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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Here on the Eastern Shore we have had a very atypical cold spell in both length and severity. Our cold snap had a nice pause if not end yesterday. Since we got up to around 58° I decided to peek into both of my hives. I was surprised there was no activity at the entrance thinking that they should have at least been doing cleansing flights. Once I got inside it was obvious why. All the bees were clustered around the 8th frame, most tail-up in cells getting that last bit of honey. There was plenty of honey in both hives but I guess it was just too cold for them to move to it.

So now it is time for damage control. I am building 4 new hives right now and had ordered 4 packages (Wilbanks) through a local beekeeper for them. They should arrive the first weekend in April. That leaves me two short. I've got an email out to him to see if I can bump it up to 6. I have another email out to VP Queens to see if I can get some of their cold-hardy bees as a package or considering my situation, how I can incorporate their stock, which has other fine traits I'm told, into my hives.

I think I am most concerned with the empty hives right now. One has a completely full super on and both have honey in the hive bodies. I don't want pests to go in unchallenged when the weather breaks. I was going to get an extractor this spring but should I purchase one now and extract the one super?

I'd appreciate any ideas on how to deal with this.
 

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I don't typically extract honey from my cold starved hives after they die out. I give them back to new colonies in the spring. When I lose a colony completely in the winter, I just block the entrance with a flipped over reducer or with any correctly sized piece of wood. That's about it. It stays until early spring and then I clean it out to prepare for a new package. If the woodenware needs to be fixed up then I clean out the frames outside, bring the rest in and get to work. With our cold weather, I don't worry about wax moths if the colony dies off in the winter. Most of us would consider using the honey from a dead out to feed to other colonies which you can't at this point but that would be good advice for the future. I hate cold starved dead outs!
 

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Ravenseye answered the question you asked, but that is not your main problem. Those colonies should not have crashed from cold weather. The cluster size dissipated for other reasons. Could have died in early Dec.

To prevent a similar demise of the four new starters, review your mite management program for effectivness.

Walt W
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you both. The culster sizes were smaller than I would have expected though really having nothing to compare to. I am doing drone frames and now small cell foundation. This past year we did powdered sugar treatments as well and I think we were on top of things by drop counts. They still could have had a population explosion we didn't catch so I will try to observe better from here on out.

It was my first year and I expect mistakes but I will never lose hope.
 

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Just my opinion but as someone who has purchased 100's of packages and made a couple thousand Nucs over the past couple of decades if you really want be successful in beekeeping start with 4 or 5 frame nucs. Producing your own nucs is the best and safest way to go because you know your stock or can choose your stock and start with clean, disease free equipment. Next would be to find a reputable nuc breeder who stands behind their nucs and buy that way. Packages are always a roll of the dice, especially on foundation. A little bad weather at the wrong time and they don't have enough to build up a good hive "Organism" by the end of the season. Good 4 and 5 frame nucs will take about 4 weeks to build up and execept in the worst of seasons give you a solid crop the 1st. year. If you get a crop the 1st year, and we do out of 95% of nucs we make for our opertaion, this makes losing a nuc here and there less of financial impact.

If you do start packages, and for me they were always part of the thrill of the hobby aspect of beekeeping, we found starting them a little later is a lot better than starting them earlier. We started Packages typically the 2nd/3rd week in April while day and night temps still were cool and often cold. Package bees are decreasing in population the 1st. 21 days and often past that due to the small brood nest area dicated by package limitations. Unless you have a large cluster, which you won't with a 2 or 3 lb. package, your brood nest will be limited sometimes for 2 or even into 3 brood cycles. In packages you also don't get the proper division of labor due to castes as you do in a nuc which can greatly impact growth. Additionally bees need some consistenly warm temps, even if only during the day, to aggressively build comb and have pollen and nectar to really stimulate brood building. This can be offset somewhat with supplements but there is nothing like nectar flow to kick things into high gear. We found Packages we started the 1st. week of May consistently did better than ones we started the middle of April. Something else we did was to catch swarms and start them on foundation (to prevent possible AFB), over an existing hive seperated by a 2 queen board and then combine them later making an instant 2 queen unit. Pretty much insures a strong hive, good production and plenty of stores for winter the 1st. year. I'm with Raven on the honey, if you know your hives are disease free feed it to the new hives and look at it as an investment in a great season.

Keep in mind when thinking about our package methodolgy we are in the Fingerlakes Region of Upstate NY and adjust your thinking to your climate.

We All have losses and they are painful, espcially when you run a few and can't replace them without a big investment. You sound like you have the right attitude, on to the next effort and learn from the past. That "sting" once you get into the new season and your new kids are out working on a sunny day will pass so enjoy!
 

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"Hope" keeps alot of beekeepers going :)

If your mites were under control, a too-small cluster can occur from other reason also, like improrper build-up because of poor queen, too small area for brood nest, of lack of proper "natural" food source.
 

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Sometimes a colony will just not make it. For me, it's often an issue with the queen. I'm not great at noticing a problem queen until it's late in the season. It's always good to reflect on what might have caused the dead colony.
 

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2ndcharter, I'd be inclined to stack all the equipment in one stack, seal the stack after putting some moth crystals on it. Then a few days before my packages arrive, I'd lay the stack down on the side, remove top and bottom seal, put a box fan up against the end of the stack, and air it out real good for a couple of days. Then install the bees. You got nature's best feed right there, waiting to raise some new bees for you.
Good luck!
Steven
 

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I did a look at mine the other day and it looks like a lot of them came up on the top of the inner cover and there is a pile of dead bee's. I did however see some still moving in the hive but I think by end of winter both colonies will be dead.
 

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Bothering bees in the winter is not a good idea.
Cause beekeeping is intensely localized I have no clue how cold it gets at your place? Because I feel for all this beautiful winged God's creatures, I will give you some ideas that might save them, if it is still time?

Bees could be on top of inner cover, cause they were disturbed or most likely they are hungry? When they are on top it don't matter how much food is below, they will not go down.
Everybody should have at hand a few shims. This are small frames, the size of the hive. I make mine 3" wide/high. 3 inches is the difference between standard super and a 2/3 one. So it can be used, in a pinch, to convert 2/3 hive back to standard deep.
But anything from 1 inch to 3 will do. Put this shim on top your top box, remove the inner cover of course. Lay some newspaper on the frames and give them some fondant or dry sugar. This is ofcourse emergency food and is not some or some-body's latest invention...
On this, put your inner-cover and on this put a piece of homasote and insulation, to keep the place warm and to prevent the condensation. (On top of inner cover should be only a bee space. So that the air does not escape through the centre hole which is meant to be for feeding purposes and not for ventilation. If air escapes through this centre hole than the draft will go through the cluster and they will be uncomfortable and if moisture is present, that will be the end. (This centre hole should not went even in summer cause even than it will be drafty through the center of the hive and bees must work hard to keep such place warm!
Also if there is nothing on top of the inner cover there is too much cold space and those bees that come on top, when it worms up, will usualy stay there and die, cause they can't get back to the cluster when the cold strikes.
In the rim of your inner cover you should also cut a slot, about 1/4 inch by about two. This gives the bees a chance to get out at the top where is warm. Without this top entrance they have to crawl all the way down and out. Believe you me, that most bees don't even make it out to the bottom, cause the bottom is where it is most cold. Those that make it out most surely don't make it back up to the cluster. This you can see in spring when dead bees are stuck in cells all over the bottom frames? They crawled in to keep warm and get some food cause they know that they won't make it home to their sisters in a warm cluster.
Another important function of upper entrance is that it vents to the outside the humidity and watter vapour.

But if you do nothing else, make sure that there is something above the inner cover - not just drafty outer cover.

Good luck to you and I sincerely hope that they make it...

Regards,
France


I did a look at mine the other day and it looks like a lot of them came up on the top of the inner cover and there is a pile of dead bee's. I did however see some still moving in the hive but I think by end of winter both colonies will be dead.
 

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I am very curious about the cause of the die out. Simple starvation could certainly be the answer and I am curious that no other causes /pathogens were mentioned. Do you know that your hives were not weakened by tracheal mites? Is there any evidence of Nosema. Have you taken a sample of bees and looked at the trachea or guts under a microsope to determine the trachea mite or nosema spore load (ceranae or apis)? Do you know what your mite load was, going into late fall? The understanding that I have is: "buried in the cells" could be that starvation is a symptom and not the root cause, especially with plenty of stores. I realize that it does happen and I am wondering if there may be other factors at work?
The latest info from the Genome study is evidence of a ribosome compromise from picorna-like viruses that are carried by the Varroa mite. This appears to be a significant contributor to the high pathogen load. Studies continue and more data is always useful even if it is anecdotal. I am not trying to offend, I am just very curious.
Richard
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I did a complete inventory of all the frames in both hives today and cleaned out all the dead bees, though there weren't really as many as I had anticipated. Here are the results of the inventory/inspection:

2010-04-01 Hive Inspection

When I battened down the hatches after the die-out, I removed the small scraps of wood I was using to vent out the outer cover. The hive with the super on it was damp inside and had a sweet/sour type smell. There was no evidence of wax moths or SHB in either, living or dead.

I am receiving new packages next Sunday. I am looking for advice on how to proceed, what I should leave on and what I should remove based on the details you find in the document above.
 

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I don't see enough evidence to stop you from just doing a basic cleanup and then hiving your new packages directly into your hives. Sort out the frames with capped honey and divide them evenly between both hives. The sweet/sour smell is typical for a deadout. It shouldn't be overly strong though...just noticeable. Any extra frames of honey should be held back and fed later. Don't be tempted to put another box on top just to hold partial frames of honey. You should feed to kick start them, even though you do have comb. I would also feed 1:1 that's been spiked with Fumagillin as a safeguard against Nosema. I have a thing about Nosema and packages and package queens.
 
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