trouble with a swarm
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  1. #1
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    Default trouble with a swarm

    Poised in a weird place. Both the swarm and the donor hive look bad. Don't think a new queen will rise from the old hive and the new swarm is losing bees daily. Sprayed them with oil tonight, contemplating looking for the new queen and if she isn't there emerging the split hive. The other hive is still small but steady, whatever is attacking the split one doesn't seem to be so bad for the small top hive. The swarm is probably 1 or 2 k now and was maybe 8-10k. The donor hive looks like 5-10 . I spotted bees with apparent deformed wing virus on the ground a week ago. And have been smoking them with mineral oil with wintergreen oil, then and now today. Top bar observation hives, I was present for the swarm and brought them back the next day, I had feared til now that some pollen comb I had given the swarm has poisoned them. (It was from a dead hive, won't do that again) but now I see the donor hive is so shrunken. There are just a few thousand and closed queen cells exposed with not enough bees to tend them. It looks to me like the requeening could have failed and my only hope of saving either population is to re merge them. I heard the swarm queen a few days back but their numbers are shrinking fast. This cold snap isn't helping anything, I've got some heating pads on the swarm hive. This in two weeks time frame>2 weeks ago I heard a queen singing in the split hie, and sprayed for mites. Next weekend I saw the swarm and recovered it, now its a week later and I removed the suspect pollen comb. Has anyone done this before? a mend, or anti-split
    Last edited by TBMark; 03-26-2018 at 09:14 PM.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: trouble with a swarm

    I added the bees to the other hive. What I found out in that process: when I thought I had removed the (suspect) bad pollen comb. Well I found I had put 2 in there and they had been working this one too. So it still could have been poison pollen. There was more dead bees today and so I felt even better about adding them to the original hive. They are at either end of the hive with 15 bars between them, some of it looks like thick honey comb. So I opened the hive at the end I installed them into. Now my hope is 1 of two things. If the donor hive did not re queen that they accept the old one back, if she has lived through this. I haven't seen a dead queen yet. So I think she is still with the tiny swarm mass. They look to be in the 100s now. So I hope they take her back if they need her. And if they don't, since they are all the same genes and smell that the princess mass will allow the old queen to recover from a suspected poison pollen episode think with the old hive resources she may have enough bees to keep going. If she hasn't been poisoned too. What I've read says the queen often falls in a poisoned hive. They look like what I've read as poisoned. Drunken and slothful, often dying with lounges out. . So bad. Lesson learned, don't reuse pollen or honey from a dead hive unless they starved I guess it would be ok. (Hats my update. Ill report back what happens tomorrow.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: trouble with a swarm

    TB
    I'm surprised you haven't received comments or questions so ...... You mention a poisoned pollen frame, poisoned from or by what? You also mention DWV, spraying and smoking them with oil and "sprayed for mites." Definitively, how are you addressing mites and what you're position on the TF/soft treatment/any treatment issue? Ca you provide pics?
    “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

  5. #4
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    Default Re: trouble with a swarm

    as best i can tell the dying seems to be poisoning. I captured the swarm and provided them with pollen comb from a fallen hive. Later, after numbers had dropped beyond the level that they could carry off their dead as they fell (i presume) they were collecting on the screen in alarming numbers. They were mostly dead, many with tongues out, the ones who were still moving acted in the manner of poisoning. drunkenly is the best 1 word descriptor. When i saw the dead collecting my first thought was poison from the donation comb i gave them. This idea is sticking for me, but i wont know unless i send out samples. I have an organic farm and try and employ the least chemical treatment for my bees. An insect fogger with mineral oil is a nice clean way to treat mites. some wintergreen oil in the oil also helps with tracheae mites so i use this method. I noticed drones walking away from the hive some weeks ago and decided they suffered from DWV although i did not observe actual deformed wings. This morning there were a few more dead bees under the swarm mass. They are only a few hundred now and the chances this will work are low. but that is the beauty of the top bar hive i guess. it is so long that it seems like I may be able to house 2 populations in the same hive, and if the swarm can recover I will move them to their own hive later. so the original hive will enter and exit from the south and the swarm will enter from the north. They had foragers bring back yellow pollen last night while i shifted the population, i bridged the old hive to the swarm hive with comb and bars coated with syrup and they all eventually found the others, a foot away. the reason i think it is poison is the russian hybrid hive i took the pollen from died in a similar way, but i didn't catch it til they were dead, and foolishly reused this pollen. They were empty of honey, so i told myself this was from a failed split where the swarm took all the honey and starved the russians to death. Now though i think it was poison and will never reuse comb with pollen or honey from a failed hive. Its all just guesses but I spend a lot of time with my bees and have learned a lot that people who sit in a room and talk about them at their local club never get to know. I have witnessed with my own eyes an emerging queen sting her rival to death through the cell (observation hive) heard her dying whizzle of a buzz and she died, and saw the new queen hustle off to her next victim. Things like that
    Last edited by TBMark; 03-28-2018 at 12:29 PM.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: trouble with a swarm

    To the hundred or so viewers who said to themselves, that sounds wrong. It was wrong. I saw a small pod of workers on the floor under where I put the remaining swarm. It didn't seem to matter that this queen laid their eggs, they were still stinging her corpse and dragging it off. I recovered her and a few workers. Now I wish I had done something else, but I guess it means they did get a new queen, or will soon. I've read that the old queen leaves when the new one caps. So her princess may still be waiting to come out. I haven't heard any queen calls since the days before I saw the swarm. And at that time I thought it was the old queen rallying her swarm, she did trumpet in the swarm hive the day i caught them. Now I wonder if she only left after the new queen hatched, which seems to be the majority consensus on how it works. The other idea of her leaving upon capping was kinda obscure but was well written and seemed factual. Anyway, I could have made a little cage for her. I am posed to get a few fat packages later, and I could have tried to get some of those guys to adopt her. Or I coulda left her and the few hundred bees she had left in the swarm hive and hoped removing the suspect Pollen was the cure. That required minimal effort, and so I expected it to fail,,,they were so small after the dying I just don't think they could have pulled it off. If I woulda had more of my own bees to spare I could have tried other things....now I recall one trick. Letting forager leave for the day and swap hive locations to pump up some numbers. It won't get nurse bees but will bolster numbers. Maybe I should have done it that way. All said though I didn't realize I had the other bad pollen comb in there til I did the transfer. One big giant snafu

  7. #6
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    Default Re: trouble with a swarm

    I am afraid there is a good reason there have been no comments.

    I will say this though, tb, there is a lot about beekeeping that you need to unlearn so you can relearn it correctly. In the meantime, find out about BPV (bee paralysis virus) it's symptoms, and how it is transmitted.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: trouble with a swarm

    well at least some input albeit after the house burned down

  9. #8
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    The “drunken” looking bees were probably dying from a paralysis virus that comes along with high levels of deformed wing virus, which you said they had. By the time you are seeing a number of bees with deformed wings crawling away from the hive, it is too late.

    Effective mite treatment would be a good place to start. First do a mite count with either powdered sugar or an alcohol wash. You need to know your mite level is order to see if your treatment works. Then use a currently recommended treatment, like oxalic acid vapor/dribble, Mite Away Quick Strips (MAQS) or Apivar. Mineral oil and wintergreen oil have not been shown to effectively treat for mites. Then check for mites again to ensure your treatment worked.

    I would not suspect poisoning when what you describe sounds exactly like bees dying from Parasitic Mite Syndrome (PMS). The name includes the mites, DWV, and other viruses that kill the bees in the manner you have described.

    Start fresh with your packages. You’ve got a great chance to start over successfully! Install your new queen and new package. Give them a month, and then check for mites. Treat as needed, and see if you don’t have better results next year. There is a ton to learn with beekeeping, so consider this part of the learning curve and read as much as can on this forum. Good luck!

  10. #9
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    Default Re: trouble with a swarm

    Sorry, I had written something when I first saw your post but deleted it because it was all doom and gloom for the hives. After reading your more recent posts, I realized you were probably looking at this from the wrong perspective and felt compelled to respond. Yes, this house is gone, but a new one is not far away.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: trouble with a swarm

    TB,
    JW and Ruth already mentioned the diseases which at more likely than poisoning but the root cause are likely the mites vectoring them with a secondary impact of your transferring of hive product between hives. The brood also tell a huge part of the story, picture would help. If your only method to control mites is fogging it appears to be insufficient. The Varroa Management Guide in the link below addresses the various control methods starting on page 11; you might consider reevaluating fogging as your only means of mite control. Mite monitoring is also a good tool to know where you're at with the mite load.

    Also, If I understand you correctly you combined the swarm with the original hive without pinching one of the queens. One of the queens being killed is the normal result.

    https://honeybeehealthcoalition.org/varroa/
    “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

  12. #11
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    Default Re: trouble with a swarm

    This is all good stuff, and thanks for the insight. I am an unconventional person. I guess it is why when i decided to keep bees I went with top bar, it is supposed to be the most natural manmade hive for the bees. I live a holistic and organic lifestyle and greatly lament the emergence of the monsanto mentality prevalent in the west. SO when i found an organic mean to treat bee for mites i latched on with vigor. I will continue to educate myself in these matter and appreciate the advice you guys have graciously bestowed. So, the problem has a lot of you thinking the hive was besieged with mites, and if there was a poisoning it was the crack in the levee breaking. This is of course my fault. I didnt treat them at all until i saw the walkers. Over the winter this was the strong hive, the one on the shelf above it has a strong but humble population which appears to be between 20 and 30 k, spanning 5-6 bars packed side to side. This upper hive has been the strongest in the past also. I have come to think that the raised platform inhibits sick bees from returning and boost hive health. Maybe not but my observations in the few years seem to show the higher the hive the more healthy they are. I got into it last night and removed a fallen foundation that was on the bottom and they pulled comb on it, on the other side i pulled out some comb they weren't using and found what seems to be moldy pollen comb. They have been dismantling the comb, in spots and dropping the pollen to the floor. the first bar i removed i tore off the ugly pollen, but when i got to the comb the were working on i decided to stop and maybe trust the bees, for once. Does uninhabited comb become moldy often, what is the the proper recourse? the pollen on the floor needs to be vacuumed up i think, they are walking over it but i don't think much else. And as far as the chemical mite treatment, what do you guys think is the least toxic, least chemical. I recoil from chemical treatments for the reasoning that much of the dilemia the pollinators suffer is from our over-reliance on chemical solutions in the first place. but i guess there comes a time when you must fight fire with fire right? I did combine the hives without killing the other queen. I didn't even look for the new queen, they are often hard to spot and i just dont have much time after work to invest in a game of wheres waldo but i should have. I will begin other treatments for mites now, but more imporrtantly for me, a scheduled treatment instead of waiting for the problem to overcome the hive, and my actions being reactionary, Ill instead be proactive.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: trouble with a swarm

    There are folks on the forum that are treatment free (TF) but it's not a "fire and forget" proposition, they work at it. The Honey Bee Health Coalition link, Varroa Management Guide will give you the most unbiased overview of "treatments" I've found. There are also some that consider oxalic and formic acids as being soft chemicals and from natural plant concentrations. To each their own on how they treat mites but the mites do need to be addressed until we come up with a better solution. I'm a bit of a minimalist, I only feed when I have a good reason and only treat on condition. My suggestion is conduct a sugar shake or alcohol wash to determine your mite load, the treat threshold is debated but anything over 2% seems to be an accepted number.
    “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

  14. #13
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    Default Re: trouble with a swarm

    Someone correct me if I'm wrong. I don't think adult bees consume much pollen, if any. If this is correct, adding a frame of contaminated pollen probably would only affect the new brood.

    Oxalic acid vaporization is considered organic. Thousands of beeks have been using it successfully for decades.

    Mineral oil has been discussed here for quite a while on this forum. You have tried it yourself and it hasn't worked. A prudent person such as yourself moves on.

    Reach out to a beek in your area to see if they might vape your hives for you or a bee cub may have a wand you could use. Cheap wands can be bought or made. Johno has a thread about making some sort of device for around $20.00 I think.

    Good luck,
    Alex
    Last edited by AHudd; 03-29-2018 at 11:21 AM. Reason: changed honey to pollen
    Ten years of Beekeeping before varroa. Started again spring of 2014.

  15. #14
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    I feel for you. It is frustrating to lose a hive, and then learn after the fact that there was something you could have done about it.

    Oxalic acid can be found in lots of vegetables and is what gives stinging nettle it’s sting. I have eaten a tiny bit straight, and while it is a strong acid, and tastes much like citrus acid, it doesn’t kill you.

    One of the challenges/joys of keeping bees in this day and age is that their situation is always changing. The bees we have today are very different from the bees of old, and unfortunately, so are the parasites and diseases. This means the beekeeper really has to stay on top of things and learn as much as possible.

    I read all the posts and scientificbeekeeping.com and subscribe to the journals, but sometimes the mites, or a dearth, or a more viralent strain of something gets them. But with experience, you learn to recognize signs of trouble earlier, and your losses will hopefully go down. Best of luck with the new season!

  16. #15
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    Default Re: trouble with a swarm

    I recoil from chemical treatments for the reasoning that much of the dilemia the pollinators suffer is from our over-reliance on chemical solutions in the first place
    Despite the long history of people trying, like fad diets, there has yet to be a fogger cure that has proved effective.
    I have no idea why people feel Mineral oil, a by product of crude oil refining is great to put in a hive while a naturally occurring product like OA is bad.
    it is supposed to be the most natural manmade hive for the bees
    Like Mineral oil, thats total hogwash.

    I will begin other treatments for mites now, but more imporrtantly for me, a scheduled treatment instead of waiting for the problem to overcome the hive
    Treating on a schedule is the opposite of what your were orgonial trying to accomplish better to monitor the mites with monthly wash/shakes and intervene as needed while running an IPM program to work with the bees and mites natural biology and limit (or remove) the need for chemicals.


    Someone correct me if I'm wrong. I don't think adult bees consume much pollen
    They do, house bees need to input protein to make jelly for the brood and forage force, the forgers have lost the ability to digest pollen and must be fed protein rich jelly from house bees to maintain there bodys and mussels.

    I live a holistic and organic lifestyle and greatly lament the emergence of the monsanto mentality prevalent in the west. SO when i found an organic mean to treat bee for mites i latched on with vigor.
    There is a powerful response from many to "anti conventional" marketing.... ie "look at all those idiot commercial beekeepers using cemicals, If they went the natural way and gave a quick shot of (cemicals) threw a fogger they would have no problems"
    the problem with all the ALT-beekeeping stuff is sifting threw the mountain of BS(and I don't mean bee source) to find the few nuggets that are there... There is way too much FGMO, copper wire in knot holes, magnets at the entrance, or just putting your head in the sand.
    The internet is instant, and the internet is often wrong-Kim Flottum

  17. #16
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    Default Re: trouble with a swarm

    OA always just sounded bad. I have a beek friend who asked me why i don't, told him mineral oil seemed more organic. I guess he didnt know OA was organically sourced, and seemingly even more holistic than the oil. I have resisted invites to bee clubs because i thought i could find my own solutions. This way is costly .The sifting process msl mentioned, i am in agreement there. Lots of bs it seems, such is the internet. fatbeeman on youtube is where i first learned of mineral oil use.

    It looks like Ruth is right. Once you see the walkers its too late. That hive is collapsing. More like collapse, there were 1000s yesterday and dozens today. Don't know if there is a queen or how much are on the front comb, because I can't see between the front and second comb without removing them. So I guess they could be there, and there isn't any dead bees on the floor like in the swarm hive. I pulled out the catch tray from both hives today. I don't see any mites in the top hive but there is some from the dying hive. But I didn't see any moving mites. None are moving, I could put them under a microscope and get a better look, I've seen them crawling in the debris before. So maybe the mineral oil did something or maybe since their food is depleted the mites have gone as well. it will surprise me if this hive can recover- I can't imagine there is enough bees for it to come back, but I am often wrong

  18. #17
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    Default Re: trouble with a swarm

    I'm hearing a lot of wisdom here, TBMark.... don't give up.

    Oxalic acid sounds bad, yes, but what about citric acid? Or Lactic acid (which was in that sourdough you just ate). Or Acetic acid on your salad just now. (Eat your salad... not just your bread). DNA tell our cells how to perform, and the A stands for "acid". And don't get me wrong: Oxalic acid requires a mask when vaporized, so don't underestimate it. but, still, we aren't talking "sulfuric" here. (If, for some reason, I were vaporizing citric acid I would likely wear a mask just in case...).

    With all love for FBM, who I know and from whom I have bought queens before, mineral oil is used to kill insects in some applications. As is soap. (A weak soap spray is a great organic aphid control solution). Don's cool and a good beekeeper (with like 100 times as many hives as me), but he does wacky things sometimes.

    I think you are on the right path, and don't beat yourself up too badly. We all lose bees and we all learn from it. Don't put anything on your bees a scientist hasn't tested. Some Ph.D student in Denmark... sure give it a try. Some dude on YouTube with 1500 followers... nope.... Both within reason of course. If Denmark dude wants you to vaporize DDT, run away. If YouTube dude wants you to put crushed basil in their water... yeah... whatever...

    I'm near you. If you want to get together and look at some bees, PM me.

    Keep the faith,

    Mike

  19. #18
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    Default Re: trouble with a swarm

    OK, let's clear away some misconceptions:

    Mineral oil is made from petroleum - it's a byproduct of the distillation process to make gasoline. Fogging a beehive with it doesn't work any better than doing nothing. (And distributing a fine mist of oil droplets within a hive isn't natural, at all.)

    Oxalic acid is classified as an "organic acid" in chemistry simply because it occurs in nature, not solely in a lab, like say hydrochloric acid. The oxalic acid you buy however, isn't coming from organic sources, like decotions of rhubarb leaves, it is cooked up in a factory. Still it is a very useful method of combating mites, under many, but not all conditions. It is a mainstay of my tactics to suppress the mites enough to keep my colonies alive and healthy, year after year.

    It is not too late to rescue every hive even when there are signs of DWV. Sometimes, yes, but sometimes no. (And in my personal experience, immediately addressing the mites by killing them effectively helps right away, but it can take a long time for DWV to work its way completely out of the colony, even a couple of years. DWV is a disease that has been around for a very long time, but mites amplify it and make it much, much worse for the bees. Just like ticks spread Lyme disease in humans, in addition to giving you nasty itching bites. So, too, do the wretched mites pass viruses directly into what passes for a blood stream in bees. Hence having too many mites in a colony is a very big problem that has to be handled with a commensurate level of determination and urgency. The bees plainly can't do it by themselves, or they would have done it already.

    Monsanto, etc., haven't done anything to contribute to the spread of mites and the diseases they spread.

    And top-bar hives are no more "natural" for honeybees than Langstroth hives. As I understand it, the design was invented by Canadian missionaries who wanted to develop an economic way to keep bees in Africa as a development project. In many ways they seem to be a much harder way for humans to successfully keep bees than in Langs. To some people if it is harder to do, then it is more admirable. I'm not saying TBH don't work - they do. But they are not easier or more comfortable for the bees. Or for their keepers.

    The very best piece of bee-advice I got in my first year of beekeeping: do every thing in the most ordinary, common, accepted way. That way you will more easily be able to get help and have success and learn what you need to know about the age-old craft of beekeeping. This was very hard for me because I am naturally a bit contrary and an "I follow-my-own-path-thank-you-very-much" sort of person. But I learned (quickly) that I had to find out what was the accepted way to handle bees, before I could go about figuring out my own, slightly off-beat methods to do the same thing. And amusingly, some of my more novel ideas turned out to be merely less-common, but by no means original, methods, after all. In beekeeping, everything, it seems, just goes in and out of fashion, and what seems new today, was known before.

    I am sorry you have had a bad time. Your bees may still be salvageable if you can treat them effectively right away. You will learn things from this that will help you in the future. Find a bee-club and join up. If they seem down on TBH, ignore that and keep going to meetings to learn what you can. If worst comes to worse and you need to buy more bees to replace a completely failed hive: That's sad, but OK, too.

    You have found a place that is happy to answer questions, no matter how frequently they are asked. There is special TBH forum, but don't confine yourself to that one.

    Nancy

  20. #19
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    Default Re: trouble with a swarm

    thanks Eikel Ruth and everyone, i think i can do a better job now. I made my hives with screened bottoms, so i could use my refuse tray as described in https://honeybeehealthcoalition.org/varroa/ maybe being creative with that end of things. saw many essential oil treatments-and that seemingly none of them were the silver bullet. different types for different times.... the shaking bees in the jar, it must take a learned touch right?. isn't it easy to rupture their stomachs when they are shaken? no i think thats dropping. they get shaken out of packages and are ok. I'll just have to experiment.
    Last edited by TBMark; 03-29-2018 at 10:31 PM.

  21. #20
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    Default Re: trouble with a swarm

    Added to clear up more misconceptions:

    Essential oils are mostly bad for bees' guts, despite their popularlity among fringe beekeepers. Unless you are killing mites with concentrated formulations of thymol (an essential oil made from thyme plants, or similar synthetic combinations), the less you use EOs the better for your bee. That includes HoneyBeeHealthy, a form of snake oil, IMO. The reason none of the EOS "seem to be the silver bullet" as you put it, is that they simply don 't work.

    Shaking bees in a jar, as in a powdered sugar roll mite assessment, doesn't hurt the bees. I use this method: https://pollinators.msu.edu/resource...te-monitoring1. But I wouldn't waste time learning how to do this, at this point Just decide on an appropriately assertive mite-killing method and get it underway, like yesterday. I sugar roll every single colony once a month. You have a screen under your hive. Jury rig a surface below the screen and cover it with white freezer paper that has a light coating of ordinary cooking oil on it. You will see dead mites on it after 72 hours. This is one way to monitor mites, and it should be done weekly all year long. If you chose to use oxalic acid, in some form, as a mite treatment, you will likely be shocked and horrified at how many mites you kill when they appear on the "sticky" board below.

    I teach my first year students how to do sugar rolls in the first month that I work with them.

    Good luck!

    Nancy

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