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We had 50 degrees on Sunday, so I peeked in my hives. It looks like 5 of my eight hives are dead. I am not really surprised, as we had such a lousy summer and fall last year. There was no fall flow for them to store for winter. I fed them all throughout October and into November to get them packing down syrup as much as possible. Pollen stores looked good. They were still light, but I ran out of time to feed more. I added sugar on top for the winter and hoped for the best.

At this point, with 5 hives most likely dead and only 3 alive, what can I do to get them to build up strong? I have queens on order for April, May and June. I would like to be able to start the hives with them and use some frames of brood from my survivors when they arrive. I also need to harvest some honey as I have a contract to fulfill. I will probably have lots of frames with partial honey left from the dead-outs that I can feed back to the survivors, but it's too early for this around here. Is there anything else I can do now, or in February or March, to get them to built strong populations so I can take a frame or two come April? I appreciate any feedback you may have.
 

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Unclear - were your dead-outs because you had a bad flow last year and they didn't store extra reserves plus they didn't take enough feed? You're hoping to feed some of this honey back (or did they starve) or extract it and sell to customers?
 

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Marc

sounds like you counted your chick before they hatched ???
dont worry it happens - ive lost a lot this winter and its not over yet - here in washington my biggest fear is the darn weather - its warm mid 50's and the bees are very active and this is in my opion bad! because they are using more stored honey then they are bringing in so i have to feed more - but they are bringing in pollen too- but we could have a hard freeze in feb or march and could kill brood that the queen has started??? its very tricky

but feed your bees pollon patties and dry sugar to try and get them back up to par
your customers are just going to have to wait -
its help your bees .....then your customers .....without the bees you dont have costomers !!!!!!
concentrate on getting ONE strong hive by april .... then spilt and try that
 

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Stimulating the survivors with syrup and pollen can get you ahead a little but you won't recover and have 8 strong for production.

Best way to recover quickly

Purchase nucs or packages and feed them syrup and pollen to fill in for the rainy and/or cool days till strong.

You could always purchase honey from another beek to fill your contract and use your queens and survivors to build up for 2011
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I appreciate your feedback. To be clear, I am not worried about not getting back up to 8 or more hives by the end of this year. The tricky part will be keeping my current hives strong enough to make a decent honey crop and get some surplus bees to start replacement hives.

Not sure what chickens you refer to, concrete-bees, I definitely didn't count any last fall. Like I said, I was not very hopeful that all my hives would make it, that's why I kept two nucs in reserve. As it turns out they are among the survivors.

I think I lost so many hives because of how light they were in late fall. They started out with normal stores in early September, but then started to got through them towards the end of September to raise brood. By the beginning of October several hives had almost no reserves left, while the rest was really too light to make it. They took down lots of syrup, but I think they and I ran out of time before the cold weather set in in November. Once we have a decent day with upper 50's temperatures I will check the dead-outs for any remaining frames of honey and give it to the survivors for them to use.

I think what I will do is not rush anything right now. I will keep an eye on the survivors and make sure they have enough stores to make it to the maple bloom. Once there I can always use the weakest hive and split it into nucs for my new queens while keeping the old queen going strong with the field force and some nurse bees. Basically follow Mike Palmer's model of using your weakest hives for increase, except I would do it in spring rather than fall. I'll see how this will work out, it's definitely a learning experience.
 

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Since you have a contract to fulfill, I would recommend getting some nucs on order asap or be prepared to default and suffer the consequences, however mild or severe they may be. It's only the end of Jan...and here, we have a whole lotta crappy weather yet to come...and March/April is when we lose the most of what we will lose...
 

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That stinks. It was a poor season here too. My bees did not get strong reserves put up in the Fall and I even made sure to feed until the freezes started. After that I put a 2-inch empty boxes on all of my hives and nucs. I put a sheet of newspaper on there and at least 5 pounds of sugar on top of that. They're already going after that and I've refilled those who looked like they needed it. Knock on wood, everyone is still alive (9 double deeps, and 6 5-frame nucs). I'm not saying they'll all make it but more will than otherwise because of the Mountaincamp dry sugar feeding method.

If I was in your shoes I would put some sugar or any left over honey (from the dead outs) on the survivors now before they perish too. To me sugar is cheaper in time and effort than packages or replacement nucs
 

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some worries with this was the hives weak befor winter you know mites etc... and that helped atribute to the hives demise? or was it just lack of food? I am sorry to hear of a loss to any beek. I would be pouring on the sugar and pollen patties hard now to ramp your remaining hives. And again sorry for the loss. and as for concret said I am worried about the weather in the PNW its been in the 50's and nice my bees are very active and I would hate for a snap freeze to hit and kill brood.
 
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