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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So It's mid February, and i want to check my hives. I am worried about deaths due to starvation or them not finding their feed

Last fall was a crazy fall and saw a flow to the end of September, even into October on Alfalfa. The hives, 85-90%, were crazy heavy to move. Two strong farm men had a hard time lifting them. I have never wintered on honey, and since they hardly took any feed in, and they did not take in the fumagilan B, and since i hear of hives dieing on this forum, I am worried and want to take a peek, drop some feed on them. Right now the temps are -5 to -9 Celcius, in the daytime and -16 to -19 Celcius night time temps.

We checked on the bees ealry to mid january just by listening to the hives. All was ok...so far...

In the last two previous winters I have attempted to:

2008---place syrup on in 2.5 gallon pails. It was what was left over from the fall feeding. At the time 90% live rate. However, I put the feed on and the vaccum did not hold, so the feed leaked on the bees. Had atleast a 45% death loss due to chilled wet bees

2009 ---- thought to do something differet and added pollen pattied to the top of the hives where the bees were late february early March during a nice warm snap. However the inner lids with the pollen did not create a tight seal and temperatures dropped to way below normal for almost a month and 35% of the bees died because the windchill and the just plain cold trying to rear brood.

2010---no idea what i am going to do, thought of candy boards, thought of pollen patties both ideas with formic rings...since i have them on hand.... so that there would be a seal to keep the heat in.

Or do nothing for another couple of weeks...

Itchy fingers...

ideas?
 

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Feeding now, unless your hives are actually near starvation is a waste of feed and hard on the bees.

I tried feeding a few yards early one year, thinking that I would get early buildup, and nope. They just burned through the feed and were no better or heavier than the ones without. Actually, they might have been worse.

Actually, if the hives are heavy and have good pollen, and you are not seeing losses that force you to work them, waiting until almost May will give results that are just about as good, and sometimes better.

Of course, if you have to open them to feed or medicate or check them, then that is different.

Alternately, pollen patties put on in March or April will tell you if the queen is good or not. If they eat the patty, then the hive does not need to be disturbed. They'll prolly need some syrup if you feed patties, though, since they will eat more honey, and if you strat patties, you should keep putting them on as long as the bees eat them or until you are sure the incoming pollen is reliable.
 

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Based on your past experiences... wouldn't it be best to just leave them alone? The past two years you've gone in and tried to 'help' them, and only made things worse. Your intervention might save one weak hive, but might kill another strong hive due to an error.

It's still cold outside... leave them alone till things are warmer... there is still a long way to go till winter is over!
 

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If those hives are that heavy from alfalfa honey, I wouldn't worry about them until April. Should be plenty of good quality feed in them. Last thing you want to do at this time of the year if you can help it is introduce wet syrup or stimulate a lot of brooding so the bees are not able to move the cluster to new feed.

I found that alfalfa yielding late for several of my yards as well. The hives were big so I tried to get them to take an average of 4 imperial gallons of sucrose syrup (rob feeding), but had a hard time getting them to take the last gallon. I did check some hives in late September and they still had 3-4 frames of brood (part of a UM virus study). Figured I should be going into winter with healthy winter bees. Even as singles mine were very heavy going in as well. Normally, if mite levels are under control, I find bees winter very well with these conditions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Allen, you are apart of the Uof M study too?
I'm not sure on the numbers, but a couple of yards took in all of the 2.5 gal of syrup, and had a hard time doing so with the wild honey flow in september. The rest of the yards took in atleast half a pail, and yet were really heavy on the alfalfa. Some hives in took in very little syrup.
Just really worried about the wacky summer, the strange fall and how it has affected the bees now.
I am doing my best and i will continue to hold out...some of they yards are inaccessable due to snowed in roads...and leave the hives alone until it gets warmer.
 

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Your wintering configuration is quite different from mine but my bees experience the same wacky weather yours did. My bees are indoors so it is easier to monitor them throughout winter. Last week I did a more thorough check and crawled on top of the stacks of hives and popped about 40 lids. Not one dead one (knock on wood) and lots of very nice strong hives. The last 2 years mine have not looked nearly as good at this stage. I know my mite and virus (no visible DWV signs this summer) levels are much lower this winter and that will have contributed greatly to better survival, but last yearr's crazy weather hasn't seemed to hurt them.
 

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It's my first year but I am in the same boat as you getting stressed about the cold wishing spring were here. So far my hives are alive, hope they stay that way.
 

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>>I know my mite and virus (no visible DWV signs this summer) levels

I had to treat in spring due to mite numbers over threshold. I had controlled them, having a low mite population in fall. I did however continue to find DWV in my hives, enough of it to notice.
Real mentioned to me that perhaps the virus was brought in to the hives in spring. And even though I had controlled the populations, the virus remained.
How it will effect my wintering, time will tell.
Maybe there isn't enough infection to worry about, just unnerving to see
 

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Ian

From what I've seen in my bees the last several years it seems that once varroa is under control the DWV is present in levels that result in symptoms for a while longer. Extrapolating from this,one would think other virus and micro levels probably take a while to return to "normal" levels as well.

I'm becoming more and more convinced that a spike in varroa levels results in unhealthy bees for quite some time.
 

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> I'm becoming more and more convinced that a spike in varroa levels results in unhealthy bees for quite some time.

That is very true. Anything that happens to bees has lagging effects.

Even temporary starvation or malnutrituion has effects that can negatively influence several succeeding generations.

That is why smart beekeepers feed proactively, before the need is obvious.

Varroa predation has similar effects to malnutrition, with the additional payload of viruses and infections, so that is why it is so important to keep the mite levels low, and to be sure to initiate supplementary feeding if a need is suspected.
 

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I can't check all of our hives due to them not being accessible at this point, but the ones that we can get at seem alive as evidenced by the top entrance being kept open by warmer air.

We experienced the late fall flow as well, and yes, the bees definitely did not nearly take the amount that they usually take. Usually we try to get about 5 - 5.5 Canadian gallons inside single story hives, but this past fall, I don't think that the average was even at 3.5 - 4. Although the hives were very heavy, it's still a bit worrisome at this point to know that they didn't take too much syrup in the fall. Nonetheless, the mite counts were very low, and unstressed hives have lower food requirements, so we'll have to wait and see.

jh
 
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