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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
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    Strafford County, NH
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    564

    Default Lots of dead bees AGAIN this winter

    Yikes. Snowed a foot last night so I went to clear the bottom entrances to my 2 hives, and the new Italian hive from spring had dead bees all around on the snow. I took the entrance reducer off and cleaned the bottom board with a spatula, and altogether there were hundreds of dead bees. This happened to my Italian hives LAST winter too -- so much so that both hives came into spring with very small clusters, which I ended up combining.

    My other hive was requeened with a Russian this summer, and there are pretty much zero dead bees in front of that hive.

    The Italian hive, tho, was super strong all summer long, very productive.

    I am never buying an Italian package again - they don't make it thru our harsh winters, at least for me. This year I even added quilt boxes to my hives and wrapped 3 sides in styrofoam board as a windblock.

    No, I have not treated for mites, and they could be weakened going into winter.

    From now on - all Russians.

    PS - We are having an extra severe winter so far this year. Bleh.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Oxford, Maine
    Posts
    166

    Default Re: Lots of dead bees AGAIN this winter

    Yeah been cold here early too, down to zero F several nights and 10" snow just fell.
    Have 2 Italian package hives going into their 1st winter here, fingers crossed mostly.

    I just went out before dark and cleaned out the btm opening, top opening stayed clear.
    Some dozen bees on the snow in front of 1 hive and saw one come out and hit the snow while there, death came
    in about 30 seconds or less.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
    Posts
    3,380

    Default Re: Lots of dead bees AGAIN this winter

    Quote Originally Posted by NewbeeInNH View Post
    I am never buying an Italian package again -

    No, I have not treated for mites, and they could be weakened going into winter.
    These two things seem to be the common denominator for a majority of winter losses we hear about.

    Bees can handle very extreme weather conditions just fine if they are healthy, and have food available. I don't blame you for steering clear of Italian packages going forward, their recent track record for survival has been less than stellar.

    I think the most important thing for overwintering is knowing your colonies mite levels. If you are set on going treatment free, that's great. However you should still test and know what the mite levels are in your hives. In some areas you might have great success going treatment free, but in others you can expect to have losses from mite pressure and you should be prepared for it. Not trying to beat up on you, just suggesting that you consider adding mite testing to your management in the future so you are not blindsided.

    Hope the Russians do well for you!
    To everything there is a season....

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
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    Strafford County, NH
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    564

    Default Re: Lots of dead bees AGAIN this winter

    woodsy - if you lift off the entrance reducer and run a stick across your bottom board, I wonder if you'll find a bonanza of dead bees like I did.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
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    Strafford County, NH
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    564

    Default Re: Lots of dead bees AGAIN this winter

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Gillmore View Post
    I think the most important thing for overwintering is knowing your colonies mite levels.
    I have heard talks about counting mites on the white board, etc., but I can't even see them. I honestly don't know how people count mites when there is so much debris on the board usually. Granted, I do need glasses now, but even still, if they were visible I would count them, no problem. When I can't tell what is a mite and what is a black/brown speck, it just gets overwhelming.

    But next summer, should my bees survive, I am planning 'breaking the brood cycle' management (thru splits). I would do powdered sugar treatments, but from what I hear, they are inconclusive in their results. Otherwise, no chemicals for me. (I guess then I'm bringing this problem on myself, which could well be......)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Pottstown, Pennyslvania, USA
    Posts
    329

    Default Re: Lots of dead bees AGAIN this winter

    Quote Originally Posted by NewbeeInNH View Post
    I have heard talks about counting mites on the white board, etc., but I can't even see them. I honestly don't know how people count mites when there is so much debris on the board usually. Granted, I do need glasses now, but even still, if they were visible I would count them, no problem. When I can't tell what is a mite and what is a black/brown speck, it just gets overwhelming.

    But next summer, should my bees survive, I am planning 'breaking the brood cycle' management (thru splits). I would do powdered sugar treatments, but from what I hear, they are inconclusive in their results. Otherwise, no chemicals for me. (I guess then I'm bringing this problem on myself, which could well be......)
    NewbeeInNH, I recommend you go to Randy Oliver's site "scientificbeekeeping.com/varroa-management/" and read about the mite testing methods. This should help you to determine you mite levels next year most likely due to temps.
    Dan Boylan, At it since 2007 in Pa Zone 6B, 13 hives, 6 nucs, treat when needed.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Washington, Knox
    Posts
    10

    Default Re: Lots of dead bees AGAIN this winter

    Seems you should find dead bees. Bees die and fall to bottom board. The undertaker bees aren't going to leave the warmth of the cluster to clean out the dead bees.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Baker Oregon
    Posts
    2,367

    Default Re: Lots of dead bees AGAIN this winter

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Gillmore View Post
    I think the most important thing for overwintering is knowing your colonies mite levels. If you are set on going treatment free, that's great. However you should still test and know what the mite levels are in your hives. In some areas you might have great success going treatment free, but in others you can expect to have losses from mite pressure and you should be prepared for it. Not trying to beat up on you, just suggesting that you consider adding mite testing to your management in the future so you are not blindsided.
    The man speaks wisely. A wise man would listen.

    You should research the alcohol wash or sugar roll approach to mite testing.
    Dan Hayden 4 Years. 9 hives. Tx Free. USDA Zone 5b.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Oxford, Maine
    Posts
    166

    Default Re: Lots of dead bees AGAIN this winter

    Quote Originally Posted by NewbeeInNH View Post
    woodsy - if you lift off the entrance reducer and run a stick across your bottom board, I wonder if you'll find a bonanza of dead bees like I did.
    Probably would . I just try to keep the btm opening clear being a newbee , if that even matters ?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Richland Iowa USA
    Posts
    152

    Default Re: Lots of dead bees AGAIN this winter

    I wont disagree.. I have had problems with.. not so much Italians, as bees I have purchased from down south.. texas, southern Cal, etc.. Tennessee, Georgia etc bees seem to do better, but still not as well as the local or northern bees I have..
    Many folks will argue that it makes no difference.. I can only report what I have experienced..
    My carnies and local bees will have a handful at the entrances when I clean the snow away;



    But generally nowhere near the amount I used to have with the southern italians.. It may be because of the HUGE population difference.. Italians seemed to have about twice the number of bees the other hives had going into winter.
    www.outyard.weebly.com 8 yrs aiding 40+ hives 3 yrs personal. 40+ of my own now (T, TF Goal) Zone 5a

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Strafford County, NH
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    564

    Default Re: Lots of dead bees AGAIN this winter

    Quote Originally Posted by SS1 View Post
    It may be because of the HUGE population difference.. Italians seemed to have about twice the number of bees the other hives had going into winter.
    I was thinking that too - the Italian hive was huge, the Russian hive never did get all that big, despite all the brood and honey I swapped from the over-industrious Italians. So being so much larger, they have more to lose. Altho last winter I had the same issue with both (first year Italian) hives, and their clusters were small in spring. But I didn't wrap or anything for winter last year.

    = =
    Regardless of proven mite population, one can just assume they do have a mite population, and the only treatment method I know of right now that I can be at peace with is breaking the brood cycle. (And winter is the ultimate breaking of the brood cycle, if they can just hang on until spring...) If I can keep splits going and otherwise breaking brood cycle, hopefully it will keep the mite population knocked down. But I didn't try that this past summer because they were first year hives.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Moultonborough, NH
    Posts
    57

    Default Re: Lots of dead bees AGAIN this winter

    NewBee, I'm just up the road from you. I'd be happy to show you the alcohol wash method for assessing mite loads in the spring if you're interested. PM me after ice-out and we'll set it up.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
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    Strafford County, NH
    Posts
    564

    Default Re: Lots of dead bees AGAIN this winter

    Thanks, MES613. Let's see if I have 300 spare bees after this winter...

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    Reno, NV
    Posts
    2,839

    Default Re: Lots of dead bees AGAIN this winter

    Moisture control is not going to help you if your bees are dying from diseases. As I read the OP the first thing I thought was disease. But that is what I think any time I read of bees lost in December. as I read they where untreated I have no doubt. Think of all the bad genes you are eliminating from your bees. Of course you are also eliminating any good ones they had also. which in my experience are far harder to come by than bad ones.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Strafford County, NH
    Posts
    564

    Default Re: Lots of dead bees AGAIN this winter

    Well, winter losses happen, too, even to those who treat.

    Probably the road to go is to keep working towards a strain of bee that can make it through our winters with the least stress possible, and I'm leaning away from Italians and towards Russians and we'll see what happens. You'd think if it were SOLELY disease/mites, the Russian hive would be dropping as well, and so far I'm not seeing dead bees outside that one, which is another clue that in this climate, the Russians may be more durable. The Italian hive may just be losing its excess, we'll really see the whole story in spring. But if the Russians come through robustly and the Italians do not, I will try splitting with the Russian eggs and making new queens from those genes. Spring will tell the story better.

    It would be nice to have transparent hives to see what's really going on in there. Granted, the bees like it dark, so I'm wondering about one-way mirrors. Free tip to any ingenious inventors out there.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Utica, NY
    Posts
    9,033

    Default Re: Lots of dead bees AGAIN this winter

    Quote Originally Posted by NewbeeInNH View Post
    I have heard talks about counting mites on the white board, etc., but I can't even see them. I honestly don't know how people count mites when there is so much debris on the board usually. Granted, I do need glasses now, but even still, if they were visible I would count them, no problem. When I can't tell what is a mite and what is a black/brown speck, it just gets overwhelming.
    This I can help you with. Whatever you are using as a drop sheet clean it off real good and put it in the bottom of the hive for 24 hours. Pull it out and in good daylight take a photo. Any photo software can blow up the photo and it is very easy to distinguish the mite from the specks. Once you see the difference you might be able to see them without the photo. Now the queen, you are on your own. By the time you take the photo she will be on the other side of the frame, or dropped on the ground or who knows where.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  17. #17
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Flora,IL
    Posts
    2,646

    Default Re: Lots of dead bees AGAIN this winter

    before you condemn the Italians, consider this, ALL your bees are going to die. Bigger stronger hives are going to have more dead in front than smaller weaker hives. because there are more to die. Period..... Typical bee life is short. What matters is whats left in spring and how they take off, not how many are dead around the hive.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Strafford County, NH
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    564

    Default Re: Lots of dead bees AGAIN this winter

    Quote Originally Posted by Acebird View Post
    Any photo software can blow up the photo and it is very easy to distinguish the mite from the specks.
    Excellent idea!!!!

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Strafford County, NH
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    564

    Default Re: Lots of dead bees AGAIN this winter

    Quote Originally Posted by gmcharlie View Post
    before you condemn the Italians, consider this, ALL your bees are going to die. Bigger stronger hives are going to have more dead in front than smaller weaker hives. because there are more to die. Period..... Typical bee life is short. What matters is whats left in spring and how they take off, not how many are dead around the hive.
    Thanks gmcharlie, and that's a very good point to remember. Try not to jump to conclusions about the life/death of the hive in mid-December...

    I still think Russians would be hardier tho. We'll see.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Pottstown, Pennyslvania, USA
    Posts
    329

    Default Re: Lots of dead bees AGAIN this winter

    Quote Originally Posted by NewbeeInNH View Post
    Thanks gmcharlie, and that's a very good point to remember. Try not to jump to conclusions about the life/death of the hive in mid-December...

    I still think Russians would be hardier tho. We'll see.
    The Russians are also known for winding up in the trees more often. Get ready for swarm control.
    Dan Boylan, At it since 2007 in Pa Zone 6B, 13 hives, 6 nucs, treat when needed.

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