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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Had a quick look at the 4 hives today in this balmy 45F degree weather. Two doing cleansing flights, hives 1 and 3 looked inactive.

Both inactives had mountain camp still on top. The one hive was really surprising (or not so much for the more seasoned ones here) as it was the most booming (mite crash?). I didn't go deep, but the booming hive had a cluster on the top (2 deep hives) looking like they wanted to go out the feeder rim hole that has a stopper in it ( I never took it out). The bottom didn't look clogged with bees as if they couldn't get out. Looked like both hives still had honey frames on top, as well (hard to really see with all the mountain camp on top). I just find the one hive with the cluster dying while moving to the feeder rim hole somewhat odd. I know I saw sunlight through the plastic stopper, so maybe they were just moving to the light?

Booming hive was treated early spring with api-life var, and with apistan late july through early sept. No mite counts conducted (I know, I know...).
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Looking back on the calendar, it looks like hives 1 & 3 are the ones I pulled honey off of this year. I definitely left them frames of honey and put mountain camp knowing they would be least likely to need it.

I guess I'll need to wait to be able to do a full inspection.

edit: also 1&3 were treated with api life var in the spring, and 1 was treated with apistan in the fall, and 3 was treated with api life var again in the fall.
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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Jimbo, it is hard to tell from your post but are 1and 3 dead or just not flying? I recently did a cursory inspection on some of my hives and found that the inactive ones were still chock full of bees. Some fly in cooler weather, some don't.
 

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Jimbo, it is hard to tell from your post but are 1and 3 dead or just not flying? I recently did a cursory inspection on some of my hives and found that the inactive ones were still chock full of bees. Some fly in cooler weather, some don't.
Looks like dead. I tapped on the hives and didn't hear anything. Maybe they'll surprise me?? The cluster going up to the feeder rim hole is suspicious to me. They were definitely going towards that plugged hole.

I did put 2" foam insulation (since I just happened to have the pieces) under the top cover on all four hives, then an inner cover, then a feeder rim and mountain camp on the top bars.
 

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I OAV'ed all nine colonies today. If I get a decent day, sunny and 40 F, 14 days from now I will do it again. I do not open a hive in winter, 45F is cold. I not need to emergency feed as they are up to weight with stored nectar based honey and syrup honey (80 lb.). All nine hives were flying. The surprise was the hive which almost failed in the Spring, extremely small cluster, had huge amounts of cleansing and orientation flights. I have two hives I worry about, one had a long constant Fall Varroa invasion ( big robber?) and one is a late re-queening which appears to have a small cluster of winter bees. All my hives are insulated now.

Happy Holidays and Good Luck.
 

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Very nice Robert, glad to see all of your hives active. Good luck with the 40f temps two weeks from now in Rhode Island! Do you do a consistent mite check?
 

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Jimbo, it is hard to tell from your post but are 1and 3 dead or just not flying? I recently did a cursory inspection on some of my hives and found that the inactive ones were still chock full of bees. Some fly in cooler weather, some don't.
+2 to the observation that some hives just wait awhile before going out.... First fly day, 20 hives (of 26) were out. Hi of 45 after cold enough temps that the ground was frozen (top). Don't forget the honey will be ambient temp... that's right, the honey in the hive will be closer to ambient temp than cluster temp. Takes awhile to overcome that so the bees can break cluster.

Second fly day, 23 hives were out and about.

Finally today, third fly day, all hives had signs of life.

Without using a stethoscope, I can't tell if the cluster is alive. I did pull up inner cover on a couple of hives that weren't flying (first fly day), and there was a big cluster under the inner cover. I have Jumbo Lang hives so seeing bees under the inner cover seems to be normal. This time of year, if a double deep Langstroth has bees visible when it is cluster temps (low 30s for hi), I would be very worried they did not have enough stores. Stethoscope can help here, or a FLIR camera if you feel it's worth the investment.

The hives that took longest to fly were more shaded by the other hives. There are also some "personality" differences between the hives - some just don't go out when there's nothing to bring back. But the bees had a couple of weeks of not flying, so everybody was enjoying the sun yesterday.
 

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For those in the north, if you do find a deadout - First I should say that you ought to bring your veil out when you go to check out your "deadout". That's a good surprise to find you were wrong, but not if you get a faceful of bees!

I try to check out my deadouts ASAP, so I check for signs of life at about every fly day to find who is likely dead. I log the day that I find them dead, and notes about how many frames of honey left (edges only, or lots), how many frames had dead bees clinging to them, how many dead bees on the floor (few, thin layer, thick layer). And usually I have notes about whether their population was strong in the fall.

I want to clean out a dead hive right away for 3 reasons. 1. I check the dead bees for mites using an alcohol wash, preferably the ones on the frames. I note how many mites/300 bees that I find. This isn't directly comparable to a mite wash when the hive is alive, because mites can move and will concentrate on the live bees as the population dwindles. But if there are more than 30 mites in the sample from the dead hive, then clearly mite levels were high. This is important info about whether I managed mites well enough. If I only treated in the summer, but then the deadout had a high mite population when it died in winter... well, then I wouldn't treat in the summer as my only treatment, and I would treat surviving hives ASAP (yes, during the winter - there are options, like Apivar even if its just the top box, or Oxalic Acid Vaporization).

2. When dead bees molder in the hive, it's gross. This is a waste of energy for future bees, to have to deal with literal slime left behind by the moldering bees. Better to chuck out the bees (after the mite check) to make things easier for the future residents.

3. I want to close up the hive ASAP, to prevent robbers from coming in and gorging on honey, and to prevent wax moth from getting in, and make sure mice can't get in.

So, all those are important reasons to take care of a deadout as soon as you can use your fingers outside.

Something to consider when facing a deadout: I have a "diagnosis tree" that I run through when checking the hive.

Was the hive strong in the summer? Then a brood disease can be ruled out.
For a strong hive that died, were there more than 30 mites/300 bees in the alcohol wash? Likely that mites played a role.
For the hive with more than 10% mites, any evidence of mite frass, on more than one central comb? This is mite poop, left behind on the TOP of the cell, looks like a tiny dot of powdered sugar. If no, then the mites came in after broodrearing was over. If yes, then the mite population was building through the summer.

For the hive that was strong through the summer, but did not have a lot of mites... Any signs of queen cells? they may have swarmed in the fall and then not gotten a mated queen.

For the weak hive through the summer that did not build up well and then died.... Could have been a small hive that swarmed and got a mated queen, but never had a strong population to raise a good queen, so kept superceding.... Or it could have been a brood disease that could take other hives down.

I would not re-use that comb, since I can't diagnose a brood disease from the comb alone. I have to see brood in the comb to distinguish between signs of EFB or AFB. If Nosema played a role, that's not contagious through the combs... I have a 1/2 chance of wasting lots of combs for no good reason. If there were lots of combs, I would probably freeze them, then set up a test nuc for 2 months of broodrearing, see how the brood looks. But I'd be assuming those combs were going to be burned (if empty) or buried (if full of honey; honey won't burn), and I would plan to replace those combs.
 

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" Do you do a consistent mite check?" I do not alcohol wash but I do monitor several times. Spring and Summer I sample drone and worker capped brood with a through inspection. I know the Fall invasion will occur with robbing season. After I remove all supers and start feeding syrup, I OAV all hives and do a Varroa Dead Drop Count (VDDC) via the sticky boards. One word of caution, I sample inspect the brood form various hives. I had an outlier this year, a robust hive, young open-mated queen that Varroa invaded early and bred like mad plus robbed! The hive was loaded and difficult to clean out. I predict she will not survive winter and die from a viral infection. I also had an astonishingly resistant hive which appeared not to participate in robbing and resisted hive to hive horizontal migration. I also performed a brood break on one hive to prove the timing and effect of Fall Varroa migration via robbing, etc.

An Indian Summer day will show up -- I hope.
 

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I try to check out my deadouts ASAP, so I check for signs of life at about every fly day to find who is likely dead. I log the day that I find them dead, and notes about how many frames of honey left (edges only, or lots), how many frames had dead bees clinging to them, how many dead bees on the floor (few, thin layer, thick layer). And usually I have notes about whether their population was strong in the fall.
Great write-up, Trishbookworm. Well thought-out.

Thank you for sharing this feedback, and Merry Christmas!

Russ
 

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I have one hive that I think is dead every winter and ,so far, it surprises me every spring. It seems as if this hive really hunkers down once the cold hits. It is also very slow to move up to the top deep and doesn't ever touch the sugar bricks I put on for insurance. I have learned to value this type of colony for overwintering. J
 

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J, I also have one hive that seems very frugal with stores and does not fly much when cold. It is the swarm I caught 3 years ago and bred most of the queens in my apiary from. They will come out of winter having only consumed 2- 3 medium frames of stores. Unfortunantly, it does not appear to be a heritable trait. On the other hand, this hive is in shade most of the winter and that may play a big role.
 

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"Without using a stethoscope, I can't tell if the cluster is alive." I use a simple dial thermometer or in three cases a remote weather station sensor to provide temperature readings. The inner air at the top of the hive will always be warmer and independent of cluster location than the ambient. When it matches the cluster is in dead. The values or temperature differentials will depend on the amount of insulation, ventilation and hive design. I have no top vents, 2-inch side insulation and 4-inch top insulation now with bottom ventilation for the insulation box and the hive. My "differentials" range from 16 to 23 F above outside ambient. My low top-of hive value has been 38F on a 15F ambient external temperature day with no insulation and and windy location. Internal air temperature values usually never fall below 40F and most ofter hover between 50 and 60F. Having installed my full insulation approach now, all values have been rising constantly ( also a warm spell came in). There are several variables affecting the daily readings by hive; cluster size, health and internal temperature affects on metabolic rates and what I think is brood rearing in some cases.

A small point about cluster activity: heat or energy production is minimized by a cluster around a 41F ambient, inside. If it gets colder metabolic rate increase, if it gets warmer metabolic rates increase. The tipping or inflection point seems to be a 40F air temperature and a 57F outer surface cluster temperature. Of course other things affect bee activity - like brood rearing.

When the "differential temperature" falls for no apparent reason and stays low I know a cluster is in trouble. ( I am also attempting to monitor humidity.)
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Today I found hive #2 had its entrance reducer pulled out. I used the reducer to sweep out the many dead bees on the bottom. Crazy amount of dead bees and I'm not sure what pulled out the reducer. I thought today was supposed to be warmer than 41F, so obviously they weren't flying much anyway, and I didn't see any activity. I hope this hive makes it through.

That gave me the thought to pull the plug out of the feeder rims to give them all an upper entrance. Then I forgot about it. Should I do it? It seems like a huge hole for an upper entrance.
 

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My best guess would be 'possums, skunks or '*****. Are your hives entrances about 18" above ground so that a predator has to expose it's soft underbelly to access the entrance?
I have six colonies sitting on a flatbed trailer. I had the entrances hanging over the edge. I turned them around so I could treat them from behind, putting the entrances to the inside of the trailer, never a thought to making it easier for the predators. :pinch:
They were full of bees at the beginning of Sept., now I think I am going to have to put them in five frame nucs to get them through the Winter. Not a good time of year to be having to move things about. It must be worse in your climate.

As to the second part of your question, I wouldn't hazard a guess, as I am in the humid warmer South.

Good luck,
Alex
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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Jim, just how big is the hole? A 1" diameter hole would be fine. I noticed yesterday that the bees that had an upper entrance on their hives were using them to a much greater extent than the bottom entrances. Probably because the bees were more in the upper boxes than down low. If you get a day in the upper 40's, I would go ahead and pop the top and take a peek to see if the hive is still alive. If not, you can use it's resources to help your other hives and the question about the upper entrance is moot.
 

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I OAV'ed all nine colonies today. If I get a decent day, sunny and 40 F, 14 days from now
Why in 14 days? You shouldn't have any brood right now. Pick the warmest day (so that the bees are as loosely clustered as can be helped) then treat! I always treat around thanksgiving and then one last time at new year. Then leave them alone until the end of funerary. Then I start with sugar and protien patties for spring build up.
 

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jimbo3 - I have had a sticky board puled out several times and licked clean. I also seen signs of skunk or??? working the field. I also have another sticky board licked clean without pulling it out - mice an shrews? I alos had a mouse embalmed in a hive once. So, the bigger the hole the bigger the critter. A mouse just ate the honey off my bee jacket, ate parts of the jacket and parts of the zipper. It now has some nice ventilation holes - good excuse to buy a new jacket!
 

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mbear - "You shouldn't have any brood right now." Several reasons; 1) A retired Maine State Bee Inspector said he seldom ever saw a "totally brood-less" hive in winter, 2) My measured internal hive temperatures imply activity, I currently have internal hive temperatures at 61,63 and 67F with 61 & 63F hives having a relative humidity of 99% measured in a quilt like box, 3) one hive dropped 9 mites via Dec 23 rd treatment, 90-95% efficacy implies some mites remain, 4) this is a verification test to see if there are any mites left via a dead drop test, 5) 2X at 14 days apart was recommended by a U of Sussex researcher to get a 99.7% efficacy which can buy a whole season of no-treat if there is no horizontal spreading and robbing.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Hive #3 dead. Saw several small clusters of bee butts sticking out of cells. Found several capped brood cells with the center chewed out. Lots of honey and mountain camp still. Seems most bees were towards front of hive, and cluster trying to get out out of plugged feeder shim hole. Didn't get too in-depth, but cleaned out the majority of the dead bees and scraped down the burr comb. Did find a lot of cells of open nectar, but I'm not sure if it was nectar or perhaps excess moisture. Are open cells of nectar normal this time of year?

Girls from other hives weren't happy with me as I got nailed twice and got a couple of others on my head before they got me. It'll just be quick I said to myself. No need for smoke or a veil I said to myself.

I did get to remove the entrance reducer on another hive and scrape out the dead bees before I gave up with the harassment I was enduring.

JWPalmer- pulled the 1" hole plugs out of the rest of the feeder shims today. Maybe it was a moisture problem and this'll help the other hives? I had 2" foam insulation under the top cover (like the other hives).

Did I treat for mites too late or something?
 
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