They are all dead...
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2015
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    Roy WA USA
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    Default They are all dead...

    It crept over 50 degrees today so I decided to do a long overdue sweep out of the screened bottom board to clear the entrance in preparation for spring.

    But all my bees appear to be dead.

    This is my first winter, and I started with 4 hives, two of whom went into the winter somewhat weak, and two which went in seeming pretty strong.

    Weak hives were just barely occupying two deep hives, had some stores but not many, so I made them solid sugar patties which they seem to have eaten about half of. They had a reduced entrance, but an open screened bottom board, slatted racks, and warre style quilt boxes to deal with moisture and ventilation. The stronger colonies were set up the same, albeit with three deep boxes, all fairly full at the start of winter. I did not give them sugar, but left their honey stores for them.

    All four colonies appear to be dead. The screened boards were choked with dead molding bees, and while all four hives appeared to have a cluster, all 4 clusters appear to be comprised solely of dead bees, still clinging where they died I assume.

    Some of the hives had water sitting on the frame bars, though I thought the combination of ventilation from the SBBs, and the warre quilts should have taken care of moisture.

    I'm very discouraged, not only because 4 nucs worth of bees was kind of an expensive start to a hobby, but also because I don't know really what I did wrong, and now they're all dead.

    I would love to hear thoughts and ideas on what I did wrong, and what I can do differently.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
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    Squaw Valley, CA, USA
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    Default Re: They are all dead...

    Did you monitor the mite levels in the hives.?

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    Default Re: They are all dead...

    Hi Vandieman, you give few clues, such as for example you make no mention if the stronger hives had any honey. So it is impossible to diagnose possible starvation in those hives.

    However there's a couple of things noticeable by reading between the lines. You got these hives as 4 nucs quite some time ago, they should have had time to build up to good strength plus store a good quantity of honey. But at least 2 of them didn't, indicating something has been holding them back.

    You asked a question a few months ago after finding a problem with your brood, you were advised to use Apivar but you make no mention of ever doing that. Here is an excerpt from your earlier post, including two photos you took.


    Quote Originally Posted by Vandieman View Post

    Attachment 18923
    A close up of a frame with brood, and a number of trapped mummies. All frames showed around this many trapped mummies.

    Attachment 18925
    A larger view of a frame, with a lot more capped brood than the other photo, but also with visible mummies trapped amidst the sea of capped cells.
    The diseased larvae in your pics are not chalk brood, which looks quit different. To me it looks fairly typical of damage caused by varroa mites. These pics are from several months ago, and the level of infestation shown would have had time between then and now to build enough varroa numbers to kill the hive in winter. You never mentioned doing anything to control mites, so death by mites, based on the information I can glean, is my best guess.

    If you give beekeeping another shot next season you can re use the combs you'll just need new bees. But do treat for mites, and I'm fairly certain you will get a much better outcome.
    Last edited by Oldtimer; 01-18-2016 at 05:39 PM.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Roy WA USA
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    Default Re: They are all dead...

    Definitely not trying to keep clues to a minimum. Apologies for that.

    I did not treat for mites in the struggling hive mentioned in my previous posts. Call it foolishness, personal choice, or what have you, but I want to raise bees without chemical assistance.

    Regarding food stores, the two stronger hives in particular have noticeably large stores still left in them, they definitely did not starve. The smaller hives appear to have some few stores left, and about half the candy patties I made for them, which makes me think they probably didn't starve either. The presence of standing water in the hive really makes me think moisture did them in, but I'm not sure what I did to foster an environment of wetness...

    If it was mites, is there any sign that would make that obvious within the deceased hive?

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
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    Verde Valley, Arizona,United States
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    477

    Default Re: They are all dead...

    I would see if you can get a hold of Lauri. I think she lives in your area. Maybe she could give some advice to you??

  7. #6
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    Jan 2014
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    Squaw Valley, CA, USA
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    Default Re: They are all dead...

    All the sign that is needed is listed above. Before purchasing bees this year I would decide on how your are going to manage varroa in your hives. Ignoring varroa mites will result in the same outcome.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    May 2015
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    Roy WA USA
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    Default Re: They are all dead...

    Quote Originally Posted by MTN-Bees View Post
    All the sign that is needed is listed above. Before purchasing bees this year I would decide on how your are going to manage varroa in your hives. Ignoring varroa mites will result in the same outcome.
    You'll pardon me if I find your prescience questionable... I am going to need a bit more in the way of reasoning than "you didn't test for or treat for mites, so it is mites" to buy that logic leap.

  9. #8
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    May 2015
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    Roy WA USA
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    Default Re: They are all dead...

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan P View Post
    I would see if you can get a hold of Lauri. I think she lives in your area. Maybe she could give some advice to you??
    She lives close enough by me that when I bought the Nucs from her, I had to shut them in to keep them from flying home to her house.

    Incidentally, she helped me ID the problem in one of my hives as chalkbrood, and the other as a failing queen. Mites were not our suspected culprits.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
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    Cullman, Alabama, USA
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    Default Re: They are all dead...

    I am not thinking I know any thing, but where was the cluster in relation to the food?
    I am told that if you have mites, you also see something called "mite fras", which I personally don't know what it looks like. I think it is mite droppings.
    Can you inspect the dead bees for Deformed Wings? I am told mites are carriers of Deformed Wing virus.
    I can understand your desire to raise bees chemically free. I lost a hive to mites, & it was a shock. But, it was one out of 8, not 4 out of 4.
    Try again with better stock? Good Luck. CE
    Started summer of 2013, just another new guy, tinkering with bees.

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Hopkinton, Massachusetts
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    194

    Default Re: They are all dead...

    Apparently mites leave behind a white crystalline deposit in cells. I believe it's called guanine. I have never seen this myself but people have mentioned it a lot on Beesource. So you may consider searching for threads related to that substance, and looking for it in your hives.

  12. #11
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    Jul 2010
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    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
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    Default Re: They are all dead...

    Yes mite frass will be another thing to look for. But it is not always present because the bees will clean the cells especially if the hives had little or no brood in during winter the cells will be polished. But it's worth a look.

    Lauri may well have identified chalk brood, and queen problems in your hives. However all I was able to comment on was the pics you have posted, which show mite damage. Don't know what might have been in other parts of the hives other than a queen cell in one of the other pics but with no other relevant info about the rest of that hive I couldn't say the reason for the cell so didn't comment on it.

    Now that you have identified that the hives had adequate food stores, ruling out starvation alone, it adds even more to the likelihood that mites were involved in the demise. As you obviously speak with Lauri plus live close, it would be well worth taking some advice from her on it.

    It is commendable that you want to keep bees without chemicals. But realise, we ALL want to keep bees without chemicals. Unfortunately, if a hive is being killed by mites and their associated viruses, merely wanting to be chemical free is not going to make the hive survive. Some choose to let those hives die, others choose to use chemicals and save them, personal choice. But losing 100% of your hives is being too hard on yourself, I think you should discuss with some people you trust how to deal with these issues next year.

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
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    Cazadero, California
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    364

    Default Re: They are all dead...

    Quote Originally Posted by Oldtimer View Post
    .... But realise, we ALL want to keep bees without chemicals. Unfortunately, if a hive is being killed by mites and their associated viruses, merely wanting to be chemical free is not going to make the hive survive. Some choose to let those hives die, others choose to use chemicals and save them, personal choice. But losing 100% of your hives is being too hard on yourself, .
    I just thought that was worth repeating.

  14. #13
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    Jan 2014
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    Squaw Valley, CA, USA
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    Default Re: They are all dead...

    Prescience? You asked what you thought you did wrong and what you could do better. My answer was not meant to be mean. My suggestion was Manage Varroa. Managing Varroa is basic beekeeping and something that needs to be done often. Especially at the end of the summer and early fall. If you didn't do it- you need to. Everything I see above, including the photos from your previous post would lead me to believe it was Varroa. Spend some time researching varroa and figure out how you are going to manage the pest. You will likely see it in every colony you purchase and it just doesn't go away. Good luck in you're beekeeping endeavors!

  15. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    Default Re: They are all dead...

    I have never seen OT so gentle and sensitive to a
    situation like this. His wordings really pointed out the
    culprit to this demise. I too agreed with him on this issue.
    If Lauri has to deal with the mites also then you should do the same.
    If it is possible to raise bees 100% free of chemicals then Lauri will do
    that a long time ago. There are some strategies we use to deal with
    the mites. When the bees don't know how to deal with the mites in order
    to survive then this situation will happen again and again year after year.
    Yes, it is discouraging I know. There are beekeepers here having the same
    situation like you. Trying to find the bees but they are no longer in the hives.
    When you find the method to deal with the mites while allowing your bees to live
    then your success will be that of Lauri's. I think it is a good time to chat with her for
    this situation. I found out the hard way after 3 years dealing with the mites that crashed my hives.
    After 3 years of no bee growth many newbies quit already. Finally this year I have more bees
    that overwintered. Still I have to deal with the mites on every hatch cycle. Later on I will put in the
    mite resistant queens to expand my goal of a no treatment bee operation.
    Last edited by beepro; 01-18-2016 at 09:17 PM.
    Don't mix foreign bees into a virgin hive. She might get balled 100% of the time! When will you ever learn, huh?

  16. #15
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    Apr 2015
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    Sonoma County, Ca
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    Default Re: They are all dead...

    What percenatage of hive loss are you comfortable with annually? You seem frustrated with hive deaths, but are not wanting to treat for the biggest killer. Are you okay with 50% - 100% loss every winter for a while?

    I am not trying to tell you to treat...more trying to understand if you are willing to accept the consequences of going treatment free?

  17. #16
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    May 2012
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    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    Default Re: They are all dead...

    Did you leave the screened bottom boards open as well??? Dead hives typically occur with the mindset you went into this endeavor... You don't want to use chemicals and want to be treatment free but didn't manage the bees at all to monitor or reduce mite loads, which typically ends in the exact manner your 4 hives are right now. I applaud those who have been able to jump right in and succeed at being treatment free, but it doesn't happen to everyone and sometimes it's best to take a more open minded and pragmatic approach until you've learned something about keeping bees which doesn't happen overnight.

  18. #17
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    May 2015
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    Roy WA USA
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    Default Re: They are all dead...

    Quote Originally Posted by JRG13 View Post
    Did you leave the screened bottom boards open as well???
    I did. I was mirroring something I saw (which made sense to me) on a blog of a relatively nearby beekeeper, with the mindset that cold air in the hive was not the danger, but rather moisture and/or lack of ventilation. So I left the screens open for ventilation, and used warre quilts for moisture control.

    Yet there is standing water on the bars in my hives, so obviously I'm missing something there. :/

  19. #18
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    Jul 2013
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    Cullman, Alabama, USA
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    Default Re: They are all dead...

    Some of the posts in this thread seem a little "anti-treatment free".
    Some probably think "it can not be done".
    I must respectfully point out that I came to own a strain of bees 3 years ago, that I eventually moved to an out yard so they could "rob each other out & die". I have only marginally managed them, and have not treated them.

    These un cooperative bees have not died yet.

    Perhaps there is some value in that "bad bee" yard that I should not discard. They have _plenty_ of undesirable traits, & I don't want them back in my "home" yard, but they are still doing fine ... treatment free.
    I take this as a testament to "Pure Dumb Luck".
    I have not met Lauri, but from her posts, I have great respect for her, as a newbie such as myself should have for any one who is doing anything successfully.
    But, if you want to keep "treatment free", or "Chemical free" bees, go the extra mile to find a source that is treatment free. ( Lauri may be "treatment free", but I got the flavor from other posters in this thread, that she treats)
    Or re-queen with queens from "treatment /chemical free" apiaries.

    As for myself, I am going to try to absorb as much knowledge from the "Treatment Free" forum , & the "Queens & Breeding" forum as possible to try to make the most of what I have, before my "PDL" runs out. Good Luck with your bees .... CE
    Started summer of 2013, just another new guy, tinkering with bees.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: They are all dead...

    Herein the rub. For you Tech.35058 running your hives treatment free has worked, or at least, you still have some alive bees. For Vandieman it did not work, he considers 100% loss first season to be a problem, or at least not the result he wanted. So solutions have been suggested but whether to take them is entirely over to Vandieman, as he said it is personal choice. Probably looks pretty anti treatment free, but it's really, done treatment free, didn't work.
    BTW Laurie makes no secret that she treats her bees if needed. Therefore anyone purchasing these bees may need to treat them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vandieman View Post
    Yet there is standing water on the bars in my hives, so obviously I'm missing something there. :/
    Could just be that hives in these conditions with a dead cluster and honey in the comb will have moisture.

  21. #20
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    Default Re: They are all dead...

    O.T. , I think we are in agreement.
    As to the water, I have no idea.
    CE
    Last edited by tech.35058; 01-19-2016 at 09:34 AM. Reason: to correct typo's
    Started summer of 2013, just another new guy, tinkering with bees.

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