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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Ravalli, Montana, USA
    Posts
    9

    Default What killed the bees?

    I am seeking for answer why our bees died last summer. We are new to beekeeping and don't only want to learn from our own mistakes!

    During winter 2009-2010, we had two bee hives. As we are in Montana and winters can get cold and long here, we thought of protecting the bees from the elements a bit better than previous year. We wrapped both hives in plastic and black tar paper to keep the bees warm. Well, we learned that we made a big mistake as the hives didn't vent properly and all the humidity in the hive condensed in the hive cover and "rained" on the bees. The end result was that both hives died that winter.
    Since both hives still had quite a bit of honey left, we purchased three packets of bees from Western Bee (Polson, MT). We put a new packet into each "winter kill" hive and also one packet to an old hive (20+ years old) which we inherited from an old collague of mine.
    By July, both winter killed hives were struggling. One hive lost the queen and soon all the bees died. The other winter killed hive kept struggling. We saw little brood in this hive and the colony never grew bigger than it was in the beginning. Eventually the second hive was without bees as well.
    The third hive, which we coined "slum hive" as the boxes looked so old and used, was thriving and doing great. We ended up harvesting 2.5 gal of honey from that hive and left the rest for the bees for the next winter.
    After 2010 summer, we wondered what killed the two hives.

    Did we not clean the hives properly before we introduced new packets to the hive?
    Had the earlier hives had honey with sprayed fields?

    Greetings, At Wits End Farm

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    syracuse n.y.
    Posts
    1,834

    Default Re: What killed the bees?

    best guess is poor queens. If you are going to try packages again, do as Mike Palmer suggests, when local queens are available, buy them and replace the package queens. I don't buy packages but the people I know that do generally have a 50% or higher failure rate and they are experienced beeks.
    mike syracuse ny
    I went to bed mean, and woke up meaner. Marshal Dillon

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    VENTURA, California, USA
    Posts
    3,604

    Default Re: What killed the bees?

    You did not mention data about your management of brood diseases, Varroa mites, Trachael mites or Nosema.
    How did you cover those above mentioned topics?
    Regards,
    Ernie
    Last edited by BEES4U; 02-20-2011 at 08:59 AM. Reason: spelling
    Ernie
    My websitehttp://bees4u.com/

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Ravalli, Montana, USA
    Posts
    9

    Default Re: What killed the bees?

    Hey Mike Syracuse,

    Thanks for the suggestion. How would I find local queens in my area?

    At Wits End Farm

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    mineral county,Montana USA
    Posts
    798

    Default Re: What killed the bees?

    last summer was cold and wet, it seemed to stay spring forever, my nucs that i brought out of the almonds were really slow to build. with packages you dont have any new bees for weeks, and that is slower when the temps are cold. i had queens shut back down in may. i fed pollen patties (global) when it was to cold to feed syrup, and fed syrup once it warmed up a little and i still had weak hives when the honey flow started.i also had some dud queens, and wasn't sure if it was the weather or the genes so i let them go to long. as to your hive that did well, it sounds like really good genetics, or they got the jump early and robbed the others. my first couple winters were like that, its depressing and motivating. good luck, justin

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Poplar Bluff, Missouri, USA
    Posts
    2,280

    Default Re: What killed the bees?

    My initial reaction also is queen issues. I made splits last summer with 5 MnHyg queens, and 4 of the 5 struggled, and survivors got united. Your "slum hive", did it make it through the winter? If so, how about doing a "walk-away" split, and let the split raise a queen from your slum hive queen? That would be a good and cheap way to get another colony, that you know should have a good chance at surviving.
    Regards,
    Steven
    "If all you have is a hammer, the whole world is a nail." - A.H. Maslow

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Coatesville, Pa, USA
    Posts
    822

    Default Re: What killed the bees?

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenG View Post
    , how about doing a "walk-away" split, and let the split raise a queen from your slum hive queen? That would be a good and cheap way to get another colony, that you know should have a good chance at surviving.
    In My opinion and several others a "walk away split" isn't the way to go. Before you do something like this do much research. I'd prefer not to learn the lesson the hard way. There are easy ways to raise a few good queens. Oldtimer posted it here a couple months ago and it was added to the site. Search for "queens without grafting" and it should come up. It is a VERY informative thread!!!

    Update; I just saw the thread. http://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?t=249478

    And the main site: http://www.beesource.com/resources/e...t-cell-method/

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Poplar Bluff, Missouri, USA
    Posts
    2,280

    Default Re: What killed the bees?

    Yes, there are better ways to raise a few good queens, but when you have those good queens, you still have to make a split, or have a hive in which to put them. With one hive, and one good queen, is there a better way to get a second hive with those genetics and survivor traits? Without laying out any money?

    Last spring I wanted to increase my colony numbers, and wanted to preserve genetics from the donor hives, so did some walk-away splits, and they worked just fine. In fact, they worked better than the MnHyg queens I bought and introduced into some splits.
    Regards,
    Steven
    "If all you have is a hammer, the whole world is a nail." - A.H. Maslow

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Coatesville, Pa, USA
    Posts
    822

    Default Re: What killed the bees?

    The issue with "walk away splits" from what I understand is using old comb. The old comb isn't able to be "reworked" by the bees so they float the larva out with some sort of milky substance to get it in the proper position. When they do this the larva feeds on this and doesn't produce as good of a queen. I guess if you're using new comb that it wouldn't be as much of an issue because they can rework the comb to do what needs to be done. This is just my thought though. I know that others that are far more experienced (understatement of the century "more experienced") don't do walk away splits. If they don't then I don't want to either. With easy and cheap ways to multiply things I'd rather go that rout. As long as you have a strong hive you can take 1/4 or less of it to split into a nuc or something and go from there.

    As far as dying out. . . There are several reasons. Old comb is one other possibility. Queen quality is obviously another. Insecticides in the area are another. It could have been in the comb or what the new packages brought in. There are several options and possibilities. I'd encourage you to set up swarm traps in your area to try to get a good queen and good quality for your area.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Poplar Bluff, Missouri, USA
    Posts
    2,280

    Default Re: What killed the bees?

    In the section on Queen Rearing and Bee Breeding there is a thread titled "Walk Away Splits," you might want to read it. And don't be afraid to do it, several "big boys" do it with success.
    Regards,
    Steven
    "If all you have is a hammer, the whole world is a nail." - A.H. Maslow

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

    Default Re: What killed the bees?

    A swarm I picked up last year did much the same. It hardly brought in any honey during the autumn; the weather wasn't good, but other colonies brought in enough to winter on comfortably. Over the winter, it slowly dwindled, and finally died out a week or two ago. Looking at the overall picture, I think it was a case of too many imported genes. I've come across colonies like this before, and we've got a history of importing queens from warmer climates which probably explains it. Did the packages come from significantly further south?
    RSBrenchley@aol.com
    Birmingham UK

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