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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
This is what happens when lazy journalism meets cold weather.
Or, at least, lazy journalism meets a deadline.
 

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I have it in my mind that bees w/ heads in empty cells appear to be trying to find the last remaining honey in those cells. That's what it looks like. That they were looking for and eating the last bits of honey readily available to them.

But is that correct? Or are bees w/ heads in cells as much as anything clustering to conserve body heat? And then, because there isn't enough for them to eat nearby, they starve. Or do they?

Do they really starve or is it a matter of not having enough mass to maintain cluster temperature? Has anyone ever dissected "starved" bees to see if their stomachs are truely empty?
 

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Was hoping to see some scientific data. I guess the magazine name threw me. Then I looked at some other articles and now I understand that the mag is a propaganda rag for global warming proponets. I'll add them to my "Continue To Not Read" list.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I'd always understood, rightly or wrongly, that bees share the heat of the cluster across comb midribs, in part via those that are headfirst in empty cells. They feed on honey at the edges of the cluster.
I think either starvation or insufficient cluster size can produce a winter failure....along with any number of other things.
Just my opinion.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Mark, I was told years ago and still believe that a hive should go into cold weather with a sizeable area of empty comb. As a good sized cluster will bridge multiple frames. In a hive that were nearly or totally honeybound, that honey filled comb will act as insulation, making it more difficult for the cluster to share heat from one side to another. Whereas empty comb with headfirst bees is much more efficient.
As always....just my opinion.
 

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Human logic would say that when a bee takes it's last bite of honey in the cell it would back out and find another cell. It wouldn't just set there and die. At the very least if they were starving to death they wouldn't fill every consecutive cell with dead bee's. It is apparent to me that they are dying in the cluster. Usually when you have a winter killed dead out you find a very apparent cluster shaped pattern in the dead bee's in the cells on both sides of the frame, and in the consecutive frames.
 

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We had one this winter, and I believe they froze. The cluster was small, and this particular hive has wintered prior years in a cluster much smaller than the rest of our hives. When I opened it up after they died, lots of bees headfirst in the comb, both sides, in the area where they were clustered. The edge of the cluster had dead bees on top of capped honey. They seemed to be doing the same as last year, right up until we had a weeklong stretch of -15C, much colder and longer than we've seen in the prior years. They were in contact with honey, and died head first in cells. I dont think they starved.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Where, within the nest.
I try to make sure that several middle frames in the lowest brood box contain partially empty comb at the end of the season. Above that, in additional boxes, capped honey. Then, when the clusters form, they should form at the edge of honey, in empty comb. As honey is consumed, typically, the cluster moves upward to stay in contact with the honey.
Again, my understanding....is yours different?
 

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Beemandan is correct re empty combs, but for convoluted reasons.

If a colony gets totally honeybound late in the fall, then they will not raise enough bees to overwinter successfully. So in an indirect way, having some empty comb in the brood nest late in the fall is a sign the bees continued to produce brood which enhances their likelihood of wintering successfully. This is mostly a problem in areas with heavy fall nectar flows.

Also, bees cannot cluster properly on full slabs of honey. They have to be able to fill up the cells and all empty space in the cluster with bees in order to maintain cluster temperature. Full slabs of honey prevent this clustering.
 

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So, when they are in a dense cluster for a long period of time, they should be on both sides of empty comb or combs. Do they have to be on the edge of honey? Do the ones on the edge eat the honey and pass it along to the ones far away from the honey? Do they move around within the cluster to eat when they get hungry?
Somehow I thought I read that the honey was in the center of the cluster. The ones in the center eat it, move to the outside and move around over the outside of the cluster generating heat. Then they become immoble to conserve energy until they find themselves at the center again and the process starts over.

But a frame with honey on both sides would an impediment to that process both because they would have to heat the honey and because the cluster would be split in two.

Just trying to get my head around how it works.
 

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They have to be able to fill up the cells and all empty space in the cluster with bees in order to maintain cluster temperature. Full slabs of honey prevent this clustering.
What about plastic frames or foundation? Does heat transfer through the thick plastic? If not, just wondering if plastic might not be the best choice for overwintering. Never really thought about it.
 
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