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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
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    Vancouver, WA
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    Default Melissa's questions

    Sometimes I read the threads out here and feel like I am way to simple for keeping bees. That said... I love bees! So I keep trying.
    I am becoming the primary bee keeper in our family, which has me a little excited, and very nervous.
    Here's where I am now: I have 4 hives.

    Hive 1) is from last year, a carniolan queen. 3 of the 4 hives we bought last year did not survive.
    1a) the first of the hives that did not survive seemed to not have a queen. We got a new nuc and it did not survive either, right from the get go
    last spring.
    1b) Hive 3 was just always week, but had a queen. This was combined with the bees from the nuc that didn't thrive. This hive died. When I
    looked in it I would have guessed that the hive suffered from foul brood. Except that the dead larva did not smell.
    So I'm not really sure what happened.
    1c) In August we harvested 10 gallons of honey from 2 hives. The hive that had the fewer bees, produced the most honey. In October, that
    hive appeared to be dead. I have not looked in it. It's depressing, it was probably all robbed out, so if there was something
    contagious, the other hive has it too.
    Right now hive 1 is alive in 2 deep boxes. I put sugar (sprayed with water) on the innercover in October. I can see the bees in there but they are not interested in the sugar. I'm worried that they are not thriving like the other 3 hives. But they are alive.

    Hive 2, 3, and 4 are bees that we got out of a barn down the road from us. The owners said this was a swarm from 4 or so years ago, the other two hives were from swarms that appeared to come from that hive this year they were pretty new looking, and started hives in new spots in the barn.

    Hive 2) Is in a Langstroth hive with a deep on the bottom and a super on the top. I fed them sugar syrup in August/September. Then in October I put sugar on top of the inner cover and sprayed it with water. They are eating the sugar. (Hives 1 and 2 seem about the same weight)

    Hive 3) is in a 5 frame nuc box. I fed them a lot of sugar water in August/September. In October I poured 1/2 cup dry sugar on top of the frames. The cleaned up what spilled out the front, this nuc has a solid bottom, so the sugar just landed on the bottom. Two weeks ago I put sugar on the front of the nuc, spritzed it with water, and pushed it in to partially block the front. I figured that would help them stay warm.

    Hive 4) is in a 5 frame nuc box. I fed them a lot of sugar water in August/September. In October I poured 1/2 cup sugar on top of the frames. The cleaned up what spilled out the front, this nuc has a solid bottom, so the sugar just landed on the bottom.. Two weeks ago I put sugar on the front of the nuc, spritzed it with water, and pushed it in to partially block the front. I figured that would help them stay warm.

    I'm stressing about keeping these guys all alive.

    Here is my tenative plan for the new year:
    Feed bees January 15ish to keep bees alive through spring. We usually have a warm week (60 degrees) in Jan/Feb. So I would feed then and check to see if they are still alive.
    Move nucs to Langstroth deeps during that week. This is my big question. After this warm week there will be little opportunity to move them as late Feb to early April can be pure rain around here.
    April prepare swarm traps
    May 1 put out 3 swarm traps. I'm hoping I can put one of the swarm traps in one of the log yards around here, as they usually bring them in. And I'd like to just start using bees that are 'making' it on their own.
    Maples bloom starts in February. Pray for some nice days so the bees can get out and forage.


    I am moving to foundation less frames. I'd like the bees to build their own comb.
    Last year we kept the bees in deeps, and when they had put capped honey across the top, we started adding supers. That seemed to work pretty well.

    I am trying to not let this be more thank I can handle, but sure would like constructive comments on my plan.
    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2012
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    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    3,908

    Default Re: Melissa's questions

    don't move them too early, move them when they start brooding and have a good population and the weather will stay warm. You need to monitor for mites as well.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    Vancouver, WA
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    41

    Default Re: Melissa's questions

    Quote Originally Posted by JRG13 View Post
    don't move them too early, move them when they start brooding and have a good population and the weather will stay warm. You need to monitor for mites as well.
    Mites are part of the reason I'm moving to letting them build their own comb. If I'm not going to treat with chemicals do I need to monitor? What if I just doused them with powdered sugar in the early summer?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Manning, SC
    Posts
    3,678

    Default Re: Melissa's questions

    Quote Originally Posted by MelissaWilkie View Post
    Mites are part of the reason I'm moving to letting them build their own comb.
    Hi Melissa,
    Natural comb will not preclude mites. Everyone has them, it is just how the bees handle them that separates treatment folks from the TF folks. You need to monitor your mite levels and if they get too high......

    It's a learning experience. Grab a mentor to guide you and check back here regularly ...
    Last edited by Barry; 12-02-2014 at 07:27 PM. Reason: TF forum.
    http://OxaVap.com Your source for the Varrox Mite Killing
    OA Vaporizer "One of the highest ranked" by R. Oliver

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    Vancouver, WA
    Posts
    41

    Default Re: Melissa's questions

    I've had a mentor. He treats with chemicals regularly. So I'll check mite levels. Not sure what I'll do with the information,but I'll collect it!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Morro Bay, California, USA
    Posts
    1,265

    Default Re: Melissa's questions

    Melissa,
    Two things jump out to me:
    1) you need to do some post-mortem on your deadouts
    2) you need to change your feeding strategy for the nucs

    My suggestion is read Randy Oliver's page on Guanine deposits from mites on old comb. (about halfway down this page)
    http://scientificbeekeeping.com/firs...-for-your-nuc/
    The really friendly blog "honeybeesuite" has an illustrated series on assessing guanine
    http://www.honeybeesuite.com/what-is-guanine/


    Putting a pile of sugar at the entrance to a nuc is inviting a robbing frenzy as soon as a strong colony discovers the "free food". The colonies will come out to forage on some warm days of the Portland winter, and will be all over the sugar as soon as the Alders shed pollen.

    This late in your winter I would feed inside the nuc with "mountaincamp", but on Randy's first year page cited above, look at the simple mason jar feeder. The nuc is likely to be protein starved, and supplementing with a protein source when the red alders bloom in your area is a good way to get them to build for the spring. Bee growth follows a logistic curve, and a small population will struggle.

    The post-mortem will tell you if your hive went dead out from "parasitic mite syndrome" -- the catch-all term to describe multi-factorial decline subsequent to mite explosions. You need to know that. An apiary environment, managment decisions and lineages that are mite susceptible will continue to exterminate hives in short order.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    lafargeville ny usa
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    1,467

    Default Re: Melissa's questions

    powdered sugar is not an effective mite treatment. it does kill a few but not enough to make a lot of difference. you really should monitor. you can never kill all the mites, the trick is to manage to maintain a low mite level.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    8,011

    Default Re: Melissa's questions

    Its pretty clear that dusting with powdered sugar is an effective way to dislodge varroa mites from emerged bees. For confirmation of that, see this page by Randy Oliver:

    http://scientificbeekeeping.com/powd...y-work-part-3/

    However, even though sugar dusting does reduce mite levels, the question remains as to what frequency of dusting is necessary to keep mites within a tolerable level in the hive, AND, how willing the beekeeper is to devote the necessary time to do frequent enough dustings.



    And in a nod to Barry, and the unique rules for this forum, note that under those TF forum rules, sugar dusting for mite control is considered a treatment.
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2012
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    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Melissa's questions

    You monitor for mites, so when your colonies suddenly diminish in fall and end up as a dead outs, you don't start blaming everything else.... So many TF noobs come in wanting to know why their colonies died out and blame GMO's, pesticides, SHB, wax moth's etc... and you ask them about their mite counts and you get the same answer you gave.... why do I care, I'm treatment free. Well, now you know why you want to know, so when your suddenly healthy hives are empty come October and you have mite numbers in front of you and all symptoms point to high mite counts which you can now confirm since you monitored, that it was mites and not all that other nonsense.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    San Francisco, CA
    Posts
    2,759

    Default Re: Melissa's questions

    Well said JRG13!
    Vice President, San Francisco Beekeepers Association
    www.habitatforhoneybees.org

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Grays Harbor County, Washington, USA
    Posts
    188

    Default Re: Melissa's questions

    Quote Originally Posted by JRG13 View Post
    You monitor for mites, so when your colonies suddenly diminish in fall and end up as a dead outs, you don't start blaming everything else...
    Amen.
    Rusty
    http://www.honeybeesuite.com "A Better Way to Bee"

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Charlotte, NC
    Posts
    1,367

    Default Re: Melissa's questions

    If you are not going to treat, you don't really need to monitor. Just clean your hives up well before you put your new bees in in the spring.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Ft. Collins, Colorado
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    615

    Default Re: Melissa's questions

    dsegrest, priceless!

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Melissa's questions

    melissa, i see that you have recently joined the forum so, welcome!

    i read through your original post a couple of times and to honest i had a little trouble following it.

    it appears that you are a new to beekeeping, want to be treatment free, and aren't sure about the status of your hives or how to proceed.

    you did post your questions in the appropriate sub-forum - 'treatment free beekeeping'. it appears however that you received replies mostly from those who do treat and are apparently getting frustrated with first year beekeepers who try treatment free, lose their hives, aren't sure why, who then go on to blame.....?

    beesource is usually a pretty friendly place and folks are typically generous with their experience and knowledge here. this sub-forum is set up for specifically for asking the kind of questions you asked and the expectation is that there can be a reasonable discussion regarding those questions. i regret that your thread took the turns that it did.

    regarding your bees, it's tough to give any specific feedback so i'll just say there's not much that can be done at this time of year other than to provide emergency feed should they run low on stores. don't worry too much about making mistakes in the beginning, everyone here had to learn the same way you are and it's not easy, but it's not difficult either if you stick with it. i think you should be proud of yourself for having gotten this far already.

    i happen to agree with the other posters here that you should learn how to monitor for and recognize the various pests and diseases including mites, but even more important than that is getting a handle on good basic beekeeping. there are a lot of good resources out there and winter is a good time for doing your homework. here are two good places to start:

    http://www.bushfarms.com/bees.htm

    http://scientificbeekeeping.com/

    if there is no one else keeping bees without treatments around you i think it's going to be more difficult for you as a beginner to do it. find them if you can but don't be afraid to work with any experienced beekeepers that will let you, there's usually some handy tidbit you can learn from most of them.

    best of luck and hang in there.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  15. #15
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    May 2012
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    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Melissa's questions

    Don't get me wrong square, I may have sounded blunt but I was giving the best advice possible. I was just saying, if you want to be a good beekeeper, monitor for pests, if you want to hope for the best and not treat go ahead but how many new TF beeks come in here after the first season losing hives and start blaming CCD, Neonics, GMO's, round up etc... and not looking the facts in the face and realizing it was mites.
    Last edited by JRG13; 12-05-2014 at 08:17 PM.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Melissa's questions

    Quote Originally Posted by JRG13 View Post
    Don't get me wrogt square, I may have sounded blunt but I was giving the best advice possible. I was just saying, if you want to be a good beekeeper, monitor for pests, if you want to hope for the best and not treat go ahead but how many new TF beeks come in here after the first season losing hives and start blaming CCD, Neonics, GMO's, round up etc... and not looking the facts in the face and realizing it was mites.
    no worries jrg. i roll my eyes too when i hear those excuses. i don't think melissa was doing that though and somehow ended up catching some flack that she didn't deserve. i hope she'll return to the forum and let us help her get it figured out.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
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    Vancouver, WA
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    Default Re: Melissa's questions

    Thank you!
    We checked for mites last year, 2013. I didn't write down what we found, better journal keeping is on my list.
    As I recall we were right on the edge of needing to do something, so we powdered all of the hives.
    I'll do a better job of checking for mites at least as I get going.

  18. #18
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    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Melissa's questions

    Quote Originally Posted by MelissaWilkie View Post
    Thank you!
    We checked for mites last year, 2013. I didn't write down what we found, better journal keeping is on my list.
    As I recall we were right on the edge of needing to do something, so we powdered all of the hives.
    I'll do a better job of checking for mites at least as I get going.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    Vancouver, WA
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    Default Re: Melissa's questions

    First you all are most awesome, thank you for your support. I really appreciate a) the feedback and b) I am grateful for the monitors.


    Let me say a couple things first about my bees and my experience. My husband and I have had bees for 5 or 6 years. However, he was the primary bee keeper. Since he has become fed up with the learning process, aka hives dieing, I have taken over. I feel like if I have to treat with chemicals, I too will probably quit. But I still feel like I could make this work. A couple years ago my husband and I went to the Washington State Beekeepers conference. The first day was dedicated to presenting research and seemed pretty focused on the chemical treatment side of beekeeping. The second day the speaker was Michael Bush. That was when we decided to transition to TF beekeeping.

    So let me say that we did check for mites last year, 2013 I think. Don't ask me what the numbers were, o I didn't write it down (a thousand lashes with a wet noodle, I'll get better at record keeping). They weren't 0, and they weren't really high. We doused the hives with sugar once and didn't check or treat again. In the future I will check for mites. JRW13 made a really good point, thanks.

    So. Current news:
    I have a type of guard on the front of the hives that my husband built that prevents robbing. So I don't have trouble feeding the nucs on the front as the robbers can't get in there. I had not considered protein, but I will make sure and get on that.

    All 4 hives are still alive.

    I PM'd (post-mortemed) the hive referred to in my first post, 1c. The following is what I found:
    - As expected the honey was all robbed out
    - There was a very little evidence of wax moths
    - The brood had been split between the boxes
    - 95% of the brood had hatched out
    - of the brood left, I found one emerging, the rest capped
    - of the brood left, there was no smell, and they were not "snotty".
    - This was similar to the PM of the hive referred to in 1b

    So, I could use feedback on my post-mortem. Is there anything I should have reported that I didn't?

    Also, as luck might have it, I went back through my pictures and found this one of the hive referred to in 1c. The first picture is of the frame, the 2nd is a close up of the same frame. I took these just for the fun of it, but I have wondered if one might use this as a method for screening for mites.

    2014-05-07 10.59.10-2.jpg
    2014-05-07 10.59.10-003.jpg

  20. #20
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Melissa's questions

    very good to hear that all four are still alive!

    it may be hard to figure out exactly why 1c died, but here are some clues that it may have been mites:

    1. look at the picture linked below, the white stuff in the brood cells is called guanine or mite frass, it is actually the feces excreted by the mites. see if you have that in the brood combs.

    http://s300.photobucket.com/user/HeX...fa652.jpg.html

    2. uncap some of the left over brood and pull the larvae/pupae out with a tweezers. look for shriveled up wings, stunted abdomens, and other deformities. finding these is an indicator of infections by viruses that are vectored by mites to the developing brood.

    nosema and tracheal mites are other pathogens that can cause a colony to collapse, but you have to send samples of dead bees to a lab to know if they were the cause.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

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