winter bee deaths - question
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
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    mcccll, idaho
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    16

    Default winter bee deaths - question

    Hi All,

    I am a newbie, seeing my hive through its first winter. I live in the mountains of Idaho and we've been having even colder than usual temps (several nights over the past month have dipped below 0F). My hive has a quilt box and bee-quilt wrap, with bottom and top openings kept clear, though surrounded by some snow (mouseguard on bottom). Here is my question: every time I go out to check them or shovel away new snow from their entrances (at least once a week, sometimes more), there are about 5 or 6 bees lying dead in front of the hive, on top of the snow. When I knock on the hive and place my ear to the hole, I hear hardy buzzing, so I know there is a cluster in there that is alive and kicking. Are these bee deaths normal - both in happening and in numbers? I'm thinking they could be dead bees that the others have pushed out of the hive as debris, or that during cleansing flights, a few freeze before making it back in? I would love to know what this means. Thank you so much - learning a lot here!!

    -- Tracey in Idaho

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Portland, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    285

    Default Re: winter bee deaths - question

    It sounds like your thinking may be correct. It is normal to see a few dead bees like that. It's a good sign that you can hear the buzz. I bought a stethoscope so I could get a better idea of how big the cluster is by locating the sound. Got it at CVS for $10. Hope this helps.
    Beeman
    All things may be lawful; but not all things are advantagous.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Connecticut
    Posts
    48

    Default Re: winter bee deaths - question

    Totally normal. The bees are going to naturally die off due to old age. It doesn't happen as quickly in the winter as it does in the warmer months because the bees are fairly dormant and aren't out running the gauntlet each and every day, but you will still have quite a few die off naturally over the course of the winter. It's when they all die you know that something else has gone awry, such as mites or too much moisture in the hive, but what you're describing sounds normal.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    lafargeville ny usa
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    2,275

    Default Re: winter bee deaths - question

    things could not be much better as long as you went into winter with enough "weight"

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    Location
    mcccll, idaho
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    16

    Default Re: winter bee deaths - question

    Whew - good news! Thanks. I'm sorry if this is a stupid question, but here it is - is there new brood hatching at all during the winter months, or does brooding stop until spring? I thought the latter, but just wondering. Thanks again,

    -- Tracey in Idaho

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Location
    Tampere, Finland
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    120

    Default Re: winter bee deaths - question

    Depends on how you define winter months. Northern places it will stop for a while at least, how long...
    ...varies.
    Contrasting opinions from northern Europe.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
    Posts
    10,146

    Default Re: winter bee deaths - question

    i agree that seeing some dead bees getting hauled out is normal, and actually a good sign in the sense that it shows the colony is alive and doing what is supposed to do.

    i also agree that using a stethoscope is a great way to confirm a viable cluster during the winter months, as well as get a feel how strong and whereabouts in the hive the colony is.

    here's a thread that raised some considerations about knocking on the hive during very cold temps:

    https://www.beesource.com/forums/show...on-Hives-Video

    after reading this i now avoid knocking on the hive when temps are cold enough for the colony to be in tight cluster.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    Location
    mcccll, idaho
    Posts
    16

    Default Re: winter bee deaths - question

    Interesting - thanks! I will have to get a stethoscope - it seems like a relatively small cost for non-invasive peace of mind and knowledge of what's going on in there.

    -- Tracey in Idaho

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
    Posts
    7,793

    Default Re: winter bee deaths - question

    No need to clear the bottom entrance. The top entrance is adequate and preferable. Leave the snow as it is great insulation

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    jackson county, alabama, usa
    Posts
    10,146

    Default Re: winter bee deaths - question

    any cheap one will do, but a larger diaphragm with a plastic drum head on it is better for when they are in torpor and not really making much of a roar.

    the best time to listen is when there is no wind or other background noise. by listening to all 4 sides of all of the boxes you can sometimes figure out at what level and/or what side they are on.

    if it is warm enough for there to be a bee or two at the entrance it's ok to knock.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  12. #11
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Campbell County, Va
    Posts
    507

    Default Re: winter bee deaths - question

    Quote Originally Posted by tracey kindall View Post
    Whew - good news! Thanks. I'm sorry if this is a stupid question, but here it is - is there new brood hatching at all during the winter months, or does brooding stop until spring? I thought the latter, but just wondering. Thanks again,

    -- Tracey in Idaho
    Good question indeed...winter bees are physiologically different from summer bees in that they live longer. Summer bees last about 40 days or until their wings wear out. Winter bees live 3-5 months and this is how a colony helps to maintain itself with greatly diminished brood production during the winter months.

  13. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    lafargeville ny usa
    Posts
    2,275

    Default Re: winter bee deaths - question

    bee varieties and colonies vary. location is also a factor. most bees have a brood-less period . some just slow down a lot. i am told that most buckfast bees always have a real small amount of brood even in the north.

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