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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,

Newb Question here. This was my first winter with bees, and I decided to check on them, on one of these 60 degree days we were having in New England. I found that my colony had not survived. My quess is they froze to death on one of the -30 days we had recently. The colony was still clustered with the queen in the middle, and 6-7 bees in the cells, and that is how they died...so it seemed to me like a quick death and not being overtaken by mites or something along those lines. So my questions is when I put a new package in this spring, should I have cleaned out all the dead bees, and give the hive a general once over, or do I just leave it as is, and let the new bees clean everything out?
 

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Yes clean it up yourself, ie, get rid of the dead bees, and any dirt or decaying matter. The package should be dumped into a clean hive.

Also, although diseases like AFB are rare, it does exist, and any dead hive should be checked for signs of that before re stocking. In a hive that was broodless for a time before dying, you would do that by checking for scales.

It can also pay to find out why the hive died, so you do not repeat the same mistake every year. Your comment "The colony was still clustered with the queen in the middle, and 6-7 bees in the cells, and that is how they died" sounds just like a hive that died of mites. Without seeing it myself of course i cannot say for sure, but it could be worth paying attention to mite control next time around.

However if there was zero honey in the hive, that would indicate they starved.
 

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Careful when knocking out the dead bees in the cells. Wax is brittle at cold temps and can easily break off even with light tapping. Take your hive tool (or finger) and scrape the bees off the frames (without touching the wax) into a cup and do an alcohol wash on them. Better to get them out before they start to mold. BUT, if you can't get them out of the individual cells, the new bees will remove them.
 

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Be careful not to damage the comb extracting dead bees head into cells. I think removing them is loves labor lost. Now dead mushy brood is another matter and should not be given to a new colony until they are really booming. Just brush off the loose stuff and you are fine.
 

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Take your hive tool (or finger) and scrape the bees off the frames (without touching the wax) into a cup and do an alcohol wash on them.
Good advice. Collect 300 bees in a measuring cup, mark a line on it and now you'll have a marker for your spring/summer/fall mite count checks. I would also collect another sample of bees and send it to Belstville bee lab for analysis.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for the advice everyone. I'm fairly new to this, and I didn't think a mite problem would kill all the bees at the exact same time, but maybe it was mites...I use Russian bees because they are suposed to be more resilient to mites, but I suppose even they can only take so much.
 

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I didn't think a mite problem would kill all the bees at the exact same time, but maybe it was mites...
We don't know if it was mites. You have not given enough information for us to know. For example you have not said if there was any honey in the hive, so we cannot rule out starvation.


But mites can kill the bees outright, or, they can be a contributing factor. As in, a hive weakened by mites may in the end be killed by cold. But would not have been if they had not first been weakened by mites.

Did you give the colony any mite control, and if so what was that? Package bees are normally commercial bees that are bred for high honey production and not mite resistance as most commercial beekeepers do that for them. If a hive started from a commercial package is not treated for mites it will typically give a good honey crop, then get overtaken and killed by mites before the next season.
 
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