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Thread: bees=frozen?

  1. #1
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    Default bees=frozen?

    I checked on my bees a few days before Christmas and it looked like I needed to feed them. about four days later I went out with some sugar and they were all dead. There was a cluster of them between some of the frames, but all dead. It was actually warmer during that time than it had been in the few weeks before, but I'm wondering if opening the hive that day let out enough heat to kill the bees (it was probably 20 that day, but much colder in the weeks leading up to it).
    I'm going to need more bees, of course, so my question is if there is a beesource people would recommend for cold Colorado winters. I got the last batch from a place in Texas, and I'm wondering if they just weren't able to adjust to -12 or whatever it was we had in early December.

  2. #2
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    Did you feed them when you determined that they needed feeding? How did you determine that they did? I doubt that opening your hive when you did killed your bees. They probably didn't freeze, they probably starved. Next time leave them enough to eat.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  3. #3
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    I didn't feed them at the time because I wasn't sure what the best method was, instead I did some research and rearranged the placement of the frames so that some frames that did still have honey on them that were on the outside of the hive were now directly above the bee cluster.
    I'm more concerned with finding bees that will survive next time than figuring out exactly what went wrong this time.

  4. #4
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    Unless you opened the hive for a long time, it wasn't the cold that killed them. I'd say they starved. They may have starved "in place", meaning that they finished all the food in the area that they were in but the weather was too cold for them to move to another spot where they could find more food.

    My carniolans winter over well. They supposedly use honey sparingly and winter over with a smaller cluster to reduce mouths to feed. I don't know that for sure but I do know that they really get going in the spring. It's less important where your bees came from than what their genetics are. I'd say that any properly cared for colony will winter over with no problems, excepting brutal winters or, more important, brutal springs.
    "My wife always wanted girls. Just not thousands and thousands of them......"

  5. #5
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    Some bees will work more at cooler temps with all other variables being close to equal. Some bees will require much larger winter stores. I would recommend getting some bees from a northern breeder or some local stock.
    John B Jacob www.oldsolbees.com

  6. #6
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    The bees should have been clustered at 20 degrees. If you get into the hive and start moving things around at that temp your going to break the cluster and they will probably be as good as dead shortly after you got back to the house.

    Unless you HAVE to open the hives to put sugar on the tops, never open hives at those temps. And don't do anything to disturb them.
    "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." Winston Churchill

  7. #7
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    The best bees/genetics in the world won't survive long without food.

  8. #8
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    If you opened the hive and moved frames around you may have broke the cluster. On a 20 degree day that would be a death sentence. Look in the hive at the dead bees if they are dead with some of them head first in the cells would is a sign of starvation but moving frames around would have been the death nail. Try to never take the top off a hive on a day you wouldnt want the roof on your house taken off unless it absolutely needs to be done.

  9. #9
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    Any bees you get in North America ( with the hopefully exception of AHBíS ) will survive winter wherever you are. If you insure that in late summer or early fall. They are healthy and have adequate food reserves.
    Other factors also come into play like where you locate your hives. Do they have a wind break? Is the hive entrances facing away form prevailing winter wind?
    Trying to feed sugar syrup during cold weather is a waste they canít break cluster to get it. I will take a peek in mid winter to check if they are alive or dead but I never move frames that could disturb the cluster.
    The Busy Bee teaches two lessons: One is not to be idle and the other is not to get stung.

  10. #10
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    Bees do not heat the hive - temperature 1cm over the mantle layer thorax approaches ambient - that's another way of saying "Opening the hive was not the sole cause of them freezing to death." If the center of the cluster drops below minimum operational temperature the bees will freeze but that isn't a side effect of opening the hive from the top.
    http://www.voiceofthehive.com - Tales of Beekeeping and Honeybees

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by goatmeal View Post
    ...instead I did some research and rearranged the placement of the frames so that some frames that did still have honey on them that were on the outside of the hive were now directly above the bee cluster.
    I think you attempted to do what you thought was right and wound up breaking their cluster.

    Quote Originally Posted by goatmeal View Post
    ...I'm more concerned with finding bees that will survive next time than figuring out exactly what went wrong this time.
    While your Texas bees may not be totally acclimated to Colorado, they would probably have survived if their cluster had not been broken. Texas has seen 20 degree temps before, just not very often.
    "...the most populous colonies ...are provided by queens ...in the year following their birth." Brother Adam

  12. #12
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    I use to run Buckfast bees that I got from R Weavers out of Texas, they wintered like Polar Bears. I donít believe the race or where there form makes much difference for winter survival. Healthy and strong colonies with good food reserves will survive very harsh winters. Just ask any of or beekeeper friends form Canada. If they died itís from other factors.
    The Busy Bee teaches two lessons: One is not to be idle and the other is not to get stung.

  13. #13
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    if you moved the frames at anywhere near the temperature you stated then likely you shot yourself in the foot.

    I don't mind pulling the lid (hopefully with the cluster one box lower) in freezing (o degrees centigrade) weather, but I would never disturb the cluster. even at freezing temperature and removing the lid you want to do this quickly and absolutely make certain you have good sunshine and NO wind.

  14. #14
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    Italian bees do not regulate the amount of brood in the hive in relationship to what is coming in. Russians and Carniolans shut down brood rearing on a dime. Italians therefore, are likely to go into winter with larger clusters and require a larger store of honey. Thay are not as good "winterers" as others. iT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT THE CHANGING OF A QUEEN CHANGES THE BEES. (oops) Bees don't live long in the summer. (The colony replaces itself every 3 weeks.) "Winter bees" are a result of being created in the fall with good nutrition, a mite-free hive ...also free from disease. They are like polar bears: they have to fatten up in the fall to make it through.
    If you didn't treat for mites, this colony could have well been dead last Aug/Sept. That is what can be learned. Better luck in '09!

    dickm

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by goatmeal View Post
    I'm more concerned with finding bees that will survive next time than figuring out exactly what went wrong this time.
    Well, imo, if you find bees that will survive, which almost all or any should, they will still die if they don't have enough food where they can get to it.

    Putting honey above them wasn't a good idea, imo. If they were all the way up to the top bars when you looked at them, I would have placed newspaper and sugar right on top of them. On the other hand, the cluster must not have been of a very good size. You may have had other problems other than starvation. Varroa, tracheal and nosema other diseases and pests could have caused a small population that couldn't survive, not enough bee mass.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by fatscher View Post
    While your Texas bees may not be totally acclimated to Colorado, they would probably have survived if their cluster had not been broken. Texas has seen 20 degree temps before, just not very often.
    Let's remember that honey bees originated in places in the world quite different from where we Americans keep them now. And they have thrived quite well, until recently. Mike Palmers bees survive temperatures well below zero, as do our friends in Canada.

    So, imo, below freezing temperatures don't kill bees, if the beekeeper knows enough about how to leave them w/ enough feed and proper ventilation they will have a better than 60 or 70% chance of surviving until spring.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  17. #17
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    I just had a hive freeze but I'll blame bad bee keeping for that freeze. Last summer I fed a new colony installed from a nuc. I stopped feeding when the colony appeared to be growing in size and moving lots of pollen. Well, in late Sept., I opened the hive to check it and discovered they were starving. No food in the hive at all and the colony size had dropped dramatically. Robbed?

    Well, I immediately began to feed sugar syrup and patties and they built up a fairly good supply of honey but the colony size didn't increase enough to survive the winter. The temperatures recently dropped to the low single digits.

    Since today was 60F I opened the hive to check it and the cluster was dead in place. They were all on a fat section of honey and some of the bees were literally dead with their heads in the cells.

    Oh well, I'll know better next time. By the way, the other hives are amazingly strong.

    So far, I'm liking the Carniolans.

  18. #18
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    mineral county,Montana USA
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    my italians are from packages that came from central coastal california last spring and are surviving a pretty severe montana winter.when they have not its been my fault.

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