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My strongest colony just died after 48hrs of snow in north Idaho. 2 deep 10 frame supers. The entrance was covered in snow. I had an entrance reducer on made of wood. There is no top entrance. The supers are chock full of honey so they didn’t starve. Did I let my bees suffocate under the snow? Should I have had an upper entrance? Newbie here and my heart is broken.
 

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What makes you think they are dead? Did you open the box to examine the cluster, or are they just quiet and not flying? (Opening the box to check, probably wasn't a good idea, but not likely lethal all by itself, if you did that.)

It's often said that a colony isn't dead, unless it's warm and dead. So perhaps all is not lost..

It's possible, but unlikely, the snow covered entrance killed them. There is still likely some air flow through the hive via the notch in the rim of the inner cover (though it can be blocked by the telescoping cover's overhang).

If your colony is truly gone, unfortunately the most likely precipitating cause were uncontrolled varroa mites and viruses they vector into the colony. What were your mite counts and the treatment history over the last five months, or so.

Nothing eases the chagrin and dismay of losing a hive, but learning why you lost it will help avoid the same outcome next year.

Nancy (Enjambres)

If you can provide more details that may help figure out what went wrong.
 

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I've had yards of bees buried completely in snow with no issues. If anything the snow insulates them better. If condensation is you issue you should check soon to see if the inside of the hive is soaking wet. Sounds like starvation wasn't the problem. So the next big issue is varroa mites. Did u treat for them?
 

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You might be able to detect faint cluster roar with the proper use of a decent stethoscope.

It takes some practice, but after some experience with it you'll be able to tell dead or alive with near 100% certainty.

This avoids having to break the propolis loose from the covers, but that's not necessarily the end of the world, and hives can be inspected in the winter if one is half-way careful on how they go about it.

Bottom line is it doesn't really make too much difference this time of year because there's not much you can or even need do about it one way or the other.

If you do find a deadout, do a mite wash with alcohol on the frozen cluster just for grins.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for all the replies. Yes, they are all dead. Varroa, slim to none. Our winter has been very mild with most nighttime lows in the 30’s. No upper entrance. The more I read the more it seems an upper entrance is necessary for ventilation to prevent moisture buildup. My intention this summer was to build a shelter over them to just keep all the rain and snow off of them. Too many other projects and simply couldn’t get to it before the weather changed. This colony was able to completely fill out both supers even though we had an extremely short season. It did not stop raining and being cold and gloomy until July 1st. Then we got our 1st snow early in October to shut off all nectar flow. I would love the community opinions on building shelter over the hives, upper entrance for ventilation, weather or not I should have had an entrance reducer, and finally Apimaye plastic hives. Thank you all for your input. Tim.
 

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Moisture build up will quickly kill a colony when they are in winter cluster.

When the temperature and humidity are right the warm moist air rising of the cluster can condensate on the underside of the inner cover.

That icy cold condensation then drips back down onto the cluster, which is helpless to move away because they are tight cluster, and the cold water freezes them to death.

Evidence that this has occurred can be a wet mushy cluster of dead bees, a lot of dampness on the frames around and immediately above the cluster, and a soaking wet and possibly moldy underside to the bottom board.

This is usually not an issue for a colony in a tree hollow, but in a Langstroth hive it will happen quickly under the right conditions.

The preventative measure for this does include having a least a little ventillation at the top, (it doesn't take much), and making sure the top of the hive is well insulated so that any moisture in the hive will condensate on the inside walls and drip harmlessly down and out the bottom entrance (assuming you have the hive tilting slightly down in the front).

It's mild here in alabama, but on many winter mornings i can see water running out of my front entrances, and seeing that always brings a smile to my face.
 

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Being completey buried in snow keep the outside temp of the hive right at 32 degrees, and this actually makes it easier for the hive to keep warm compared to having air at sub freezing temps and or 'wind chill' in play.

jmho, but my recommendation is entrance facing south and east and getting sun during the day, a good wind break to the north and west, top only insulation, and a little venting at the top.
 

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No reason to treat.
Especially if it is your intent to purchase bees every year. The Apimaye hive is a good hive with a lot of cool features. It is not the reason the bees in it are still alive.
 

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Sometimes they just die I have heard.
I have 3 hives. Our weather is really wonky here in MA. I can faintly hear one hive but not the other 2 hives, even when I lifted the lid of the quilt box.
I won't bother taking it apart till Spring since Maybe just maybe they are so grouped together and small that they may be alive.

Just wait till Spring and then open it to see what it looks like. I too was thinking of putting a roof and 4 posts over the hives, but more for me ;)
 

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No reason to treat.
If you are certain it wasn't mites or viruses (which most of the time it is), queen failure is usually the problem. Of course bees cant requeen in the winter so if the queen is poorly mated, a drone layer, old or in poor condition the hive will fail. Check the brood when inspecting the dead out.
 

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I am next door to you, Northeatern WA. I do have upper entrances, but am fairly certain that your colonies did not die simply due to the entrance being blocked a short time with snow. As others have stated, in some locations, the hives are completely buried under snow for a good length of time, and the bees survive.

You are going to hear from lots of folks that Varroa is the most likely cause of your loss. With the information given, I agree that is the most reasonable conclusion. If you let us know what actions you took to verify and when, we might be able to either firm that up or eliminate that as the cause. Pictures of the combs might help as well.

The fact that there is a surviving (so far) colony next to it doesn't add any particular light to why this colony died.
 

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Just wait till Spring and then open it to see what it looks like. I too was thinking of putting a roof and 4 posts over the hives, but more for me ;)
Don't wait, the sooner you clean up dead hives the better. If you dont brush and knock out most of the dead bees they get damp, moldy, and begin to decay.
 
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