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The polar vortex has come and gone, so I took advantage of the warmer weather to do a quick check of my hives. I have two near-identical hives (queens are mother & daughter), side-by-side on a stand behind a windbreak. Both have south exposure (although its been cloudy today), are wrapped in tar paper + foiled bubble wrap, and have vilvaldi boards on top. I treated for mites with MAQS mid-September and had <1% miteload after treatment, and also did an OAD treatment mid-December (I didn't do counts before/after this treatment). Both hives had strong populations and good stores going into winter. Up to this point both hives have behaved the same - to the extent that I can tell by looking at the sugar stores in the vilvaldi board and looking through the hole in the Vilvaldi board into the hive body.

When I went out today there was a handful of dead bees in front of Freyja's (the mother) hive, whereas there must have been close to a hundred in front of Gersemi's (the daughter) hive. They were not there when I checked last night, when it was still well below freezing, meaning all of those dead bees appeared in the last 24 hours. Because it was just above freezing I limited my "inspection" to lifting the telescoping cover and burlap, and peering in through the hole in the vilvaldi board. The good news is that both hives had living bees visible just below the vilvaldi board, and both hives have barely touched their sugar - so I don't think they are starving, and both hives still have live bees in them. During this brief "inspection", two bees left the Gersemi hive on what I think was supposed to be a cleansing flight...neither returned, and it was well below the temperature where they should be flying. No bees came out of the Frejya hive, even though there were a number hanging out near the top entrance.

Why are the bees from one hive "cleansing" when its too cold for them? Is there something I've done that is causing it &/or is there something I can do to prevent it? Or is this normal?

Thanks
 

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it must have gotten just warm enough for your bees to break from tight cluster and do a little housekeeping. the bees you saw on the ground likely represent the normal attrition due to aging since the last time it was warm enough to perform undertaker duty.

it could be that that the hive with more dead out in front is actually stronger and was able to afford to turn more bees loose for the clean up.

the two that flew away were likely old bees that self removed from the hive.
 

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I agree with Squarepeg. That's likely the right answer. I wouldn't worry about 100 or so bees dead outside the hive. If the number grows substantially beyond that--hundreds or a thousand--then there might be a problem. But this sounds like normal operation.
 

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While the lower 48 had low temps, We in Alaska had warm temps :)
I watch my bees allot and when It warms I run up to the hives in hopes of catching a cleansing flight. We usually don't get any until Mid to late April.

I noticed bees in the snow and bees coming out on the face, doing an orientation flight and then turn and go upside down and dive into the snow.

So I spread stove ashes from my wood stove to see if it was vertigo from the white snow and sure enough, it worked ! the bees were able to fly away from the hive and circle up and zoom away, just like it was summer and like were gong in search of nectar. Of course they never returned, its still too cold for any flight away from the hive.

So I determined they are flying away to die away from the hive, most don't make it far. I have never witnessed the morgue bees carry the dead out in winter so this must be how they prefer to die away from the hive.

As a side not last spring when I started to feed liquid feed again they stopped dying in the snow , but we also had a bit warmer temps as well.





 

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While the lower 48 had low temps, We in Alaska had warm temps :)
yukonjeff,

Do realize that being in Alaskan' latitudes, you get the sun positions messing the bee logic vs. the lower 48 states.
The light day length up North goes from very short (or none) - to rather long very quickly.
You see, your bees do not know they are in Alaska - but they do know what the sunny time length tells them - it is spring and act accordingly (even though the temps are too cold for them).

Historically, bees are not supposed to even be in Alaska (not one their own, in any case).
Natural bee latitudes end somewhere in Sourthen Canada - for the most Nothern AMM wild populations.

Of course, AMM/Russian sourced bees are best for Alaskan locations.
At least they have the more correct instincts for the location (don't brood too early in winter, etc, etc).
To be considered.

PS: I did double-check the latitudes of Alaska and Eurasia.
The most Northern bee locations in Eurasia can be found at the latitudes compatible to the Southern Alaskan latitudes.
BUT - those are well adapted local AMM populations that know where they are and behave accordingly.
 

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Yes, I figured this place is not their natural habitat. I believe I am the western most beekeeper in North America, I am at 62 N and 163.7 W. Fairbanks is north of me yet, and I know their is beekeepers there. Not sure if any successfully winter or not.

I tried Russians twice, and was not impressed. My best survivor hive is a California package queen so far ,but also had good luck with east coast queens too.
Hoping they make it another couple of months, once I can feed sugar syrup they should be ok.
 

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I tried Russians twice, and was not impressed. .
Will you provide some details?
Just curious of the technical observations and the sources of those "Russians".

This Alaskan beekeeper says the Russians did well for him:
I have used many, many different strains of honey bees and at present I have settled on using strictly the USDA Russian strain obtained in eastern Asia in the location of the Primorsky region. In my own personal observation it has performed well if not the best in my apiaries.
http://alaskahoneybee.com/dev/alaska-winter-bees/about-me/
 

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.Of course, AMM/Russian sourced bees are best for Alaskan locations.
That makes me giggle given the "Russian" stock in the US was developed in Louisiana and most members of the Russian Honey Bee Breeders’ Association are in southern states.
last importation was 17 years ago, one assumes 17 years of section in a southern climate would have negative effects on many lines overwintering traits in the cold north as it wasn't be selected for.
in the linked article the author is talking about bees bought in 2003, much closer to the importation dates and just 2 year after the full release of the stock. They were likey more true to the OG stock they were based on and could give a reason for jeff's different experience
 

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That makes me giggle given the "Russian" stock in the US was developed in Louisiana and most members of the Russian Honey Bee Breeders’ Association are in southern states.....
I repeatedly kicked this exact fact more than once on the BS.
Russian bees and subtropical Louisiana are two things not really compatible (not for long).
Washington Island on Lake Michigan should have been the place.

However, don't they still sell "USDA approved" (whatever is the correct term) lines of those bees?
That, pretty much best you can do and yet they are still different from the so-called "Italians".
You do what you can with what you have.

Well, hey, I do have a pretty good "northern line" - no idea what they are and no matter.
I think I will be propagating these three units like crazy this coming summer.
Really like how they are wintering for me.
 

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I would think that, at this time of year in a location with freezing temperatures, the bees would be better off left alone.
You don't need to worry about wax moths, shb, or any other pests getting in there because of the cold.
Maybe you could hoist the rear of the hive a little to check for weight. Otherwise, leave them alone.
 

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Will you provide some details?
Just curious of the technical observations and the sources of those "Russians".

This Alaskan beekeeper says the Russians did well for him:

http://alaskahoneybee.com/dev/alaska-winter-bees/about-me/
I bought my first package and hybrid Russian queen from the link you posted. came from California, He suggested I go treatment free and feed honey.
I could only afford to feed sugar and didn't treat, That hive swarmed three weeks after package install.( I caught the swarm) She shut down from a brief dearth we get between spring berry flow and the Fireweed flow, and never built up. The hive died by Christmas.

The next year ordered a Russian queen from the mid west and made up a Nuc I stopped feeding with plenty of stores mid summer and she shut down as well.( Due to bad weather I think) And didn't make it through the winter. (I treated)

As a new beekeeper I take the blame, but that said, the last trait I need is one that shuts down laying in the middle of our short summers.
For other folks they could be just fine.
 

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I would think that, at this time of year in a location with freezing temperatures, the bees would be better off left alone.
You don't need to worry about wax moths, shb, or any other pests getting in there because of the cold.
Maybe you could hoist the rear of the hive a little to check for weight. Otherwise, leave them alone.
I found out cold don't hurt bees, I have opened hives at -10 F that did just fine. Just to add sugar bricks of course.
I had one hive last year go through their sugar brick and starve because I didn't check. I now check each month starting in December and add sugar. was stupid to lose a hive like that,that almost made it. I still hate myself for that one.
 

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When wintering bees in northern latitudes a good thing is overwinter hives in the shade or with a board infrobt of the hive entrance so no direct sunlight is coming through the entrance. Hives wintered this way are usually stronger once spring is really starting. No loss of bees during sunny days in february and march.
 
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