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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Placer County, CA
    Posts
    16

    Default I don't think my bees are going to make it through winter

    I'm in Northern CA and new to beekeeping. I installed a NUC in May. In the fall, I had a very strong hive. I noticed their stores were getting low, so I started feeding them sugar syrup again. (I stopped during summer because they quit taking it with all the blackberries in bloom) Then I began reading here that you should not feed syrup when it gets cold, and switch to either candy or pollen patties. (and brood patties in Jan/Feb) While I ordered the brood patties, I also bought some winter patties from Dadant - since it only changed the shipping by $5.

    I opened up the hive on a warm afternoon to give them the winter patty and I was shocked at how few bees there are in the hive. We are in the low 40's at night/60's in the daytime and January/February are our coldest months. I saw the queen, but I'm worried they are not going to make it once it gets really cold. I have no idea what I did wrong. Is there anything I can do now?

  2. #2

    Default Re: I don't think my bees are going to make it through winter

    Did you do any mite testing/treatments? (I know...I'm beginning to sound like a broken record....for those of you who might remember records)
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    6,711

    Default Re: I don't think my bees are going to make it through winter

    Well, pollen patties are not equivalent to candy (or sugar). Pollen is needed to raise brood, but sugar/candy is a substitute for honey. If you need to feed, sugar/candy should be your first priority.

    Michael Bush's site is quite useful for a new beek. Here is a page on feeding:
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfeeding.htm


    EDIT: Oops, I misread the original post about Dadant winter patties. I didn't realize that there were some patties that were little pollen substitute and mostly carbohydrate. This must be what I assume you are referring to:
    http://www.dadant.com/catalog/produc...oducts_id=1281
    Last edited by Rader Sidetrack; 12-10-2012 at 10:18 AM. Reason: update with winter patty comment
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Summerfield, NC
    Posts
    67

    Default Re: I don't think my bees are going to make it through winter

    I don't know about your specific area of California, but my bees are foraging just like it's midsummer, when the temps are up for a few days. Is it possible you just had a lot of bees out of the hive at that moment, maybe on cleansing flights?

    I've actually had problems with warm winters, moreso than bitter cold. Bees aren't clustering and reserving honey, and they are rearing brood when nothing is in bloom. I had to start feeding at Thanksgiving; one hive had already starved out.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    6,711

    Default Re: I don't think my bees are going to make it through winter

    Quote Originally Posted by beemandan View Post
    (I know...I'm beginning to sound like a broken record....for those of you who might remember records)
    Scratched CDs sometimes repeat themselves also.
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Placer County, CA
    Posts
    16

    Default Re: I don't think my bees are going to make it through winter

    Quote Originally Posted by Rader Sidetrack View Post
    Well, pollen patties are not equivalent to candy (or sugar). Pollen is needed to raise brood, but sugar/candy is a substitute for honey. If you need to feed, sugar/candy should be your first priority.

    Michael Bush's site is quite useful for a new beek. Here is a page on feeding:
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfeeding.htm


    EDIT: Oops, I misread the original post about Dadant winter patties. I didn't realize that there were some patties that were little pollen substitute and mostly carbohydrate. This must be what I assume you are referring to:
    http://www.dadant.com/catalog/produc...oducts_id=1281
    Yes, that is what I bought. I didn't do a complete hive inspection, so I don't know if they are rearing brood or not. As this is my first winter, I don't know what is "normal".

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Placer County, CA
    Posts
    16

    Default Re: I don't think my bees are going to make it through winter

    Not any treatments other than putting the plastic in the screened bottom board. I don't have it in now though.

  8. #8

    Default Re: I don't think my bees are going to make it through winter

    Mites sap a bee colony’s vigor. The heavier the infestation the greater the price paid. Parasitized colonies produce less honey and often the overwintering population declines rapidly resulting in a small cluster…which in turn doesn’t have enough mass or energy to survive. While the outward appearance frequently indicates starvation or hypothermia, the underlying cause is mite parasitism.
    Mites are, hands down, enemy number one.
    Good luck.
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
    Posts
    3,044

    Default Re: I don't think my bees are going to make it through winter

    Where you at in Placer Co?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Camas, WA
    Posts
    1,961

    Default Re: I don't think my bees are going to make it through winter

    What kind of bees do you have? For many years I had Italians and then one year bought some NWC queens. I was shocked to see such small clusters during the winter. I was convinced that they wouldn't make it, but they all did and caught up with the Italian hives by the time the honey flow started.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Placer County, CA
    Posts
    16

    Default Re: I don't think my bees are going to make it through winter

    Quote Originally Posted by JRG13 View Post
    Where you at in Placer Co?
    Near Auburn.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Placer County, CA
    Posts
    16

    Default Re: I don't think my bees are going to make it through winter

    I'm going to sound really dumb here, but I don't even know. I got the Nuc from Sacramento Beekeeping and never thought to ask.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Placer County, CA
    Posts
    16

    Default Re: I don't think my bees are going to make it through winter

    Quote Originally Posted by beemandan View Post
    Mites sap a bee colony’s vigor. The heavier the infestation the greater the price paid. Parasitized colonies produce less honey and often the overwintering population declines rapidly resulting in a small cluster…which in turn doesn’t have enough mass or energy to survive. While the outward appearance frequently indicates starvation or hypothermia, the underlying cause is mite parasitism.
    Mites are, hands down, enemy number one.
    Good luck.
    Should I put the plastic back in the screened bottom board and see if there are any mites? Any other ways to check?

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Creston bc canada
    Posts
    52

    Default Re: I don't think my bees are going to make it through winter

    In your current weather , I would treat with oxalic acid vapour , just to be safe , it may help.

    Just did mine a week ago , it is cheap and easy , and is effective in cold weather.

    Google it.

  15. #15

    Default Re: I don't think my bees are going to make it through winter

    Any effective mite treatment will also add additional strain on an already challenged colony of bees. I would put the plastic sheet beneath the screened bottom if for no other reason than to allow them to maintain cluster heat more easily. If they survive and pick up strength in spring….check for mites then and decide what to do. Just my opinion.
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Creston bc canada
    Posts
    52

    Default Re: I don't think my bees are going to make it through winter

    Well Dan , I appreciate your opinion , you have a lot more experience than I , but as I understand , oxalic vapor is less harmfull to the bees than most treatments if done right , and it is one of few that is effective in cold weather.

    And I agree it may put some additional stress on the colony , but if the underlying cause is the mite problem , it would make sense to me to deal with it now as they may all be dead in the spring anyway , that is why I chose to do mine now , either way it's a crapshoot.

    I should also add that I have been seeing way less dead bees in front of my hive since treating a week or so ago , it may just be coincidence , or it could be working?

    Either way , I wish you good luck with your hive , this is my first year too , and it would be very disheartening to lose a hive now.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Lewiston Idaho USA
    Posts
    75

    Default Re: I don't think my bees are going to make it through winter

    I agree! You need to treat for mites. I had know Idea how bad of a mite infestation I had this year. I had 35 very strong hives in August and by the end of September they were all weak. I initially did the Oxalic Acid drizzle and have followed up with Oxalic Vapor! Being it is winter the vapor treatment is what I suggest. I also reduced my hives to 4 frame nucs(the less space for the bees to keep warm the better), combined some, added 2" risers just under the lids and I made two rows of hives on my bee trailer with a ceramic heater in between them to keep them from going below 35 degrees. I believe I will have 20-24 hives make it through the winter. A hard less learned and I will never go without treating, ever again.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Placer County, CA
    Posts
    16

    Default Re: I don't think my bees are going to make it through winter

    So, dumb question. Should the queen be rearing brood this time of year? I was envisioning a sort of hibernation of the hive this time of year, then resuming brood rearing in the early spring - but what I'm reading suggests maybe that's not the case?

    I will put the plastic board back in. I'm thinking I should reduce the hive to 1 deep for warmth? (I currently have 2 deeps) Right now they are clustered in the upper box, as that's where the feed is. Not all the comb is drawn out on the top box though - the outer 4 frames are just wax foundation. Also, what about an entrance reducer? I don't have one, should I get one?

    I will look into the mite treatment - thanks for the information.

    Sorry for so many questions - I just don't want to lose them if I can help it. If I can get them to February to early March, that is when the bloom starts here.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Lewiston Idaho USA
    Posts
    75

    Default Re: I don't think my bees are going to make it through winter

    Michkel, what's the location of your bees? Your status says Placer county california! What town are you near? Oops! I see you posted this already.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Belpre,Ohio, USA
    Posts
    1,366

    Default Re: I don't think my bees are going to make it through winter

    It is good to remember that the last week in September is a good time to start your winter mite treatments, this will give the hive an opportunity for at least two more brood cycles providing them with healthy bees that will survive the winter. I have found oxalic vapor to be a very effective tool in the fight against Varroa.
    Bill...in Southeast Ohio Zone 6A

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