death by suffocation?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default death by suffocation?

    we made it up into the mid-sixties today and i made the rounds to observe the entrances for pollen coming in.

    homeyard - all good
    outyard - all good
    overflow yard - pollen coming in 2 out of 3 hives with no activity at all for the third hive.

    a closer look revealed the reduced entrance was clogged with bees

    an ear to the side of the hive and a couple of knocks revealed it had gone dead quiet. this hive had good pollen coming in the last time it got warm here and had strong cluster roar 3 days ago.

    the population was decent for this time of year with at about 3 deep frames worth of bees. there was capped brood about 6" in diameter occupying 2 adjacent frames in contact with honey.

    the screens over the notches on the front and back of my inner cover were completely propolized over. the bottom board had a solid layer of dead bees that was thicker toward the entrance.

    i'm guessing the co2 levels became toxic and all the bees died at once.

    i don't think i've ever been this bummed about losing a colony.

    i have reduced my entrances more this year as a hedge against robbing and have had to clear dead bees from some of them here and there over the winter. i also had previously noted that i needed to replace that inner cover for another one with fresh screens but didn't get around to it.

    dang.

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  3. #2

    Default Re: death by suffocation?

    Not being argumentative but I don’t reduce the entrances to my hives. Even my North Carolina yard that is well over 3000 ft in elevation. I’m sure that it is necessary in the more northern climates.
    I just don’t see that much robbing. Do you have an issue with it or do you reduce the entrances out of caution?
    Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson

  4. #3
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    Default Re: death by suffocation?

    Quote Originally Posted by beemandan View Post
    Do you have an issue with it or do you reduce the entrances out of caution?
    i rarely see robbing dan even though i usually have a few that get down to pretty small clusters by this time of year. i also haven't had any trouble with robbing when i place small mating nucs in the same yards as the big hives.

    being queenright seems to keep the robbers from becoming interested some how. the few cases of robbing i have had over the years have almost always been due to queenlessness.

    i reduced the entrances this year out of caution after having a colony mite out in the fall last year. it was robbed out by the other colonies in the yard and being at the outyard i didn't find it until it was all said and done.

    i lost 5 out of 8 there and i believe it had to do with the mite bomb. that's why i reduced my entrances more this year. i think this one would have been ok until i could have cleared the entrance if the upper vents wouldn't have become clogged.

    lesson learned. i'll be more careful about monitoring those vents, and i won't wait 3 flying days to check the entrances after a long period of cold or rain. it's part of the price i'm paying for spending friday on the lake, although the fishing was fantastic.

    the saving grace is this was a swarm i caught in 2017 that wasn't terribly productive in 2018 and i was planning to use it for splits or requeen it anyway unless it showed more promise early in the season. still, this one was my fault, i'm wearing the ppb tee shirt today.

  5. #4

    Default Re: death by suffocation?

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    i'm wearing the ppb tee shirt today.
    I've already worn several completely out.
    Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson

  6. #5
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    Default Re: death by suffocation?

    Quote Originally Posted by beemandan View Post
    I've already worn several completely out.


    i appreciate the replies dan. having the opportunity to share this with folks who understand is great medicine.

  7. #6
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    Mar 2015
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    Kamloops, BC, Canada
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    Default Re: death by suffocation?

    That has been a concern for me. On the first box of my production hives, I have a 3/4 inch auger hole a few inches from the bottom board. No chance of that getting clogged with bees. I have 6 frame nucs that have the same feature. The old style 5 frame nucs still is a bit of a concern though I have never suspected a cluster dying of suffixation yet. I have snow and dead bees to contend with in my winter and in theory the entrance probably would appear to be blocked at least some of the time. But the clusters that die are usually small, with an occasional one that dies of starvation (my fault mostly).

  8. #7
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    Jan 2011
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    Great Falls Montana
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    Default Re: death by suffocation?

    I think you should listen to the bees when they propolize unwanted (by them) openings. Bottom entrances are very prone to plugging with corpses and other debris. It is why I have my entrance/ vent 1" hole bored below the handhold on the uppermost brood box. It never plugs and it provides all the winter ventilation the bees could ever need.
    Last edited by Vance G; 02-04-2019 at 09:37 AM.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: death by suffocation?

    vance, it is interesting how some colonies adjust how much or how little either on the front or back in terms of how they place and later remove propolis from the screens.

    this one put thick bands of propolis across the notches i had cut out of the inner cover.

    have small hive beetles made it to montana yet?

  10. #9
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    Jan 2003
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    Suffolk, VA
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    Default Re: death by suffocation?

    Question is what came first, the clogged entrance or the deadout?

    I do run entrance reduces on almost every colony and have never seen a clogged entrance. The reducers I use are full height reducers, but leave a 3 inch wide (full height) gap at one side of the opening. That said, in my area, there is rarely ever more than a 3 week period when the bees don't have an opportunity to fly.
    Horseshoe Point Honey -- http://localvahoney.com/

  11. #10
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    Default Re: death by suffocation?

    i have the standard wooden reducers using the 'long' slot, 3/8" x 3"?

    i then screen that down with perforated metal to about 1/2" wide.

    so 3/8" x 1/2"? about enough to for 2 bees to fit into.

    i've noticed the undertakers will deposit dead bees at the entrance when it is too cold or rainy to take them out.

    if i catch that happening i remove the metal screen and rake them out.

    i believe the long stretch of cold resulted in too many bees piling up and cutting off the air flow, but it could have been as you suggest astrobee, and that's why i used a question mark in the thread title.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: death by suffocation?

    It was the bees fairly consistent tendency to propolize the top entrance that made me decide to get rid of them for winter. But at the same time I added a bit more ventilation near the bottom board. I'm in a dry climate. But the presentation I saw on the effect of top entrances was based on work in a wet one. I put an insulating sleeve made from rigid foam that slides on top of the colony. The goal is not to insulate entirely but to trap a dome of warm air and provide protection from wind, melting snow. Since it is not on tightly there is still some opportunity for moist air to exist the system as it works its way through the boxes.

  13. #12
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    Aug 2002
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    Default Re: death by suffocation?

    Skep keepers used to plaster their hives with dung so they were basically air tight. Then the entrance was seldom much bigger than you can fit your finger in. Bees seem to do fine with small entrances. Obviously they need an entrance, but it doesn't have to be large.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  14. #13
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    Default Re: death by suffocation?

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    vance, it is interesting how some colonies adjust how much or how little either on the front or back in terms of how they place and later remove propolis from the screens.

    this one put thick bands of propolis across the notches i had cut out of the inner cover.

    have small hive beetles made it to montana yet?
    With the mass number of bees that migrate into this state every spring, it is beyond belief that they don't come in every spring. But we are mostly dry and often with heavy gumbo soil. I just don't think they can propagate here.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: death by suffocation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vance G View Post
    I just don't think they can propagate here.
    shb would be the potential problem with having the 1" hole up top like you vance.

    especially considering the other ppb thing i do which is keep all my empty supers on the hives year round.

    this means most of my hives are a single deep with 4 medium supers (the equivalent of 3.66 deeps) through the winter months when there are only 3 - 4 deep frames worth of bees.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: death by suffocation?

    shb AND chiggers will keep me up here enjoying my -10 right now.

  17. #16
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    Covington County, Alabama, USA
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    Default Re: death by suffocation?

    That still would have been a fairly big die off to clog the opening. You said they were not very productive. I take it that they had plenty of honey left to eat? Globs of dead bees on the bottom board in Alabama this time of year is often starvation.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: death by suffocation?

    starvation was my first thought, but there was still capped honey as well as some uncured nectar from the previous warm up, and very few bees with heads in cells.

  19. #18
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    Oct 2016
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    Albany NY
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    Default

    Michael Busch: I believe many of the skeps had entrances part (half?) way up the front so the small entrance would not be readily clogged like our bottom boards can get, esp with reducers.... We are upstate NY and upper entrances work fine, don't need mouse guards, no shb until summer. The bees adjust the size of top entrances but rarely (never?) close them completely. Down side of upper entrance only is that they propolise the top box a lot more and the brood is higher in the colony. I tried a few and prefer the main entrance to be at the bottom, with a small upper entrance for ventilation and backdoor escape route if the main door is clogged or congested....
    Happy beekeeping everyone!

  20. #19
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    Sedgwick Co. KS
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    Default Re: death by suffocation?

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    ....... the other ppb thing i do which is keep all my empty supers on the hives year round.

    this means most of my hives are a single deep with 4 medium supers (the equivalent of 3.66 deeps) through the winter months when there are only 3 - 4 deep frames worth of bees.
    A couple of questions..... do you use a queen excluder, if yes, do you leave them on all winter? ...and do those empty supers attract wax moth at any time?

  21. #20
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    Default Re: death by suffocation?

    i have started using a queen excluder these past few seasons, and they come off prior to our fall flow.

    so far no issues with wax moths or small hive beetles. i keep a beetle blaster trap in each box, and the upper vents are screened.

    i leave the supers on like that partly because i don't have room to store them inside, and partly because i don't want to use moth balls.

    i hope someday to have enough freezer space to store the extra supers, and will then likely leave only two supers on for wintering, with one about full and the other about half full of honey.

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