We reached a temp of 65 today here NW Missouri so I went out to check on my bee's, they were all dead. Plenty of food for them. My question is, Do I need to clean off the frames of all the comb and honey, I suspect some may have eggs in them since they are capped. Already cleaned out all of the dead bee's, and brought in the frames from the super to collect the honey from them. I am new to this and this was my first winter. I have 2 Brood boxes and 1 medium super, the lower Brood box was completely built out, the 2nd about 80% and the super about 50%.
The winter so far has been very cold with several weeks not getting above freezing many nights below zero and some pretty bad wind chills the worst was -25*
Probably didn't lose them to the cold, or else all the bees up here in northern NY, or in MN, where it is much, much colder, would be dead as well. I've already had air temps - not wind chills - lower than minus 25 F this winter.
The most likely cause was mites that damaged your wintering bees way back in Sept./ Oct. What did you do for treating and monitoring for re-infestation throughout the fall?
Monitoring I pulled the white board out of the bottom looking for them, but I never saw anything, could be I did not know what to look for, so therefore I never did any treating for them. The hive was always healthy with good numbers of bee's and seem to be building out the hive quite fast.
in case I did have mites do I need to do anything to the comb before I get new bee's, have them on order will be here the first of may.
other than cleaning out the dead bee's do I need to do anything else?
Are you getting the new bees from the same place as you got the old bees?
I don't know if the comb would be safe untill may or not, others with experiance may know if may is late enough that you might have problims with wax moth or hive beetles. I do know if you had freezer space you would have no issue.
It is important to protect the drawn comb from wax moth. On flying days in the spring, they could move in. Probably not until early May though. The best way to prevent wax moth entry into the empty hive is to keep it closed up. It's important to remove the majority of dead bees so they don't rot in a yucky mess. just a few will dry out, but a large pile gets manky.
It's also a good idea to keep the hive closed up to prevent bees from other hives coming in and robbing the stores. Bees will forage incredibly widely during the spring and you want those stores for your future bees!
This is a great time of year to beeline. Well, when the temps are over 55, it's not too windy, and it's not a nectar flow yet. You can take a clean new kitchen sponge, and make up so 1:1 sugar syrup with something that smells like nectar - mint or ideally anise extract. I set the sponge in about 1/4 in of liquid, in a plastic container that is a close fit. If you place that in a space clear of obstacles that would get in the way of flight, and if you have a hive within 1 mile of that location, those bees will find that syrup.
The pattern of hive loss that the OP described (strong in early fall, then down to nothing, and honey left) is characteristic of a hive that died due to being overcome by mites. The mites died off with the bees; they can't handle winter temps and they don't lay eggs that lie in wait for warmer temps. If a hive took a long time to build up, and had spotty brood, and never had many combs covered - I would not suggest reusing those combs, since that could be a brood disease. or it was a dearth and no stores - you have to know the history to be sure.
That drawn comb will provide the chance to split your hive early. Like mid-June. If you can find an experienced beek to mentor you through this part, it may really be worth the time. Or look up resources on splitting hives - lots of them out there!
It is a hard lesson to learn to lose a hive to mites. About the only good news in it is that mites are not a difficult problem to resolve (unlike, say, the brood diseases.)
If you sampled on the white board every week for a three-day test period and you never saw any mites, then I can pretty much say that you didn't know what to look for. Because if you've got bees, you've got mites. It's that simple.
Do you have a bee club near you, or a retail bee supplier? If so take a board (after a three-day drop period) to a meeting or to the store and ask for help in identifying mites. If that's not possible, then start with a cleaned, oiled (any kind of kitchen oil is fine) board and when you pull it out after 72 hours use a magnifying glass to look for small oval dark reddish-brown spots. Some may have visible legs and mouth parts along one of the long sides of the oval, like a crab might. That is a mite.
I pull sticky boards on every colony every week of the year. Yes, even in the depths of an upstate NY winter I do mite counts. Plus from late April through late October (warm-enough weather up here) I do sugar rolls using Meghan Milbrath's Michigan Method of Mite Monitoring, which produce as good information as the lethal-to-the-tested-bees sampling mkethod that uses an alcohol wash. I sugar roll every colony once per month, sampling a few every week during other bee work on a rotating basis so I hit each one every four weeks. This means I always know what mite level exists in my yard, so I can make better treatment decisions - and treat the least number of times possible, with the least harmful chemicals at precisely the best, most effective, point for each treatment. My mainstay treatment is oxalic acid vaporization, though I use other things at certain times of the year if really needed.
Anyway, if you set up - and then follow through with a monitoring program of sticky boards and regular sugar rolls all season long, you won't unexpectedly lose a colony to mites ever again. Because you'll see the problem brewing well enough in advance to do something about it.
I learned from Meghan herself at a NY BeeWellness Conference, but it is quite possible to learn how from the internet. If you'd like, I can coach you when you're ready and provide a few refinements that I think make it a triffle easier. I teach all my beginning students to do sugar rolls in their first month; if they follow through by the end of the summer they just whip right through the testing as part of their normal hive work. It's really easy-peasey.
Here's something you can do, right now, that will hone your skills at recognizing a mite problem, even though all the mites that were alive died with the bees: Take the brood combs out in a good light and examine the cells for tiny white specks at the back and upper surface of the each cell. You can see these with a naked eye in any comb that has had a few rounds of brood cocoons in it. The white specks are guanine, or mite poop from when the mites were capped inside with the pupae and reproducing. They wil not be harmful to your new bees, who will remove them when they want to fill the cells, but recognizing them will give you a heads up next time.
Your combs and frames could be wrapped in Glad Press n Seal wrap and run through the freezer for several days which will kill any SHB eggs. Afterward until you are ready set up your hive again, store them in a cool, dry, mouse-protected place. You could set the boxes down on a plastic political sign, put the frames in and set the telecover, without the inner cover with its notched rim which might allow insects or mice in. If you had two telecovers, you could put one down upside down and set the lowest box down into it and cover with another one on top. Keep the base and inner cover off the stack until time to reassemble in advance of the new bees.
You have time now to read about and consider what kind of anti-mite strategy you'd like to pursue. However you might wish it to be possible, unless you have very unusual bees, and live in an isolated place, you will have to have strategy to manage varroa mites. These can range from drone brood removal, brood breaks at certain times, sugar dusting, use of organic acids (my preferred type of treatment), all the way up to synthetic chemicals. But you will have to do two things: monitor to constantly assess the problem AND some kind of intervention. If you do those two things you will almost certainly have success overwintering bees next year. Unless you are unlucky enough to have an outbreak of American Foul Brood disease (possible but not very common these days) all other perils the bees face pale in comparison to mites and the diseases and problems they bring to your bees. And you will almost certainly get a side order of mites thrown in for free when you get your new bees. (This doesn't mean you have purchased substandard bees from a dicey supplier, however.)
Because as I said above, if you've got bees, you've got mites.
Thank you for the information. My hive was doing very good 2 brood boxes 1 built completely the other about 80% and 1 medium super built out about 50%. I have cleaned out all of the dead bee's. If I bring the boxes into my garage until the new bee's arrive the 1st of may, will that be enough protection for the comb?
That is some very good information thank you very much. I would love to have a coach to help me with identifying problems and how to correct the problem, thank you for offering to do that. I will pull the combs back out tomorrow and look for the white flakes. I am going to move the whole hive into my garage tomorrow to protect it from pests and bee's from robbing the stores, I doubt after today there will be any bee's out as the forecast is for artic blast number 3 to come in for at least 2 weeks. My new bee's are going to be here about may 13th. they wanted to send them earlier but we have had snow up to may before.
You can store them in your garage as long as you remove the base and the inner cover, and just have a the stack of boxes set on dry surface (old plastic political sign is ideal), with the stack topped by the telecover. If you don't want to set them on a plastic sign (or a spare, upside down telecover) then leave them on the base but make sure you completely close up the entrance area with metal window screening to keep out insect pests and crittters. It should be stapled on, with a liberal number of staples. The comb is very attractive to bugs and beasts and without the bees to defend it, it is vulnerable to damage. It will be a tremendous gift from your first bees to your next ones, so don't waste their efforts by not protecting it adequately while it's in your custody.
But I would go to the trouble of running them through the freezer if you are not going to have a solid run of 0F temps which will kill any SHB eggs that may already be on the frames.
The white specks will be the size of coarse natural sugar flakes. If you see some with a naked eye, look at them closely with a magnifying glass. Nothing needs to be done about the guanine, the bees will handle it when they arrive. You can incorporate a quick scan for guanine when looking at recently-emptied brood combs during inspections, particularly as the brood activity slows down in the fall and the mite population can surge, even after successful treatment. Seeing those specks is a heads up that you may have one more wave of mites to suppress before close out.
I have brought the hive into my garage, it is sitting on a plastic sign with top on it without the vented inner cover in place. we just had 3 weeks of below freezing weather with many nights below zero and a solid week or more of highs barely in the 20's. so hopefully the eggs are killed. I noticed a few frames leaking honey, probably damaged some cells from my handling and cleaning out dead bee's, will this create an issue?