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Hi Rusty here. I'a a new beekeeper, about a year into it. I started with two hives, they flourished. Then in October, died. I believe mites were my problem. I examined hives today, (I had 3 deeps in place, and 10 lbs sugar on top.) 1/2 full of capped honey, a frame or two uncapped honey, and only about two handfuls of dead bees. Lots of empty brood comb, clean. No groups of bees with heads or tails stuck in cells. Is this mites of loss of queen? I have two more packages coming, not giving up, but would like to be a beekeeper, and not just a bee-buyer. Suggestions?http://www.beesource.com/forums/images/icons/icon9.gif
 

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You said your hives died in October, so it wasn't the fierce cold/lack of winterization that killed them (I am north of Albany so I know what a winter we've had!)

This may seem a silly question, but, did you suspect your hives were dead before you placed the sugar? October is pretty early to have added sugar. Adding sugar didn't kill them, of course, it's just that your timeline seems a little confusing to me. Loss of queen might be the cause of an early deadout, but it seems odd that you would lose both queens. If you haven't already disposed of the dead bees, it might be worth sorting through them to see if you can find the dead queens, just out of curiosity. (Another thing you can do is a wash/roll of the dead bees to see how many dead mites fall off, as well. It won't give you anything other than crude approximation: lots of mites, or almost none. But it might be informative.)

A high mite load could certainly affect both of your hives concurrently. Did you do any mite testing in the late summer/early fall? If you didn't have a testing program in place last summer, that would be my first recommendation for the coming year: get both your hives on SBB/sticky board bases. (It's ok to run SBB above your solid boards, if you like having solids as the lowest layer. That's the way I have mine.) And start regular testing throughout the season so you know what your mites levels are, and can decide what you wish to do about them while there is still time to act. If you don't want to do sticky boards (by far the easiest to do, IMO, and completely undisruptive to the bees) then make up your mind to learn to do rolls and then do them.

Knowing your mite levels won't, all by itself, keep you from losing your queen(s), or having winter deadouts due to lack of stores or winterization, but it will accelerate your learning curve by ruling in, or out, one of the most common reasons for late fall or winter losses. This will allow you to focus on other factors, where you can change your practices to avoid losses next winter.

Thinking ahead to next winter: I have been very pleased with the shavings-filled quilt boxes I have on each of my hives and wouldn't consider wintering without them. I also have foam insulation around my hives (and inside, too, but I am less certain of its efficacy). I will use foam panels (outside) again next winter. I also have my hives wrapped in blankets, which considerng I have 100% survival I am not dismissing, but I'm not sure I would repeat that except for extremely cold periods.

I am impressed by having 3 deeps of drawn comb from your first year. My three late arrivals (mine were all from June swarms) barely got 12-19 frames drawn and filled in their first summer. I have had sugar bricks on mine all winter. But if your bees did as well as that, they must be good bees, you must have a good site and you must be an attentive and skilled beekeeper. So I wish you very good luck this next year -- but do start some mite testing. You'll be glad you did, if only because you'll have a ready answer to that question of what your mite levels are.

And think of how happy your new bees will be to have all that drawn comb, ready-made for them.

Enj.
 
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