Complete Loss in SE Michigan
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  1. #1
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    Default Complete Loss in SE Michigan

    So I've had 2 bad winters in a row. that is in terms of beekeeping, not weather. this winter and last winter have been pretty warm, especially this one. I'm hoping the issue is the inconsistencies in the weather and not my beekeeping. I have been beekeeping for 5 years, my first 3 winter were great/average. I started with russians and last year I bought some buckfast. all hive are south facing and receive full sun in the winter.

    I went into winter with 7 hives (5 buckfast and 2 russian), 5 of them were doing great at the end of the season. 2 of them having some queen issues during the season last year and therefore were a little bit behind but definitely not a complete fail. throughout the winter I have lost all 7 (last year I lost 4 of 6). the bees are definitely not starving, I have 10 boxes of full frames sitting in the garage right now that need to be processed ( from the dead outs). there are many boxes with half full frames that I won't be processing but will be using when i start over as well. I did start treating with oxalic acid last year as well, the mite drop were good in the fall, when I retreated 2 hive a few weeks ago there wasn't many mites that dropped I thought it was a sign of the overall mite count being lower from fall treatments. I also put quilt boxes on the hive this year as well.

    some of my thoughts are...

    am i leaving too many boxes on in the winter, I leave all 3 medium brood boxes on the hive and one medium super for winter. one of my thoughts is that this might just be too much room.

    in previous years i have wrapped the hives in tar paper, but I didn't this year. I don't think this was much of an issue being that it was a very warm winter here.

    for those of you using screened bottom boards do you do anything special to seal then p in the winter? I just throw the board back in under the screen and call it good.

    So let me know what you think, and if you want to ask anything to help me trouble shoot fell free.

    -Doug

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  3. #2
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    Madison, WI
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    Default Re: Complete Loss in SE Michigan

    Quote Originally Posted by dputt88 View Post
    So I've had 2 bad winters in a row. that is in terms of beekeeping, not weather. this winter and last winter have been pretty warm, especially this one. I'm hoping the issue is the inconsistencies in the weather and not my beekeeping. I have been beekeeping for 5 years, my first 3 winter were great/average. I started with russians and last year I bought some buckfast. all hive are south facing and receive full sun in the winter.

    I went into winter with 7 hives (5 buckfast and 2 russian), 5 of them were doing great at the end of the season. 2 of them having some queen issues during the season last year and therefore were a little bit behind but definitely not a complete fail. throughout the winter I have lost all 7 (last year I lost 4 of 6). the bees are definitely not starving, I have 10 boxes of full frames sitting in the garage right now that need to be processed ( from the dead outs). there are many boxes with half full frames that I won't be processing but will be using when i start over as well. I did start treating with oxalic acid last year as well, the mite drop were good in the fall, when I retreated 2 hive a few weeks ago there wasn't many mites that dropped I thought it was a sign of the overall mite count being lower from fall treatments. I also put quilt boxes on the hive this year as well.

    some of my thoughts are...

    am i leaving too many boxes on in the winter, I leave all 3 medium brood boxes on the hive and one medium super for winter. one of my thoughts is that this might just be too much room.

    in previous years i have wrapped the hives in tar paper, but I didn't this year. I don't think this was much of an issue being that it was a very warm winter here.

    for those of you using screened bottom boards do you do anything special to seal then p in the winter? I just throw the board back in under the screen and call it good.

    So let me know what you think, and if you want to ask anything to help me trouble shoot fell free.

    -Doug
    It's a bummer loosing hives. So, some things to look or investigate in the deadouts; 1) what do you estimate the cluster population/size to have been?, 2) were the bees attempting to raise brood post winter solstice (were there eggs or larvae or capped brood cells remaining in the deadouts and if so what was the position of the cluster relative to honey) 3) is there mite frass in the empty cells around the upper ridges and if so is it present in many or few cells, 4) pollen/bee bread, what is there for pollen in terms of quantity and what is the condition...is any of the pollen encapsulated under thin propolis caps?, 5) were you vaporizing the OA or dribbling OA on the winter cluster? 6) was the cluster split meaning a clump of bees in one area and another clump of bees in a different area? 7) were the dead bees wet or dry? Those are some of the initial troubleshooting questions to think about.

    Rich
    www.capitalbeesupply.com
    Manufacturers and Purveyors of Fine Beekeeping Equipment

  4. #3
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    Jun 2015
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    Default Re: Complete Loss in SE Michigan

    You will have to give us how you treated,OAV, OAD, how many times, when, did you treat in the spring, don't think it's the box you keep them in or the screened bottom board, I found if you only use Oxalic acid you have to make sure it's done right to get most of the mites. You might want to use some other treatment depending on the time of year. Details on how the treatments were done can tell us a lot.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Complete Loss in SE Michigan

    1) what do you estimate the cluster population/size to have been?
    -estimated that there were a at least few hundred bees in all but one. whats considered too much, the ones that died early on had quite a few.

    2) were the bees attempting to raise brood post winter solstice (were there eggs or larvae or capped brood cells remaining in the deadouts and if so what was the position of the cluster relative to honey)
    -one hive did have quite a bit of eggs and some young larvae in the middle brood box. first time i have ever seen this, never thought to look for it previously.

    3) is there mite frass in the empty cells around the upper ridges and if so is it present in many or few cells
    - dont recall seeing any but i wasn't really looking today. i can look back on some of the frames another day.

    4) pollen/bee bread, what is there for pollen in terms of quantity and what is the condition...is any of the pollen encapsulated under thin propolis caps?
    -thinking back two of the hives did have almost no pollen

    5) were you vaporizing the OA or dribbling OA on the winter cluster?
    -OAV, did it in late october and again 3 weeks ago

    6) was the cluster split meaning a clump of bees in one area and another clump of bees in a different area?
    -clusters were together

    7) were the dead bees wet or dry?
    - dry, moisture was an issue last year, but not this year. maybe i have the quilting boxes to thank for that.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Complete Loss in SE Michigan

    IMHO, you should try raising locally produced nucs before branching out to Russians or Buckfast. I have purchased one of the special bloodlines and they were poor queens that never really build up but queens raised by my hives were much better. Again, IMHO.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Complete Loss in SE Michigan

    We have a winner it's number 5 treating late October is to late for northern beekeepers. You have to get those mite numbers down in August they have to raise mite free brood for your long lived winter bees. Treating in October when your winter bees have already been infected doesn't work in the north. If your honey is still on in August you might want to get some MAQS then when your honey is off use OAV to knock them down again.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Complete Loss in SE Michigan

    eric, all of the buckfast were locally raised nuc from a guy about 7 miles from me.

    dan, that early? i thought fall treatments were supposed to be after the hive is broodless. and yeah my supers stay on through the whole month of august, there is are fields of goldenrod in my area. isn't Maqs pretty expensive?

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Complete Loss in SE Michigan

    Quote Originally Posted by dputt88 View Post
    eric, all of the buckfast were locally raised nuc from a guy about 7 miles from me.

    dan, that early? i thought fall treatments were supposed to be after the hive is broodless. and yeah my supers stay on through the whole month of august, there is are fields of goldenrod in my area. isn't Maqs pretty expensive?
    I treated after I pull the honey supers and then I treated 4 times, 5 to 7 days apart with OAV. If you only treated 1 time in the fall I don't think it did much good. My bees were still raising brood (winter bees) up until December last year.
    Last edited by billdean; 03-19-2017 at 08:36 PM.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Complete Loss in SE Michigan

    didn't the FDA only approve for 2 treatments a year?

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Complete Loss in SE Michigan

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan the bee guy View Post
    MAQS
    ????
    The question is what to do, and the answer, as always, is complicated by a muddle of reason, emotion, and doubt.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Complete Loss in SE Michigan

    MAQS , mite away quick strips formic acid can be used with honey supers on. Yes they have to be treated early so the winter bees can be raised without the infections delivered by our favorite parisites. Infected bees have a short life and won't live to spring in our northern climate. One thing you can do is pull the honey before the goldenrod flow that flow is for the bees. Or you just have to spend the money on the MAQS and feed syrup for the winter feed.
    One thing northern beekeepers have to get is we have a long winter no new bees for months if they are sick they will die young when the cluster get too small a little cold spell in the spring will kill them. Yes MAQS are exspensive but so are the bees.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Complete Loss in SE Michigan

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan the bee guy View Post
    MAQS , mite away quick strips
    Thank you!
    The question is what to do, and the answer, as always, is complicated by a muddle of reason, emotion, and doubt.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Complete Loss in SE Michigan

    Well, you are at least poised to do what Honey Householder does: buy packages and feed them to get them to grow, then let them make honey for the season. His pattern of operation is not what I'd be doing, but he apparently makes it work for him. When summer comes, then decide whether to set your bees up for overwintering (and probably try multiple options in parallel) or sell them and do all of the above next year all over again.

    Mel Disselkoen also runs his operation in Michigan, I believe, and he treats minimally if at all for mites, using his management for IPM successfully. You might consider (as suggested above) locally raised nucs as a starting point. My overwintering concerns drove me to what you seem to have done: try mite-resistant/cold-tolerant bees. My three Italian hives had winter-died previously and we'd repopulated them. But when I thought it through, I saw that I had three Italian hives, it was midsummer, and it was looking like the previous year. Hmmm. What to do differently? I was unwilling to repeat the experience of them all dying again, so I bought some Russian and Carniolan queens and made some spits. In my case, most survived.

    When I look at Disselkoen's practices, I see that he favors post-Solstice queens and their associated mid-summer brood break to interrupt the mites' reproduction cycle, with brood rearing well into fall. That happens to be what I did. My area is more mild of winter than yours, but Disselkoen lives "in your neck of the woods." He raises bees, rather than honey, and perhaps he would be a reasonable source for your repopulation of the hives.

    These are not strong recommendations from a knowledgable beekeeper: I'm a newbie, with less experience than you. I'm voraciously absorbing reports and trying to formulate answers. I'll share some of what seems to be relevant input with you in the hope that it can help you choose The Right Path For You.

    My goodness gracious...that's a discouraging experience, to lose all of your colonies like that. I wish you well for the coming season.

    [One more thing: find a local beekeeper to do an in-person examination. Preferably a VERY experienced local beekeeper. You might even be able to get your local beekeepers association to do an extensive post-mortem on your apiary to make a report/education/advisory for the membership. This _can_ be useful if your local beekeepers are on their toes.]

    Michael
    Last edited by DerTiefster; 03-19-2017 at 10:37 PM.
    "I thought I made a mistake once, but I was wrong." (heard often from the late David Sebree) Still making them, myself

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Complete Loss in SE Michigan

    Am some ways south of deputt88. Wintering with 4 mediums config is pretty much spot-on for here and up there too.
    Should always wrap them up for winter. Losses in my own yard were higher on hives that did not get wrapped this winter.
    The wrapped ones were about 25% loss while the un-wrapped were over 50%.
    Other factors were involved but the wrapped vs un-wrapped sticks out in my mind.

    Michigan has very unpredictable weather.
    Sorry to hear about you losing them all but there's always hope. Maybe you'll catch some swarms.

    Look at some Michael Palmer videos. He has a ton of experience. Copy a couple things he does like using them duplex hives.
    The first year I used them I thought it was crazy trying to winter smaller colonies but by golly it works! Works so well that I keep adding to my duplex collection. They're great to have when you need to make a false-swarm and all sorts of things.
    Internet credibility is an oxymoron

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Complete Loss in SE Michigan

    Quote Originally Posted by dputt88 View Post

    1) what do you estimate the cluster population/size to have been?
    -estimated that there were a at least few hundred bees in all but one. whats considered too much, the ones that died early on had quite a few.


    5) were you vaporizing the OA or dribbling OA on the winter cluster?
    -OAV, did it in late october and again 3 weeks ago
    Population of at least a few hundred bees? Should be at least a few thousand bees.

    OAV in late October? Too little, too late.

    You treated with a product that wasn't effective enough, and end of October is two months late. By the time you vaped, the bees were already compromised. Varroa killed your bees.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Complete Loss in SE Michigan

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Palmer View Post
    Population of at least a few hundred bees? Should be at least a few thousand bees.

    OAV in late October? Too little, too late.

    You treated with a product that wasn't effective enough, and end of October is two months late. By the time you vaped, the bees were already compromised. Varroa killed your bees.
    +1 At the end of the year you need to do a series of 3 to six oav... and do it in August September you want strong winter bees. Buy October the multiply effect of the mite is hard to overcome.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Complete Loss in SE Michigan

    just to clarify, the 5 buckfast colonies were from locally raised nucs (7 miles) and the 2 russians were both descendants of my first beehive, which came from another local source (10 miles)

    So why do I always hear that the hive has to bee broodless for OAV, is that just for spring?

    I never treated my first 3 years and never lost I have until my third winter.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Complete Loss in SE Michigan

    dputt88---
    MPalmer and Dan the Bee guy are spot on. Some additional advice---try to take a big picture view of the weather and what your colonies are doing.

    1) You live in an area that isnt overrun with colonies so it is easier to go for a period of time without experiencing significant negatives from varroa. However, the isolation strategy generally only lasts for a short period of time before varroa finds you. I'd guess that in the winter when you lost 4 or 6 colonies that varroa was finally catching up to you even with decent local stock.

    2) The winter of 2015/2016 was generally mild (maybe not as much as this one) and colonies started the season earlier than expected. By late March colonies were bringing in loads of pollen and nectar with full frames/hive bodies of brood including drones (which is much earlier than normal). What that meant was that varroa also got an early start. And you came out of winter with at least two untreated colonies that I'd suspect had a mite load to begin with. So you were set up for the possibility of good mite infestation right out of the gate.

    3) In normal years, colonies are scaling back around August/September and varroa can start to get an upper hand. Thats one of reasons people suggest those months as time to consider what to do with varroa. In August 2016, my untreated overwintered colonies had higher varroa counts than typical due to the early spring. I would imagine your colonies were having issues by then but you didnt recognize them.

    4) Oxalic can be effective but you need to understand when its needed, how much is needed and whether you might want to look at other options. At the point you decided to treat last fall it was too little too late.

    Watch what is happening now to have a better understanding of what is taking place in 3-6-12 months.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Complete Loss in SE Michigan

    Quote Originally Posted by dputt88 View Post
    So why do I always hear that the hive has to bee broodless for OAV, is that just for spring?
    I think you are coming to this assumption because OAV only works on mites outside the cells (the term escapes me right now). If brood is present when applying OAV then you need to do multiple treatments to kill the mites as they emerge with the brood.

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Complete Loss in SE Michigan

    Quote Originally Posted by dputt88 View Post
    just to clarify, the 5 buckfast colonies were from locally raised nucs (7 miles) and the 2 russians were both descendants of my first beehive, which came from another local source (10 miles)

    So why do I always hear that the hive has to bee broodless for OAV, is that just for spring?

    I never treated my first 3 years and never lost I have until my third winter.

    Local bees are good and much better for long term wintering than say packages but becareful expecting too much of them. As far as I'm concerned to have truly great local bees, they need to come from someone that has enough stock to actually select top notch breeders and be able to control mating. It all sounds good in theory but ends up being much more difficult in practice.

    OAV isnt effective on capped brood so its more effective when the colony is broodless. To overcome that downside, youll hear guys talk abouyt vaporizing multiple times trying to catch the newly emerging bees.

    Its pretty easy to not lose anything when there arent huge numbers of colonies around. New beekeepers get lulled into a sense of safety with a few years of very good wintering success. Then all of a sudden things go terribly wrong as varroa has eventually caught up to them.

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