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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Madison, CT
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    71

    Default Mysterious deaths of my two hives... do you know what happened??

    First of all, here are pictures:
    http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?s...1&l=c888a1478d

    Now someone suggested that mites could have caused the death of the two hives, as I did not treat the hives for mites in the fall (the numbers did not seem troublesome at the time, and my bee mentor never treats his hives...)

    Facts:

    1) Here in CT, we're having one of the warmest winters most residents have EVER experienced, so I doubt it's due to cold.

    2) Many of the frames were loaded with honey and nectar. There were few cells of pollen, and very few cells of brood. Some emerging brood seemed to have died AS THEY WERE CHEWING THEIR WAY OUT!

    3) The bees seem to have died suddenly- all in clusters, many still clinging to the hive frames, some nestled head-first into cells.

    4) There seems to be a white powdery coating on some of the frames. Not sure what it is...

    5) There seem to be little specks in some cells that resemble tiny flecks of pollen, but not sure that's what it is...


    Sooo... what caused this, and what do I do to prevent it from happening again? Also, are the remaining frames safe to use with a new batch of bees?

    Thank you all for your thoughts and ideas!!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Wibaux, Montana
    Posts
    35

    Default Re: Mysterious deaths of my two hives... do you know what happened??

    First of all I'd like you to know I'm not very knowledgeable about beekeeping but I'll do my best to state my opinions. The black/brown stuff on the top of the frames looks like bee poop, maybe they had nosema though I'm not sure. The specks around in the cells looks to me like chewed up wax capping. The way the bees have their heads shoved down in the cells I'd almost wonder if it was starvation. Not sure why they'd starve with that honey around them like that unless it was too far away from the cluster for them to use. Hopefully there will be some replies from beekeepers more knowledgeable then me.

    BK

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Belpre,Ohio, USA
    Posts
    1,315

    Default Re: Mysterious deaths of my two hives... do you know what happened??

    jenga, my condolences on the death of your hives, I noticed on the second picture that the bee had disjointed wings or K-wing as it is known. This is an indication of a bee in distress, there are a number of factors that could be accumulative thus causing their demise. If you did not treat for Varroa mites then this would have contributed, if the warm weather had them rearing brood and they were low on stores then they could have starved which is indicated by the picture of the bees with their butts sticking out of the cells, if they were trying to cover brood and a cold spell hit then they could have starved with honey just inches away from them because they would not leave the brood. But I would look at the varroa mite as the main contributing factor in this because the Varroa can leave the bees with a number of viruses that can weaken the whole hive and cause them to collapse for no apparent reason. As far as the little specks are concerned, perhaps someone other than me might add their past knowledge and keen insight to your situation.....Bill

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Madison, CT
    Posts
    71

    Default Re: Mysterious deaths of my two hives... do you know what happened??

    Wow.... I am shocked that they could have possibly starved to death with so much honey just a few cells away! And the fact that they seemed to have died so suddenly- they look SO life-like- as if one moment they were alive and the next, dead. It boggles my mind. Eager to hear other opinions. Thank you all!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Madison, CT
    Posts
    71

    Default Re: Mysterious deaths of my two hives... do you know what happened??

    And what about the white residue on the wax? I never noticed that during the warmer months...

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Lancaster, Ky. / Frostproof Fl.
    Posts
    985

    Default Re: Mysterious deaths of my two hives... do you know what happened??

    Looks like starvation due to cluster too small....honey just inches away but with bees heads in cells....starvation. How big was the cluster....I'm betting a small cluster caused by mite and/or virus load. Also If no fall flow queens will quit laying and cluster gets small during winter (smallest at this time of year) All in all not enough young healthy bees going into winter...feed in early fall syrup andn pollen [august] if no nectar flow to stimulate egg laying and get nice large cluster of healthy young bees for winter....TREAT for mites if load is over 5 on mite alchol wash! If you dont control mites you have dead bees what was your mite count in august/september?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    S Hadley, Massachusetts USA
    Posts
    690

    Default Re: Mysterious deaths of my two hives... do you know what happened??

    The pictures indicate more than one problem. I see "signs" of nosema. Hard to be certain without a test but when you see frass on the top bars and as dark as it is.....could be. Second, just because your mentor never treats for mites that does not mean there is no need to treat. Mites and the diseases they vector is the #1 cause of winter losses. Infact, in the first picture I can see a mite on the top side of a bee. When you see mites on the top, well......they usually attach on the underside 1st. They cluster seems VERY small.....again that is an indication of a failing queen last fall OR mites have taken thier toll on the population starting LAST August. If the mite kills the queen in winter.........not a good outcome.

    To be successful in beekeeping you have to take action WELL before a potential problem. I start monitoring mites in July and treat if needed then during the summer dearth. If levels are ok I check again about mid-August. I treat most of my hives for mites with Apiguard in late August. The fall flow around here is poor so I pull supers and let them backfill the broodnest in preparation for winter. I check again in mid-December and treat with Oxalic Acid then if need be.

    There are three reasons bees die in winter that make up about 90% of the losses. Mites, poor-failing queens, and starvation. Just about in that order. The 2nd and 3rd reason have a direct link to the 1st.

    I cannot stress enough the importance of monitoring mites via a sugar roll test or a drop count with screen bottoms and treat when needed. There are many organic treatment out there that work quite well.
    Pearl City Apiary Michael and Loucil Bach

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Sacramento,California,USA
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    3,789

    Default Re: Mysterious deaths of my two hives... do you know what happened??

    Your pics don't show down into the cells.
    Check this link for pics of varroa mite poop.
    It's a white dusting in empty brood cells.

    http://www.justkiddinfarm.com/varroa/varroa.html

    Sounds to me like it could be varroa infestation in late fall, caused die-off and malnutritioned nurse bees going into winter. Cluster was too small of cluster to be able to move to food right next to them.
    “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” – John Muir

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Kawartha lakes, Ontario Canada
    Posts
    23

    Default Re: Mysterious deaths of my two hives... do you know what happened??

    The small specs in the cells look like varroa feces. I would make a guess that the varroa have weakened the colony and they just finally couldn't make it to food and got knocked down to a cluster small enough that they could no longer function.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    St. Albans, Vermont
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    5,465

    Default Re: Mysterious deaths of my two hives... do you know what happened??

    Quote Originally Posted by jengalill View Post
    2) ...and very few cells of brood. Some emerging brood seemed to have died AS THEY WERE CHEWING THEIR WAY OUT!
    That tells me most likely varroa killed the colony. Those bees that died while emerging will have shriveled wings or a flat, stunted abdomen.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    6,016

    Default Re: Mysterious deaths of my two hives... do you know what happened??

    Wow that's pretty good observation Michea B, there really is a varroa on that bee, I've never seen one in that position on a dead bee before.

    Good thread, excellent advice every post.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  12. #12
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Madison, CT
    Posts
    71

    Default Re: Mysterious deaths of my two hives... do you know what happened??

    Great feedback, everyone- thank you! A few more questions:

    1) So I should not be worried about what seems to be a white residue on some of the frames?

    2) With these bees dead, and therefore nothing to feed mites, it seems that the hives should still be safe to install a new nuc into come spring, right?

    3) Also, why are dead bees clustered head-first into cells a sign of starvation?

    4) Should I worry about cleaning out the dead bees (ie picking them out with tweezers) or any old nectar before installing the new nucs, or will the bees just do what they need to do?

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
    Posts
    6,016

    Default Re: Mysterious deaths of my two hives... do you know what happened??

    1. No, a healthy hive will clean that up

    2. Correct, you can install new bees

    3. As a last ditch attempt to keep warm when food and energy reserves have gone, some of the bees will enter the cells to make a solid biomass. While what you see is commonly associated with starvation, it can also happen to bees that are not starving, but have a cluster too small to resist the cold.

    4. Don't worry about the nectar. It would be helpful to the bees if you remove the dead bees from the cells, it's not essential but it can be difficult for the new bees to pull them out.

    And also, all that's just my opinion, others will differ!
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    S Hadley, Massachusetts USA
    Posts
    690

    Default Re: Mysterious deaths of my two hives... do you know what happened??

    When hives die from varroa, all harful things died with the bees and mites. It is safe to use all the equipment.

    When I have dead out, I whack the frames hard enough to dislodge the bees but not hard anough to damage the comb. Most of the dead bees fall out/off the few that are left will be taken care of by the new occupants.
    Pearl City Apiary Michael and Loucil Bach

  15. #15
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    East Hartford CT
    Posts
    146

    Default Re: Mysterious deaths of my two hives... do you know what happened??

    Hey Jen, sorry for your loss, I too have lost hives, 8 so far this year of ten. Almost the same symptoms for a few, others just absconded. I have been contemplating this hard for a long time, most died between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am sure our problem is the hurricane we had in September, the three weeks of rain afterwords and the early snowstorm robbed our bees of pollen that they needed to survive and raise winter brood. I fed my bees from Sept on, I treated for Nosema and I checked them carefully for Verroa but did not treat because of low mite loads. All the dead hives were new packages last spring so Verroa is not likely the cause, it IS a go-to answer for so many bee keepers these days. I made two mistakes that caused my hives to die, first with all the wet and nasty weather I should have fed pollen patties in September, second, I should have re-queened the Gorgia queens with northern queens, I think the northern queens would have been able to survive this fall weather better and not shut down production at the wrong time of year. Don't feel too bad and I hope you give it another try, I think the white powder on your frames of capped honey is from being frozen all winter and thawing a few times and nothing to worry about. I had top brood boxes that were very heavy with honey or syrup that I fed so I put them on my survivor hives to boost their stores. It was just a lousy year in our area, a fella near here lost 5 of 5 hives this fall and he has been at it for 50 years! Many others are reporting the same. Cheer up, this year will be better.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    East Hampton, CT, USA
    Posts
    124

    Default Re: Mysterious deaths of my two hives... do you know what happened??

    I lost 3 of 4 this winter. 2 had very heavy mite loads that I didn't find until September. I treated them with MAQS and got a huge mite drop, so I think they were weak going in, even though they had plenty of stores. The 3rd was a nuc that was probably too small to survive. The 4th hive seems to be ok as of last weekend - bees flying, etc. I put in a pollen patty to supplement the honey that they have left, and will start feeding this weekend.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Faulkner Manitoba, Canada
    Posts
    1,699

    Default Re: Mysterious deaths of my two hives... do you know what happened??

    Low mite numbers mean different things to different people. Different times of the year have different threshold levels....when one says low numbers, please quantify, especially when asking for a diagnosis. And if one tests throughout the year, post those numbers too. Some history is always good, especially when varroa induced problems can take two winters to kill a hive.
    Northern winter climates, check out the capa bee site for varroa thresholds...has some good information

    Please realize, when varroa hits 4% visible brood damage has occurred. In August, 4% is deadly to winter survival. Thats 4 varroa per 100 bees in an alcohol wash. Know your numbers, test often to know them throughout the year. Keep track of the numbers.
    In a couple of hives situation, test all hives.
    In a 20 + operation, test 15% of the hives. A mixture of strong, weak, and middle of the road hives. Never test the same ones the next time around.
    IF a hive has shown no growth or is stagnant...test that hive

    Keep a record of honey production, seeing a lower production can be a result of a previous year high infestation and disease is playing a part, and or nosema, a stressor (secondary) infection has set in. Honey production can tell you alot of where a hive is in terms of disease

    Starved deadouts, unless there is no honey in a hive means the bees were weak going into winter
    Starved bees where there is no honey and the beekeeper knows they had alot of honey...northern climates....5-7 gallons worth of feed + what was in the hive, weak bees could be a culprit. Weak bees consume more feed than healthy bees do. They require more energy to keep warm. (with the exception of this winter where they were rearing brood late and started early.)
    With winter like this year....mite loads will spike early this spring....WATCH OUT. The late brood rearing and the early brood rearing will see increases before normal

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Danbury, CT
    Posts
    2,887

    Default Re: Mysterious deaths of my two hives... do you know what happened??

    Quote Originally Posted by honeyshack View Post
    With winter like this year....mite loads will spike early this spring....WATCH OUT. The late brood rearing and the early brood rearing will see increases before normal
    In the Northeast you should be checking mite loads now... I checked my hives this past weekend and was seeing mites on the landing boards. I have pretty good eye sight and see mites often before the average person will... I vaporized OA on two of our hives and had a mite drop of 12 on one of the hives in the first 20 minutes after the treatment. Vaporized OA takes 20-24 days for a full effect. They are already brooding up so OA isn't going to have a 100% effectiveness. I will be treating again in a couple of weeks.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Plantsville, Ct.
    Posts
    176

    Default Re: Mysterious deaths of my two hives... do you know what happened??

    Jen, sorry to hear about your loss. Have you ordered nucs already? Even a package installed in the drawn frames would probably do good.
    I'm curious, did you insulate and wrap your hives last fall when it got cold? I have found that can make a big difference when you have a small cluster. Even if you think your hive is doing well, a little insulation can go a long ways in helping them move to the food when it's cold.
    I did not treat my hives for mites in the fall either. But I did check mite load with the sugar roll & screened btm. board with a 'sticky' board and saw low levels. A strong hive will keep things in check when it comes to pests.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Plantsville, Ct.
    Posts
    176

    Default Re: Mysterious deaths of my two hives... do you know what happened??

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrass View Post
    In the Northeast you should be checking mite loads now... I checked my hives this past weekend and was seeing mites on the landing boards. I have pretty good eye sight and see mites often before the average person will... I vaporized OA on two of our hives and had a mite drop of 12 on one of the hives in the first 20 minutes after the treatment. Vaporized OA takes 20-24 days for a full effect. They are already brooding up so OA isn't going to have a 100% effectiveness. I will be treating again in a couple of weeks.
    Bluegrass,
    In your opinion is it too late to treat for mites? I've got 8 frames of mostly sealed brood in my big hive and was holding off because I thought I needed better weather to to treat them (Mite Away 2 quick strips )
    To be honest I don't know the true levels yet. Planning to check this weekend, maybe they're okay?? They have built up fast and seem to be strong but I did see a mite on one bee & several dead on the floor in my first inspection.

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