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  1. #1
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    Default My loss of bees!

    I just posted a blog...lost my bees this winter. I believe my cluster was too small, perhaps due to a fall swarm?

    http://thewoodsygal.com/2013/03/14/u...ortunate-news/

  2. #2

    Default Re: My loss of bees!

    Did you test/treat for varroa?
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  3. #3
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    Default Re: My loss of bees!

    No I did not treat. Although many in our beekeeping group lost their bees this winter and do treat.

  4. #4

    Default Re: My loss of bees!

    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. ‘
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  5. #5
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    Default Re: My loss of bees!

    Quote Originally Posted by beemandan View Post
    Did you test/treat for varroa?
    Quote Originally Posted by beemandan View Post
    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. ‘
    I'm curious as to why you immediately jump to the conclusion that they needed to test for varroa, or worse still, treat for the mites when this is very clearly a starve-out? Varroa does not cause starve-outs as far as I'm aware. I ask because you're not the first on this forum I've seen do this, just today even.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: My loss of bees!

    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.

  7. #7

    Default Re: My loss of bees!

    Quote Originally Posted by Javin007 View Post
    I ask because you're not the first on this forum I've seen do this, just today even.
    It started as a simple question. Small overwintering clusters are one of the classic signs of varroa collapse. The OP indicated that he/she hadn’t tested or treated….and that alone would be fine, as long as he/she understands that this is often the outcome. I honestly don’t care if you choose to test/treat but if you post asking why your hives failed and varroa look to be the likely culprit….why shouldn’t I ask?
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  8. #8
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    DeSoto County, MS, USA
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    Default Re: My loss of bees!

    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.

  9. #9

    Default Re: My loss of bees!

    Quote Originally Posted by Davebcrzy View Post
    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.
    Ahhhhhhh......makes my brain hurt.......
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  10. #10
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    Default Re: My loss of bees!

    Quote Originally Posted by beemandan View Post
    Ahhhhhhh......makes my brain hurt.......
    Dan, I would like to help you out here, but I get enough headaches on my own.You are right, mites if you look you can see at least 5 in the picture of the ....starving bees. Yea they starved, but the mites caused them to.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: My loss of bees!

    Quote Originally Posted by BeeManiac View Post
    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.
    The reasons for a weak cluster are innumerable, and hardly solely due to a varroa infestation. In the majority of situations I've seen, they've been completely unrelated to varroa, but rather a weak honey supply to start with. It has long been observed that bees are fully aware of what their honey stocks look like (Doolittle 1905) though the method that they use is only loosely understood (Rinderer 1982)(Seeley 1995). They will reduce their own "cluster size" based on their stocks going into the winter. Thus, a weak cluster size is not only normal, but completely non-indicative of parasites.

    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

  12. #12
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    Default Re: My loss of bees!

    Quote Originally Posted by Flyer Jim View Post
    Dan, I would like to help you out here, but I get enough headaches on my own.You are right, mites if you look you can see at least 5 in the picture of the ....starving bees. Yea they starved, but the mites caused them to.
    While 5 mites would not denote an infestation, I would be sincerely interested if you could point out where you've spotted them. I consider myself rather adept at spotting varroa, and haven't yet been able to find even one (which makes sense to me, as the mites would drop off after the bees die.)

    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:
    varroa-mites_250.jpg
    Last edited by Javin007; 03-14-2013 at 10:10 PM.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: My loss of bees!

    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.

  14. #14

    Default Re: My loss of bees!

    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.
    I don’t.

    Good Luck.
    Last edited by beemandan; 03-15-2013 at 05:53 AM.
    Dan www.boogerhillbee.com
    Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards

  15. #15
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    Default Re: My loss of bees!

    Quote Originally Posted by beemandan View Post
    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.
    And in my opinion, you couldn't be more wrong. Varroa would be a likely culprit if they actually had a weak cluster, or ANY sign of Varroa. Which they don't. Go back and look at the pictures posted by the original poster again. There was NO UNDERSIZED CLUSTER. There were THOUSANDS of dead bees that had fallen to the bottom of the hive. This... was... a... starvout... Yet you keep insisting it's Varroa with based on nothing more than that you think all starve-outs (or freeze-outs) are Varroa.

    Quote Originally Posted by beemandan View Post
    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.
    You just said that... Like... Out loud... Like you believe it.

    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.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: My loss of bees!

    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?

  17. #17
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    Default Re: My loss of bees!

    Quote Originally Posted by JD's Bees View Post
    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?
    As I said before, I don't see the Varroa you're talking about on the bottom board. There's ONE spot that MIGHT be A mite (might also just be a rock beneath the screen) but absolutely nowhere NEAR what could ever be considered an "infestation." If this collapse were caused by an infestation, there would be hundreds of them on the woodenware and among the dead. There would be hundreds of bees with deformed wing virus (a virus often carried and transmitted by the varroa). Instead, I don't see the mites or deformed that you and Flyer_Jim claim to see. And most DEFINITELY not in the numbers that would indicate an infestation. (ALL hives have SOME Varroa now. It's a question of how much.)

    Though I do appreciate that you're asking questions that could lead to other possible answers for the starve-out!

  18. #18
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    Default Re: My loss of bees!

    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.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: My loss of bees!

    Quote Originally Posted by JD's Bees View Post
    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.
    Couldn't agree with you more, here. If we were trying to find out the actual cause, there's a LOT of variables we'd need to gather from the OP.

    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.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: My loss of bees!

    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.

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