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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Richmond, VA UNITED STATES
    Posts
    163

    Sad Frustrated in Richmond, VA

    I'm not a newbee. Entering my 14th year. I do cutouts, trapouts, and build my own equipment and have Langstroth, TopBar, and will probably build some Warre this year.

    This last year was really crazy. With the warm winter last year, I picked up my first swarm in March, and was slammed with calls for swarms and cutouts. Did maybe 5 successful trapouts, can't remember how many swarms and others. I really didn't expect most of these to make it through the winter. When you take hives out of a building in July/August, you pretty much destroy most of their comb (if you try to put it into a new box, they tend to abscond). So, they get their eggs and larva to tie them to the box, and the honey is processed or fed back (yeah, I know about the potential disease vectors, but all my hives are feral, and I always check the brood of the cutout for disease and trash anything that has ever had pesticide)

    Anyway, the spring swarms grew enormously fast. Filled 2 deeps and 2 mediums on 2 of them, then they collapsed during the dearth because I believe the numbers were too high to be sustainable. The hives that were cutouts collapsed during the dearth because they had no stores. - yes, my lesson here is one of just being too busy to think about it - If you take out a hive in the middle of summer in a dearth, you're going to have to feed them until the fall, not just a few weeks..

    I came into winter with several hives with good stores. Then in January, maybe about the 15th, it had been so warm that the Forsythia was in full bloom, and other trees started to bud out. So, my queens started laying. Yesterday, I opened a hive that was still doing well, and there was capped brood in a 5" diameter circle. My guess is on the other hives - since the other 2 at that location had capped honey which was being actively robbed out by one of my hives and the one in the tree 50 feet away, that the queens started laying, and the bees got in a situation where they were stuck keeping that larva warm, and the week of weather below 20 degrees caused them to get stuck and unable to reach out and grab honey in the neighboring frames.

    So, I start the season (is it the start? - usually I don't start til after Feb 15) with 1/4 the number of hives I had at the peak of summer. I don't consider this Colony Collapse, or anything else. Poor management on my part. I should have fed the cutouts more than I did, should have put my entrance reducers on and maybe used an insulated cover early, and left even more honey on the hives.

    Any other feedback? Anyone want to kick me when I'm down? I'm not taking chances for next year. Insulating covers, maybe some wraps, feeding my cutouts, putting my hives closer to each other for mutual warmth, leaving a little more honey on, and creating fall nucs in double nuc boxes.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    West Bath, Maine, United States
    Posts
    1,137

    Default Re: Frustrated in Richmond, VA

    If I tried to kick you I would hit myself.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Location
    Williston, NC, USA
    Posts
    1,779

    Default Re: Frustrated in Richmond, VA

    I think you've done a good enough job of kicking yourself around. And I think you're even overdoing your plans for the future. I don't think the cold is a problem--bees can handle the cold very well so I think the insulating covers and wraps only add to cutting down ventilation and increasing condensation (Dr David Tarpy of NCSU once said, "In the winter, a wet bee is a dead bee"). As you've said I think the major problem here is stores. Even knowing my girls have ample stores, I have a tendency around January--when we start getting warm spells between the cold spells--to put field feeders (1:1 and in other feeders pollen patties) out. This year, the pollen patties went at a great rate until the red maples bloomed, but so far the sugar water hasn't been touched!

    Don't reproach yourself. Just learn from past experiences and have a great, growing spring!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Richmond, VA UNITED STATES
    Posts
    163

    Default Re: Frustrated in Richmond, VA

    I have some bucket feeders and pollen patties. Usually I'll do the patties on the top bars. I had given some of those when I put some dry sugar. Do you put your pollen patties out in the field as well?

    I agree with the ventillation. Will be cutting a slot with a router in all my inner covers. I usued to use the stick propped up, but if it wasn't right, i'd have problems with robbing. Here's the issue with wooden boxes and plastic foundation though - the bees have to go against that cold side to get to the next frame. They don't go down and under. I am switching to foundationless this year as I cull the old wax. Then those old plastic foundation frames with old wax will go in my swarm traps. In my top bar hives, and even in the wild cutouts, the bees always leave plenty of room to get around, and have plenty of communication holes that they could use to get to the next frame. They could even chew through if they had to, but I don't know of that happening - haven't read of it being observed.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Suffolk, VA
    Posts
    2,574

    Default Re: Frustrated in Richmond, VA

    No need to kick, you seem to have highlighted most of the issues responsible for these losses. I might suggest that perhaps you've got too many colonies and not enough time??? It might be better to sell some colonies to off load your responsibilities. If you're not going to reduce numbers, then you buy on the responsibility of doing right by them (all the things you pointed out). It doesn't make much sense to rescue bees to then later let them die due to difficult conditions. Again, not kicking you, this is from your own statements. You didn't say anything about mites. Cutouts can have high mite loads due to the very favorable living conditions, particularly last winter (zero broodless period). Most cutouts are done late spring or beginning of summer when mites are starting to really build up. The cutouts are heavily stressed to begin with, then must contend with our death - that's a lot to ask of them. Also, just because bees can survive in someone's house doesn't imply they can survive in a hive. Some folks sell these cutouts taken out of the wall of a heated home as "survivor" bees, which to me is laughable. So if you sell cutouts don't make promises of "feral survivors", of course unless you have the proof to back it up.
    Horseshoe Point Honey -- http://localvahoney.com/

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Blacksburg, VA
    Posts
    440

    Default Re: Frustrated in Richmond, VA

    Rob-

    I think you probably realize what most of your problems were this year.

    You don't need to wrap your hives in Richmond. A little west of you, and higher elevation, I have a notch in the inner cover, sometimes I Mt Camp in the the inner cover, a layer of old tarp, then a 1" foam board, and topped off with the outer cover. The insulation keeps condensation from forming in the top of the hive so they stay real dry. The notch lets a small amount of air pass through the hive. The tarp keeps the bees from chewing on the foam board. Many of my hives have screened bottoms that are mostly covered up, but plenty of air gets in. I winter full size hives and nucs like this and my biggest losses by far are from varroa related issues.

    Richard

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Richmond, VA UNITED STATES
    Posts
    163

    Default Re: Frustrated in Richmond, VA

    Quote Originally Posted by AstroBee View Post
    No need to kick, you seem to have highlighted most of the issues responsible for these losses. I might suggest that perhaps you've got too many colonies and not enough time??? It might be better to sell some colonies to off load your responsibilities. If you're not going to reduce numbers, then you buy on the responsibility of doing right by them (all the things you pointed out). It doesn't make much sense to rescue bees to then later let them die due to difficult conditions. Again, not kicking you, this is from your own statements. You didn't say anything about mites. Cutouts can have high mite loads due to the very favorable living conditions, particularly last winter (zero broodless period). Most cutouts are done late spring or beginning of summer when mites are starting to really build up. The cutouts are heavily stressed to begin with, then must contend with our death - that's a lot to ask of them. Also, just because bees can survive in someone's house doesn't imply they can survive in a hive. Some folks sell these cutouts taken out of the wall of a heated home as "survivor" bees, which to me is laughable. So if you sell cutouts don't make promises of "feral survivors", of course unless you have the proof to back it up.
    Thanks Astro. I charge for the cutouts as I do a lot of work to be careful for the site and I restore it to original condition with several measures taken to prevent a future re-infestation. It was just an abnormally busy year. I'm not really rescuing them (though I always do a live extraction) as much as providing a service for people who need them out of a home. (you can't pass an inspection to sell a home with bees coming out of the siding or feel safe if your childs bedroom constantly has bees flying around) I understand the "survivor" aspect. No, I almost never sell one that came out of a home unless they make it past the winter. I'll keep them in my backyard and use them to donate larva for trapouts and the like, but I create my queens off of hives that have made it through the winter and show a good temperament. No sense in handing a new beekeeper a hive that may have a 4-7 yr old queen that just got sucked through my bee vac. I guess I was looking for a place to vent a little, and get any useful tips on how to prevent a repeat of this in the future. I also like your input about the mite loads in a "conditioned" house. Something more to consider. I wonder if any mites get knocked down on the trip down the hose, or if it would help to sugar dust the new hive when they're in the bee vac. (though I think they've already been through enough)

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Bunkerhill W.V.
    Posts
    14

    Default Re: Frustrated in Richmond, VA

    Hey Rob I have to agree with astro on selling cutouts I would at least get them through the first winter before I sold them then you could admit they were survivor bees I.E. no-brainer. Before I moved to the Northern Shenandoah Valley area I lived south of you in Dinwiddie Co. had bees many years there before I moved up here. I have found that no matter how much stores they have you have to keep syrup or candy or fondant on them.I use candy cooked to soft bail rite on top of the cluster when you have a fairly warm day that you can go into them until about end of Feb. where you live.Go to a website Mark's Bees and once you are there type in search box Bee Candy and follow the recipe to the latter.I believe in giving a Honeybee every chance to live even to the point of seeing a weak bee and feeding him a drop of honey on the tip of my finger but you have to have a cutoff for cutouts,I stop up here about mid-Sept. because the chance of getting them through winter is tough and dead is dead no weather the homeowner kills them or you lose them.If there's a chance maybe they will let you wait to Spring to do the Job. Don't knock yourself a whole lot because no matter if you have had bees a year or forty it's always a learning experience.That's the one thing that keep's it fun.

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