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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Applegate, Oregon, USA
    Posts
    45

    Default Fall bees dwindling

    Anyone seeing unusual fall dwindling in the bees? Several local operations are seeing this and are looking for a cause. What is seen is the gradual decline of populations in the beeyards with scattered dead bees around the hives and some bees dying with poisoning-like symptoms (tongues out and partial paralysis). This seems to affect large numbers of hives simultaneously with varying degrees of depopulation ranging from maybe a 20% thinning of bees to collapse down to a couple frames. It is occurring in 1000+ colonies in 30+ yards spread across 2 counties. This began to be evident in mid-September but is now clearly widespread. Here are some facts:

    The bees- The bees have been on local forage, not on monoculture crops, and have not had known ag chemical exposure since spring. Behavior is normal though flight is reduced. Brood is not abundant, probably 3 frames with a 5 inch circle in hives still having 8 frames of bees. Ample frames of pollen are present in collapsing hives.
    The weather- Weather is presently in the 70's with dry conditions but a good rain 3 weeks ago. There have been no heavy frosts. A two month dearth preceded the rains but bees were fed as needed.
    Forage- There is limited but present starthistle, mustard bloom, etc. which is typical for the area. No strong nectar flow.
    The mites- Absent with powdered sugar roles of 0-1 in 300 bee samples.
    Mite treatments- Amitraz applied in the first week of September.
    Feeding regimen- Sugar syrup and 1-2lb. subs every 10-14 days.

    With the scope of involved hives, I suspect this is an event coming from from within the hive, possibly combined with weather conditions (fly weather, cooler nights). Possible culprits:

    Disease- Some of hives exhibit IBD (snotbrood) symptoms with yellowing larvae and spotty pattern, DFW bees are very rarely seen. There is no chalkbrood. Nosema counts will be checked this week.
    Poisoning- 3 miticide strengths applied in 3 different operations with the most notable symptoms in the operation using the lowest concentration.
    Toxic feed- Subs are dry Beepro made following manufacturers direction with 5 gal. HFCS and 50# sugar per 50# dry mix. Canola and corn oil are added per Randy Oliver's published formula, and 2/3 cup ProHealth are added in each batch. This recipe has not been changed for several years and the only difference this year is Thymol in the new formulation of ProHealth and a new production batch of powdered Beepro. Is anyone seeing issues with these products this year?
    Toxic syrup- Bees fed only Dryvert, in top feeders, for their sugar source seem to be faring better but are not great. Syrup is 1.2:1 to 1.8:1 sugar mix or thinned HFCS depending on the operation. Sugar is C&H granulated cane sugar. Syrup is not fermented and has no additives.

    If anyone has seen similar findings, your input would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Amador County, Calif
    Posts
    3,191

    Default Re: Fall bees dwindling

    BBD, have you checked your V mite load latley?
    NUTRA-BEE feed supplements

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Applegate, Oregon, USA
    Posts
    45

    Default Re: Fall bees dwindling

    Thanks Keith. Yes, 0-1 mites in a powdered sugar role using a @300 bee sample. Sampling of 10% of hives in two affected yards was done this week. I have thought about PMS collapse, but this is over 6 weeks since an effective mite treatment and most of the bees were looking good a month ago. Some of the yards were used for selecting VSH trait and in these yards, mite sampling was done in late August. Hives with the lowest counts in August are generally doing poorly now, and often hives with high mite counts then had robust populations at the time and also seem to be fairing better now. PMS has not been excluded but I a wondering if the bees are being unwittingly poisoned by the beekeepers with ongoing rescue feeding.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Amador County, Calif
    Posts
    3,191

    Default Re: Fall bees dwindling

    BBD you mentioned HFCS, a long shot but maybe look into HMF levels? Not pointing fingers just checking things off your possible list.
    NUTRA-BEE feed supplements

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Applegate, Oregon, USA
    Posts
    45

    Default Re: Fall bees dwindling

    HMF has been considered and is still a possibility though I have lessened this probability as the first bees to be affected were fed only sucrose syrup whereas those fed only HFCS for weight were noted to be affected later(though this may be purely observer bias). All 3 operation used the same batch of dry feed and HFCS. Where would one test for HMF? Keith, do you think the Thymol additive in ProHealth is injuring the nurse bees? Thanks.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2000
    Location
    NE Calif.
    Posts
    2,304

    Default Re: Fall bees dwindling

    I fed Beepro and Prosweet through September and haven't noticed anything unusual. I always add thymol to any syrup fed.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Midland OR. United States
    Posts
    101

    Default Re: Fall bees dwindling

    This is a common problem here in the basin and has been for the last two years. As we have over 200 hobbies't bee keepers , most people here don't even recognize it. I have seen this problem all summer in hives here including some of mine. It starts in stressed hives. Here the biggest stress problem comes from under feeding for spring build up and second in mite loads. My problem resulted from stopping feed before I had ample foragers to provide for the hive. In some of the cases restarting the feed salved the problem while in others they got to the point I requeened. Not all of them made it. I don't have actual numbers but it was 80 to 90 percent survived. All these cases came from package bees, splits and hives that failed to requeen them selves. I feed cane sugar and a little bit of beet sugar. I also used patties from both dadant and mann lakes. I had bees both in Ashland and up above Medford last summer. I brought them home in mid August. I put them on a really good patch of sweet clover. All these hives were in bad shape when they got home. The ones from Ashland are just now looking ok while the ones from Medford are probable a loss. Keep in mind my program is a small sample. I only had 85 hives total and am currently down to 73.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    mineral county,Montana USA
    Posts
    812

    Default Re: Fall bees dwindling

    could they be just now getting into pollen stored this spring? you mentioned them bieng around ag in the spring. perhaps they stored buckeye pollen this spring? mostly thinking out loud.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Schoolcraft Mi.
    Posts
    57

    Default Re: Fall bees dwindling

    Look at pretreatment varroa levels. If they were high and virus levels high then virus's are the problem now. Also look at spring levels. I have found having good control in the spring equalled low virus levels in the fall.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Camarillo, CA, USA
    Posts
    312

    Default Re: Fall bees dwindling

    What about looking outside the hive?

    Just a reminder that bees collect everything and bring back to hive.

    What it turns into in the hive is an unknown factor, this is where I remind all of Systemic pesticides which are being used everywhere. And its not just the pesticide also the carrier agents used ( inactive ingredients) in the mix.

    side note , the epa tests only the technical grade of pesticides ( the active ingredient) there is no testing of the final product the is used in the field.

    I asked my self often why is it that the beekeeping industry always blames itself, as if we are the problem. as I have delved into this problem I see its directly related to the fundamental change in how pest are delt with in agriculture.

    Old program: spray pesticide ( Malithion) contact kill on pest, pest dies, product dissipates.

    new program: poison plant (Systemic) ie. seed coating or directly added to irrigation system, pest take bite gets case of alztimers, then dies from something else. We no longer directly kill the pest we poison are food chain!

    So, with poison plant we get what's reffered to as sublethal doses of poison in hive then in fall time it somehow becomes toxic and hive dwindles.

    The challenge is provability, with the old system if beek got sprayed the results were dead bees on ground infront of hive, with new program over a very short period of time we just find a empty box or a handful of bees and queen.

    a lot of variables that we have not yet found a way to put the puzzle together.
    Larry Pender,Jubilee HoneyBee Company,Camarillo, CA

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Applegate, Oregon, USA
    Posts
    45

    Default Re: Fall bees dwindling

    Yes, bees are certainly bringing toxins into the hive, but we have much less control of this (and also really have no idea what is coming in). These bees have not pollinated agricultural crops since mid April, spending the summer and fall in outyards. The most common crops near these outyards are alfalfa, vineyards, and pot growing outfits. I did have a small vineyardist approach me regarding bees on his grapes, and stated that his "agricultural advisor" had suggested he put Sevin out to reduce the bee population.
    I feel these colonies are experiencing a "death from many cuts". Many did have high pretreatment varroa levels and one affected operation does have lots of old comb in the hives. I think that today's bees have much less tolerance to adverse exposures due to the cumulative sublethal collection of "bee woes". The question is what stressors can we identify and eliminate.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Amador County, Calif
    Posts
    3,191

    Default Re: Fall bees dwindling

    BBD, do you cross paths with JBJ asa John, he was down my way picking up sub some time ago but said his bees were in good shape, he is in your area, I'm wonder how much of an area is a problem.
    NUTRA-BEE feed supplements

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2003
    Location
    Manitoba Canada
    Posts
    6,206

    Default Re: Fall bees dwindling

    Quote Originally Posted by borada bee doc View Post
    (and also really have no idea what is coming in).
    I think most beekeepers can say they same thing, including myself. I have no idea of the nutritional value of the pollen coming in nor do I have any idea of the level of pesticide entering the hive from farm practices.

    I'm involved with a grain and cattle farm. In those two operations EVERYTHING is measured in and EVERYTHING is measured out. We know exactly what is needed to grow the crop and provide the crop exactly to the lbs of what it needs and to what level of crop growth we expect. With our cattle we send our feed for a detailed analysis and target the animals known dietary needs right down to the micro nutrients. Our cattle get exactly what is required to maintain the animals condition throughout the winter season.

    But with my bees, well, I'm standing in the dark a bit on that one. How many beekeepers test the fall pollen nutrition levels to ensure everything that is needed is coming in? How many Beekeepers know the level of pesticide entering the hive? Not me, but I'm starting to think more if a focus needs to be put on that.
    I'm pretty sure you Cali beekeepers are already doing all this, I'm going to start tapping into some of that knowledge

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Amador County, Calif
    Posts
    3,191

    Default Re: Fall bees dwindling

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian View Post
    With our cattle we send our feed for a detailed analysis and target the animals known dietary needs right down to the micro nutrients.
    What a novel idea.
    NUTRA-BEE feed supplements

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Midland OR. United States
    Posts
    101

    Default Re: Fall bees dwindling

    Do the honey bees really work on grapes? I looked at a complaint here this summer and it was yellow jackets doing the damage. It can't be the pot as OR. law say's it's medicinal. We are seeing this problem earlier in the summer here in the basin and by now it has pretty well cleared up. The problem still shows up in isolated yards on organic crops. With my limited knowledge in bee keeping I still think it is a viral infection present in the bees and shows up when they get heavily stressed. My bees went to the almonds last spring and then to the pairs and then to Roseburg until the end of July and then back to the basin. None of these bees show any of these signs. The package bees I bought and some of my splits I made from the above mentioned bees had veriest digrees of these problems. The packages had a terrible mite issue this year. I fed the splits and packages sugar syrup and patties until I thought there was enough natural feed available for them to make it on there own. As it turned out they weren't getting enough food and I had to start feeding again. This is when I started see issues.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Solano, California, USA
    Posts
    1,377

    Default Re: Fall bees dwindling

    Quote Originally Posted by red View Post
    Do the honey bees really work on grapes? I looked at a complaint here this summer and it was yellow jackets doing the damage.
    When there is no nectar flow the bees will take any sugar they can get. From what I've seen in our bees in the wine country the bees will suck on the grapes once the yellow jackets tear them open. Don't think a bee can even physically open up a grape on its own. Once the grapes are open all bets are off as to whether they will be #2 or #3 in line to suck on the juice. The grape folks often blame the bees but I'm positive that a detailed study would show that without the jackets very little of this would occur. Iv'e lost very good yards over this issue in the past 30 years as the fruit went out and the grapes went in. At $2-3000 a ton the wine snobs money isn't about to let bees feed on any sugar that is on is way to becoming a $50 bottle of wine.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Camas, WA
    Posts
    1,957

    Default Re: Fall bees dwindling

    Quote Originally Posted by red View Post
    Do the honey bees really work on grapes?
    I have a couple hundred wine grapes plants near 15 hives. My experience is that powdery mildew will split the grapes and then honey bees will use the juice. I don't think that a honey be has any way to open the grape itself. If powdery mildew is controlled I don't see honey bees on the grapes.
    Bruce

  18. #18
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    chilliwack, bc
    Posts
    641

    Default Re: Fall bees dwindling

    It sounds like what I had 2 years ago. Beginning of August, 2011, I had over 100 hives and all of them were three high and still bringing in good honey and they were strong. I moved some to the mountian for the fireweed flow. By the 5 of September I went from 3 boxes of bees down to three frames of bees. that was my 97% loss year.

    The mites were not an issue, they had been treated and tested and the level were lower (mid summer). But I did have all of them in the raspberries that year and before that, the blueberries. I can't prove the the chems they used were responsible but that was probably just 1 factor out of a long list of things the can go wrong. I have since stop doing pollination or in the very least, I qoute 200 bucks per hive in the hopes they don't want them for that price.

    Last year I did no pollination and had a mere 5% loss this spring. I doubled my hives, got good honey and have a good weight and pops going into winter this year. This is how I remember it used be. I started treating my hives the way I did back in the 90's and also concentrating on the honey production and later I'd like to get into the nuc production.

    I still can't pin point the cause of what killed my bees that year and it seems that a beek, in cases like this, has to take up the art and science of forensics to try to get to the bottom of the mystery.
    Will Gruenwald Chilliwack BC

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Millbury, MA, USA
    Posts
    1,847

    Default Re: Fall bees dwindling

    I have since stop doing pollination
    I've also stopped except for an organic blueberry field and an organic apple orchard. Haven't experienced any losses out of them. Last year lost all the hives coming out of one apple orchard.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Camarillo, CA, USA
    Posts
    312

    Default Re: Fall bees dwindling

    Please note that the scientist studying bees have yet to find a sample of pollen from anywhere in the whole USA with less than 6 pesticides in it!!!!!!!!!

    Like will link YouTube video later that confers

    So that leaves me with the question of how to measure what comes in hives, it's all poison and we wonder why it's tough out there
    Larry Pender,Jubilee HoneyBee Company,Camarillo, CA

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