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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am a first year newbie with what appears to be a dead hive. I started mid summer with a 10 frame med nuc and got them built up to another deep before fall. I had to feed sugar syrup heavy into fall to get the last of the comb drawn out. I had not been into the hive since Oct until yesterday. I popped the top cover expecting to see the cluster, but they were all in the bottom box. The temp was only 25, which I realize is pretty cold, but I wanted to quickly throw some fondant on in case they were out of food. What I found was the top box apparently untouched, still capped in all frames. The cluster is in the lower box still on the frames and the lower entrance is clogged with frozen bees. I heard no noise and saw no movement. I am assuming this is a dead hive. What should I bee looking for to learn from this experience and to possibly figure out what went wrong?
 

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Word of an old beekeeper always said " beekeepers don't PANIC"

Well first of all it was 25... I'm sure that your girls are trying to conserve heat by not buzzing for nothing. A cluster does not make a whole lot of noise. Make sure that the entrance is free of dead bees and come back later to see if other bees are close to the exit... Keep your hive closed until it get well over 40. There is no worries that they did not touch the top box... There might be a lot of food in the bottom box... My bees are visible by the entrance. I have a bee shed!

Make certain that they have good wind protection and moisture control... no tarping or plastic wrap...
 

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Find yourself a cheap stethoscope. When you are questioning if your colonies are alive and it's too cold to open them, knock on the side and listen, you'll hear them buzz. If your ears are good enough you can probably get away with just your ear to the hive, I can't hear very well though. Helps put my mind at ease.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Clean out the bottom entrance or give them a top entrance.
There is a hole in the inner cover, will that suffice for a top entrance? I plan to clean out the lower entrance of dead bees as soon as it's above freezing. Next week should be in the 40's all week here.
 

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Biorn, if they are dead take some photos as you go through the hive. You will get an honest online diagnosis from some experienced beekeepers here. Also do not be depressed about it, there is a lot to learn in beekeeping. Additionally, if you are able to secure a package of bees they will get to a quick start as they will have combs to work in.
 

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There is a hole in the inner cover, will that suffice for a top entrance? I plan to clean out the lower entrance of dead bees as soon as it's above freezing. Next week should be in the 40's all week here.
Is there a notch in the inner cover that leads to the exterior of the hive? You can take a wire coat hanger and clean the entrance from the outside in any temp. Live bees move even in 25 degrees. It's supposed to be 46 here next wed. It may be a good time to check on them then.
 

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If it turns out that they are all dead....look for varroa mites.
Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I took my hive apart the other day and brought it with to my beek meeting. It was the opinion of the instructor that the cluster started to freeze from the outside and then the bees inside were unable to move and starved. The bees on the frames were all the way into the comb with their butts sticking out. There were literally thousands of dead bees on the bottom board. No signs of mites that we could see. The box above them was packed solid with capped honey. Not sure what I could have done different other than possibly insulate or wrap the hive in a dark fabric.
 

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Sometimes you don't have enough bees going into winter to create enough heat. The reasons could be many things. Varroa is one of those things. A late split or swarm, a fall dearth, a failing queen are other possibilities.

It seems to be a common belief that if they are dead headfirst in cells that they starved, but that does not mean they starved. Bees cluster head first in the cells with or without food. It's more useful to look at the presence of stores and the cluster being in contact with the stores to determine if they starved.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Sometimes you don't have enough bees going into winter to create enough heat. The reasons could be many things. Varroa is one of those things. A late split or swarm, a fall dearth, a failing queen are other possibilities.

It seems to be a common belief that if they are dead headfirst in cells that they starved, but that does not mean they starved. Bees cluster head first in the cells with or without food. It's more useful to look at the presence of stores and the cluster being in contact with the stores to determine if they starved.
I will take some pictures of the frames with the cluster and post them. I would like to learn as much as possible from this experience.
 
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