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Ok, last year was my first year beekeeping I started with 5 packages. Just checked all them this past weekend and all 5 are dead outs. I went through the cycle of discouragement and now am ready to re-group and focus on what I can do better this year if anything. I know that this has been an exceptionally hard winter for keepers with high colony loss, I have factored this into my loss. My question to some of you keepers that understand loss and know how to dissect a dead out is this. What signs do I look for when doing an autopsy of my hives to determine what killed them other then an unbearable winter? Things I did do this summer: I started with packages in all brand new equipment, I fed continuously until around the 4th of July, by then the had almost 2 deeps drawn out, from there I put on a super and let them go. I sugar dusted a couple times for mites and left on the honey they saved up from the fall flow. I put some inverted sugar bricks in each hive for a little insurance. A couple of the hives were still alive about 2 weeks ago (right before this last cold snap). All hives still have a considerable amount of stores. I did put a piece of 1" foam insulation on the top of all hives. I did nothing else to wrap them or insulate them. Again what should I be looking for and what will what I see tell me about how they died? Thanks for your thoughts!
 

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Did you monitor the mite levels in the summer and into the fall? Of course monitoring, alone, doesn't save bees but knowing the levels gives you a good starting point in sorting out what really happened to them.

Although mites are often the culprits, I also think that some times they get blamed when there's other significant contributing reasons. While different decisions re treating might make a difference in the future, not identifying ALL the factors can continue to leave you vulnerable when you unknowingly repeat the same things. But really knowing your mite levels (by using a regular monitoring program) gives you a way to judge if they are likely to be the main cause, or not.

So may I suggest two things to consider for the next season: 1) do regular mite monitoring. I happen to find sticky boards useful and extremely easy to use. I do 72-hour checks at least once per week, and that gives me a very good idea of what's happening with the mites. It doesn't force any action (so it's compatible with TF beekeeping, as well as for a beeekeeper who treats. If you need some tips on how to integrate it into your routine, I'd be glad to describe what I do.

The second thing I have found useful is having shavings-filled quilt boxes on top of each of my hives. These are easy, inexpensive tools for managing moisture within the hive during winter, and are surprisingly heat retentive. I had assumed that they would just function as moisture-regulating tools, but they also seem to have provided my bees with a cozy place to go. I, too, have sugar bricks in my hive (just below the quilt boxes) and on every day that isn't totally frigid my bees moved up into the space around the bricks to hang out (literally in festoons from the bottom of the quilt box), munch sugar bricks and stretch their legs.

I am north of you, somewhat north of Albany, NY and our winter has been awful, too. Cold, but more importantly I think, an extra 5-7 weeks of deep winter cold since it started so eerly and seems determined to hang on as long as possible. I've been promising my girls that the end of winter is near, but then we go back to frigid, again. I had minus 10 again last night.

I hope you will not interpret my suggestions (which are aimed at next summer/winter, not the past) as things you ought to have done, as I know you must feel pretty bummed by losing your bees. It seems to me that you did what you knew to do (leaving honey, adding sugar bricks, insulating top, etc.) And your bees did better than mine, which scarely made 2 deeps apiece, and one had only a single deep, so it seems your bees prospered under your care. But I'm making my suggestions in the hope they might be of some use to you in thinking through what you're going to do with your new bees (and all that lovely drawn comb - your new bees will be very lucky bugs!)

Enj.
 

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I lost my hive this year also and I thought it was due to mites. I thought I did all the right things such as putting two inches of newspapers above for moisture and gave them a candy board I did not wrap my hive. My plan for next year is to be diligent about the mite monitoring I would like to have you describe your mite monitoring routine so I can incorporate it with my new bees this spring. One thing I did do was order a nuc of carnolians that we're raised here in CT I read they were more mite tolerant and being how they will have survived this past winter my chances for success will have increased.
 

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I would start by taking the hive apart and find the cluster. being your first year it may be hard to tell, but how large was it? where was the cluster located in regard to the available
honey? was there sealed brood located within the cluster? If the cluster was to small or located at the top of a box or at the inner cover, the cold will sometimes stop them from moving to available honey. If there is sealed brood located within the cluster many times the bees won't leave the brood and can't expand the cluster far enough to get to honey and
starve. Other signs to look for are old queen cells that haven't been torn down, this would indicate that the hive swarmed late and may not have had enough bees and/or a queen.
Was there ice or water in the hive, ventilation problem, unless the bottom box is full of snow or ice, then the wind drove the snow into the bottom box and the bees froze.
did you buy all the packages from the same place, down south I assume, when they died all have the same exact symptoms? I have never bought a package, but have seen too many queen problems in packages, so try a couple of local nucs at least to compare against the packages.
good luck
 

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I am too far south to diagnose you problem, but I would suggest you leave the bees as they are until you can get a local beek with experience to take a look at them, he or she will most likely be able to tell you right away what they died of, and how to prevent it.
 

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I sugar dusted a couple times for mites
Inadequate, as I'm sure you realize. It has been an exceptionally hard winter for many of us. Heavily parasitized bees are much more likely to fail under that sort of pressure.

My plan for next year is to be diligent about the mite monitoring
Always a good idea.

Good luck to you both.
 

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David, I sugar dusted a couple of times and that was about the extent of it
According to a UF seminar I went to last week, sugar dusting is the least effective mite control method, and the PHD giving the seminar recommended saving the sugar for baking. He said you couldn’t save your hives by dusting.

I sure am sorry for your loss, I know how I would feel. Chin up, dig in and try again. As for mites, I've tried Dusting, Oils, FGMO and my hives still declined in late summer, I started mite drop counts and they were 4+ times the daily limit warnings of 60, so I treated. Saved my hives, all 6 made it thru the winter, thou I don't have anything like the winter you had.

Good luck.
 

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So besides the obvious mite control monitoring, you should also check for brood in the fall. You might have had a queen issue and never realized it.
 

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Look for dead mites on the bottom board. Look for Varroa feces in the brood cells(little white specs). Look to see if the cluster is in contact with stores. Look to see if they were stuck on brood and wouldn't move. Look to see if they ran out of food altogether. Look to see if there was too much condensation (this is time sensitive as they will dry out, of course). Sometimes you see a large ball of ice at the top of the hive if you get there before it thaws.

Often there is a reason. Sometimes it's just the bitter cold and poor decisions by the bees. Or Southern bred queens. I don't see very many packages make it the first year. If they make the first year they have a pretty good shot after that...
 

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I have been through countless dead hives over the past few weeks. I too am a Pennsylvania beekeeper. the extremely cold winter has had a hand in colony losses, However, in every case of loss mites have at the minimum played a roll in the loss. poor management, be it through technique, timing, or execution are in reality the culprit. inadequate mite treatment, and treatment with timing that is not consistent to wintering parameters within your specific geographic region tend to be the major cause of bee loses as a result of mite related stress.
basically a beekeeper in Alaska cannot follow the same regiment as a beekeeper in Florida and expect the same results.
Mite loads MUST be reduces and maintained at a level that allows the bees to recover from the stress of a mite load well before the onset of winter. every bee at less than 100% fitness reduces the overwintering ability of the colony. For years we have known that numbers increase the viability of overwintering bees. as each less then fit bee gives it's last to maintain heat within the cluster The individual loss created an exponential decay that will ultimately lead to inadequate numbers to allow the colony to survive.

You can wrap, feed, insulate till the cows come home, and it will not save a colony carrying the bullets of demise left behind by poor health.

The beat time to prepare your bees for winter is the first day of spring, and every day thereafter.
 

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Assuming it's mites is not very useful. Assumptions are often wrong. Looking for mites is logical. It's a very real possibility that was the cause. However, it is not a forgone conclusion. Assuming they starved is just as foolish. Look to see if they starved. See if the cluster was out of contact with stores (which will cause them to starve) or if they are out of stores (which obviously will cause them to starve). Condensation is often the cause of their death. Bees cannot keep themselves warm when it is bitter cold and they are wet. Sometimes you can't find any reason. Sometimes there are no dead mites, no feces in the brood cells, plenty of food, and they are in contact with it...
 

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Assuming it's mites is not very useful.
Ignoring the prospect is even less useful. I don't automatically assume that mites were the direct cause but I always assume that they entered the equation.
 

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I have never had a package survive. That's why I stopped using them. Those bees have normally been through the wringer before you get them. Local nucs are best in my opinion if you are going to purchase bees. Packages are usually pretty stressed when you get them, at least in my part of the world they tend to be left over from the almond fields.
 

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>Ignoring the prospect is even less useful.

As I said in that same post:
"Looking for mites is logical. It's a very real possibility that was the cause."

I always look for evidence of Varroa in a deadout and always recommend looking for evidence of Varroa in a deadout.
 

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I always look for evidence of Varroa in a deadout and always recommend looking for evidence of Varroa in a deadout.
Where we differ, I believe, is I highly recommend an objective testing method while they are alive. I've frequently found deadouts that I knew had high infestations while alive but showed little evidence after the fact.
 

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Last spring I helped a young beekeeper install (3) packages of bees with carniolan queens that he had ordered from California. I mentored him about feeding the bees until they had drawn out the starter frames and became established. His bees flourished all summer and we harvested a medium super from each hives. One colony made an additional box of honey that we left on them in case we needed some extra feed this spring. Last week I inspected those bees with him and they are all very strong. We did not use any type of treatment on his bees. I'm assuming we'll be making some splits on those colonies next month. Yes bees die and yes lots of bees prosper. Who knows if they will make it through next winter.
 
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