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started hive from package, fed bees sometimes daily thru summer. Stong hive with 1 brrod chamber, two supers full of honey. Took 1 super off two weeks ago prepareing for minimum space for winter. Bee keeping class graduate last winter so have some better than average knowledge of beekeeping. inspected every two weeks all summer and fall. Friday, noticed a robbing attempt going on by what appeared to be smaller feral bees. front entrance closed down to 3/4 in to allow only small area of attack so my bees could defend for the last 2 weeks. today i went to check on hive and found maybe 50 dead bees on bottom screenboard, 30 or so at entrance, 15 or so on top board, and entire hive empty of bees. empty cluster space in brrod frames with capped honey and pollen stores around top and sides. Top supers are still capped honey. no ragged edge uncapped honey stores. lots of stored pollen. a few yellow jackets were crawling in and out of hive entrance and scattered throughout. inspection 2 weeks ago saw nothing out of ordinary. no varroa mite problems, a very few hive beetles. no evidence of disease. 2nd hive 4 ft away still ok...no signs of problems. Anyone have an opinion what happened? or even anything similar? Central alabama here, 1st cold snap started yesterday....average fall. hives well protected with 8ft wind break.
 

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Lots of things that sound like you did all the right stuff; but as DPBsbees asked, you stated "no varroa mite problems"- what was mite counts this year, how did you determine those numbers, sugar roll, alcohol roll, etc... cant always blame mites but if you didnt know or treat as fall progresses and queens slows laying the mite population can overrun hive. Let us know, thanks
 

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Only been at it 4 years and you just described 3 of my right now but i treated with Apivar in August and still lost 3 due to mites and may lose one more. My first big loss.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I use a screen bottom board and checked mite count in summer a few times and always very low but didn't check last couple months. Used a graphed paper with 1 inch squares and counted 24 hours.
 

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always a good idea to check mite numbers before you treat and then wait 7-10 days and check mite levels again, that way you are able to measure if your treatment is effective. Almost any treatment creates mite drop but without check again you cant determine how many may remain.
 

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When you checked after the robbing incident, was there dead brood in the combs, or no brood at all? If no brood at all the most likely cause is the hive went queenless at some point, failed to requeen successfully, which led to the eventual demise. If there was dead brood, the most likely cause of death is varroa mites, and that would mean you better look more carefully at the surviving hive.

There's a bunch of other possibilities but just working with the info you have supplied it's about 90% likely it will be one of those two.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
When you checked after the robbing incident, was there dead brood in the combs, or no brood at all? If no brood at all the most likely cause is the hive went queenless at some point, failed to requeen successfully, which led to the eventual demise. If there was dead brood, the most likely cause of death is varroa mites, and that would mean you better look more carefully at the surviving hive.

There's a bunch of other possibilities but just working with the info you have supplied it's about 90% likely it will be one of those two.
there was no brood, because the queen doesnt lay eggs this time of year here. there is none in the surviving hive either.
 

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You should be using a sugar shake or alcohol wash to get your mite levels. A mite tray will not give you your mite levels in a percentage since it doesn't measure mites on a known quantity of bees. It also important to check levels late in the summer since this is when they can begin to explode.
 

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This used to be known as colony collapse, but these days most people think it's a result of varroa infestation.

The mites carry a number of viral diseases that weaken the bees, and they will die off in droves the first cold snap.

Check any open brood cells for white specks -- these are mite feces that the bees have not yet removed. White specks in the empty brood cells means heavy mite infestation.

If you had robbing attempts visible on casual inspection, I'd suspect you had a very weak hive, possibly queenless, and they absconded, quite likely to your other hive. Bees will drift to strong queens, leaving the hive weak, and if the queen perished after the bees shut down brooding, they moved to a hive with a strong queen.

Freeze the honey and pollen, and extract the extra super. Use the brood comb and stores for expansion next year, it makes a huge difference in how fast they build up.

And sometimes bees just move on, for reasons we don't know.

Peter
 

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Sorry for your loss.

I'm in my second year and set up some new hives this year in a new location and lost all but one. The symptoms were very similar to yours. I cut out 8 samples of comb and brood and sent to Beltsville Bee lab and they reported Varoa Mites which led to Bee Parasitic Mite Syndrome (BPMS). Essentially, the mites carry viruses that are transmitted to bees. An already weakened colony by mites becomes doomed. Without properly identifying or treating for mites, my first indication of a problem were the yellow jackets coming in and mopping up the hive. They killed off the remaining bees in a matter of days.

I have been reading up on various treatments and am hesitant to use chemicals, although it certainly appears to be popular and recommended, particularly OA treatments with a vaporizer, which I am still considering purchasing. However, I have read so many down sides to all of this, most recently the potential for chemical residue building on my frames, which I don't want.

It seems to me the most beneficial treatment (in my case as someone who wants to try without chemicals) would be placing a single frame of drone comb in the deep and trapping mites with their drones larva, waiting for it to be capped, removing, freezing and replacing for bees to clean out, and doing this several times through season.

I never realized Varoa Mites could carry viruses that could weaken the bees more than the mites themselves. Close proximity to other hives compounded my losses in a short time. I'm planning to better disperse my hives next year. I'm curious to others thoughts on treatments. Thanks.
 

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Neither oxalic acid nor formic acid leave residue in the comb, nor does thymol (Apilife Var). OA and formic acid can be used without removing honey supers, thymol will flavor honey so they must be removed.

If you don't take active measures to actually control the mite load in your hives, you will lose them on a regular basis, which is very expensive in replacement bees and lost honey harvest.

Freezing drone brood may help quite a bit, but not if you have high mite loads, there will still be to many mites in worker brood cells in my personal estimation. Killing off the drone brood also takes quite a toll on the resources of the hive, it takes quite a bit of nectar and pollen to raise a frame of brood, and eventually they will stop in the summer, leaving you no control measures.

You can also try dusting the hives with powdered sugar multiple times as this has been claimed to reduce mite loads, but you have to dust each hive until all the bees are covered and it will not affect any mites in capped brood, so has to be repeated weekly at least three times to be effective.

If you do not have large numbers of "wild" hives around you, non-chemical controls may work pretty well, but if you have a decent number of managed or unmanaged hives within flying distance, likely you will get mites coming in from drifting bees beyond what non-chemical solutions will keep under control.

I use formic aicd, Mite Away Quick Strips. Quite noxious to humans -- if you have more that three or four hives to treat, I strongly recommend a respirator and a helper -- but nasty as they are, they knock down the mites very nicely and don't seem to bother the bees much, mine all brooded up very nicely two weeks after treatment.

Treat however you intend to during the summer dearth if you have one, this is the time when there is the least brood in the hive and also the point at which the mite load is usually highest. If you eliminate them in August or early September, all the bees produced after that date will be nearly mite free, and you will get strong winter bees and much better hive survival.

One of the members of our bee club treated last year for the first time, and went from 20% loss the previous year to one or two hives out of 400. Saved him a ton of money and work.

Peter
 

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Sounds like typical mite collapse to me or queen failed at some point, didn't get good winter bees made, cluster suddenly shrinks away once the first cold snap hits and it's robbed out.
 

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Playing disk golf yesterday, I saw a feral colony in exactly the same condition. My son reported the colony a few weeks ago with bees covering the honeycomb, but yesterday, only the comb, some capped brood and two dozen bees remained. In this case there was no mite detritus in the cells, & no queen. They had a queen event or they absconded. (In Laredo, TX).
 

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Neither oxalic acid nor formic acid leave residue in the comb, nor does thymol (Apilife Var). OA and formic acid can be used without removing honey supers, thymol will flavor honey so they must be removed.

If you don't take active measures to actually control the mite load in your hives, you will lose them on a regular basis, which is very expensive in replacement bees and lost honey harvest.

Freezing drone brood may help quite a bit, but not if you have high mite loads, there will still be to many mites in worker brood cells in my personal estimation. Killing off the drone brood also takes quite a toll on the resources of the hive, it takes quite a bit of nectar and pollen to raise a frame of brood, and eventually they will stop in the summer, leaving you no control measures.

You can also try dusting the hives with powdered sugar multiple times as this has been claimed to reduce mite loads, but you have to dust each hive until all the bees are covered and it will not affect any mites in capped brood, so has to be repeated weekly at least three times to be effective.

If you do not have large numbers of "wild" hives around you, non-chemical controls may work pretty well, but if you have a decent number of managed or unmanaged hives within flying distance, likely you will get mites coming in from drifting bees beyond what non-chemical solutions will keep under control.

I use formic aicd, Mite Away Quick Strips. Quite noxious to humans -- if you have more that three or four hives to treat, I strongly recommend a respirator and a helper -- but nasty as they are, they knock down the mites very nicely and don't seem to bother the bees much, mine all brooded up very nicely two weeks after treatment.

Treat however you intend to during the summer dearth if you have one, this is the time when there is the least brood in the hive and also the point at which the mite load is usually highest. If you eliminate them in August or early September, all the bees produced after that date will be nearly mite free, and you will get strong winter bees and much better hive survival.

One of the members of our bee club treated last year for the first time, and went from 20% loss the previous year to one or two hives out of 400. Saved him a ton of money and work.

Peter

Thanks you Peter, this is what I was looking for!
 

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there was no brood, because the queen doesnt lay eggs this time of year here. there is none in the surviving hive either.
My climate isn't much different from yours. Most of my bees make brood year round. This time of year it is greatly reduced but there is still the better part of a full frame of brood in most of my healthy hives.
 

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My money is on the Yellow Jackets! I had same experience last year with my two strongest hives, and have been conducting a study since. What appears to be a nuisance is actually like a dripping faucet. Yellow Jackets, unchecked, can totally destroy a strong hive in 3 weeks or less. When temps turn colder like in October, the bees begin having to ball up. During the hours from Dawn to when the temps get warm enough for the bees to fly, the doors are totally unguarded and the yellow jackets have cart blanch. Same from cool down to Dusk. Yellow jackets can and do fly all the way down to freezing! Prior to these fall temps, the bees are more able to protect and do a better job. I'm going to conduct a more formal study next year with the aid of a Utah State Entimologist on this subject.
 

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Last year I killed 20 to 50 yellow jackets a day, pretty much all summer, but turned my head for about 3 weeks in October. On Nov 1, I went out to button them up for winter and found my strongest hives pretty much gone. My strongest hive (nearly 4 deeps full of bees) was down to the queen and a baseball size cluster, but still there huddling up in the upper most super. My second strongest hive (3 full deeps) was completely empty except for the robbing. It looked wrong, felt wrong, and in spite of my efforts to stop the robbing, it continued until I went out at night and found it was actually empty. So what I was seeing was all robbing! I had not necked the strong hives down below half of the bottom landing since they were strong and supposedly more able to defend. Three smaller hives, I had necked down to 2 bees wide. They were all three stronger on Nov 1st.
 

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If you don't take active measures to actually control the mite load in your hives, you will lose them on a regular basis, which is very expensive in replacement bees and lost honey harvest.
PSFred is correct. The underlying factor here is mites. Losses will occur in late fall when bee numbers are dwindling and mite populations explode if they weren't managed earlier in the year. I think a lot of "winter losses" discovered in early spring were actually due to mite overload back in the previous year. Bottom line, mites have to be managed.

I personally do this with brood break July 1st in my area by removing the queen and directing the colony to rear another. The mites have no open brood to reproduce in until the new queen begins laying ~30 days later. When she starts laying, most of the mites jump into open brood just before capping, are sealed over, and will starve due to too many mites feeding on the same larvae. A short setback in brood production is quickly overcome by a young queen who lays like a Spring queen because she was mated after longest day of the year (solstice) and the fact that the mite population has been decimated. The hive goes into winter with a large cluster, a young queen, and tolerable mite levels.
 
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