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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
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    Palermo, Maine, USA
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    731

    Default Did I over feed my bees last fall?

    I lost both my hives this winter. There were not nearly a many dead bees in either hives as I would have expected to see, and although there were several frames of honey left, I found a bunch of bees head down in the cells indicating starvation.

    Is it possible that I fed too much and they were honey bound and did not have room to raise sufficient brood resulting in too small a cluster going into winter?
    Last edited by ralittlefield; 03-27-2012 at 06:35 PM.
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    Ralph

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Peace River, AB Canada
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    456

    Default Re: Did I over feed my bees last fall?

    Could you give details about amount and timing of your fall feeding?
    The problem of a honey bound hive in fall is that there are no empty cells for the bees to make a proper cluster.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
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    Palermo, Maine, USA
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    Default Re: Did I over feed my bees last fall?

    Thanks for the reply. It seems that you have confirmed my suspicions.
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    Ralph

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    oxford, ohio usa
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    3

    Default Re: Did I over feed my bees last fall?

    You also could of had a varroa infestation that started moving into worker cells since no drone cells are made in late fall and devistated your population of workers

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Poplar Bluff, Missouri, USA
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    2,299

    Default Re: Did I over feed my bees last fall?

    Your post mortem does not give enough information for an accurate diagnosis. Where were the frames full of honey, in relation to the starved bees? Was there empty comb between the bees and the frames. For example, here is a 10-frame box, h=honey, e=empty, b=starved bees.

    hhhheeebbe or hheeebbeeh There you have 10 frames in each example, plenty of honey, but the bees still starved. A sudden cold snap can trap the cluster and make it unable to move to honey, then it starves. Happens all too frequently. It isn't that you necessarily overfed, it just happens.
    Regards,
    Steven
    "If all you have is a hammer, the whole world is a nail." - A.H. Maslow

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Washington County, Maine
    Posts
    2,867

    Default Re: Did I over feed my bees last fall?

    Hi Ralph,

    It is doubtful that you over fed.

    Just to help me have confidence in the above statement, when did you stop feeding and what was your feeding method? (you were feeding 2:1 sugar syrup, right?)

    While we had a mild winter, there were times when it was cold and windy. What was your winter prep? Were the hives in a location with some wind protection?

    Will you remind me what race of bees you keep?

    Sounds like typical winter starvation to me. If the volume of bees was down (due perhaps to varoa infestation) there may not have been enough bees for the cluster to move to where there was honey in the hive. Without more info and/or pictures it is hard to tell what might have happened.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
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    Palermo, Maine, USA
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    Default Re: Did I over feed my bees last fall?

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Dewey View Post
    when did you stop feeding and what was your feeding method? (you were feeding 2:1 sugar syrup, right?).
    Yes, I fed 2:1 syrup. I fed them until the temp prevented feeding sugar syrup.


    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Dewey View Post
    While we had a mild winter, there were times when it was cold and windy. What was your winter prep? Were the hives in a location with some wind protection?.
    I had them placed behind an outbuilding that blocked wind from the north and west. The hives were wrapped with tar paper, and I placed a medium box with 3 inches of Styrofoam insulation on top of each hive. I drilled two 1/2 inch vent holes in the box below the inner cover.


    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Dewey View Post
    Will you remind me what race of bees you keep?.

    Italians.
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    Ralph

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Washington County, Maine
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    2,867

    Default Re: Did I over feed my bees last fall?

    Hi Ralph,

    Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.

    An observation, and most definitely not an accusation that you did something wrong: fall feeding in this area is usually concluded by mid October. Why? To give the bees adequate time to evaporate/process the syrup and place it where they want it in the hive. If there is a warm fall the bees may continue taking syrup later than that, but they may not have time to "process" it adequately.

    Mike Palmer has a method of feeding his bees in preparation for winter that I used last fall with success. One gallon paint cans (as many as four depending on how much syrup the hive needs) are inverted on the top bars - and if done early enough (say late September, early October) - the bees take down the syrup fast - and the fall feeding is over and done with quickly. Part of Mike's system involves weighing each hive to determine how much feed the colony needs.

    Your winter prep sounds pretty much like mine - so I don't see any issues there. Good for you for making use of a wind break!

    In trying to figure out what went wrong, it sure seems like you didn't go into winter with a strong population of young bees. A strong cluster would have been able to move around the hive as necessary to reach all the honey.

    Why there wasn't a strong population is a tougher question. I suspect mite issues. Mite populations can develop to problematic levels in first year hives. Presuming you are not following the Bond method (live and let die) you need to be assessing your mite population and doing something to knock it back if it gets too high. Randy Oliver has lots of good information on his web site scientificbeekeeping.com on monitoring mite loads.

    Italian bees especially like to over winter in large clusters. Obviously that didn't happen for you. I hope you try again this year especially now that you've got a supply of drawn comb and some honey to give to your new colonies! (yes plural!) PM me if you want/need any info on local nuc providers.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Palermo, Maine, USA
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    731

    Default Re: Did I over feed my bees last fall?

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Dewey View Post
    I hope you try again this year especially now that you've got a supply of drawn comb and some honey to give to your new colonies! (yes plural!) PM me if you want/need any info on local nuc providers.
    Thank you very much for your input. I really do appreciate it.

    I have a couple of nuc on order and fully intend to give it another try. This year I have ordered five frame nucs of carniolans. Last year I ordered four frame nucs and received only 3 1/2 frames in each. I am hopeful that things will go better this year.
    Like us on facebook This is the place to bee!
    Ralph

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Camas, WA
    Posts
    1,945

    Default Re: Did I over feed my bees last fall?

    Last spring I sold 4 nucs to a guy that lost all four of his hives. All of my hives had survived (the reason I was selling) and since I live 1200 feet higher than him, I get more rain and colder temperatures. He asked me to take a look at his hives to see if I could see why they died. They had just died about April 1 according to him. I looked through the hives, but didn't see anything obvious and told him that it was probably mites.

    The nucs that I brought him were covered with bees and brood so I started looking for frames to add to the box to give the queen room to lay. As we started sorting frames it became apparent that they were almost all plugged with honey. He told me that he fed them all through the summer and into early fall when they stopped taking the feed. I started getting the feeling that the queen had probably run out of room for brood early in the fall and all of the winter bees were fairly old and finally all died out by April.

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