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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I live in North West Connecticut.
I inherited two be hives on September 1st 2020.
The man who gave them to me said they were originally Italian and Russian bees and they might be a cross breed of the two now.
He had them for five years before he gave them to me.
I have been watching bee videos, researching, and reading everything I can get my hands on about bees.
They seemed very healthy going into the winter.
I did a mite check on September 24th and put in the recommended dose of Mite Away Quick Strips for a two week treatment.
There was basically no honey in the hive at all.
I fed them with ½ gallon sugar water BEFORE the treatment and 1 ½ gallons after the treatment until the winter started to freeze everything up.
The treatment directions specifically say not to feed the bees while treating.
After feeding, the hives were fairly heavy and seemed pretty well stocked with winter food.
I even put some raw sugar in the top brood box for them to much on in case they ran out.
Some did at times and some didn’t because I checked on them every so often.
I understand that mites can wipe out a hive during the winter.
I know that moisture can kill bees in the winter too.
I saw that some people vent the hive by elevating it slightly by using a stick slightly.
I did this. I elevated the lids of my hives about 1/8 inch so moisture had a chance to escape out of the top.
I checked them all throughout the winter.
They seemed fine.
We had a week of very cold weather in mid February.
It maybe got down to the teens or single digits for a few days.
To my understanding... the colder it gets, the more reserves or food the bees will consume because the more energy they will need to keep warm thus the more moisture is produced working in a condition with the cold weather causing more moisture.
Am I correct on this?
I went to check the hives on February 24th and one hive was completely dead.
Could it be mites?
I didn’t see any.
Could it be lack of food for the winter?
Could it be moisture?
Could it be something else?
I also have come to the understanding that if the queen is weak, she will produce ineffective and genetically weak and inferior workers, and this can possibly be analyzed by brood laying patterns and comb construction and also bee behavior.
Could this be the problem?
This hive did display some more hostile behavior in the beginning of the winter. More so than the other hive.
I also have come to the understanding that winter bees are different than summer bees and if they are too not healthy, the hive will suffer.
I’d like to find out what killed this hive.
Can someone help me out with this so I don’t run into this problem again or can at least combat it?
I’m attaching is a link to some photos to my of what the hive looked like when I took it all apart.
I photographed as much as I could and even every single frame front and back.
As you can see, there is a small cluster in the middle and a big bunch towards the front of the hive that fell on the bottom.
I understand it’s difficult to tell what happened from a few photos but if there is anyway anyone has any idea as to what happened here, can you please share you insight.




We also had a 70 degree the other day and the other hive it really super alive.
Here is a video of that.




If someone knows where they get the pollen, please tell me because there are absolutely no leaves, buds, or flowers anywhere. It’s technically still winter. I heard they get the pollen from sap.
Is this true?
Can anyone tell what species they are?
Russian, Italian or some kind of genetic combo?
 

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2 gallons of feed seems pretty light. As a rule of thumb, usually a hive need 60 lbs of honey to get through the winter. It may have been that they starved to death. I know there is still honey in the hive, but if the cluster gets away from it and it gets cold, they can't move to the honey and they can starve pretty close to that. Not much you can do about that other than make sure they have a ludicrous amount of food going into winter. Also, when it gets colder, the bees actually slow down their activity consuming fewer resources. As it gets colder, the cluster tightens and the bees cannot work as hard. Its when we have warm winters is when the danger of starvation is extremely prevalent since they become very active when it is warm.

Also, there are plenty of things that bloom in the dead of winter that produce pollen, things like pussy willow, witch hazel, crocus, those types of things.

If you can feed your live colony 1:1 syrup, now would be the time to put some of that on until the dandelions bloom en masse.
 

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Looking at your video of your strong hive and the date posted and color of pollen, your maples are probably budding. I am often surprised by what I see coming in where I live in western North Carolina. I have 3 colors of pollen coming in. I know what the light yellow and gold is coming from but have not figured out what the sage/sort of olive green is.
 

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My guess would be that they starved or broke the cluster looking for remaining food and then froze to death. There may be other factors as well, but seeing frames completely empty at this time of winter is too early.
 

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There is some merit to exterior insulation. The by product of heating the cluster is a warmer interior. Bees/cluster/small cluster can move earlier to stores during an extended cold period.

The somewhat warmer interior allows the bees to have a bigger brood area in winter months(yes, there is minimal brood during dead of winter). The bigger brood area may be enough to provide bees that result in an adequate sized cluster to survive the winter.
 
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If I were to guess, I would say that Sept 24 is waaaayyy too late for your area. I am in N GA and treat the last week of July. When I delayed treatments until Sept, I was having 60% losses. When I moved to the first week of Aug, I got my losses down to about 20%. I have since moved it up to late July to assure my winter bees are mite free.
 

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If I were to guess, I would say that Sept 24 is waaaayyy too late for your area. I am in N GA and treat the last week of July. When I delayed treatments until Sept, I was having 60% losses. When I moved to the first week of Aug, I got my losses down to about 20%. I have since moved it up to late July to assure my winter bees are mite free.
Too late to start and too early of a finish! Depending on local conditions in general and the unusual extended fall (like the past year here) there can be time for the mite levels to rebound above survivable levels
 

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I did this. I elevated the lids of my hives about 1/8 inch so moisture had a chance to escape out of the top.

this "practice" can be done during heavy flow and or High heat.

Do not do this in the winter.

GG
 

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I went to check the hives on February 24th and one hive was completely dead.
You should post few pictures that represent the dead-out situation.
Otherwise you are wasting your own time and the same for everyone here.
Once pictures are available, then at least educated guesses are possible.
 

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That's a slew of good photos. My only tip for the next time is to take some looking down into the brood frames. It sounds like you basically started beekeeping last September, and you did what you could given the time frame, so kudos to that!

The bees hadn't quite run out of stores, but were getting close. If they were really strong in February (they hadn't dwindled), the cold might have done them in with that weird snap. I think I see mite frass (the white specks) in the cells on picture 13, and on 29 in the bottom right there might be mites on the bees, so I suspect your fall treatment wasn't as successful as you needed.

This summer, I recommend checking for mites monthly, and treat as they get over the threshold of 2 or 3 mites per 100 bees. If your survivor is strong, you can split it next month-ish and be back to two hives. Your winter bees are going to start coming in mid-August and you want your mites under control before then. Mites are feeding on the fat bodies of your larvae, and those are hugely important for the winter bees' success. I think that Connecticut has many good clubs and if you can connect with a mentor that will help.

As far as strain; without more notes from the original beekeeper it's anybody's guess. It sounds like they no longer had the original queens, so they're likely between the originals and whatever's around from other beekeepers' hives. Given that the queen mates with multiple drones, your workers could be a melange of Russian/Saskatraz, Russian/Italian, Russian/Carnolian... (you get the idea). At this stage, I wouldn't worry much about that -- get the beekeeping basics down first.

Also, be kind to future beekeeping you and take good notes about each hive after every inspection. You'll thank past you someday!
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
That's a slew of good photos. My only tip for the next time is to take some looking down into the brood frames. It sounds like you basically started beekeeping last September, and you did what you could given the time frame, so kudos to that!

The bees hadn't quite run out of stores, but were getting close. If they were really strong in February (they hadn't dwindled), the cold might have done them in with that weird snap. I think I see mite frass (the white specks) in the cells on picture 13, and on 29 in the bottom right there might be mites on the bees, so I suspect your fall treatment wasn't as successful as you needed.

This summer, I recommend checking for mites monthly, and treat as they get over the threshold of 2 or 3 mites per 100 bees. If your survivor is strong, you can split it next month-ish and be back to two hives. Your winter bees are going to start coming in mid-August and you want your mites under control before then. Mites are feeding on the fat bodies of your larvae, and those are hugely important for the winter bees' success. I think that Connecticut has many good clubs and if you can connect with a mentor that will help.

As far as strain; without more notes from the original beekeeper it's anybody's guess. It sounds like they no longer had the original queens, so they're likely between the originals and whatever's around from other beekeepers' hives. Given that the queen mates with multiple drones, your workers could be a melange of Russian/Saskatraz, Russian/Italian, Russian/Carnolian... (you get the idea). At this stage, I wouldn't worry much about that -- get the beekeeping basics down first.

Also, be kind to future beekeeping you and take good notes about each hive after every inspection. You'll thank past you someday!





Wow thanks, that's a lot of good info. Thank you. I am very new at this. I did start in September and have been spending all winter researching and soaking up as much info that I can. They just fell into my lap. I tried to get as much food in there before the winter. I fed all the way up to the freezing point. I am planning on splitting the hive. I even built another hive to possibly split off to as well. I would ultimately like to get into natural bee keeping but I'm still learning about that too. Please feel free to share any info you have on that.

Here is a link to a video of the other hive I just took today. I'm going to take the mouse guard off tonight because it's supposed to be in the 70s this week. It seems like that hive is doing super good and they look super healthy.

 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I did this. I elevated the lids of my hives about 1/8 inch so moisture had a chance to escape out of the top.

this "practice" can be done during heavy flow and or High heat.

Do not do this in the winter.

GG

I saw to do this for moisture. Is there a better solution for eliminating moisture during the winter? Should I even be concerned with that? I see a lot of people putting woodchips and sugar on newspaper on the top of the frames to absorb moisture but it seems like no one really has a simple solution for this. What do you recommend?
 

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I am planning on splitting the hive. I even built another hive to possibly split off to as well. I would ultimately like to get into natural bee keeping but I'm still learning about that too. Please feel free to share any info you have on that.
Like I said -- find a mentor if you can, or at least a beekeeper community in your area who are more familiar with the climate and the forage. My central NY experience is really good for central NY -- not necessarily as applicable to CT. What I can suggest is keep an eye on your colony's drones. Once you see capped drones, you know it's close to splitting season. Keep an eye on the weather. Your new queens (if you don't buy one) need to fly to mate in three weeks. I know it's hard to forecast accurately that far out, but if it looks like there's an arctic dip coming, you may want to hedge your bets.
 

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I saw to do this for moisture. Is there a better solution for eliminating moisture during the winter? Should I even be concerned with that? I see a lot of people putting woodchips and sugar on newspaper on the top of the frames to absorb moisture but it seems like no one really has a simple solution for this. What do you recommend?
If you feed up to the last weeks then the moisture is from the late feeding/uncapped stores.
feed sooner.
the quilt box works, that is what I do. 1/8 inch lift of the lid is a lot of air flow.

IMO the late feeding was most of the moisture issue.

google "quilt box for bees" read 8 of the first 10 hits to get the idea. the moisture end up in the chips VIA very slow air flow.

BTW the bees need water in winter, some of the condensation is used for this pourpose, so a very dry inside may not be optimal either.

GG
 

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That looks like a lot of poop on the landing board. My bees fly further from the hive during cleansing flights, but things may be different in Connecticut.
Is there any on the inside, maybe on top of the frames?

Alex
 

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First, you are to be commended for doing some research and being a responsible beekeeper. I can't get your pictures to load, but even without them I would agree that mite treatment was too late and feed too little and too late. These timing things come with experience and local knowledge. You will get it right this year. J
 

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That looks like a lot of poop on the landing board. My bees fly further from the hive during cleansing flights, but things may be different in Connecticut.
Is there any on the inside, maybe on top of the frames?

Alex


They are screen bottoms so it goes right through. It was a very cold winter too. Things seem to bee popping so far and it just turned spring!
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
First, you are to be commended for doing some research and being a responsible beekeeper. I can't get your pictures to load, but even without them I would agree that mite treatment was too late and feed too little and too late. These timing things come with experience and local knowledge. You will get it right this year. J



Thanks. I'm also doing a video blog and taking video of their behavior every single day. Call me crazy but I think something is off balance or just shifting with nature, which is why all the populations of bees are dying. Maybe it's a bee keeper symbiotic thing we have to live in balance with and maybe it's being abused in some circumstances. I've seen a lot of the bee documentaries and I think it's just a big combination of everything. I'm working on some natural bee keeping techniques but a lot of it is all trial.
It's very similar to when I realized my grandmother lived to 100 years old and had lots of energy her whole life. I thought she was weird for eating dandelions out of the yard. Then I did some research and found that dandelions are some of the best super foods for the human body. Now I grow a dandelion garden and the plants grow their leaves on average up to 20" long. I have much confidence that we can get our bee populations thriving back up to large healthy numbers without medications.
 

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They are screen bottoms so it goes right through. It was a very cold winter too. Things seem to bee popping so far and it just turned spring!
A lot of times poop on the tops of the frames indicates their inability to hold it until the can get outside. Even if it goes through the screened bottom it is still indicative of a problem. It could be simply too much solids in their supplemental feed such as is in organic sugar or maybe they found some molasses or it could be something worse. It bears watching.

Alex
 
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