Major losses in Michigan
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  1. #1
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    Dec 2004
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    Grand Blanc, MI
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    Default Major losses in Michigan

    Temps were around 60 yesterday. Checked my hives and found I only had 1 out of 12 that was still alive. All 12 fall nucs I made were toast too.
    Hopefully I won't run out of honey for the next year and a half as this year will be a rebuilding year.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Major losses in Michigan

    wow. sorry to hear about that spencer.

    Quote Originally Posted by spencer View Post
    I've been keeping bees now since 2005 and have never treated. For the first few years I was on the package bee route. I'd buy the bees, they'd last through the 1st winter but almost always died the 2nd winter. I went to a beekeepers meeting in the spring of 09' and Mel Disselkoen was speaking on his methods of never having to buy bees again. I don't do exactly what he does but I do make nucs and splits out of my hives every year. I believe the brood break is what helps a hive with the mites. I lose anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of my bees every year. I keep anywhere from 13 to 20 hives so the ones that survive I can split and get my numbers back up to where they were.
    This will be the first year I am trying to overwinter 13 double nucs. We'll see how that goes.
    are you still working with the bees from those original packages vs. bringing in any 'resistant' stock?
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
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    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Major losses in Michigan

    Losing that many colonies must be extremely discouraging!

    Was Mel's system of OTS and splitting the only thing you did last summer to control mites? I have read his book and not been entirely convinced of the math of it working well enough as the only varroa control measure. (Not to mention that, for me, with little to no need to make increase, I'm not sure what I'd do with all the extra colonies it generated.)

    I hope you have much better luck this season!

    Nancy

  5. #4
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    Dec 2004
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    Grand Blanc, MI
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    Default Re: Major losses in Michigan

    Quote Originally Posted by enjambres View Post
    Losing that many colonies must be extremely discouraging!

    Was Mel's system of OTS and splitting the only thing you did last summer to control mites? I have read his book and not been entirely convinced of the math of it working well enough as the only varroa control measure. (Not to mention that, for me, with little to no need to make increase, I'm not sure what I'd do with all the extra colonies it generated.)

    I hope you have much better luck this season!

    Nancy
    Yes, that was my only mite control. Worked pretty good for 8 years! Not sure why it didn't this year.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Major losses in Michigan

    Spencer,

    Were you monitoring counts and did you see anything unusual in them that, in retrospect, might have been a signal that things were different last summer?

    Maybe more feral hives survived last year's warm winter, only to perish and spread the mites late in the season after you'd finished the brood breaks. Maybe you had increased pressure from migratory operations nearby? Or maybe a lot of new beekeepers doing nothing (and in their defense not knowng they had to do something) about mites were an issue. Or maybe something about the season made the brood breaks not as perfectly-timed as usual, relative to the ebb and flow of the mites reproduction curves. (In other words, there two factors here, the bees and the mites, and either one might have been significantly changed by some factor that's not obvious.) Did you see any evidence in the late summer and fall of DWV? I am assuming they went to bed with your usual amount of stores and don't show signs of starving? That extra early, extremely cold snap right after Christmas may also have played a part. Something was surely different if you had had success for eight previous years.

    As you build up again, I'd suggest doubling down on monitoring the mite population all season long to see if you get any signals from that. 'Cause you can't fix a problem that you can't see.

    Wishing much better luck this summer!

    Nancy

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Chicago, ILL. USA
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    Default Re: Major losses in Michigan

    Quote Originally Posted by spencer View Post
    Yes, that was my only mite control. Worked pretty good for 8 years! Not sure why it didn't this year.
    What was/is your 8 year winter loss average?

    I went to a local meeting this past Monday and the speaker was showing a 3 year comparison of 2 apiaries/20 hives that he's involved in. I'm going to leave out a lot of details here, but the gist of the story was that 13 hives were managed traditionally ( his words ) and 7 organic/natural ( his words again ). After 3 years, the compiled data showed that there wasn't much difference in honey production, or winter survival. If you, or anyone else is interested, look up Fox Valley Beekeepers Association and inquire about the speaker/presentation from February 26 meeting.

  8. #7
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    Dec 2011
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    Lottsburg, Virginia USA
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    Default Re: Major losses in Michigan

    Marcin quite interesting , some of the organic folks consider formic acid and oxalic acid as organic was this the case with your speaker.
    Johno

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Grand Blanc, MI
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    Default Re: Major losses in Michigan

    I would say my average loss is 30%.

    I did notice one was dead in Nov. but didn't inspect it to see what happened.
    I also didn't dig into the hives yesterday to see what was going on before they died.

    Luckly last year and the year before I had record years of honey production (1000 lbs both years).
    I just hope I don't run out before summer of 2019!

  10. #9

    Default Re: Major losses in Michigan

    Good luck to you spencer!
    Keep on!

    Marcin quite interesting , some of the organic folks consider formic acid and oxalic acid as organic was this the case with your speaker.
    Johno
    I would like to know this too.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Major losses in Michigan

    Quote Originally Posted by johno View Post
    Marcin quite interesting , some of the organic folks consider formic acid and oxalic acid as organic was this the case with your speaker.
    Johno
    I don't think so. But he did treat the organic/natural hives with ApiGuard in the first year of the experiment. They did mite counts, but he didn't specify when/how often. Overall it was a neat presentation but with a some big holes in it.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
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    Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
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    Default Re: Major losses in Michigan

    Very sorry to hear about your losses. That's discouraging. I encourage you to figure out what went wrong, fix it, and try again.
    Last edited by e-spice; 02-28-2018 at 07:40 PM.
    Beekeeping 6 Years - 12 production hives and about 12 nucs - Treatment OAV Only

  13. #12
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    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Major losses in Michigan

    spencer, please let us know what you find when you go through the dead outs, i.e. cluster size, queen, brood, starvation, cluster stuck on brood out of reach of stores, mite frass, ect.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  14. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Clinton, Michigan, USA
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    Default Re: Major losses in Michigan

    spencer---I don't aim for treatment free exclusively but I've got a couple decades of stock selection work from untreated survivor colonies in this general area. here are a few thoughts regarding your general area and some things I would consider as prime suspects:

    2017 was slightly abnormal weather wise. To begin with, spring started substantially earlier than normal. colonies were laying much ahead of what we would consider typical and at higher rates. northern climates have a slight advantage compared to the south regarding varroa when we get that brood break. the break was much shorter than typical last year. my counts in august were some of the highest i have seen since i started tracking in late 90's. that took many people by surprise and what they had done in the past (even with treatments) wasn't workable last year.

    The last two years also had extremely strong summer honey flows. maybe not the best we've seen in the last 50 years but in the top 5-10%. My general observation has been that strong honey years often correspond to poor wintering success; may not be universal but i've seen it enough that i take that into account now.

    Thirdly, the fall was slightly rough or at least spotty depending on exact location. My winter losses were double my long term average as I had a fair amount of starvation. Many of colonies are just starting to move to a spring time expansion mode with the weather shift but they are light on honeuy and that is hampering them. Along the same lines, I saw very little pollen stored in the fall compared to normal and this spring most hives that have started expanding have already consumed vasts amounts of what they had on hand. That isn't normal. I cant prove it but suspect that the lack of fall pollen also impacted the colonies ability to make a couple of final rounds of brood to produce bees that could make it thru winter.

    Combine all those factors together and you start to get the proverbial perfect storm. Don't be too hard on yourself regarding the losses; a lot of highly experienced beekeepers have been in the same spot. Varroa tends to run in cycles here and across the country. You can make it a long time without being hurt too bad but eventually it seems that things have a way of catching up. You've obviously been fighting varroa infestations over the last 8 years given that you normally lose 30% and your honey crop was below what we would consider average for non-migratory operation in the last couple of years.

    And this is a tough state to operate in treatment free. Isolation tends to make life easier but its nearly impossible where you live. I watched some of the first claims of successful untreated operations in Vermont go down the drain in the late 90's early 2000's as that stock was relocated to Michigan and outside commercial operations entered Vt. Most people don't think about Michigan as a big beekeeping state but we are somewhere near the 100k colony mark in the summer now. That means there are commercial operations spread far and wide that can impact you. Historically I only worried where they were when I was mating queens. However, in the last decade we have been flooded by hobbyists and beehavers with a few colonies in every backyard and that impacts our ability to maintain good colonies. Now you have to watch everything within a couple of miles of you and its even more of a challenge when you are running a handful of colonies as you dont have the ability to saturate the area with drones.

    Since you will be in a rebuilding mode this summer, now might be a good time to find some localized stock. i've already sold vast majority of my available overwintered nucs but you should be able to get ahold of some VSH queens or cells as a possible starting point. Try Meghan Milbrath later in the summer, she is fairly close to you and concentrating on raising queens now. Daughters off inseminated breeders tend to be pretty variable but you'll get drones that could potentially help you in long term. With good stock and some basic non treatment techniques you should see 5-10% winter losses on colonies headed by newly raised queens. I always suggest people to consider May/June nucs for a brood break and to make colonies to use the next year. I've yet to see anyone around here have great luck wintering late summer/fall nucs over the long haul and with more than a couple of colonies including those who so highly tout how great late nucs are.

  15. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2018
    Location
    Northern Lower Michigan, USA
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    561

    Default Re: Major losses in Michigan

    I've yet to see anyone around here have great luck wintering late summer/fall nucs over the long haul and with more than a couple of colonies including those who so highly tout how great late nucs are.

    BBB I have had mixed results, I "CAN" get the queens I want in Aug, My over winter NUCs are "non standard" but work for me. I use 7 frames of bees in a 8 frame hive adding 1 frame of honey. 2 weeks after queens are laying I add an 8 frame medium of honey and an 8 frame medium of wet extracted Medium comb. they generally fill 1/2 of the top Medium and I have a 1 deep 2 medium Winter NUC. 2017 8 for 8 died, mostly various queen failures. 2018 6 of 6 made it, so NUCs I do not have as much luck with as I do with "small" colonies. I want 20 inch of comb with top 1/2 honey to let them go into winter. seems I either have it work or heavy losses.
    GG

  16. #15

    Default Re: Major losses in Michigan

    Quote Originally Posted by Gray Goose View Post
    I've yet to see anyone around here have great luck wintering late summer/fall nucs over the long haul
    By the way, if you get a chance would you go to your profile and add your location? It makes it easier to understand when you use the term 'around here'.
    Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson

  17. #16
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
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    Chicago, ILL. USA
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    314

    Default Re: Major losses in Michigan

    Quote Originally Posted by Gray Goose View Post
    I've yet to see anyone around here have great luck wintering late summer/fall nucs over the long haul and with more than a couple of colonies including those who so highly tout how great late nucs are.
    Location would be very helpful. Also what's considered late nuc? I make my last batch of nucs last week of July/first week of August. Wintering is on par with full size hives.

  18. #17
    Join Date
    Sep 2018
    Location
    Northern Lower Michigan, USA
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    561

    Default Re: Major losses in Michigan

    Quote Originally Posted by Marcin View Post
    Location would be very helpful. Also what's considered late nuc? I make my last batch of nucs last week of July/first week of August. Wintering is on par with full size hives.
    Sorry Marcin,, the quote was from BBB Clinton Mich. I have added my location, at first I could not figure out how, But I guess an old dog can learn a new trick.

    I am 60 ish miles south of the Mac Bridge we had snow last week. Maybe 7 hour drive from Chicago, some miles are east but mostly north
    GG

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