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Thread: What Happened?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Amsterdam, NY
    Posts
    3

    Default What Happened?

    My neighbor has a hive that was made from a swarm that he captured last summer. When we checked on them yesterday, more than half of the bees were dead. There was plenty of honey stores throughout the hive. There were no eggs, nor could we find the queen. There was one open queen cell found in the bottom box. The cell was located a little more than halfway down the frame from the top (supercedure cell?). No evidence of AFB. No wax moths, no beetles, very little varroa. What could have happened?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Utica, NY
    Posts
    9,444

    Default Re: What Happened?

    There are a lot of possibilities but did he have a queen in the fall that was failing and the supersedure didn't go well?
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
    Posts
    1,716

    Default Re: What Happened?

    Yep, they were dead long time ago. Did not make it thru winter.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Ojai, California
    Posts
    960

    Default Re: What Happened?

    DMJ - I would consider re-queening the colony, and feeding pollen substitute.

    2012 saw heavy losses around the country. A thread here on Beesource got down to the most likely culprits.

    A combination of drought conditions from mid summer, low pollen stores, greatly expanding use of pesticides and especially fungicides, viruses passed through mite infestation set the table for a rough winter.

    The bees need pollen to raise brood. The queen will not lay eggs without pollen to feed them. The bees need fungi to digest the proteins in the pollen, and fungicide use tripled last year, so exposed bees got very little, if any benefit from what little pollen they had.

    With no brood being reared in the fall, the colony sizes shrank down so small that the bees could not produce enough heat in cluster to survive the winter, honey or no honey.

    Pesticides greatly exacerbate the mite situation. They seem to reduce tolerance or immunity to viruses passed by the mites, so much so that the mites need only be present, not in great numbers as before, to have a fatal effect on a colony.

    My suspicion (not backed up by study or facts) is that there are more than just Deformed Wing Virus out there - probably a number of other pathogens that we are not yet studying.

    The lessons so far have been: keep some of your bees stationary, away from the pesticides; feed the best pollen substitute you can afford along with high-quality winter syrup (2:1 cane sugar syrup) mixed with essential oils such as those found in Honey-B-Healthy; implement a program of Integrated Pest Management (see www.scientificbeekeeping.com); use a screened bottom board and shake powdered sugar onto them once a week all season long; give the bees a mite treatment if necessary going into winter (before September 15th is a good target date); try to idealize dead-air space in the hive using "hive dummies" (a wooden box the size and shape of a frame), double screen boards, and hive partitions; combine weak colonies with stronger ones going into winter; insulate hives; use internal feeders.

    Late summer / early fall is a good time to review your hive inspection reports for the year and decide what should be done in preparation for the winter.

    Stick with it, and good luck!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Amsterdam, NY
    Posts
    3

    Default Re: What Happened?

    The queen came from the swarm. The swarm was caught in mid-June. Thought the queen was doing well...apparently not.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Amsterdam, NY
    Posts
    3

    Default Re: What Happened?

    Thanks for the info KiloCharlie.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Ojai, California
    Posts
    960

    Default Re: What Happened?

    The open queen cell DOES sound like a supercedure cell, but they MAY have swarmed on you...??? That would explain low numbers, but the many dead bees are likely a result of some of the maladies I listed above in the post #4.

    My guess is that the queen was fine but the pollen supply was way too low, and if they were exposed to fungicides, it wouldn't matter how good she was. So there is a puzzle, but perhaps entirely moot. June was apparently too late for a swarm last year in a lot of places, unless you fed a lot of excellent pollen substitute.

    You, being in New York, might consider building an incubator for late swarms. It is queen rearing equipment, but it could help save small and/or late swarms, which equals money and/or honey for you...just an idea. I thought I might try it myself soon - I'm thinking a large, insulated cabinet with room for several nucs built with roof paper and composite shake for leaving outside, and of course an automatic heat control / ventilation system, but then again, I'm a queen breeder. You could make up a small one, and keep it indoors, unless your operation warrants a large one.
    Last edited by kilocharlie; 04-01-2013 at 07:31 PM.

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