Bees diving in to the snow and dying--again. What to do?
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  1. #1
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    Mar 2017
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    Plumas County, California, USA
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    Default Bees diving in to the snow and dying--again. What to do?

    Almost two weeks ago we had a big snow and then a few days later it was warm. Came home from work late afternoon and found a few hundred of bees seemingly dead in the snow in front of my hives. Some were probably dead already and cleaned out, but many, up to 20-30 feet away, had either gotten cold or landed in the snow.

    Now again, it's happening. Big snow yesterday, today warm (in the 40s) and sunny. Lots of bees in the snow. Why do they do this? And anything I can do to stop it? I think I'll put come cardboard down in front of the hives.

    Last time I scooped up about 20 and brought them in the house and warmed them and they revived. But there were too many and it was too late do do anything else.

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  3. #2
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    Jun 2013
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    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
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    Default Re: Bees diving in to the snow and dying--again. What to do?

    I use large tarps to cover the snow on those sorts of days. My husband usually plows the snow away from about half an acre in front of the hives, but when he's away on business that's too much for me to shovel if it's deep.

    So, that's where the tarps come in. I keep them folded up during the storm but early the next day they go out, first thing. My tarps cover an area about 125 by 75 feet, so it's a big job. You have to get them up again before the next round of snow.

    I do this mainly during the deepest winter when each little bee-body might continue to contribute its warmth to the cluster. Sometimes by now, when I know the first rounds of brood are emerged, I am less intense about tarping.

    But I've done it three times in the last two weeks as we have been hit with three successive nor'easters. And my my bees are now flying even in quite cold weather. It was in the low 30s yesterday and they were out having a fine old time for about half an hour. My bee yard is protected by a dense, and tall, shelter belt so they were completely out of the wind.

    Nancy
    Last edited by enjambres; 03-18-2018 at 02:31 PM.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Bees diving in to the snow and dying--again. What to do?

    duplicate post deleted
    Last edited by enjambres; 03-18-2018 at 02:31 PM.

  5. #4
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    Jun 2008
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    Yuba County, California, USA
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    Default Re: Bees diving in to the snow and dying--again. What to do?

    Bees can lose orientation of which way is up when there is snow out. They orient to the sun, and during some instances of brightness or cloud cover, the bees can get confused and think the reflections of the snow is 'up' and dive bomb into it. I have no ideas as for a fix for the problem myself, sorry to say.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Bees diving in to the snow and dying--again. What to do?

    Thanks to both of you. As soon as I started looking for cardboard, I decided on a tarp was better, too. Put out the largest one I have. At least that will stop most of it. I hadn't thought about orientation issues, but makes sense. I had figured they got chilled.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
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    Ottawa, ON
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    Default Re: Bees diving in to the snow and dying--again. What to do?

    Bees flying out and not getting back to the hive is a natural occurance in spring. You notice them when the ground is covered in snow. If the queen laid a 1000 eggs a day at her peak then at some point they have to die. Here in Ontario the bees have been in their boxes since late October. Very few cleansing flights. When I see bees in the snow it tells me the hive is alive and doing well. My hives go into winter with 40-50,000 bees. I am happy to have 25-30,000 in the spring.

    Regards Peter
    Ottawa. ON

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Bees diving in to the snow and dying--again. What to do?

    PeterP, yes some of them must be nearing the end of their lives after a lengthy winter. What always surprises me, though, is the number of bees who have been foraging and are returning with pollen bags full, but are dead in front of the hive. Just now looking on the tarp, there are many of them--not as much as happened a couple of weeks ago, but still a fair amount.

    It amazes me that they are so busy and foraging so quickly, and that they get home only to not make it the final few inches.

  9. #8
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    Algoma District Northern Ontario, Canada
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    Default Re: Bees diving in to the snow and dying--again. What to do?

    Has the disorientation explanation been substantiated as fact or is it purely romantic conjecture? I see many dead bees in the snow but consider it most likely they have reached the end of their days and are making way for next generation. References to research articles?
    Frank

  10. #9
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    Great Falls Montana
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    Default Re: Bees diving in to the snow and dying--again. What to do?

    Frank I have seen them fly up and power dive into the white snow. Probably some of both.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Bees diving in to the snow and dying--again. What to do?

    I would guess that at least some of them lose energy enough and fail before getting all the way home. They eat stores for energy on take off but bees are greedy bugs and get so involved in foraging that they push to the limits just how much energy they have left for the body heat needed to fly all the way back home. In this case they don't dive bomb the snow, they just run out of heat energy and just fail before final landing at home.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2018
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    Batavia OH
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    Default Re: Bees diving in to the snow and dying--again. What to do?

    Almost a year later on this thread but then same issue. In southern Ohio, we had several days & nights of snow. We had recently cut down a tree for a customer and it ended up having bees in it. We bought an observation hive to put them in and have been getting to know them. A few weeks later, almost immediately after several days of snow tapered off, it was @35 degrees. I looked out the window to see lots of bees in the snow. After walking out and watching for several minutes, I watched many bees fly out of the entrance, circle @20 seconds and most (but not all) inverted themselves and dive bombed into the snow. Some landed upside down and just kinda stopped moving. Those that landed on their feet crawled just a little and stopped. Picking them up, they would move around but seemed to not want to go back into the hive enternace, even after warming up. There were no dead bees inside the hive to begin with so I know all of them outside were alive when they flew out. Most bees were within 10' of the enterance and some were 25' away. I estimated @200 bees. Some did manage to fly back to the enterance and go back in. It seemed like a cleansing flight that went wrong for there were stains everywhere.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Bees diving in to the snow and dying--again. What to do?

    i think ( and i may be wrong) that Michael Palmer had described this behavior in bees with tracheal mites. Must admit i have ZERO experience ( that i know of) with tracheal mites...just the description of bees flying out to die in the snow sounds familiar from one of MP's talks.
    I think he had sent bees off to be analyzed and that was how the tracheal mites were found. I believe he had said this was a LONG time ago.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Bees diving in to the snow and dying--again. What to do?

    The problem here is the combination of strong sunlight and snow. When such sunlight is reflected off the snow, honey-bees are fooled into assuming that this intense light is hard evidence that Spring has finally arrived and so come barreling out of the hive without first checking the air temperature. Some immediately realise their mistake and make it back to their hive ok, whereas many don't.

    The cure is simple - fit snow boards, tarpaulins, or some other suitable material over the entrance to prevent this extremely bright light from directly entering the hive. Indirect light isn't such a problem, as the bees will then display far more caution when considering whether to leave the hive ... or not.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Bees diving in to the snow and dying--again. What to do?

    I was told by Michael Palmer that some breeds such as Italians are prone to this, over the years he has moved to bee types that do not dive bomb into the snow. His own belief is the suns reflection disorientates them.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Bees diving in to the snow and dying--again. What to do?

    Here is where Michael Palmer was talking about bees that dive-bomb the snow when leaving the hive might possibly be from an orientation problem with bright sunlit snow...

    https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3...t4vt4NsE5Ke0SQ


    aran...
    i think ( and i may be wrong) that Michael Palmer had described this behavior in bees with tracheal mites. Must admit i have ZERO experience ( that i know of) with tracheal mites...just the description of bees flying out to die in the snow sounds familiar from one of MP's talks.
    I think he had sent bees off to be analyzed and that was how the tracheal mites were found. I believe he had said this was a LONG time ago.
    aran... I have seen that video as well, that is a little bit different, that was a larger pile of dead bees mostly in one concentrated spot in front of or slightly to the side of a hve in the snow.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Bees diving in to the snow and dying--again. What to do?

    Not a single dead bee in the snow:



    Regardless of exactly WHY they divebomb - the cure (The OP was asking "What to do ?".) for this problem is to stop them responding to the combination of bright sunlight and snow.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  18. #17
    Join Date
    Mar 2018
    Location
    Batavia OH
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    Default Re: Bees diving in to the snow and dying--again. What to do?

    Hmmm, I had previously read the theory about disorientation and thought it was a possibility. Until I get a microscope, I won't know for sure if they do or do not have Tracheal Mites. This was a feral colony I cut out of a tree that was in danger of falling on a house, probably a swarm that survived from a local bkeep in their neighborhood. I placed them in two eight frame mediums boxes with comb rubber banded in place for two weeks prior to moving them into the OH. I oriented the combs based on the "Housel Positioning" which the bees have responded to extremely well. Even in late dec/ early Jan, they have connected a LOT of comb to frames & other comb, built new cells. A prior cut out I did last year I positioned the cells upward and tossed it in the frames, the bees did not perform well.

    For their enterance, the pipe goes through a board to the outside, then a 90 dog elbow and I built a small box with one opening on the leeward side. It's on the south wall of the house so that some air come in, but driving wind, rain and snow will not be an issue for the enterance or the pipe. I also thought that would prevent the reaction of bright light as it does not pierce into the hive but is rather a dim glow. 97E5752C-1986-493F-86D9-848C59A87479.jpg

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Bees diving in to the snow and dying--again. What to do?

    So they do this even though the hive is Housel Positioned! Dang!
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  20. #19
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    Jan 2011
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    Great Falls Montana
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    Default Re: Bees diving in to the snow and dying--again. What to do?

    When bees fly out on a flying weather day over blinding bright snow cover, many get flipped over and see them flying upside down and then comes the power dive curving straighter into the snow. Those who have never experienced this may find it hard to believe how bright it is. Even if the air is warm, the snow almost instantly immobilizes them. Some fool is always picking them up and trying to get them back in a hive but it just doesn't seem to ever work out. You lose more lifting the lid than you save dropping them in on the warm bees.

  21. #20
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    May 2016
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    Mountain Village,Alaska
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    148

    Default Re: Bees diving in to the snow and dying--again. What to do?

    I was worried when I watched them dive bomb upside down into the snow, but then realized it probably is the old bees leavening to die. In the summer they go through great effort to rid the hive of any dead bees. Must be a self burial gene that kicks in during winter to old bees. I call them kamikaze's.

    But just in case it was vertigo from the bright snow. I sprinkled some ashes from my wood stove in front of the hive. It was great, in that it burned the snow off early and seamed to cure the problem. But... we probably don't notice dead bees in the grass or dirt as easy as white snow. It could be that many during the summer for all I know.




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