dead bees
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Thread: dead bees

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
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    orland park
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    132

    Default dead bees

    I went to check on my hives, when it got warmer, and to place some fondant just in case.

    In one hive there was still some honey combs left but bees appeared to be dead, all of them, not a single sound.
    In another hive, there were some dead bees on the bottom, but I could see them moving, giving voices, even flying out.

    I wonder if the bees indeed died or is it normal?

    Second, I have solid bottoms, I wonder if the bees will bee cleaning dead bees as they have been doing, so they will not run out of air?

    thanks

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Aylett, Virginia
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    2,762

    Default Re: dead bees

    It is not normal for the bees to die, but it is common. There are numerous posts on this site that reference Thanksgiving as a key date in hive mortality. Hives that die this early typically do so due to viruses transmitted by the varroa mite. I saw that you did not start treatment until October, at which point it was probably too late for a treatment like Apivar. Keep the strips in the surviving hive, clean out the dead bees, and give them the fondant. Then cross your fingers. Next year you will know to start treating earlier. All good winter prep starts in the middle of summer.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2016
    Location
    Geauga, Ohio
    Posts
    371

    Default Re: dead bees

    If you want to know if the hive is still alive, you can get a stethoscope and put it at the upper entrance, or even take off the lid (NOT the inner cover), and listed at the inner cover with the stethoscope. You should be able to hear bees then. Some hives won't fly if it is a crappy fly day (like 45 and windy and no forage), others will. Just not seeing bees fly isn't a conclusive clue to the state of the bees. But if it was 50 and calm and no bees flying... that I would worry about.

    The most common cause behind a hive death this time of year (in areas with winter) is predation by varroa mite. This can happen with hives started from packages or nucs during their first summer. With your veil on, during a calm day where your fingers won't be too cold, IF you heard NOTHING with the stethoscope.... you can do a hive autopsy.

    Try to note how many combs have bees on them, and how many cups of dead bees are on the bottom board. A strong hive would have had 10 frames covered with bees (or the equivalent on the bottom board, which will be twice as many as are in a package or nuc).

    If too many varroa mites reproduced in the bee brood, then you can see evidence of this from the mite droppings, or "frass". The mites poop on the ceiling of the brood cell, towards the front. It looks like a tiny dot of powdered sugar. It's easier to see if you flip the frame upside down. If in a 10x10 grid of brood cells (so 100 cells) you see more than 10 little dots, that means more than 10% of the brood was affected by mites and would be compromised...You can also test for mites after the hive dies by scooping 1/2 cup of bees into a cup with wide mesh (1/8", not tiny window screen) and rinsing with water. Then pour the fluid through the mesh... any mites should slip through the mesh and be visible in the liquid. If you see more than 10 or so, then your hive likely died of mites. It's hard to directly compare the mite count from dead bees to when they are live, because mites will crawl away from dead bees sometimes...but more than 10 is not good news.

    You can also see uneven and spotty capped brood that didn't emerge sometimes, because too many bees had died to take care of the brood and it chilled and died.

    So this is feedback about whether you adequately controlled for mites. Every beekeeper biffs here at some point... monitoring for mites during key months, which is July, August, and September, will show whether you are at an acceptable level, or growing threat, or emergency level. And I don't mean looking at the bees to see if they have mites when I say "monitor". I have found the "acceptable level" (for an alcohol wash with 300 bees) in July is 0 (as in, any higher I would treat immediately), 2 in August, and 3 in September. And I assume they went and robbed a hive during their last fly days and I treat after they stop flying with OAV.

    If your posthumous mite check shows low mite levels (like 2-3 per 1/2 cup or 300 bees) and few mite frass in the dark brood combs, the other top killer this early in winter is a hive that turned out to be queenless starting in late summer/early fall. THen the bees will not have enough special "winter bees" in the hive (they were treated like princesses, didn't have to forage or take care of little sisters). If regular bees, who did forage and take care of little sisters, try to keep the hive warm enough as winter bees do, they run out of gas right about... now. Or into December, depending on how old they were.

    It's important to understand why the bees died. It's also important to protect their comb so they didn't die in vain. Be sure to keep it exposed to air during the winter, so not sealed in an airtight container, but make sure mice aren't in it and can't get in. No, an entrance reducer isn't good enough to keep out mice. During april/may, you can use this comb for future bees - but make sure there is a fine screen protecting it otherwise, so the wax moth doesn't get in and start eating the comb. :/

  5. #4
    Join Date
    May 2018
    Location
    Cle Elum Washington USA
    Posts
    11

    Default Re: dead bees

    I also checked my hive today. first I checked the bottom screen by swiping it with the hive tool and pulled out about 50 dead bees. Then I pulled the top cover and did not see only a few bees and 3 or 4 flew out and started buzzing me. I have two brood boxes stacked with no Super as I got the bees last spring. Put strips for mites in July and took them out in Oct. Wrapped the hive with 1" foam and left vent at top and bottom. So what are my chances or what else can I do?

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Aylett, Virginia
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    2,762

    Default Re: dead bees

    Torpedo, do you still have bees? Your post is not clear as to whether you still have an active colony or not. Apivar is only effective for about the 7-8 weeks it supposed to be in the hive. You may have gotten a reinfestation of mites later in the fall after the strips were no longer providing a kill. Or, you may have amitraz resistant mites where you are. Leaving old strips in the hive will contribute to that. Get in the hive on a warm day, preferably above 60F, and do a full assessment. If it is too cold for that, you will just have to wait for spring to see. Can't hurt to hit them with OAV right now, but it won't do any good if the colony is alread dying.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    May 2018
    Location
    Cle Elum Washington USA
    Posts
    11

    Default Re: dead bees

    Yea I still have bees got them last spring as a hobby, one hive. I pulled the strips out in mid September thinking I was good to go. I take it there is not supposed to be dead bees (50+) on the bottom screen. I just thought it would be great to have bees around the farm they are fascinating and all that but now I am not so sure I did the right thing.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Campbell River, BC, CA
    Posts
    1,567

    Default Re: dead bees

    50 dead bees on the bottom board at this time of the year is not a catastrophe, it's something I see here if I'm even looking at colonies this time of the year. Remnants of the summer population dieing off and ending up on the bottom board. Winter population is in a fairly tight cluster and they are not cleaning house at this time of the year. You are much farther south compared to us, but on the other side of the first line of rocks, so I would expect it to be somewhat colder than here from now till March. If they have good winter stores in the combs, I would look at 50 dead bees on the bottom board as a sign of a fairly healthy cluster for this time of the year. If it was 500, then I might take a second look. Thing is, a big part of our winter strategy, we put inner covers on in late September after winter feed is in place, then do not break the seals on those covers till spring feed in mid February. Between October and February, bees are what they are, we pay little / no attention other than getting the OAV out during a nice day in December or January, which we can apply without opening boxes.

    I'm of the philosophy that the very best way to tend the bees thru the winter is to do absolutely that involves breaking any of the propolis seals they have built in those boxes. We get winter stores tended in September, the bees are still active thru October and I want them to have that time for sealing up the cracks and preparing the cavity for the winter. By November they are in the cluster and on their own till we see spring on the horizon.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Aylett, Virginia
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    2,762

    Default Re: dead bees

    Having bees on the farm IS the right thing. But like any other livestock, they do require care and a bit of learning about them. Like grozzie said, 50 dead bees is not a catastrophe, as long as there are still thousands in the hive. Hit them with OAV as a precaution and make sure they have plenty of stores or supplemental sugar to munch on. Next year, get more bees. 1 hive is not enough to sustain an apiary. When I first got bees, I had no idea how much fun they were (and work).
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    May 2018
    Location
    Cle Elum Washington USA
    Posts
    11

    Default Re: dead bees

    Well I feel better now. I was reluctant to go OAV mainly because I know nothing about it , so I will start research on that use. And I guess
    I should have started with a bee class or something. However now I am hooked on the little guys.

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Louisville, KY
    Posts
    3,284

    Default

    In my area during cold spells they usually don't break cluster to clear out dead bees. They may just drop them at the entrance or not move them at all. The strength of the hive and temp has a lot of bearing on how quickly and how much they remove. Usually on those warm sunny high pressure days they'll clear em out before more cold comes.

    Keep in mind dead bodies inside is not goal of theirs. The bees don't want dead bodies in the hive at all but if it's too cold or they don't have enough surplus bees able to break cluster they'll live with it.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2018
    Location
    Central PA, USA
    Posts
    23

    Default Re: dead bees

    Quote Originally Posted by JWPalmer View Post
    Thanksgiving as a key date in hive mortality.
    We'll remember this phrase next year! The weekend before Thanksgiving, my son & I checked our hives, which were VERY healthy only a couple weeks earlier when we inspected them. It was obvious that robber bees got in (a couple were still in the hives). Though we had lots of Asters in bloom and a few other perennials that the bees love in PA, the excessive rains made them worthless to the bees (we did not enough empty boxes at that point to put the syrup IN the hive). I think we made the mistake of putting sugar syrup too near the hives and probably attracted robber bees. One day the hives were very active with "the dance" outside the reduced entrances. Days later, no activity. In two years of beekeeping, we had a summer swarm, an early spring bear attack after successfully getting them through the winter, and now a Thanksgiving time robbing. We are hoping year three IS the charm! Yet, we DID harvest honey this summer.
    Last edited by beesRus; 11-25-2018 at 12:35 PM. Reason: clarification

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