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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is my first year keeping and I am worried about my hives making it through winter here in South Carolina. The number of bees is low compared to what there was mid summer; I am wondering about combining the hives. What is the amount of bees necessary to survive the winter. I have enough honey stores (probably), and have about 3 deep frames worth (double sided) filled with bees per hive. I have not done any medication. Any thoughts?
 

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>The number of bees is low compared to what there was mid summer;

It's normal for the population to drop to half fairly quickly in the fall when brood rearing stops and the old field bees die off. I don't know how low the population is, but if it's far lower than it should be, it would probably be because of varroa mites.

>I am wondering about combining the hives. What is the amount of bees necessary to survive the winter.

Measuring numbers of bees is not so easy. I tend to think of it as a certain number of frames of bees. But that's the frames that are thickly covered, not the frames that are loosely covered. Also, the number changes if it's colder and they are more tightly covered. But generally HERE (Nebraska) I figure a strong colony going into winter should have eight or ten frames covered with bees. I have noticed, though, that the carniolans and the ferals seem to drop off in population qicker and smaller than the Italians or even the Buckfasts. So race has an effect too. The Carnis and ferals seem to winter better on smaller clusters.

>I have enough honey stores (probably), and have about 3 deep frames worth (double sided) filled with bees per hive.

I've seen that many get through the winter, but it does seem a bit light. What race are they?

>I have not done any medication.

Have you done any mite drop counts? The population could have dropped off because of the race of bee. It could have dropped off because of severe mite infestations. Without some measurements of the mite population how will you know which? A drop test with a sticky board (or a SBB with an insert) or a powdered sugar roll could give you an idea how many mites there are.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I have generic italians. I don't get to check them often, but plan on checking them over the holidays to get a more accurate count/assessment. Last time I was concerned because I saw several SHB and one adult Wax mouth and a new queen. The bees themselves are young (fuzzy back)with nondeformed wings. Things in general point to a weak hive. Hopefully things will have imporved. Thanks for the help. This is by far the best source for beekeeping.
 
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