within inches. I put those down to queen failure. The bees died while resting in the cells, and there weren't enough live bees left to remove them.
    RSBrenchley@aol.com
    Birmingham UK

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Brasher Falls, NY, USA
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    26,174

    Default

    Other than looking for AFB scale, once a colony is dead I don't spend much time wondering why or trying to figure out what caused the colony to perish. That said, sometimes you will see that drone cells are present where the worker brood is and this would indicate a drone layer or laying worker had been there and that the colony dwindled because of lack of replacement bees.

    I guess a dead colony in the spring which shows evidence of starvation would lead you to a diagnosis of starvation, but what does that tell you?

    So, as I said, check for AFB Scale and if none found, put some new bees into it and get on w/ beekeeping.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

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