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This is my first winter and I started out with two hives, one strong, and one weak, (that I was sure would die). The strong hive died with lots of honey stores in the top and sides, I suspect cold starvation, but don't know. I treated for mites with powdered sugar, but still had some. The dead hive has a little mold on a few frames and lots of bees dead nose into the cells. We had a wicked cold snap early on and I think thats what happened. I don't think I left enough brood space for the strong hive, (live and learn).

The weaker hive had almost no honey stores, but was fed heavily for a month before it got too cold. That hive is still alive, but the only day we hit 50 degrees and I opened up the hive, there were many bees on the top of the inner cover. I put some dry granulated sugar on the top board, but at the time didn't put any frames of honey in.

We have chilled down and it might be weeks before I see 50 degrees again. I have lots of honey I could place in there from the dead hive, but am unsure what my next move should be. Do I need to hold from opening the hive again to put more sugar on the top board until we warm up? When we do warm up, I worry about chilling the hive too much by taking off the inner cover to put frames of honey in. Would it hurt to just put a super of honey on top of the inner cover, put another inner cover on top and close it up?

I welcome any advice. This is my first year of doing this and I could use some guidance. I have several packages ordered and won't lose sleep if the second hive dies out, but would like to help it if I can.

Rob
 

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I guess what I would do is pop the inner cover off and put a super of the dead colony's honey on it and then replace the inner cover.I would trim off any burr comb off the bottoms of the frames before I put it on (to keep from squishing any bees).Then run some duct tape or something around the hive and super to help seal any cracks between them.Good Luck
 

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I have heard it said many times that cold does not kill bees and I believe that. That being said, if the bees did not have the right layout of stores and the ability to get to them, then they could have died of starvation even with lots of honey. There could have been excess moisture in the hive which dripped on the cluster and killed it. There are also a bunch of other things that could have caused what was a "strong" hive to die off.

You should look into the mountain camp method of feeding. Search for the threads. You do not need to expose the bees to the cold. Just get food on them NOW! If you break the seal between the inner cover the top super, you should then be able to slide a piece of newspaper in between the two. Cover all but the last 10th of the top of the super with the sheet. Once on, pull the inner cover off, put an empty super on top of the paper and dump in sugar on top of the paper. You can mist it with water if you want. Put the inner cover on top and then the outer cover. Do the search for more details but the beauty of this method is the bees don't need to break cluster to get to the food.

You can also try to pull the full honey stores from the dead hive. The advantage is you're feeding them honey. The disadvantage is that it won't absorb excess moisture like the sugar will.
 

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With all due respect, Rob, don't wait for a warmer day. Do it now. On a rather still day (little wind), sun helps. Take everything you'll need, set it next to the hive: an empty super, spray bottle with water, 5# bag of granulated cane sugar, sheet of newspaper. Open the bag of sugar.

Spray some water on the newspaper, keeps it from blowing around. Then pop the top off the hive, stick on the super, lay the newspaper down. Spray a bit more if you want to get it nice and damp/wet. Pour on the sugar, spray the mound of sugar. Tear off one end of the paper to make it easier for the bees to get the sugar. Replace lid. You've done it faster than I've explained it. They will not have lost enough heat in the cluster to hurt them, and you just might have prevented starvation, compared to waiting for a warmer day.
Regards,
Steven
 

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Personal opinion here, but I wouldn't spray the sugar too much. Maybe just the leading edge since that's where the bees will start in on it. One of the big benefits is that the sugar will absorb excess moisture in the hive. Wet it too much and you diminish that ability. From what you say that there was mold down by the dead bees, it sounds like you may have had too much moisture dripping on the cluster. Your hives are tilted forward at least 1/4 bubble on a level, right?

On another note, add the sugar NOW! Don't wait for a calm day. Don't wait for a warm day.
 

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I live in a similar climate to yours. I don't think that we have hives die from cold starvation often until they start brooding up. As long as days get into the 40's I think that the cluster can move.

The problem comes when they find a small patch of honey, lay a patch of brood, we get a cold snap and most of the cluster moves leaving some bees on the brood (to die). If this happens a few times, they lose population and can't warm the cluster and keep moisture moving. I usually see this when I pull frames from a dead hive and find 3-4 patches of bees and brood in the corners of frames.

This kind of death can occur from this point (mid-January) on. I suspect that most of my hive deaths are still directly or indirectly caused by mites. Starvation deaths will start around now and go until the first of April. So keep vigilant and check your hives. If you have a day with temps into the upper 40's you can slip a few frames of honey in. Just don't break up the cluster.

One other thing that I have done with honey from a dead hive is situate it in a box so that when I add the box to a hive that needs honey, the honey filled frames are right above the cluster. We normally get days when they can move up.
 

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they start moving around in the hive when temps outside temps reach 33 degrees.at least they do in my OBH "observation hive".which i have placed in my unheated shed.so far so good made with july 23, 1 frame eggs 1 frame honey open mated.little to no feeding russian/carnolian egg frame.
 

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I had just posted my description above of what I always thought was death by cold snaps with brood in my area when I turned to page 164 of the February American Bee Journal.

Wow, those pictures are exactly what I was talking about. The article is titled "Mortality in Tracheal-mite-Infected Colonies and the Role of Thermoregulation". So it is possible (probable) that what I am really seeing is tracheal mite death as they dwindle. I have never tested my bees for them.

I normally see a hive or nuc a year die this way. One of the pictures shows honey right next to the dead cluster with the queen. The note below states "Dead bees would typically be scattered over several frames, indicitative of the loose clusters that prevail in tracheal-mite-infested colonies.
 
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