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Thread: dying hives

  1. #1
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    Default dying hives

    i'm not sure if letting hives die completely out is considered standard practice among the treatment free community or not, but so far it is the only approach that i have seen discussed.

    are there any other options that would be considered acceptable?

    also, since most pests and pathogens are spread bee to bee, many times from the robbing out of a dying hive, does the treatment free protocol employ any measures in particular to limit the spread of pests and pathogens to other bees?
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  2. #2
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    Default Re: dying hives

    Not always easy to tell if a hive "is dying". You can see hives that show symptoms of pests or disease, but at what point do you say "it will die"?

    If I see a hive is low on stores, I'll feed honey if I have it, if not I'd use sugar. If a hive, for whatever reason is queenless or struggling to grow, I'll add frames for bees or queen cells. If too bad, I'll combine with another. When a hive had EFB this spring, I decided to eliminate the bees and comb, but could have done the longer drawn out process that still doesn't require treatments.

    I would think that any responsible beekeeper would remove a dead hive and process it to prevent spread, treatment free or not.
    Last edited by Barry; 12-16-2012 at 06:05 PM.
    Regards, Barry

  3. #3
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    Default Re: dying hives

    good point barry, and i'm too new to give you a good answer.

    i did have one colony collapse from mites this year, and by the time i discovered it, there was only a handful of bees left.

    but after looking back through my journal, this colony definitely lagged behind all of its cohorts.

    perhaps if i see that happening again, i'll know to suspect a problem at an earlier stage.

    fortunately, this poor hive did not have much in terms of stores, and did not get robbed.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  4. #4
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    Default Re: dying hives

    I remember reading something a long time ago, I think by Arthur Ransome in his book Swallows and Amazons:

    "Better drowned than duffers. If not duffers, won't drown."

    I don't know of any alternative that fits the TF scheme.

    I had an inspection of 6 Russian colonies this fall. 5 of the colonies, each going into their 2nd winter with the original queen, were observed by an experienced bee inspector to be "full of viruses" and he doubted that they would make it though winter. The colonies are now wrapped, and I'll find out next spring if they survived.

    I hope they are not duffers.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  5. #5
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    Default Re: dying hives

    i'm hoping with you andrew.

    here's where i am at with respect to dealing with a similar situation to my varroa dead out going forward.

    1. identify hives that are significantly underperforming relative to the rest.
    2. compare mite counts in these hives to the rest.
    3. if the mite counts are no higher in the underperforming hive, simply requeen.
    4. if the mite counts are higher, (for now > 3% is my working threshold), the queen gets pinched.
    5. the hive is allowed to be queenless for 2-3 weeks to allow all or most of the brood to hatch.
    6. the mites are removed using powdered sugar.
    7. one or more nucs are made with the remaining bees with a new queen(s)

    if someone is treatment free primarily because they don't want to introduce chemicals (dope) into the hive, this works.

    if someone is treatment free because they don't want to prop up bees that don't have the right stuff genetically, this works.

    the original colony avoids a slow agonizing death, and the nearby colonies aren't put at risk for picking up diseases and pests.

    any thoughts?
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  6. #6
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    Default Re: dying hives

    Squarepeg is on the right track in my opinion. If I have an underperforming hive showing signs of PMS, or other health issues, I requeen with select stock. They may require additional nutrition as well. There's no sense in letting them die. You can rid those genetics from your apiary by requeening, and not lose the hive. Dead bees aren't worth much, and cost additional time/money to replace.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: dying hives

    many thanks for the replies.

    would it be fair to say then, that doing "absolutely nothing" with a dying (or failing) hive would not be considered the standard practice (assuming there is a standard) in treatment free beekeeping?
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  8. #8
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    Default Re: dying hives

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    many thanks for the replies.

    would it be fair to say then, that doing "absolutely nothing" with a dying (or failing) hive would not be considered the standard practice (assuming there is a standard) in treatment free beekeeping?
    Just realized my quick reply yesterday started this...not complaining, it's a good question, but I was on the no dopes bandwagon. I have never actually let a hive die out, I have re-queened if queenless and if enough bees, most times I have combined with strong hives. My hives have never died of mites or diseases, the most I have ever had to deal with was some chalkbrood in spring and this cleared itself up over summer. I have had a few hives in spring that didn't look like they would make it and then they turn around and take off. As for mites, I have found them in my hives for the first time this fall. I did not treat and do not intend to. (I live on an island that has not had a mite problem until recently.) As for the list above I wouldn't bother with the powdered sugar treatment. We are at freezing temps here now so I will be moving forward with survivors in the spring, but there be absolutely no treatments.
    Donna
    46N

  9. #9
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    Default Re: dying hives

    Squarepeg: I know of nothing standard in beekeeping. I had a colony just limp through to spring 2011. They overwintered on only 3 frames from 2010-2011. I thought they were doomed , but last fall they requeened themselves. This year they were the best performing hive at that hive site. Their numbers increased in 2012 to the point that I moved them up to 3 deeps. They also provided two medium supers worth of honey in 2012.

    I monitored them to make sure they weren't dead, but did not feed or treat them. The main reason I have gone treatment free is to save money and time, by not wasting either on bad genetics. With drift, and robbing there is no way to keep your bees from being exposed pests and disease. The way that I look at it, they need to be able to deal. I provide them with a good home, they need to do the rest. When laggard hives expire I determine the cause. With inferior stocks gone there is more forage (and woodwork) for desireable genetics.

    That's my 2 cents worth... Good luck.
    Jason Bruns
    LetMBee.com YouTube

  10. #10
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    Default Re: dying hives

    Quote Originally Posted by LetMBee View Post
    Squarepeg: I know of nothing standard in beekeeping. I had a colony just limp through to spring 2011. They overwintered on only 3 frames from 2010-2011. I thought they were doomed , but last fall they requeened themselves. This year they were the best performing hive at that hive site. Their numbers increased in 2012 to the point that I moved them up to 3 deeps. They also provided two medium supers worth of honey in 2012.

    I monitored them to make sure they weren't dead, but did not feed or treat them. The main reason I have gone treatment free is to save money and time, by not wasting either on bad genetics. With drift, and robbing there is no way to keep your bees from being exposed pests and disease. The way that I look at it, they need to be able to deal. I provide them with a good home, they need to do the rest. When laggard hives expire I determine the cause. With inferior stocks gone there is more forage (and woodwork) for desireable genetics.

    That's my 2 cents worth... Good luck.
    I agree!!

  11. #11
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    Default Re: dying hives

    Not being a TFer myself I hope you don't mind me suggesting combining weak/dwindling colonies as an alternative to simply letting them go? Management, not treating.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  12. #12
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    Default Re: dying hives

    Quote Originally Posted by sqkcrk View Post
    Not being a TFer myself I hope you don't mind me suggesting combining weak/dwindling colonies as an alternative to simply letting them go? Management, not treating.
    I've been taught that combining two weak hives gives you a larger but still weak hive. Am I missing something here? It has been my experience that weak hives are generally weak for a reason and the reason is seldom reduced population alone.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  13. #13
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    Default Re: dying hives

    Yeah, Andrew, good point. I didn't write that the way I envisioned it. I also don't usually have more than one weak hive at a time. What I meant to write, but didn't, was combine the weak colony w/ a strong colony. I would determine why the weak colony was weak first. One would not want to transfer disease to the strong colony. But, I would think that a TF beekeeper wouldn't have a problem combining a strong colony and a colony weakened by varroa, would they?

    Maybe I'm not of right mind here. Sorry if I am muddying the waters so to say.
    Mark Berninghausen "That which works, persists."

  14. #14
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    Default Re: dying hives

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    many thanks for the replies.

    would it be fair to say then, that doing "absolutely nothing" with a dying (or failing) hive would not be considered the standard practice (assuming there is a standard) in treatment free beekeeping?
    That was certainly the approach that seemed to be the most favored when I first started reading the Beesource TF forum some years back.

    But more recently there's been a few threads suggesting requeening weak / dying hives. To me this sounds more sensible, if the hive will be lost anyway why not change the genetics.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  15. #15
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    Default Re: dying hives

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    i'm not sure if letting hives die completely out is considered standard practice among the treatment free community or not, but so far it is the only approach that i have seen discussed.

    are there any other options that would be considered acceptable?

    also, since most pests and pathogens are spread bee to bee, many times from the robbing out of a dying hive, does the treatment free protocol employ any measures in particular to limit the spread of pests and pathogens to other bees?

    I suspect I don't really belong on the TF forum because my ideas on stuff don't quite jibe. I've been away for awhile and am just now getting back into it. Still, for whatever it is worth:

    I have this notion that if a thing is mine, then I am responsible for it. If I build boxes and add foundation and dump a package or a swarm into it, I have thereby taken on the obligation, if you will, to do my best by it. I will feed, add brood, requeen with hygienic stock. I will test for mites and anything else I can think to test for. I'll use IPM bottoms and SHB traps. I'll powder sugar. In the fall I'll even feed HBH to anybody who had heavy mite loads early on. But what I most certainly will not do is NOTHING. I gave up that choice the minute I dumped that first package into that first hive. What I do may not help at all, but I am still obliged to TRY.

    JMO


    Rusty

  16. #16
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    Default Re: dying hives

    This always gets heated between Beeks. I for one do not believe in the aggrandizement of man. Bees have been on this earth longer than man has been caring for them. I feel it is foolish to believe that every single colony can pass genetic muster. Some of those genetics must lead to a dead end, while some lead to hygienic behavior or something as amazing as what Japanese honey bees do to thwart asain hornets.

    Saving one particular colony is not always the best for bees on the whole. Since I have quit feeding and treating colony losses, though hi at first are beginning to go down. Everyone has a different idea, but historically, no matter what we do the bees must sort it out.

    Look at the way that Langstroth bemoans the Wax moth, calling it the bee wolf in his book. Today the wax moth only destroys the weakest of colonies. Why? Because of some great invention or method of MANAGEMENT? NO!, because all of the bees that couldn't hack it DIED. Only superior stock survived and today wax moths are more of a nuisance of unused equipment than a killer of hives.

    I was told that varroa killed all of the feral bees in my area by many a mentor. Guess what, NOT TRUE. If the feral colonies can find a way so can our hives. Especially if we are trying to obtain some of their genetics. This isn't something you can experiment with if you are filling pollination contracts, but if you are just in this because you love bees, I can't think of a more noble pursuit.

    Therefore I believe doing nothing is sometimes the most prudent course.

    Go ahead rip me apart.
    Jason Bruns
    LetMBee.com YouTube

  17. #17
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    Default Re: dying hives

    Quote Originally Posted by LetMBee View Post
    I was told that varroa killed all of the feral bees in my area by many a mentor. Guess what, NOT TRUE. If the feral colonies can find a way so can our hives. Especially if we are trying to obtain some of their genetics. This isn't something you can experiment with if you are filling pollination contracts, but if you are just in this because you love bees, I can't think of a more noble pursuit.

    Therefore I believe doing nothing is sometimes the most prudent course.

    Go ahead rip me apart.
    I have no intention of ripping you apart, but I firmly beleive that most of the so called feral bees were wiped out by varroa about a decade ago. Todays Swarm from my hive is tomorrows feral colony. Many feral hives have about a two year cycle before they die off. If they don't make it through the winter, a swarm will find the colony and move in in the spring, if the wax moths don't beat them to it. If the wax moths get the wax, in time other creatures clean it up and a swarm will move back in.

    My $.02

    Dave
    I'm like the weatherman- right about half of the time.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: dying hives

    thanks again for the great replies.

    donna, sounds like you are doing a great job with your bees, and congratulations for being successful off treatments. i meant to put (optional) after the powdered sugar step but i forgot to. i was thinking about using formic acid for this step, but after considering the information dean presented, and realizing that it would be faster, less expensive, and less traumatic to the bees, i decided powdered sugar made more sense. it may not be necessary, and it's a little more effort, but i would probably do it to give the weakened bees the best chance for recovery.

    letmbee, you present the other case, letting m bee and having them make it through tough times might result in some good traits coming through, and that would be a plus. as far as exposure to diseases and pests, your right, you can't totally prevent it. on the other hand you can limit it be not letting any of your other hives become a source for it. i wonder when i read about treatment free yards having big losses, whether or not it may have started with one hive, and then spread to the other hives like a domino effect. i don't believe there will ever be a 'superbee' that is so resistant to diseases and pests that it is immune to collapse from same. it seems a waste of good bees and good genetics to test them beyond their limit, when exposing them unecessarily by not cleaning up the sick hives, before they collapse, and then get robbed out by the good ones. (not to mention putting the nearby ferals at risk as well) jmho.

    mark, as far as combining goes, i would personally not introduce bees from a weak hive into a strong one unless i first tried to figure out why the weak one was weak. if it was mites, i think i would want to remove the mites from the weak bees first, and avoid introducing a sudden load into the strong one.

    oldtimer, you and i can recall when it wasn't possible to carry on a discussion like this on the treatment free forum. thankfully, that has changed. i know that i have raised some of these questions on the main bee forum, but i really wanted to get feed back here in the tfb forum from folks like donna, who might be willing to share their actual experiences.

    rusty hills, i share your view about being responsible for the bees that we adopt, corral up, manipulate, and take away from. i don't think it's fair to the bees to put them into this artificial situation, and not take action when it is needed.

    the one thing that is not considered in my working plan above, is what to do with a hive that is failing later in the season, after the fall harvest say, and after there are no longer any drones or replacement queens available.

    any thoughts?
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  19. #19
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    Default Re: dying hives

    dkvello: I trap all of my bees. My most productive trapping sites are near old Apiary locations. Several of those locations have not had hives since the late 80s. I have lived in this area my entire life. there could be people with managed hives near me, but I would most likely know about it.

    That is why I think that they are more than just recently feral stock. These trapping sites are 15-50 miles from my hives.
    Jason Bruns
    LetMBee.com YouTube

  20. #20
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    Default Re: dying hives

    you might be on to something there lmb!

    the bees i have are bred from bees like that, and they seem to be very hearty.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

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