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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
All,
Two years back I tried bees after doing some serious reading and attending a week of evening classes on the subject. I am in a rural (very rural) location with mostly corn/soybeans and about a mile away a small forested area. The forest is probably less than 10 acres. I have a small orchard that was at the time limited to a few apple trees. I also have 5 acres of serious dandelions that last for months. I also have a quarter acre pond on my 5 acres. Today its about 15 fruit trees now. I say about as I have one tree this year I did some serious trimming on. Its of unknown age...original with the purchase of property. I will also mention that in a 10 mile radius there are numerous hives in operation. Usually these hives are on corners of large open acreage plots or on the limited forested areas.

I purchased two new hive Kits from a local farm supply shop. One was brand new. The other was new but was a scratch and dent box. It was never opened and had no damage other than the Styrofoam. I also purchased two internal feeders and 2 external feeders. Not to mention a bee smoker, suit, and metal pry bar etc. I also bought some wood tools (router bits/dovetail guide) to in the future build my own hives.

I ordered the bees and they arrived at a location about 70 miles away from my home outside a large quarry (county extension garage I believe it was). This was the closest location. The other if I remembered right was across the state (150+ miles away). I purchased two bee packages (not nucs). The bees came from our local state Bee Association. They were Italian bees. I also registered with the state (5 buck fee) as its the law.

I had a series of dates to choose from. I choose one that was basically the middle-early of the weeks possible. Thoughts were it would be warm enough (late in spring) I could release (Northern Ohio Weather) bees to their hives but early enough they would have a good chance to get a solid hive started to last the first winter. I did not plan to harvest anything that first year just get them situated/established.

Anyways things did not go as planned. The weather was 74 degrees sunny and warm. I was excited as it looked perfect but things did not stay that way. I got off work and I went to pick up the bees as planned and drove the 70 miles. As I drove, I ran into a storm it was not a sprinkle. It was a weather front (a tornado siting reported etc). I got to the location and low 70's was now upper 40s. By the time I got home it was lower 40's and windy as all heck. Did I mention my home/yard is basically out in the open. By nightfall it was in the upper 20's to low 30's and I woke to 1 inch of solid of snow on everything including the hives.

But when I arrived home with the bees I brought them into the garage. Keep in mind this was my first experience alone with bees and the drive home was a interesting thing (storm and bees in the car) with the buzzing (small amount of loose bees) etc. Bees where in the back seat of car as the weather was poor/terrible on the drive back. I was somewhat nervous but I could not see how they would survive/get released in the hive with the crazy wind/weather.

Next day we got to the low 40s, with no wind, and snow finally melted by late afternoon. So I cracked the candy, blocking the queen, and placed the bees of each group in their respective hives.

I checked on them shortly after (I believe it was the next morning) but it could have been a day or so later...my memory now slips me on this.

I checked on the queen to find one out of the queen cage. The other was dead in the cage along with a couple other larger bees. I started calling around for a queen immediately. No dice. Everyone in the area I knew said it was to early for them to get me a queen and everyone one I called (outside my area) said the shipping delay etc would be to late. I even called the people I bought my bees from originally but the next order was a week plus a way.

So that hive ended up swarming. It was gone a few days later. I considered another bunch of bees but never did as other Homesteading/4H/work adventures kept it at bay.

The other hive appeared to be thriving. Every two weeks, assuming weather was good, I checked on it. The frames appeared to be filling at a good rate and I got comfortable with the bees. I started using the feeders mostly when the dandelions and blooms started withering. I did take one teaspoon (about) of honey from the hive to try. (It was a expensive teaspoon of honey...lol.

Winter came, I continued to check on them every two weeks choosing the warmest day in the week. Things I believe looked good. 7 out of the 9 frames were full to the point that the frame tops needed to be cleaned by my tool to allow them to be checked. The 10th frame was the feeder frame. I continued to see the queen on occasion when I went looking but honestly there was times (cold) that it was just a quick check.. I still saw activity outside the hive with bees. (coming and going (cleaning etc) - not rampant by any means but you could see activity at the door of the hive.) I did reduce the door opening of the hive once it got cold. I placed feeder cubes as well in January and February months. On my early March inspection I found the bees dead.

So I was surprised to say the least as the weather was getting warm and there was a feeder. We did have a couple spring rain storms but never seemed to bother the hives much. I left things be for about a month after I found them until I finally brought the hives to the garage and let the hives sit. To this day they are still sitting on my garage bench. The frames are still exactly in the state I found them.

So my questions are as follow;

The new bees I am looking at will be in Nucs. I have a choice of Italian or Russian. The bees will be delivered by way of USPS mail. It will be the second week of May. The local mail has been always good on live delivery. (Chicks/turkeys/etc)

1) Knowing I am a newbie still which bee (Italian or Russian) would you suggest?
2) As a NUC how do the bees get transferred. Is it a Frame swap?
3) What should I do as far as cleaning/getting the hive ready/etc on the old Hives. The one was basically not used or little used. The other has full frames?
4) Any idea on what happened to the last set of bees?

I do know I have some more reading to do...Going to go thru the Sticky/section again.

Thanks
Chris
 

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First and foremost: Try to find a local mentor or join a local bee club if you have any. Every advise you get in the book or online will be subjective to where the author lives. Like I am about to do.

Few things I can think of:
  • You don't check on the bees once the night starts to fall below 50 F.
  • They should have enough stores before the winter starts, which means about a medium full of honey in my area. Up north, it would be 2 deeps!
  • You will absolutely have to check for Varroa load throughout the season and treat accordingly. Especially before going into winter.
  • Have 2 colonies for better success. You will be able to spot the weaker colony faster and they will come to rescue each other in case one runs in to trouble like lost queen, weak colony, etc.
  • It is hard to say without the pictures of the frames as to what happened to the colony but the top two reasons for winter loss are weak colony (generally due to sick/infested bees due to Varroa) and starvation.

Nuc can be transferred to full size box right away. You don't need to clean up the old box. Give all old frames to the nucs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Pjigar,
I agree on the local mentor.

It has been hard in my area as I recently moved (5 years ago). I have heard of a fellow locally I need to get in contact (from a few locals) and honestly this year I am considering (some) holding back the purchase of bees. The big reason now is I found out, last night, my bees will be delayed and the time they are supposed to come in is my annual family trip to Myrtle Beach (week trip). They are trying to see if they can arrange something (local feed store). I still have online sources. I know, this may be a "sign" as there is still the issue of 4H kickoff this year (5 kids - All in this year- last year for my oldest and the first year for my younger two - they will all need animals (many large) etc). Luckily I have most supplies but the animals alone could be interesting as Covid-19 really changed the landscape ($$) of animals.

The fellow, before I moved, I took the classes from mentored people. His basic day of mentoring was almost $400 a day but it was more like a college classroom scenario where he provided everything and you just showed up. He also had this over a $1000 weekend mentoring program. I signed up for a evening local Metro park class which cost around $100. He more than once told me you need to sign up for my weekend class.

While I am sure the above fees were/are probably all worth it considering the cost of everything I have in bees now...I think his mentoring was more on whether to decide whether you wanted to be in Bees or not. I have made that jump so I think because of my location now and my decision in Bees I need to move on to another Mentor preferably local as you said.

I see your from Texas and I am sure the weather from my location is vastly different. For example the 50 degree rule you mention above would basically mean no opening of the hive for 4 months out of the year and possibly 5 on a bad year. But the advice is still very good. I am sure there is something I need to do differently based on my climate and a local Mentor would help vastly with these type of rules. Thanks for the advice!

The winter stores was always my concern and I hoped the feedings would help. How would you know if they were starving? Would the frames I have now show that? Also would Varroa be able to be verified from the frames now as well?

One thing I am deeply considering is an observation Hive for this year. I would probably build (I have the wood working tools or have a dad who has a nice collection as well. This would get me back into bees...allow me to learn some more...use my tools I purchased...give me more time to read...and If I lost them the education was probably worth it.

Thanks
Chris
 

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Pjigar,
I agree on the local mentor.

It has been hard in my area as I recently moved (5 years ago). I have heard of a fellow locally I need to get in contact (from a few locals) and honestly this year I am considering (some) holding back the purchase of bees. The big reason now is I found out, last night, my bees will be delayed and the time they are supposed to come in is my annual family trip to Myrtle Beach (week trip). They are trying to see if they can arrange something (local feed store). I still have online sources. I know, this may be a "sign" as there is still the issue of 4H kickoff this year (5 kids - All in this year- last year for my oldest and the first year for my younger two - they will all need animals (many large) etc). Luckily I have most supplies but the animals alone could be interesting as Covid-19 really changed the landscape ($$) of animals.

The fellow, before I moved, I took the classes from mentored people. His basic day of mentoring was almost $400 a day but it was more like a college classroom scenario where he provided everything and you just showed up. He also had this over a $1000 weekend mentoring program. I signed up for a evening local Metro park class which cost around $100. He more than once told me you need to sign up for my weekend class.

While I am sure the above fees were/are probably all worth it considering the cost of everything I have in bees now...I think his mentoring was more on whether to decide whether you wanted to be in Bees or not. I have made that jump so I think because of my location now and my decision in Bees I need to move on to another Mentor preferably local as you said.

I see your from Texas and I am sure the weather from my location is vastly different. For example the 50 degree rule you mention above would basically mean no opening of the hive for 4 months out of the year and possibly 5 on a bad year. But the advice is still very good. I am sure there is something I need to do differently based on my climate and a local Mentor would help vastly with these type of rules. Thanks for the advice!

The winter stores was always my concern and I hoped the feedings would help. How would you know if they were starving? Would the frames I have now show that? Also would Varroa be able to be verified from the frames now as well?

One thing I am deeply considering is an observation Hive for this year. I would probably build (I have the wood working tools or have a dad who has a nice collection as well. This would get me back into bees...allow me to learn some more...use my tools I purchased...give me more time to read...and If I lost them the education was probably worth it.

Thanks
Chris
If you haven't cleaned the frames then look at the bees if they are stuck head down into the cell then they starved. The most useful thing your local mentor can tell you is how much store to leave? You feed them when the weather is warm. Once it drops below 60 they won't take liquid feed very well. You can put the candy board if you are low on store going into winter. But candy board is insurance and sometime can back fire since they will eat candy before honey if they can move. I have no experiance with candy board since we don't need it. I don't think any mentor is worth hundreds of dollars. FYI: I had no mentor or even bee club membership and I learned on my own. But I can afford to make mistakes (and I have) that can be recovered without loosing the colony since I am in the warm climate. Learning by loosing bees in cold climate gets expensive so you need to basically know the local rules about wintering. Any local beekeper would be happy to answer such simple questions .e.g how much store, candy board, wrapping, etc.
 

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You never mentioned treating for mites, so that would be the likely cause of death for me, but of course there are other possibilities. If they are healthy and have stores, they will handle any kind of weather you got in TX. Get local bees if possible. It doesn't matter if they are Russians, Italians or mutts. I would be suspicious of "nucs" that were shipped. You may have to travel, but I would. Your hives are probably fine unless they died from a disease that is transmissible. It's hard to say without pics. Yes, to transfer a nuc to a box, you simply transfer keeping the frames in the same order in the center of the box. You add your frames of foundation to the outsides to fill in the box. It sounds like the class you took was a rip-off. A local mentor (if you can find one) is worth their weight in gold, and usually free or low cost. Best of luck. J
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
You never mentioned treating for mites, so that would be the likely cause of death for me, but of course there are other possibilities. If they are healthy and have stores, they will handle any kind of weather you got in TX. Get local bees if possible. It doesn't matter if they are Russians, Italians or mutts. I would be suspicious of "nucs" that were shipped. You may have to travel, but I would. Your hives are probably fine unless they died from a disease that is transmissible. It's hard to say without pics. Yes, to transfer a nuc to a box, you simply transfer keeping the frames in the same order in the center of the box. You add your frames of foundation to the outsides to fill in the box. It sounds like the class you took was a rip-off. A local mentor (if you can find one) is worth their weight in gold, and usually free or low cost. Best of luck. J
Fivej,
I am located in Ohio....pjigar is located in Texas.

I have a choice of NUCSs or 3lb bee packages. The extra $20 is for the plastic NUC packaging. Thought I would try a NUC to see the differences.

The NUC is coming from a local feed store that every year has Bees and they carry a decent amount of supplies. I bought supplies from them and online sources but never bees.

The last set of bees I order from our state bee association and I also had a choice of NUC vs 3lb packaging.

Went with the 3lb package. I was told a NUC may have made my transport and the winter situation I ran into a little easier.

Thanks for the help,
Chris
 

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If I had a bunch of used hives with drawn comb and no bees, I would be thinking more about how many swarm traps I was going to be setting out.
$400 for a one day intro class on beekeeping seems awfully steep. Not so much if you are doing a advanced work with a known name in beekeeping. Mentoring should be free or at a very low cost. I provide free mentoring services through my local bee club, as do several other of our members.
 
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$400 for one day IS awful steep! Not sure if it would work for you but Rutgers's Ag School (New Jersey) is offering an on-line course for around $120 which is the same as the original (pre-covid) 3 day in-person course that was $135. I understand that Pen State was offering their on-line (same basis as 3 day course) for free during the Pandemic although that might be over. Our Club offers the in-person 3 day for $135 to non members and that included a breakfast and lunch-I was taken is (as always) by the free food when I took it! The club in-person course is the best as you get to meet people who are local and are willing to mentor.
 

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Hi Chris. Sorry I mixed up your location, but my advice still applies. If your hives are healthy and have enough stores, they will survive the winter. Locally sourced bees are proven bees.
A real nuc will cost more than $20 higher than a package. A real nuc will have the queen heading her own colony. The brood and bees will be her progeny. One of the advantages of a nuc is that the queen has proven that she can lead a healthy, growing colony. Some are selling bees as a "nuc" that are a mish-mash of brood frames, shook bees and a queen that may not be related to the brood or foragers. Maybe I misunderstood you, but I would be suspicious of a nuc that is only $20 more than a package.
No matter what you end up with, you can be successful IF you treat for mites. You can make almost every mistake in the book and be successful if you effectively treat the mites. Conversely, you can do everything right and fail if you do not address the mite issue.
There is a wealth of good information here on the site by very experienced beekeepers. Make good use of the free information, ask questions and you will be successful! J
 
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