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A friend, who is a very experienced beekeeper, recently reported that about 16 of his 32 hives had died, and although he thought that 2 of the hives had starved he attributed the death of the other 14 hives to cold weather, and said simply that they froze to death.

We had one night when the temperature went to -23 degrees (a sudden and drastic change), but there were only a handful of other days when the temperature went below zero.

I think all of his hives were on screened bottom boards with some of them closed, and some of them completely open, but there doesn't seem to be any relationship between the open or closed bottoms, and which hives lived or died.

Now, from what I read here I'm under the impression that bees do not freeze to death simply because of very cold weather. Do you think that his bees froze to death because of some cold weather or did his bees freeze to death because it got a little chilly, and his bees had other serious problems at the same time?

Thanks...
 

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Obvoiusly there could be (good play on words) several secondary contributing factors. After all it was cold enough to freeze half, but not the other half? Practically speaking, yes there is a breakpoint in relationship to cluster size. That being a bigger cluster may survive a cold spell longer than a smaller cluster. But debatable. The only weather/cold killed hive I would say I lost had to do with extended long periods of cold that kept the cluster from reaching food stores.

Keep in mind, several other factors could attribute to your "experienced" beekeepers losses, that may of been overlooked. They include old bees overwintering. This from a long late summer/fall period of no brood.

Other cluster problems may have been from T-mites, any number of V-mite viruses, and just bad genetics. All could be easily overlooked, and cause hive death when food stores are plenty. Unfortunatly cluster formation, hive history, queen age, and other factors come into play, and that information is lacking.

I would be hard pressed to think that temperature, unless for extended periods, would of killed otherwise healthy hives.
 
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