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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Rockford, Il
    Posts
    506

    Default Postmortem Help.

    3rd year, very bad over wintering. Went into last fall with 9 hives. Only two appear to have made it. One strong, one not so much.

    The nine hives broke down like this.

    Four new packages
    One swarm catch
    Two splits, from the first year.
    Two original packages from the first year.

    Of the two that survived one was one of the splits which I actually re-queened with a Beeweaver queen and one was a carnie which raised it's own queen from the original 1st year package.

    I went thru all of the hives today and found two conditions. Either there were simply no bees to speak of in the entire hive or there was what seemed to be a relatively healthy cluster. In every hive that died except for one there appeared to be plenty of both pollen and honey. Several boxes were still very difficult to pick up they were so full of honey.

    I did not see any obvious signs of problems. No disease I could see in the brood or obvious buildup of mites, granted I'm still a complete novice when figuring out disease. Almost all hives that died out had small amounts of brood and the cells looked fairly normal. Bottom board slide outs were all relatively clean and did not show large amounts of mites. No signs of mold, high humidity etc. The odd cases where the ones where there were literally only a handful of bees, less then a hundred in a couple cases.

    I now face two problems. First figuring out what the problem is and how to avoid it next time around and two...what the heck do I do with all the equipment, honey, frames etc.

    Don't want them eaten up by wax moths and I don't have enough surviving hives or packages coming in to use all the left overs....or a freezer big enough to hold 180 frames plus all the other honey supers in the shed :-)

    ~Matt

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Phoenixville, PA
    Posts
    579

    Default Re: Postmortem Help.

    Sorry to hear of your struggles.

    Sounds to me most hives were first year. For the last two years, I've noticed the smaller of my colonies didn't survive winter. I also had one year where I over ventilated to avoid mold which I suspect made keeping warm difficult and weakened the colonies resulting in poor build up and excessive losses the following year. This fall I'm combining the smaller hives with each other or into larger colonies even if I go into winter with only one.

    I suggest making splits from the survivors since they acclimated to your area and loading them up with remaining stores. I'd leave the extra stores nearby, accessible to the bees and protected from weather. I expect the girls will make-off and reprocess the stores for a nice harvest and provide clean frames ready for the following season. Since you didn't mention seeing moths, the girls may leave nothing for moths to get started.

    l'd also look for mites in the survivors and lost colonies. They're so common I can't imagine getting a package without them and leaving them to their devices can create discouraging results.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    ottawa, ontario, canada
    Posts
    97

    Default Re: Postmortem Help.

    Dead bees can be sent for testing, nosema maybe? Thats what we did with one dead hive a few yrs ago

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Baker Oregon
    Posts
    2,490

    Default Re: Postmortem Help.

    Was the honey very close to the cluster? I had several hives starve with plenty of honey in the hive, they just did not move to get it. Mine were weakened by mites.
    Dan Hayden 4 Years. 12 hives. Tx Free. USDA Zone 5b.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
    Posts
    4,929

    Default Re: Postmortem Help.

    if there is a lot of mite feces in most of the empty brood cells there's a good chance that varroa played a role.

    it there are no bees and some stores, no sign of brood disease, and little sign of varroa, it's likely that they became queenless at some point, and the bees dwindled by attrition.

    lab samples of the dead bees could reveal a nosema ceranae infection.

    sorry to hear about about your losses, mine were 33% this year.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Rockford, Il
    Posts
    506

    Default Re: Postmortem Help.

    The ones that had clusters in them where typically right next to honey. Most of them were this way. And by "right next to" I mean the next cell over was honey.

    Also seems like there was some sort of dividing line. There were a couple hives that were empty, no cluster and a handful of bees, that were jam packed with honey. Full top, and several frames in the bottom. The ones with the clusters typically had emptied the majority of the bottom and were in the top.

    It does look the two remaining hives are robbing out the other hives, but I do have some moth problems so don't want that going on for very much longer.

    I figure I'll split the two I have and I have 3 packages coming. Will probably throw some moth balls in the ones that will remain empty thru the summer to keep them from getting infested.

    ~Matt

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Rockford, Il
    Posts
    506

    Default Re: Postmortem Help.

    Any good pictures of varroa Feces? I looked at some of the dead bees and didn't see anything and looked at all the winterboards and did not see many mites at all. The empty brood comb appeared pretty clean, even around some that had not hatched. However I'm not sure what I'm looking for either.

    I did wonder if a couple may have lost their queens early or even mid winter. One hive in particular I saw several started queen cells which I though was odd considering the time of year.

    I would say the dwindled by attrition seems like exactly what I was looking at in a couple hives. Plenty of food, almost no bees and no brood and some brood still capped. The amount of dead bees in 2-3 was no were near enough to make a cluster, but if they were still attempting to maintain the hive they would have cleaned the place up and got rid of the dead ones until they just died off.

    ~Matt

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Grosse Ile, Michigan, USA
    Posts
    2,901

    Default Re: Postmortem Help.

    This is just typical losses attributed to high mite counts in late fall. No cluster or very small dead clusters in hives with plenty of honey nearby is 99% mite related. I had many dead hives exhibiting the same characteristics, small clusters not leaving the brood to get to new food in cold weather=starvation. John

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
    Posts
    4,929

    Default Re: Postmortem Help.

    they need water to dilute capped honey for consumption. too much ventilation?
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
    Posts
    4,929

    Default Re: Postmortem Help.

    small clusters could be secondary to queen failure as easily as mites.

    of course if the bees blamed the queen for the mites and decided to supercede her for that, it could have been failed supercedure.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
    Posts
    3,044

    Default Re: Postmortem Help.

    how were pollen stores in the hives with small clusters?

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Rockford, Il
    Posts
    506

    Default Re: Postmortem Help.

    Pollen stores seemed anywhere from low to excessively high. One hive seemed to have frame after frame of pollen and no bees. Most had significant pollen and only one or two seemed to have a lack of it.

    ~Matt

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Rockford, Il
    Posts
    506

    Default Re: Postmortem Help.

    This could be the case, I'm still trying to look for signs of the feces in the frames. Can't seem to find exactly what I'm looking for.

    If this is the case it may be testament to the effectiveness of the BeeWeaver queen as that is the only hive I had that came thru strong so The beeweaver hive is 1 for 1 while the others are half for 8 and the one that survived half halfheartedly, requeened itself last fall after I pulled nucs from it which I understand slows down the mite count.

    ~Matt

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Rockford, Il
    Posts
    506

    Default Re: Postmortem Help.

    I don't think that was the problem. All the hives had the winter board installed, lower entrance with three small 3/16" x 3/4 entrances and a top entrance of about 1/4 x 1 1/2. No other entrances or ventilation.

    OTOH one of the hives had a stack of dead bees blocking the top entrance, so maybe that was too much still. Next winter I may go with just the top entrances. We get enough snow that it covers the bottom entrance anyway on occasion, this year, for weeks.

    ~Matt

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    Evansville, IN
    Posts
    2,568

    Default Re: Postmortem Help.

    Mite feces are very small white specks on the sides of the cells. Not to be confused with sugar crystals, they are much larger.

    The presence of mites feces indicates the bees were too weak to clean out the cells due to debilitation from being fed on during pupation and the viruses the mites vector.

    Absence of mite feces, sadly, doesn't mean mites weren't the cause of the loss, but if present, very very likely a mite overload problem.

    Peter

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Rockford, Il
    Posts
    506

    Default Re: Postmortem Help.

    I will look again at the comb but I saw very little sign on the winter board of mites and although I wasn't looking expressly for mite feces the combs all looked pretty clean outside of a few with honey crystals in them.

    ~Matt

  17. #17
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Flora,IL
    Posts
    2,644

    Default Re: Postmortem Help.

    The ones that survived also tell you something. being splits and requeened they would have lower mite counts. Breaking the brood cycle reduces mites expotentialy.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Fort Wayne, IN
    Posts
    996

    Default Re: Postmortem Help.

    You didn't mention if you treated for mites or not last fall?

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Rockford, Il
    Posts
    506

    Default Re: Postmortem Help.

    No, no mite treatments on anything. The year before I did no mite treatments either and had zero losses. I'm still looking into whether I can see signs of mite issues. I saw non on the dead bees, and nothing jumped out at me from the empty comb.

    ~Matt

  20. #20
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
    Posts
    3,044

    Default Re: Postmortem Help.

    Need to monitor those mites to some degree. You will not find many traces of mites now as far as dead ones goes. You may find a few on the bottom board. Typically, strong hives that dwindle to a small cluster and freeze in place with stores around is mite related.

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