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Thread: Winter Die Off?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
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    KAMLOOPS, BRITISH COLUMBIA
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    25

    Default Winter Die Off?

    Hi All:

    I am going into my first winter as a bee keeper and I guess it is time to ask the traditional first winter question. How many dead bees should i see outside my hive in the middle of winter?

    I am up in BC and we are having one cold December (-30 some nights). I bungee corded some hard styrofoam insulation around the hive, have it out of the wind and left it with a full 9 or 10 frames of honey. Over the last two weeks of cold weather I have seen hundreds of bees dead on the snow in front of the hive. When i sit and watch for a while i have seen the odd bee fly out, struggle in the snow and die.

    I understand that there should be a die off of bees through out the winter I am wondering if numbers like these are in the realm of possibility or if it is time to put my order in for some new bees this spring!

    Any comments would be appreciated!

    M.

    PS the hive was treated with both menthol and apistan earlier in the fall

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Fairfield, Connecticut
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    597

    Default

    I would think it all depends on the size of the cluster going into winter. Some races of bees winter in smaller cluster than others. My 2 cents
    If it isn't broken, don't try to fix it. If you build it, they will fill it.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    hamburg, new york, usa
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    440

    Default

    I have also seen today bunch of bees dead around hives. I have Russian bees. I hope they survive they are supposed to be tough bees.

  4. #4

    Wink Bees outside?

    Hi,

    Wintering is such amazing time of the year. To think that an insect that has trouble at 40f can make it through -30f!! Good old team work.

    On occasion bees leave in the middle of winter. I'm not sure why. Speaking from my experience less food more bees flying early. If you get a day in the 45f area, slowly pop the cover and see if they are at the top. Basically that they have eaten their way up through the honey. If that is the case, use the sugar feeding method with dry sugar on newspaper or a sugar cake.

    Or instead of popping the lid you can gently try tilting or lifting the hive for approxamiate honey weight.

    Best of wishes and Good Luck, Phil

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Ontario, Canada
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    196

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    MCA,

    What do you have on top of the hive?

    The sides of the hive are not that important. The watter will just run down and out the front, if your hive is forward tipped, as it should be.
    The Styrofoam there is not needed where you are. Minus 30 is certainly cold enough, but I doubt that it stays for weeks at the time? (In my parts it goes to minus 40 - 45 and worse and stays there for weeks! At night ofcourse.)You would do better if you would take that Styrofoam off the sides and bungee cord some tar/roofing paper around the box instead, to give them some solar gain.

    Now, the top of the hive is very important in cold weather!
    I assume that you have on an inner cover? On that you should put a 1/2" homasote, ceiling tile made of wood fibres - not glass or some other c.... This will absorb and disperse humidity to through the side edges.
    On this than put a piece of your Styrofoam. An inch and a half or two will do fine.
    In the rim of the inner-cover should be cut a slot for upper entrance. 3/8 x 2or 3" wide, from here the humidity will escape and keep your bees dry.

    I suspect that your hives are not insulated on top and when it is cold the warm air from the cluster is condensing on the cover and dripping on the bees???
    I hope that I am wrong...

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    FRASER VALLEY, BRITISH COLUMBIA
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    1,347

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    MCA:

    Yup, it's been a cold one indeed. The bees flying off to die in the snow is normal. The weather has warmed up some. I wouldn't worry to much about the weather side of things. Like France sais insulate on top. I'd worry more about the treatments that you used for tracheal and varroa. We've had apistan resistant mites since 2000 in BC. Don't know if your varroa is or not. More importantly do you? In early spring you can do a simple test to check for varroa. Personally I like formic for tracheal. It is very effective and also kills some varroa. Unfortunately it's kinda hard to get formic for 1 or 2 hives.

    Jean-Marc

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    hamburg, new york, usa
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil Minnesota View Post
    If you get a day in the 45f area, slowly pop the cover and see if they are at the top. Basically that they have eaten their way up through the honey. If that is the case, use the sugar feeding method with dry sugar on newspaper or a sugar cake.
    Phil,
    Where do you place granular sugar? I assume one uses 5# bag. I have inner cover board and on it empty medium super with insulating material. Do I put under insulating material on top of inner board? Thanks

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Auger Hole, MN
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    433

    Default

    its the hives with no dead bees out front that are usually dead.

    i totally agree with France about slotted inner cover and fiber board.

    there is no other bee that winters as well as those russians. unreal wintering survival rate.

    i find that the mite damaged hives are gone by new years, then nosema is a concern if the bees can't leave the hive ass winter drags on, then in march and early april starvation is a concern.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    KAMLOOPS, BRITISH COLUMBIA
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    25

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    Thanks for all the input. I am feeling better about the dead bee situation (well not for those that died) as i used a small wire to clean the dead bees from the entrance reducer and didn't encounter 1000's of dead bees one would expect with a total collapse.

    As for insulation on the top of the hive it is basically just some hard styrofoam and 6 inches of snow on the outside cover. I have talked to a few people who keep bees near me and most do not insulate at all or worry too much about condensation (it is pretty arid in Kamloops). They insist i am worrying too much.

    As for the mite treatment. This was my first year and i simply treated without testing. If i make it to the spring I will definitely test to see if treatment is required at all. I would prefer not to medicate at all if it can be avoided.

    Again thanks for the input. If I do make it through the winter you can expect some posts on splitting! (buy a queen or let them make there own..)

    Happy New Years!

    Mike

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    196

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by pcelar View Post
    Phil,
    Where do you place granular sugar? I assume one uses 5# bag. I have inner cover board and on it empty medium super with insulating material. Do I put under insulating material on top of inner board? Thanks


    I would sugest that you make a shim, a wooden box. I have 3" boxes, (3" is the difference between full and 2/3 super) Put paper on frames. Put on this 3" box and pour the sugar on paper. Inner cover and the rest goes on top, etc...

    I had tried out this latest craze, last year on 3 hives. (Dry sugar is meant for emergency and not for feeding)
    Since everybody is talking so much about it I thought that I should at least try it and see. Well, I had put it on top of the inner cover, on 3 hives. On one and only visit to my wilderness yard, I noticed from the far that two hives were probably gone. Did not touch them, cause in midle of winter is nothing one can do, in our parts anyway.
    In the spring I found that those two were dead. They were exceptionally strong, but my observation told me that when the sun came out and warmed them, they went on top and worked the sugar. When sun hid behind the cloud or the trees they got caught and froze. Those in the cluster were thus weakened in numbers and were not able to move after the food and starved. This was very troubling for me because I knew better than what I did. I actually killed them myself! They had two full supers of honey and I killed them by giving them sugar - they did not need?!
    Anyhow, such is the price one has to pay for not using ones head, I guess? I should mention that those two hives were in the sun. The third one was in the shade and survived, but never vent on top. Although they did work the sugar a bit, only from the safety/warmth of the hole in the inner cover. In the shade it was too cold for them to go on top of the inner cover? Or they were perhaps just too smart or too cautious to venture too far from the safety of the cluster.
    Whatever reason saved their buts - the others would have made it if I had put the sugar on the frames and thus shortcircuit the temptation...

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Worcester County, Massachusetts
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    3,703

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    mmm, the way i see it, the whole point of this kind of feeding (dry sugar), is to supply feed to the bees while they are in the cluster...as opposed to a frame feeder or a baggie feeder (where the bees must leave the cluster to access feed).

    the paper with the dry sugar must go directly above the cluster...if the cluster is in the bottom box (in a 2 box hive), the sugar should go between the boxes...not on the top bars of the top box.

    we've had fairly good luck using this method as emergency feed. the respiration of the bees (if they are strong enough) will provide enough moisture for the bees to take the sugar. if the cluster is too small, they just never get that feedback loop going.

    any winter "emergency feeding" must allow the bees to access the food while clustered.....paper packets (for crystalized honey) and dry sugar (as described above) work pretty well in our experience.

    deknow

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Kingsland Georgia
    Posts
    314

    Default

    I would suggest you move here to south Georgia. Its been in the mid 80 for two weeks.
    but I will trade you pound for for pound SHB for snow :>

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