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Loss in Mid April

2379 Views 12 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Cedar Hill
Please critique me and tell me what I did wrong.

Had a pretty strong hive go into Winter with a deep 75% full of honey and a medium on top 75% full of honey. Put a candy board on them in February for Insurance, although I didn't think it would be needed. Put it on on a warmish day (50's) and the colony was already high in the hive, and wasn't happy. But got it on and covered them up.

Went in on April 12th, temp in mid 60's to check and rotate. Bees were in a small cluster and had moved up high in hive, above the 75% full deep and into the medium. Most of the honey in the medium was gone, and they had eaten some of the candy board. I took candy board off. Placed the medium on bottom (on top of slatted rack and screened bottom board), with empty deep above and 75% honey filled deep above that, figuring this would give them plenty of room. Eyeballed queen and she was roaming, although no brood noticed or even eggs noticed. Placed pollen patty on top of medium. Buttoned up the hive.

I did not see the need to add any sugar syrup, as there was plenty of honey.

Went out to check (bang on side wall) of hive on 26th and nothin!!!!!! Opened her up, and DEAD! Man I was bummed!!! Dead small cluster between frames in bottom medium, with what appears to be signs of starvation. WTF! With all that honey? We've had some cold spells just like everyone else, but warm enough during the day for them to move I would think.

So, how did I screw up??? What should I have done differently??? Thanks for any and all postmortem critiques!!

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Not sure but one thing you pointed out was a slatted rack and screened bottom. My thought is that the bees got too cold. You did not point out the night temps.
Here in North East Ohio our April weather can go from 70 plus to lows in the upper 30's or lower.
Why would you place an empty deep between the cluster and a 75% full deep?
KbeeG, good question, and I even questioned myself as I wrote this post. My thinking at the time was it was mid April and time for them to start brood rearing, and so I wanted them to have space. The deep wasn't empty per se, but more or less empty of honey. All brood comb. Also daytime temps warm enough for them to get to the honey.
Hi Chip, "Bees were in a small cluster and had moved up high in hive, above the 75% full deep and into the medium." Why would you think the bees would move up bypassing a deep super, eating nearly all of the medium and some of the candy board being right up close to the cover? Because they were too small of a cluster to heat up the large area above them, so they went up to make the area to heat much smaller. You came along and put them back to their original state and because of the extremely cold nights, they couldn't move and starved. If you had the screened bottom board open, it would have added to their problem. Say "hi" to your father for me. OMTCW
Agree with cedar hill! You reversed too early. Probably had brood in that medium and died trying to keep it warm.
Hi Joe?, thank you for the response! But it brings up another question. I had always thought and I thought I even read on these boards, that bees do not heat the space they are in but only heat the cluster, therefore it shouldn't matter where they are in the hive. If they were heating the space, then yes, it would make sense that they would rise to the heat. But again, I was always under the assumption that they heated the inside of the cluster, constantly rotating inward to keep everyone warm.

I normally wouldn't reverse until dandelion bloom (which still hasn't happened) but thought that if I was cleaning out the dead bees, I might as well reverse and get some food/honey above them. Incidentally, I did this on another hive and I have seen no issues. It also had a small cluster. Also, no brood seen in this cluster, but if there was it was only a small area.

Is my assumption about how bees warm their cluster/space incorrect?
Hi Chip. My pleasure! Yes, you are in my opinion wrong in one aspect but correct otherwise. Let's remind ourselves of how our bee hives look in the winter when there is snow on top of their outer covers. The snow will melt in the immediate center of the outer cover. This is why many beekeepers, myself included, winter our hives with at least a two inch thick styrofoam piece on top of the outer cover. Some place it differently, it doesn't matter if it works to keep that heat inside the hive. That means that the heat they generate rises. That's why they wanted to follow the rising heat that they created. Experiments have shown you to be correct though when heat measurements were made on the sides of the cluster and the bottom of the cluster. OMTCW
>Is my assumption about how bees warm their cluster/space incorrect?

Yes and no. Try camping out in the winter in various tents and you will have a clearer idea of how things work...
Small clusters need to be reduced to a nuc, probably not enough bees to start brooding, sounds like classic mite collapse.
Thanks again Joe, and Thank you Michael, that was enlightening! I guess there's a reason to wait until dandelion bloom to reverse!! Won't make that mistake again. Also, I had in previous years used styrofoam on top (my innercover is actually 2" thick to accommodate the styrofoam), but this year had decided to only use a candy board, because I was only trying to guard against condensation and figured the candy board would absorb the moisture, but it seems the insulating properties of the styrofoam also prevent/delay a certain amount of heat loss. From now on I'll use both. Thank you both for valuable education!!!!!!

I have had many experiences like the following, but let's try it. I'm standing in a three sided metal building. It's cold and windy outside, but the tin is blocking the wind. I'm putting up 4' of 3/4" plywood to keep the foals from kicking the tin and getting cut (this had already happened). There was a dramatic difference in how cold I was and how cold it felt in that three sided open building once the plywood was up. I don't think there was any significant change in the draftiness or in the actual temperature, but I was losing a LOT less heat. I was not trying to heat the building, and since one wall is missing that would be impossible, but there was a noticeable difference in my comfort adding a second wall of wood.
Chip, don't forget that the condensation should be exhausted through the front top lip right under the edge of the inner cover during the winter. I just take any 3/8" twig that might be lying around near the hive and insert it between the corner lip of inner cover and hive body. Then I push the outer cover forward so that it makes an upper entrance as well. If you are expecting the sugar to absorb the moisture, it will and make it soft for them as well, but often enough there is too much moisture, better to have that upper front entrance. The half moon slot in the inner cover could also work but has to be facing the upper edge of the deep hive body and the cluster directly. A bientot. OMTCW
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