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If I am going to lose a hive, it is going to be in February. I lost another one some time in the past few weeks. It had lots of honey stored, sugar candy, tar paper wrap with a quilt box, closed bottom board but good ventilation, and very few mites. The bees died in a cluster; the marked queen with them. I am wondering about the hardiness of Italian bees. I assumed they should handle weather that has bounced from near zero to mid 50's in several volleys, but the pattern I am seeing is that the Italians don't handle it well. The Russians, however, were very active today.

Anyone else have that experience with Italians?
 

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2 of my Italians are far to active for my liking at this time the year whereas my carni and hybrids are still pretty quiet
 

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23/24 have lived thru -35 on two ocaisions and all my colonies are half to all Italian bloodlines. Some were less than five frame nucs. The queens mostly came from South Carolina and Florida last spring. In another two months I will exhale. I think it is hard to say why they die but mine are well wrapped and have dry sugar on top and now sugar bricks and soon pollen patties. I believe in being a beekeeper and doing everything I can to keep them alive.
 

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Beewhisperer:

I am so sorry you lost a hive. It sounds as if you had gone to some pains to do all you could for them! I know you'd rather have the bees, but now you'll have some nice comb to work with.

Would you mind describing your quilt box design? I have them, too. But I find there is a wide variation (depth, filling, floor, time of application, etc.) in how they are used, so I am collecting info about them. Do you have identical set-ups on all your hives? Thanks!

Enj.
 

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My one Italian hive has huge die offs every year. Last year it pulled through with a small cluster. This year we are still touch and go. So far my carnie hive is looking stronger. I am thinking carnies might be better for the north.
 

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I cannot comment on why your hive died. There are too many factors here and not just by died in a cluster.
I pampered my Italians too much by providing them a small heat pad and feed them pollen patty thru out the
winter. In the Fall I make sure they have plenty of stored honey to over winter with.
Every year I got a small cluster of bees in Feb. but they rebound and built up fast on the early Spring flow.
I read that if they are cold for an extended period of time then the hive will be weaken. Maybe this was what
happened to them. Could it be that the cluster temp. went below 20F longer than usual to weaken the bees? Not sure here.
 

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This year, 2 out of 3 of my Carniolan hives have died. They both made it to mid- February, but had had really small clusters.

My Italian hive is huge (about 10 deep frames of bees), and as of yesterday has a grapefruit sized patch of brood and about 40 lbs of honey stores. It is in a position to start growing like crazy as our weather warms. I just now put it on 1:1 syrup and a Brood Builder patty. If we have a decent Spring and I can keep it from swarming, this hive could potentially pull in around 150 lbs of honey. (Knock on wood)
 

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Hi Bee Whisper
I'm so sorry you lost a hive all ready. I had the same experience with Italians here in Northern California. I checked everything in the hive to determine what might have happened. All I could come up with was that the cold snap suddenly that arrived here killed them. My other hive, which are Carniolans have survived with many stores and are building up for the spring. I do know that they are cold hardy and disease tolerant against some of the bee diseases out there. Perhaps you could try them out, but by from a local dealer since the bees that you will get will be already accustom to your type of terrain, weather and area. All the best.
 

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2 of my Italians are far to active for my liking at this time the year whereas my carni and hybrids are still pretty quiet
I have 3 colonies of Italians. They are wrapped to differing degrees (our low temps are likely not as brutal as Michigan). Last Friday, temperature in high 40's, 2 of the 3 hives were rather active, the third hive, which is wrapped more warmly then the other 2, had no outside activity. I think that that hive did not warm up inside as much as the other 2, so the bees did not break cluster.

I have mixed feelings about seeing the girls flying. It is gratifying to see that they are still ALIVE, but since last year I lost 3 out of 3 colonies, I don't like them to get back in and stay alive. Like Vance G I am waiting to exhale .... LOL.
 

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I'm wondering how you can tell your hives have died when it's too cold to peer in there. At least it has been there, I assume it has been for most of the nation this year.

During January thaw I slipped sugar/pollen patties in the hives. Now I'm just crossing my fingers. I have one Russian and one Italian and am looking forward to comparing how they do, hopefully they won't both die! Last year I had 2 Italians and they came out of winter with a tiny cluster. It was my first overwinter and I figured they were close to dead, if I had given them more time they might have revived, instead I combined and requeened, but even late spring they weren't getting anywhere so I don't think they were bouncing back.

More snow tomorrow but then mid 40s (and rain) - still, I think I'll just leave them be and cross my fingers, don't want to stress them any more than I have to.

I have 3 sides wrapped in styrofoam (south side is not wrapped) and quilt boxes on top. For quilt box, I just have a medium super with hardware cloth stapled to the bottom and pine shavings in there. I've noticed too many pine shavings have dropped to the bottom board, so next year I think I'll put the shavings in a pillow case.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thank you all for your support and encouragement. I went out to the other yard today, fearing the worst, but I was pleased to find them all very active. It was 58 degrees here, but it was windy too. I was able to put on some pollen and sugar candy, and if it stays warm, I may start feeding them syrup. Temps are supposed to be 66 degrees tomorrow. The Russian bees seem to be fine.

Buzzy; I have also heard that Carniolans and Russians may be more suited for cooler areas. Missouri is centered in the US, and I "assumed" it would be a touch warmer than I was used to, but it has weather that bounces up and down, and a hardy bee is most definitely needed here. I know there are folks up north with Italians, and do fair, but the weather is steadily cooler. I have lived in Alaska and Montana, and I know that every place can have occasional fluctuations, but it seems that in Missouri, late January through February are a continuous elevator of temperatures. Finding a way to guard against that problem would be a good thing.

Shinbone; really sorry to hear about your Carniolans. I would have thought they would do well there in Denver. By chance, was your weather bouncing up and down this month?

Philip; losing 3 out of 3 must have been hard last year. Sorry to hear that. I can't imagine how people keep going after they lose hundreds of hives at a time.

I guess we aren't real bee keepers unless we walk through the set-backs and struggles, but I sure wish we could find some better ways. That is what is so good about this forum. Thank you everyone. And we're marching forward . . .
 

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I guess we aren't real bee keepers unless we walk through the set-backs and struggles, but I sure wish we could find some better ways. . . .
Well, we could move to Florida, which I am this close to doing right now...
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Hahaha. Newbee; there is too much concrete and too many mosquitos, snakes, and alligators for me, but thanks anyway.
 

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I checked mine today and all three hives are dead--starved out with lots of honey just out of reach. They were Minnesota Hygienic bees. You would think a strain from Minnesota could handle the cold. For two of the three, this was their second winter. Three weeks ago they were all very active. I guess I'll be starting over this year, rather than expanding like I had hoped.
 

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Wow homesteader, that's bad news.

Here I heard we have a state inspector who I believe will come for $5 or something low like that and determine why your hives died. Do you have something like that there? It might be helpful to know for sure, for next time.
 

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It is posted over and over...bees were flying and fine 2 weeks ago...had honey stores and supplemental food. Often were wrapped or sheltered. Often were mite treated or had been tested as OK.
As a new bee keeper this very unsettling. I look at the entrances and my anxiety drops, I see no activity and it escalates! I really wish there was some way to know, or predict, if a hive was in trouble and why. Then one could at least implement some sort of action to try and stave off disaster.
Sometimes I think it would be psychologically easier to simply put them to bed with lots of stores and not even go near them until April.
 

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Similar situation in Kansas. 3 weeks ago, my bees were very active with cleansing flights when we had a couple days around 50 deg F. Next, three weeks of bitter cold. Today reached 50 deg F again. I opened the hive to find it inactive. Sad.

I checked mine today and all three hives are dead--starved out with lots of honey just out of reach. They were Minnesota Hygienic bees. You would think a strain from Minnesota could handle the cold. For two of the three, this was their second winter. Three weeks ago they were all very active. I guess I'll be starting over this year, rather than expanding like I had hoped.
 

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Here's what one of the hives looked like.

I wonder if they made the holes to help the cluster move.



There was a little bit of brood. I pulled out a few of the brood and didn't see any problems, except for the being dead of course.
 

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It is the same o' same stories every year. Threads after threads saying the same thing.
Everything going into winter is fine with lots of store and a good cluster to stay warm.
On spring flight they break cluster on a warm day. How do they recluster thinking that
spring is finally here? If they are separated into smaller clusters then when the cold snaps set
in again they are doomed for sure. Again thinking it is spring their behaviors might be different
than going into the long cold winter.
For the last 2 years of beekeeping during the Spring time build up, both were small clusters of
near disaster colonies, I fed them patty along with a small electric heat pad on the early Spring time.
They might not collect a lot of foods but the patty will keep them full while thinking that spring is here again.
No matter how cold or rainy out there on the early Spring weather fluctuation the heat pad on a small timer will keep them warm and cozy. Inside hive temp. can go as high as 110F and even out at 90F most of the time. Every few days I would check their hive condition for foods and general health. I would stole from the stronger hive to give the food reserve with nurse bees
to the weaker hive to even out the population growth. So far so good that both hives are doing great!
What do you think about the idea of a small heat pad to keep them warm and cozy during the Spring time critical
period.
 
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