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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I finally got decent enough weather over the weekend to inspect my hives. Unfortunately, one of them had a large number of dead bees - probably a football's worth. Apparently, the cover I'd used under the screened-bottom board had fallen off, allowing the cold air to get into the hive over the winter. I'm guessing that in an effort to stay warm, they went through their honey stores faster than the other hives, and eventually either froze or starved. This isn't an entire dead-out, but it's the closest I've come. The remaining hive is weak, but the queen is laying eggs, and I have some capped brood. The brood pattern was in rings with large empty centers - I'm hoping that means that I've already had a fair amount of brood emerge, and that the surviving bees are relatively young.

I'd already put syrup in a pail feeder in the yard a month ago, and saw some uncapped syrup in all my hives. And in an effort to help this ailing colony, I gave them back some of their honey in a top-feeder yesterday. I'll probably pick up some pollen patties as well to help aid in brood rearing. Beyond that, I'm not sure whether I need to do any more cleaning of dead bees. I already cleaned all the dead bees off the bottom screen and from in-between a few of the frames. But there were a fair number of bees head-down in the cells. I know that these need to be removed with tweezers in dead-outs. But since this colony still had some bees, I just closed up the hive and left the frames as they were. (The weather still wasn't great, and this needed to be a relatively quick inspection.)

So I'm curious: should I get back in there relatively soon to remove the frames with dead bees, or was it sufficient to remove the majority of the dead bees from the bottom screen, letting the bees clean the frames? Any other suggestions?

Thanks,
~Dean
 

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Hi Dean. One will have to make a number of assumptions here. ASSUMING that you treated for mites and they were not killed off by them and associated viruses, it sound like your assumption of starvation/cold may be the culprit. Were they taking the syrup you gave them a month ago? If not, perhaps it was too cold. They will not take syrup unless it is above 50 degrees. Depending on how big the hive was going into winter, the dead bees on the bottom board could be considered normal. When you get a warm day, shake out the dead bees from the frames. A light rap on something (not the hive) will help dislodge the majority. Tweezers are not necessary as the bees will clear out the rest.
Some suggestions for the future: Take a stick and clean out your bottom board several times over the winter. If they are low on stores in the winter, consider adding sugar bricks to the top bars. If they are low in the spring, but the temps will not keep the sugar water warm enough, put sugar syrup in a zip lock bag with some pin holes in it and place on top bars. You will need a feeding shim for the sugar bricks and baggies. I would add patties and keep feeding. Keep an eye on the pattern and growth of the colony. J
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hi Dean. One will have to make a number of assumptions here. ASSUMING that you treated for mites and they were not killed off by them and associated viruses, it sound like your assumption of starvation/cold may be the culprit. Were they taking the syrup you gave them a month ago? If not, perhaps it was too cold. They will not take syrup unless it is above 50 degrees. Depending on how big the hive was going into winter, the dead bees on the bottom board could be considered normal. When you get a warm day, shake out the dead bees from the frames. A light rap on something (not the hive) will help dislodge the majority. Tweezers are not necessary as the bees will clear out the rest.
Some suggestions for the future: Take a stick and clean out your bottom board several times over the winter. If they are low on stores in the winter, consider adding sugar bricks to the top bars. If they are low in the spring, but the temps will not keep the sugar water warm enough, put sugar syrup in a zip lock bag with some pin holes in it and place on top bars. You will need a feeding shim for the sugar bricks and baggies. I would add patties and keep feeding. Keep an eye on the pattern and growth of the colony. J
Thanks for the feedback! Yes, I'd treated for mites - all 3 hives were doing well going into winter. And they were able to take the syrup a month ago - it was cold at night, but above 50 during the day.

This is just my 2nd winter, and the hives have gotten stronger each year., so it's possible that this was just a little bit above normal. I do think this particular hive was hit harder than the others, but it looks like they should recover. I picked up a pollen patty to split between the hives, and will monitor them closely for the next several weeks. My main concern was how thorough I need to be with respect to whether to pluck each bee that died head-down in the comb. Since I cleaned off the bottom board and in-between the worst of the frames, it sounds like the bees can handle the rest.

Thanks for your help!
~Dean
 

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Second winter. Three hives? One likely a goner and the other ‘weak’. What about the third one? May I ask how and when you treated for mites?
 

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The thing that will allow the weak colony to come back is heat. Reduce entrance to a couple bees wide, no more. No other trendy vents! Wrap them up with tar paper leaving only entrance wide. Or an insulated wrap.

IF that third colony is alive and well, put a queen excluder over its brood boxes, put on a medium super, add a queen excluder on top of that and put your cripples brood box on top of that. The top colony needs a small entrance of its own but the heat from below is the key so don't squander it. Your queen above will be able to lay more eggs because of the heat from below. Nurse bees from below will come up attracted by that brood and your cripple has a chance to take off. This works for me but I use insulated wraps and keep my colonies warm in the spring.
 
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