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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    NY, NY
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    Default Hive postmortem; NYC rooftop [pics]

    Hi all, I have a small 2-hive apiary on a NYC rooftop. Now one hive.

    The hive that didn't make it was a first-year Russian hive; it started in April as a package. I have my own theories, but I would love to hear older and wiser voices on this. Unlike my other hive (2nd year italian), I did not treat the russians for mites, nor did I feed them sugar (they went into the winter with three mediums + a full super of honey on top).

    Some observations (pictures below):
    A too-small cluster of bees at the top, across three frames. They’ve been dead a while, as mold has started to grow on them.
    The bees are at the top of the frame and other bees died with their heads inside cells. Signs of starvation.
    There was a lot of honey left; 5 full frames and many partial frames. Some of it on the very frames the bees died on.
    The top of the frames near the final massacre are covered in bee poop.Much of the honey that was left is dark honey from fall.
    Scattered bees were dead throughout the hive. They were frozen like Pompeii. There were even some dead newborn bees halfway emerging from the comb.
    Honey and pollen stores were plentiful, though not in the area immediately surrounding the bees. There was honey at the ends of the frames they were on, as well as full frames two frames over.
    Scattered (dead) brood across a very large brood nest area, stretching across many frames. This seems weird.
    One frame had uncapped water or nectar.
    I did not notice any odd smells, nor sunken or discolored cappings. I broke open some of the cappings and found somewhat jelly-like proto-bees inside. Not stringy or ropy.
    I saw no evidence of wax moth or hive beetles. No cocoons or slime tracks (beetles are rare here anyway, I assume. Cold and full of concrete).
    I did not see any mites on bees, though I’m bad at spotting these things (and I don’t know if they’d stick around on an old kill like this).

    Unlike the surviving hive, the russians did not have a top vent. We've had a lot of precipitation in the last few weeks. The screened bottom board is open, there's just concrete + hive detritus underneath the hive. The hive is on a slight incline, so water doesn't pool under it. The hive is not insulated, though it has not been a cold winter (for NYC).

    I much appreciate the attention and I'll do better next time.










  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    St. Albans, Vermont
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    5,256

    Default Re: Hive postmortem; NYC rooftop [pics]

    Sixth photo indicates varroa damage.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
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    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    Default Re: Hive postmortem; NYC rooftop [pics]

    Jon, it looks like your bees die because of the cold weather. Not enough worker bees to form a tight cluster. When they do form then they have the chilled broods. So they may be starved to death since they are not moving to get their foods although foods are available just near by. I suspect the open bottom screen might send the chill air up during the winter time. During the chilly winter, I keep everything covered with sponges and big plastic bags and reduced the entrance to just less than one inch. I feed them patty all winter long. I also put a heat pad to keep them warm at night time when it is chilly outside in the low 20Fs. I changed the bottom screen to a solid board bottom. Try to keep everything dry and cozy is the key to overwintering them. Not with a screen bottom at all.
    Hope this helps.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Flora,IL
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    2,646

    Default Re: Hive postmortem; NYC rooftop [pics]

    Quote Originally Posted by beepro View Post
    During the chilly winter, I keep everything covered with sponges and big plastic bags and reduced the entrance to just less than one inch. I feed them patty all winter long. I also put a heat pad to keep them warm at night time when it is chilly outside in the low 20Fs.
    Hope this helps.
    Sponges???




    Yup too smal a cluster looks like it was agrivated by mites as mike says. Food or not id the cluster gets to small it cannot Generate enough heat, of course moisture would not help that problem either. Yours is a very good set of photos of what I see several times a year!...

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
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    Evansville, IN
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    2,473

    Default Re: Hive postmortem; NYC rooftop [pics]

    Feces in the hive is dysentery -- nosema or something else. Look for white specs in the cells of the brood nest, these are mite droppings and would indicate a mite problem, although usually a hive with mite problems dies earlier.

    I do not leave screened bottom boards open in the winter here, it's too damp, especially if the hive is close to the ground. Close them up, leave a small upper vent, reduce entrance to an inch or two, let the bees keep the hive ventilated the way they want. My brother's feral bees have been known to close up the escape hole in the top and the entrance by themselves!

    Last, did you feed them protein in the fall? Lack of pollen stores in the fall can lead to bees deficient in protein for winter, and result in exactly what you see -- they starve to death from protein deficiency when they start to raise brood in late winter. Once the bee count drops to the point where they can't keep the brood warm they all freeze.

    Put at least half a patty on in September or October, a full one in two halves is better. They will store what they don't use, and you will have nice "fat" bees for winter.

    Peter

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    NY, NY
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    12

    Default Re: Hive postmortem; NYC rooftop [pics]

    Thanks all. I'll be sure to be more wary of the cold in the future. When I took the hive apart, there were many frames full of pollen from top to bottom -- you can see one of them on the left side of the 7th photo (with the frames leaning against the wall). Do you think I still needed to feed protein? Natural pollen sources are very diverse in the city, so they gather up until winter.

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    Sixth photo indicates varroa damage.
    How can you tell?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    Pinal, AZ, USA
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    34

    Default Re: Hive postmortem; NYC rooftop [pics]

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonhuang View Post


    How can you tell?
    I think the holes in the capped cells is what he was looking at.

  8. #8
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    Dec 2012
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    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    1,587

    Default Re: Hive postmortem; NYC rooftop [pics]

    I have seen too common that pollen still inside the hive as well as honey. But the bees cluster in a different location inside the hive not close to the food source. In winter when they cluster they will not move much just to conserve the heat.
    Because the hive is divided into frames with broods in the middle follow by pollen and then honey if they don't move due to the cold they will cluster on the brood frames instead.
    It seems they love their broods too much that rather die than finding foods nearby.
    This is the cold weather. But if I put a heat pad in then they will break up the cluster. So finding foods nearby is very possible. This is not needed if you have many bees to cover the entire box. Only when you don't have enough bees then you put a heat pad on. Also, the patty you will put on top of the cluster where they are close with the broods. The heat generated by the cluster will rise to the top not side way that much. If you place the patty on the outer frame by the box edge then they might not find it when they are with their broods. Maybe that is why we use nuc to overwinter the bees closer together so they can be warm. I think they will eat up the pollen before moving on to the patty. But in case I will provide both for them.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Hive postmortem; NYC rooftop [pics]

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonhuang View Post
    How can you tell?
    First, the uncapped brood. The brood died as the colony lost it's bees. The last bees to emerge never made it out before the cluster diminished to nothing. The bees were lost because sick bees leave the hive to get the sickness away from the colony. I bet that if you remove the dead brood with a knife, you'll see the fully mature adults ready to emerge have deformed wings and stunted abdomens.

    Second, experience. I've seen enough pms to know.

  10. #10
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    Nov 2009
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    Belfast, Ireland
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    393

    Default Re: Hive postmortem; NYC rooftop [pics]

    Mites and the associated viruses shorten the lifespan of the winter bees.
    The cluster dwindles and in the first proper cold spell they freeze or die from isolation starvation as the little cluster cannot generate heat and move to stores.
    Everything about those photos points to a mite problem and the dysentery may indicate a nosema problem as well. Nosema is also a strong factor in dwindle as it reduces the longevity of bees.

  11. #11
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    Jan 2009
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    Grosse Ile, Michigan, USA
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    Default Re: Hive postmortem; NYC rooftop [pics]

    So the brood cappings with punctures or pinholes in them are mite damaged brood? John

  12. #12
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    Dec 2006
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    Default Re: Hive postmortem; NYC rooftop [pics]

    The cells with cappings opened up with a dead adult inside or dead while trying to emerge are and indication of varroa.

  13. #13
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    Grosse Ile, Michigan, USA
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    Default Re: Hive postmortem; NYC rooftop [pics]

    Michael, I guess that tells me varroa was the issue with many of my deadouts, as they had small patches of brood under the cluster and many of the cells had pinholes in them and also many adults dead a third of the way out of the cell. I did not see lots of dead mites on the bottom boards (I use solid bottoms) like I expected, but maybe the sick bees fly off with the mites to die. John

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
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    Bertie County,NC
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    Default Re: Hive postmortem; NYC rooftop [pics]

    Mind you I am only second year, but when I look at these pictures the first thing that jumps out at me is there are only about 25 brood cells. I realize that the queen slows down during the winter, but the few brood cells are very spotty as well...spread all over the one frame. This tells me that the queen failed and the numbers dwindled and then they simply froze because of such small numbers. Also, the poop on top of the frames comes from the weakened state and the bees becoming somewhat ill, but I think this is all a result of the failed queen.

    Again I realize that the queen should slow down and not lay alot, but if she was not failing, the brood that is there should be a good pattern which would help with keeping the numbers up enough to not freeze if the hive was strong enough going into the winter. So my un-quailfied diagnosis is Failed Queen=small numbers=frozen out hive.

    Just my $ .02....and being new, I could be wrong.

  15. #15
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    Aug 2006
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    Danbury, CT
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    2,887

    Default Re: Hive postmortem; NYC rooftop [pics]

    1 Italian hive survived.
    1 Russian Hive died.

    hhhhmmm that seems to go against everything we have been told about how lousy Italians are a wintering in the northeast.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  16. #16
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    Apr 2010
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    Lititz, PA, USA
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    708

    Default Re: Hive postmortem; NYC rooftop [pics]

    Quote Originally Posted by NewJoe View Post
    Mind you I am only second year, but when I look at these pictures the first thing that jumps out at me is there are only about 25 brood cells. I realize that the queen slows down during the winter, but the few brood cells are very spotty as well...spread all over the one frame. This tells me that the queen failed and the numbers dwindled and then they simply froze because of such small numbers.
    Freezing with small numbers, I'll go with that, but I'll put a different twist on the brood (and maybe Mr. Palmer can chime in on who is correct cause I'd like to learn). My twist is that the spotty capped brood is simply the brood that didn't make it. There may have been a good pattern, may have been brood all around those cells that did in fact emerge. So the brood here doesn't show a failing queen. It doesn't take the poor queen idea off the table, but spotty brood here shows a level of poor adult emergence, it doesn't say anything directly about the queen.

  17. #17
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    Jun 2011
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    Bardstown, KY, USA
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    Default Re: Hive postmortem; NYC rooftop [pics]

    My suggestion is to wait until your other hive is building up with bees and then split your hive in half. I would make sure there is at least one frame of new eggs (less than 3 days old) in each hive. Then I would put the two brood boxes on top of the split boxes; dividing the frames of good comb up evenly. You don't have to worry which hive has the queen. The queen less hive will make themselves a new queen. Since neither hive has to make comb, they should build fast. The hive that had to make its queen, will be 30 days behind the original hive.....
    Grandchildren are the best.... Bees a close second....

  18. #18
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    Jul 2012
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    870

    Default Re: Hive postmortem; NYC rooftop [pics]

    Quote Originally Posted by libhart View Post
    My twist is that the spotty capped brood is simply the brood that didn't make it. There may have been a good pattern, may have been brood all around those cells that did in fact emerge. So the brood here doesn't show a failing queen. It doesn't take the poor queen idea off the table, but spotty brood here shows a level of poor adult emergence, it doesn't say anything directly about the queen.
    But if that were the case, wouldn't there be brood in all stages? Also, if the frames with the spotty brood left on them were in fact just the left overs after the surrounding brood had hatched, from the size of the spread that would mean thousands of hatched brood...which in turn would equal large numbers of bees which should be a large enough cluster to survive?

    Like I said I don't know, but I am thinking??

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Hive postmortem; NYC rooftop [pics]

    Quote Originally Posted by jmgi View Post
    Michael, I guess that tells me varroa was the issue with many of my deadouts, as they had small patches of brood under the cluster and many of the cells had pinholes in them and also many adults dead a third of the way out of the cell.
    Pull some of those emerging adults, and you'll see what I mean. Deformed wings and stunted, flat abdomens.

  20. #20
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    Dec 2010
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    Old Town, Maine, USA
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    99

    Default Re: Hive postmortem; NYC rooftop [pics]

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrass View Post
    1 Italian hive survived.
    1 Russian Hive died.

    hhhhmmm that seems to go against everything we have been told about how lousy Italians are a wintering in the northeast.
    Are you serious, or joking? It's hard to tell online without emoticons. I have not skin in the game regarding the whole Russian vs. Italian debate, but I don't see 2 hives sitting on a roof in NYC as an adequate sample to derive results of a survival study. Of course, the only Russian hive that I have ever had died out in November a few years ago, so I wouldn't have any data to determine how they overwinter!

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