I just posted a blog...lost my bees this winter. I believe my cluster was too small, perhaps due to a fall swarm?
I just posted a blog...lost my bees this winter. I believe my cluster was too small, perhaps due to a fall swarm?
Did you test/treat for varroa?
No I did not treat. Although many in our beekeeping group lost their bees this winter and do treat.
Sort of reminds me of an experience I had with one of my daughters. She ran out of gas. When I arrived with a gas can to get her going I asked ‘didn’t you check the gauge?’. She replied….’the gas gauge in Elizabeth’s car doesn’t work right….she looked at hers and ran out of gas anyway. ‘
Javin, he said the hive was full of honey. Yes they starved but, they starved from a small cluster, which was probably caused by varroa. Without varroa, they would have had a large enough cluster to make the heat to move. Starvation is the reason they are dead but varroa is the cause.
After looking at the pictures on your blog I would say it was a starve out. Heads in comb with butts out is a good indicator of that.
He said the hive was full of honey, but based on his own statements and photos provided, they indicate that the bees avoided the "cold" honey from their insulation layers that would require more energy to consume than it would provide for the hive. This is a repeating pattern we see with starve-outs, with the untouched honey almost always in the same locations (the outer "walls" of the hive.)
With no sign of a parasitic infestation (and I would even argue WITH signs of a parasitic infestation) the answer is not always to chemically treat, which seems to be an ongoing suggestion that has very likely led us to the weakened genetics and problems that we see today - not only in domestic bees but in feral.
My studies have lead me to believe quite strongly that our immediate response of "treat now, ask questions later" is the direct cause of what we now call Colony Collapse Disorder. I find it dangerous to suggest that new hobby bee keepers keep with the methods that have been used for the past 100 years by commercial bee keepers that have for the first time in history possibly put the entire race of both domestic and feral honey bees into serious jeopardy. You posted an analogy comparing a bee keeper who chose not to treat for varroa with a naive teenage daughter. This is, in my opinion, detrimental to the survival of the honey bee; to attempt to make people feel foolish for choosing NOT to treat as opposed to introducing synthetic chemicals to an ecosystem that has managed to exist for millions of years prior to our "intervention." Dumping miticides on a hive for fear of a starve-out - a common occurrence with literally dozens of possible causal agents - is a poor and even potentially dangerous practice. It's like having everyone take antibiotics every day, just in case they MIGHT get pneumonia.
Varroa has a place in the ecosystem. We know that the holes punctured in the bees and the diseases they carry actually have a FUNCTION. They kill off the immunocompromised hives while allowing the genetically stronger hives to survive. Varroa has been around for millions of years and bees have managed to survive WITH them. Even today, a hive with a varroa infestation can last for decades with no ill effects. A hive with a significant varroa infestation SHOULD be permitted to perish. Worse still, your posts seem to suggest that even without testing, the treatments for varroa should be administered.
I certainly don't wish for this to sound like a frontal attack, but I feel very strongly that admonishing new bee keepers for not treating a hive when their hive failure is highly likely to be unrelated to the parasite at hand is a dangerous road to take.
Doolitte, GM (1905) A Year’s Work in an Out-Apiary republished by Wicwas Press 2005.
Rinderer, TE (1982) Volatiles from empty comb increase hoarding by the honey bee. Animal Behaviour 29:1275-1276.
Seeley, TD (1995) Regulation of comb construction in The Wisdom of the Hive Harvard University Press
For reference, a varroa mite infestation is not particularly difficult to see, especially on such excellent high-resolution images as these. Here's an example:
Last edited by Javin007; 03-14-2013 at 10:10 PM.
Heads in comb with butts sticking out is not starving with stores all around them. Bees crawl into the cells to maintain warmth. Dead bees in a cluster with heads in cells and butts out indicate they could not generate enough heat to maintain the cluster and froze out eventually, especially if the cluster was small as described.
Javin007, you are partly right, in my opinion. Varroa aren’t the only possible cause of a small overwintering cluster but……they are the most likely culprit.
In the early days of AIDS many patients died of pneumonia. The underlying reason was a compromised immune system that resulted from the AIDS virus. To say they simply died of pneumonia would be to dismiss the entirety of the epidemic. To ignore varroa as the likely causal agent of an undersized wintering bee cluster would be a similar dismissal.
Javin007 – that have been used for the past 100 years by commercial bee keepers that have for the first time in history possibly put the entire race of both domestic and feral honey bees into serious jeopardy.
The introduction of an exotic parasite into the system of North American honey bees has absolutely nothing to do with the methods used by commercial beekeeping.
Javin007 – "treat now, ask questions later" I challenge you to find a single instance where I’ve ever made any such statement.
If the op chooses not to test or treat, that is his business. If he asks why his colony failed…then he should expect some honest answers.
If you choose to deny varroa as a problem….fine.
Last edited by beemandan; 03-15-2013 at 05:53 AM.
Tracheal Mites - Discovered in 1919 on the Isle of Wight, laws passed in 1922 to prevent spread to the U.S. through COMMERCIAL bee keeping. On July 3, 1984, tracheal mites were first detected in the United States from bees sampled from a COMMERCIAL beekeeping operation in Weslaco, Texas.
Varroa Destructor - First found on imported European honeybees in Hong Kong and Singapore in 1963, it was specifically BECAUSE of the COMMERCIAL bee keeping industry that it rapidly spread. By 1970 it was found in South America, and in 1975, Akratanakul and Burgett published a warning about the threat posed by Varroa mites. In spite of the threat, no change was made to COMMERCIAL beekeeping methods, and bees continued to be shipped to the U.S. from known infected countries. A single mite was discovered in Maryland in 1979; however, no more were seen in the U.S. until populations were discovered in Wisconsin and Florida in 1987, all indicators that they came in commercial bee packages rather than a natural spread from South America.
Small Hive Beetle - Originally endemic to Africa, the beetle was first discovered in the United states in 1996, though they were first confirmed in the southeastern United States in 1998 in a COMMERCIAL apiary in Florida. It is believed by the scientific community that the rapid spread of the beetle from Florida to the rest of the United States is due to migratory (commercial) bee keepers.
Shall I continue? Nearly every parasitic and disease problem facing not only the commercial, but the wild honey bees in the world is in some way related to poor business practices of the commercial bee keepers over the past many years. It's an ugly fact, but it's also still a fact. Yes, they're facing additional problems from other commercial agriculture as well now (eg: the pesticides used on monoculture crops) but the finger cannot be solely pointed at outside of the circle. We decided to muck about with nature for our OWN profit, forcing bees to change the size of their cells, dumping antibiotics and miticides on them so we could save a few dollars instead of allowing nature to do it's thing, and importing bees from whoever had the ones that could make us the most money at the time resulting in ALL bees having ALL problems simultaneously.
If you choose to deny that any of this is a problem, then in your words, "fine. I don't. Good luck."
Your immediate response to the OP's question, despite NO indicators that it was necessary, was to ask if they had TREATED or tested for Varroa. Immediately. And when they said they had not, and had seen other keepers in the area that DID choose to treat have the same outcome, you gave them a snarky response comparing them to a naive child! This is what raised my hackles in the first place.
The OP asked a simple question, and when they opted NOT to pour chemicals on their hive, they were condescended to. I see this pattern repeatedly on bee keeping forums everywhere. That, and the fact that I see no indicator of Varroa in the first place. A starve-out is often just a starve-out. A new bee keeper may harvest too much in the fall, check too often when it's cold, feed incorrectly, or not enough, there's a bunch of factors that cause starve-outs in new hives that have nothing to do with Varroa. Bees will not eat honey that they haven't been able to keep warm. If the honey is too cold for them to consume, they starve. Seeing starve-outs when the hive has 80+ lbs of honey is completely normal and NOT a specific indicator of Varroa. It simply means that the bees, for SOME reason were unable to keep their cluster warm enough. A midwinter hive check can break propolis seals that the bees do not repair during the winter, causing drafts that kill them. Moisture falling on them can cool them rapidly, killing them. The fact that the hive bodies are 3/4" pine instead of the natural thick, insulated tree trunk could even be a problem in a particularly cold and windy winter. The bees NATURALLY do not eat ALL the honey to the walls, as much of that honey is insulation for the hive. Starveouts will almost ALWAYS have SOME honey still stocked.
I did a late fall split last year resulting in 3 weak hives that had starve-outs this spring. Completely unrelated to Varroa. One year I didn't seal the hive up for the winter, trying to see how they would fare. They didn't. They had starve outs. Completely unrelated to Varroa. There are thousands of factors that the OP wasn't even asked about.
When there's no indicator of Varroa in the first place, I don't think condescending to the OP because they didn't treat/test for a problem that has no indicators of existing is constructive.
Last edited by Javin007; 03-15-2013 at 10:34 AM.
There are varroa on the bottom board pic along with some bees with deformed wings.
While inspecting the dead hive did you find any queen cells to indicate a fall swarm?
Though I do appreciate that you're asking questions that could lead to other possible answers for the starve-out!
So far we see a low mite level and a low virus level. A nosema test would also help to determine the colony health. Low levels of all three can be as bad as high levels of any one factor.
I'm not saying that is what killed the hive but we can't exclude disease either. Monitoring and testing are invaluable in determining a reason for a deadout.
I am not advocating treating, that is up to the individual. But testing removes the guesswork.
Could we get some pictures of the landing pad? (I don't see the streaking from Nosema apis, but that doesn't mean it isn't Nosema ceranae)
Do you have access to a microscope that has at least 400x power?
When was the last inspection done on the hive prior to the deadout?
What was the weather like after that? How much honey was harvested in the fall / how much did they have going into the winter?
Was the hive strong in the fall?
Were there any old queen cells in the wax (as you mentioned before).
Even then, best we could do is an educated guess. While I wouldn't rule-out disease (or even a combination of diseases), I would be more apt to believe that it wasn't.
My I'm kind of surprised by our tone in this thread. From the picture that I saw from the original post this was not a small cluster. Check out the size covering the frame of "butts" out of the cells. It's about 12-15" diameter. That's a good size cluster. What I don't see in thse frames is any stores. I didn't go over and look to see if there's any dwv or anything, but looking at the cluster they didn't die of mites. I had two hives at least die this past winter and the cluster was about the size of a softball (about 5 inches in diameter or so) and the bottom board had about 7 mites per square inch or more. I didn't have to look hard to see what had happened. Also there was capped brood w/ small holes in them which is also a good sign of varroa. The original post and the link took you to a site where the harvest was talked about, but I don't know where it was said that this hive had plenty of stores or rather what that means. I could say that a hive has plenty of stores and unless I define it you have no idea what I'm talking about. I could be saying that the hive has 2 frames of capped honey and I think that's fine. Well obviously if that's what they had then they didn't make it to December. Oh well I guess this is why it's said ask 5 beekeepers and youre likely to get 6 or more answers. My thought is that this hive starved. Why? Well we'd need to know more. I don't suspect mites as a primary or significant cause, but I'm not an expert by far!!! I just know what I've read and what I've seen.