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I am still very new to bee keeping. Last year I had my first colony of bees but they didn’t make it through the winter. I got the original colony from Kelley Beekeeping and was pleased with them so I ordered again this year through them. I got a package of pure Russians. I picked them up this past Saturday and temps were cooler than I’d have liked - mid 50s.

When I got home I quickly installed them. They seemed very lethargic during the install but the queen seemed healthy and I chalked it up to the colder temps. Today - two days later - I went to check on them and switch from an in hive feeder to a hive top feeder. It’s a mid 60s day and right away I noticed there were no guard bees at the entrance. When I opened the hive there seemed to be a low number of bees in the hive, mostly around the feeder. The queen seemed to be in good health but then I noticed what appeared to be the majority of my package dead on the bottom board.

I removed the box to get a better look at them and noticed most of them were dead but a large number - maybe 1/3 - appear to just be very lethargic. They were very slowly crawling over the pile. In an effort to help them I spread the mound around to allow whatever bees were alive a better chance at getting out from underneath the pile and survive. I also uncorked the queen’s cage hoping she’ll get a jump start on laying - there’s lots of comb from the previous colony.

I’m going to call Kelley Beekeeping in the morning as this was obviously ongoing when I picked them up - though I expect them to say once I took possession they are no longer liable.

Any suggestions or help would be appreciated. I will attach photos.
 

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There was a post on a local FB page by a woman who verbally described what you showed in your pictures.A package install with a top feeder.
The general consensus was starvation due to cold temps and a poor feeder choice.Not sure if this applies to you ,not knowing what your temps have been.
Here in CT,we have been having little sun,temps in the 40s and occasional frosts at night.The bees will not break cluster to travel to feed if the feed is cold and not immediately adjacent to the cluster.
A top feeder and a frame feeder both hold large quantities of syrup that act like a giant ice cube that will actually chill the bees.Without sun,there is no solar gain during the day to warm the feed and to allow bees to move around.
The best feeder for a pkg in cold temps is a quart jar feeder with warm syrup over the hole in the inner cover surrounded by rags and covered by another box.Make sure the Q cage is not directly under the feeder in case of leakage.The rag stuffed box will act as an insulator,the syrup will be kept warm by the heat rising off the cluster and the bees won't have to break cluster to access feed.Very similar to the feeding setup that came with your package.
Not saying this is what happened to you bees,I'm not there.I could be totally out in left field.You could try misting them with some warm syrup and it may give them enough strength to reform a custer.
Good luck!
 

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I am still very new to bee keeping. Last year I had my first colony of bees but they didn’t make it through the winter. I got the original colony from Kelley Beekeeping and was pleased with them so I ordered again this year through them. I got a package of pure Russians. I picked them up this past Saturday and temps were cooler than I’d have liked - mid 50s.

When I got home I quickly installed them. They seemed very lethargic during the install but the queen seemed healthy and I chalked it up to the colder temps. Today - two days later - I went to check on them and switch from an in hive feeder to a hive top feeder. It’s a mid 60s day and right away I noticed there were no guard bees at the entrance. When I opened the hive there seemed to be a low number of bees in the hive, mostly around the feeder. The queen seemed to be in good health but then I noticed what appeared to be the majority of my package dead on the bottom board.

I removed the box to get a better look at them and noticed most of them were dead but a large number - maybe 1/3 - appear to just be very lethargic. They were very slowly crawling over the pile. In an effort to help them I spread the mound around to allow whatever bees were alive a better chance at getting out from underneath the pile and survive. I also uncorked the queen’s cage hoping she’ll get a jump start on laying - there’s lots of comb from the previous colony.

I’m going to call Kelley Beekeeping in the morning as this was obviously ongoing when I picked them up - though I expect them to say once I took possession they are no longer liable.

Any suggestions or help would be appreciated. I will attach photos.
Kelley beekeeping replaced something for me when it was damaged.

They better do the same thing for you with this package.

Let us know what happens.
 

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I had bought packages many moons ago 15+ yrs probably. Turned out the lady at the post office was afraid of bees and left them on the loading dock over night went down in the 30's that night. Packages look like what I'm seeing, bees dead from exposure. I brought them in the house put my packages near the woodstove. Half the bees in the packages stirred back to life. Ended up making 3 hives from 5 packages. All the queens were alive. Used the other 2 queens to make splits. Can almost guarantee someone allowed cold exposure during shipping.
 

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Nothing to do now but wait. I spoke to Kelley they asked me to email them the photos with an explanation as to what happened. I went out there to mist them with warm syrup. It’s a mid 70s day and they were busy. They had a few frames partially full of syrup, and were carrying off the dead bees in force. Of the pile that was left, most of them appeared to be dead. I found 2 or 3 that were still barely crawling but I don’t have high hopes. I went ahead and misted them and in a day or two will remove whatever ones are left. I’d guess I’m left with 2000 - 3000 bees. Maybe they will pull through? Not really sure. It certainly helps that they have mostly complete comb and a good amount of
pollen from the last colony. Now I’m just waiting to hear back from Kelley.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Kelley emailed me back and informed me they became aware of a problem with all of their Pure Russians. So, they can either refund the purchase price or replace them with hybrids as they don’t have any more pures this season, and refund the difference. I’m planning to take the hybrids and requeen with a pure. I have to say I continue to be impressed with Kelley. They could have said you took possession it’s on you.
 

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Obviously I’m still new at this, but I was quite pleased with them last year. I felt like everyone was always very friendly and seemed to really care about providing a good experience. Then this year they obviously did their best to make me whole. They’ve definitely earned my continued business.

Any thoughts on the possibility of the original bees pulling through with such low numbers?
 

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Any thoughts on the possibility of the original bees pulling through with such low numbers?
I do not know how lethargic they still are. If they were mine, I would put them in a nuc. Then, when your new package comes in, if your remaining 1/3 package of bees appear to be surviving, I would give them a pound from your new package. If they survive, great. If the queen dies, you can give all of the bees back to your new package.
 

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I do not know how lethargic they still are. If they were mine, I would put them in a nuc. Then, when your new package comes in, if your remaining 1/3 package of bees appear to be surviving, I would give them a pound from your new package. If they survive, great. If the queen dies, you can give all of the bees back to your new package.
That isn’t a bad idea. At this point I think the affected ones are dead or recovered. When I was out there last the ones that weren’t on the bottom board were behaving normally. I’d guess around 2000 - 3000 normal behaving bees. Don’t know how possible it is for them to pull through if I do nothing other than make sure the have syrup. Keep in mind they have fully built out comb from last years dead out.
 

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If the feed can in the package was empty or very full that would be a good clue. 50’s is an ideal temperature range for package installation and if they weren’t weakened from starvation the bees should have been able to take feed from an inside feeder.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
If the feed can in the package was empty or very full that would be a good clue. 50’s is an ideal temperature range for package installation and if they weren’t weakened from starvation the bees should have been able to take feed from an inside feeder.
It seemed to be about half full. But, it had a gelatinous type feed I’ve not seen before so I’m not sure how full those are normally.
 

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As I mentioned earlier when I discovered how few bees had survived I went ahead and released my queen. My thought was she’d been in there for shipping plus 2 days in the hive, and I was hoping to get a jump start on her laying. Now, I think she is dead/gone. She seemed to be healthy when I unpackaged the bees, and also when I released her. But today I was unable to locate her despite my best efforts and searching through relatively few bees. To make matters more concerning she was marked so it should have been that much easier.

I’ve never worked a queen less hive before but the bees seemed to behave normally based on my limited experience. I plan to take another look tomorrow. Other than finding her, anything else I should be looking for? There won’t be any queen cells because she was just released.
 

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I love your screen name in reference to Sinefeild. That being said, a five frame nuc would keep the bees much warmer. If you haven't one condense the interior space with follower boards. Are you running your screen bottom board open? That will slow them down too. Full sun and a warmer temps hopefully will fix your hives. I hope they pull through for you!
 

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I plan to take another look tomorrow.
Why? And why were you in the hive today? You just installed a queen.
I don’t fully follow your question. I was in there today to check on the queen since I released her early. Assuming she really is dead it’s a good thing I looked because it gives me the potential to get her replaced. I planned to look tomorrow as a sanity check before purchasing another queen. Admittedly I’m still very new to this but am I missing something? This seems pretty straight forward to me?
 

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Another thought. I wonder if you could use the cheap disposable hand warmers to provide immediate warmth in a situation like this? Just an idea.
 

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I love your screen name in reference to Sinefeild. That being said, a five frame nuc would keep the bees much warmer. If you haven't one condense the interior space with follower boards. Are you running your screen bottom board open? That will slow them down too. Full sun and a warmer temps hopefully will fix your hives. I hope they pull through for you!
Thanks. I’m a huge Seinfeld fan. I have the screen fully closed for now because it still gets pretty cool at night here. I did already condense them down to a single deep from two in the spirit of your suggestion. Perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take this further.
 

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Another thought. I wonder if you could use the cheap disposable hand warmers to provide immediate warmth in a situation like this? Just an idea.
Yeah I don’t know, that’s a curious thought. I know from hunting they never seem to last long though. I think at this point what’s done happened in shipping, and no further damage is occurring. Pretty much whatever ones were lethargic at installed mostly all died and the rest that were fine seem to still be fine. This theory holds given that Kelley said they became aware of a problem with all their Pure Russians from shipping. Who knows. As far as the queen I’m puzzled. Seems to me she should have been in there long enough which is why I worry I’m just missing her somehow. That said I know sometimes they just don’t accept her for whatever reason. Who knows.
 

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Another thought. I wonder if you could use the cheap disposable hand warmers to provide immediate warmth in a situation like this? Just an idea.
I would be more inclined to use a plug in aquarium/reptile heater mat if you have power available. I think the disposable hand warmers consume oxygen which might not be a good thing to do inside a hive.
 
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