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Discussion Starter #1
We have had a spell of VERY warm weather here, so I decided to check the bees. It was day 2 of 65 degree weather.

I was surprised to see that I only had about 3 frames of bees in the hive (1 layer dep front and back), though about 2 dozen were taking orientation flights at the front entrance.

Is this unusually small, or were most of them just flying around? There were a lot more than that when I shut them up for the winter. There were no signs of scratching on the front door, so skunks have not been a problem.

There were no signs of brood, either, though that is not unusual here. I am told that half the queens don't start laying until January.
 

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Local feral survivors in eight frame medium boxes.
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Any hive quickly loses about half the bees in the fall when brood rearing stops and the field bees die off. How many are left is dependant on how many they started with and on other stresses. Varroa or Tracheal mites will take a toll that is somtimes as much as all of the bees. Any Varroa damage that was done when the bees were developing seems to shorten their life.

Also, the breed of bee seems to have an affect. From my experience, the Italians have a much larger cluster and eat more stores than other races. The Buckfasts drop back more to a smaller cluster for the winter and eat less stores that way. The Carnis drop back even more and the feral survivors I've been breeding drop back quite small also. So what is normal for those bees depends on the race of the bee and how many you started with.

The clusters do sound quite small for this time of year.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Yeah, I was afraid it was a small cluster.

I started with an Italian queen, but just this winter I am seeing a lot of bees that are much darker. \Out here that means wild blood. I bet they requeened themselves this fall, though their queen was only 8 months old. And,I did treat for mites in the fall.

I was fortunate enough to score some bales of straw last week, so they are now all tucked in. I only left the Southern exposure open. I figure I will be able to check them every few weeks, so I will just have to wait and see.
 
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