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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
If you had low winter losses what do you attribute that to?

Here are the things that I believe resulted in my low losses this past winter:

Year round Nutrition - feed any hive that does not already have at least 15 pounds of food stores already - they need to have plenty of both open nectar and capped honey. Hives which perceive food insecurity will put their selves on a diet, resulting in compromised overall health. (Got that from Ed Holcomb)

Control mites by some means - Personally I treat whether they need it or not (but they pretty much always do when I check) twice a year - a round of Apiguard around August 1 and one OA vapor treatment in December. The summer treatment knocks down mites before the fall build up, the Dec treatment is very effective because hives are brood free right before winter sets in.

Requeen before the fall build up - replace any queen which has been through an intensive egg laying period. (Got that also from Ed Holcomb)

Eliminate under performing hives in early September - Don' t go to the work and expense of feeding up and caring for hives that have a reduced chance of making it anyway. If they aren't building up well during this time in my area they have a problem.

Make increase in the spring so you have the nucs and queen resources you need later.

Don't let them starve over the winter - In addition to regular fall feeding I make sure my hives have access to food over winter by using the mountain camp method - feed dry sugar right on top of the top bars. Once the cluster is in contact with the sugar they won't starve unless you let it run out.

After the honey season ends (July 4) I move resources around over the next few weeks to get production hives as equal as possible. This makes it easier to judge health and progress, and administer feed and treatments.

Also, my bees are stationary and not close to commercial agriculture.
 

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Beginner's luck.

I had a half dozen hives in Florida, and one in the North Country of northern NY. I lost one hive in FL-- went queenless and was robbed out, so I'm not sure if you can call it winter loss in the conventional sense. I was astonished to find the NY hive alive and brooding up, because it was a little light in the fall, and they had a very tough winter up there. I know of several beekeepers there who had 100% losses.

I probably did everything wrong. I don't feed routinely, I don't treat, I don't requeen routinely. I do make increase, so as to have plenty of resources on hand in case of difficulty.

But to restate: first year results, so probably meaningless. The first real test will be this coming winter.

Still, I can't help but wonder if treatment has enough negative effects that it can sometimes contribute to winter losses.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I don't think that there is any doubt that misused treatments can contribute to all kinds of problems including winter losses - just like heavy infestations of mites can. Let us please not make this about that. You had low losses TF - I had low losses while treating, how about we just agree that it can work both ways?

I'm not in any way trying to imply that my way is THE way - only that it seems to work for me. I'm curious to know what other practices work for other people - so as to learn. And BTW I'm quite likely to change my practices a bit if I run across another idea I like better.
 

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I don't think that there is any doubt that misused treatments can contribute to all kinds of problems including winter losses - just like heavy infestations of mites can. Let us please not make this about that. You had low losses TF - I had low losses while treating, how about we just agree that it can work both ways?

I'm not in any way trying to imply that my way is THE way - only that it seems to work for me. I'm curious to know what other practices work for other people - so as to learn. And BTW I'm quite likely to change my practices a bit if I run across another idea I like better.

I had low losses and my bee's are not in an agriculture air-ya, no Neonicotinoids.
 

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Better mite control and requeening late last summer. Nutrition could of been a little better they did get pretty lite last fall before I started feeding.
 

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2012-13 winter I had 7/8 lost, due to mite induced starvation.
2013-14 winter I had 1/9 lost due to starving/freezing in a TBH, and another that had to be requeened early in the spring (queenless on first inspection). So 8/9 survival.

The differance was "mite resistant queens" ordered from 2 breeders, and wrapping the hives.
 

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I have not lost a hive during winter yet. I cannot really say why. But the things I do pay attention to are. They do not run out of food. They have ample time to prepare for winter before going into it. Adequate population for clustering. Plus the thing that is beyond my control, so far mild winters. It treat them for mites and Nosema prior to things closing down but also take care to not do it to soon. I want the bad things at their lowest possible level entering winter. then it is just hold on and hope they stay low enough.

Other than that. mostly luck.
 

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I don't think that there is any doubt that misused treatments can contribute to all kinds of problems including winter losses - just like heavy infestations of mites can. Let us please not make this about that. You had low losses TF - I had low losses while treating, how about we just agree that it can work both ways?
Sure, and I imagine that most of my good luck was that these were first year colonies, so maybe not as high mite pressure. But I wasn't trying to claim that TF was necessarily the best way. I guess I was just curious why so many new beekeepers who have treated lose their bees. It might be a cumulative thing. As in: treatment (or non-treatment, for that matter) plus the cumulative effects of other beginner mistakes may equal death.
 

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I got lucky this past winter and had 8 of 8 overwinter and come out in great condition this Spring, in spite of a very brutal winter. If I want to take credit for it, here's what I'll attribute it to.

Winter bees with low mite counts - I treat in the Fall and reduce the mite count as much as possible before the last couple of brood cycles.

Sufficient Winter stores - feed if necessary in the Fall and keep either dry sugar or blocks on the top bars.

Fall consolidation - I was much less forgiving last Fall with struggling colonies and did some combining down to 8 hives, and replaced a couple queens in late Summer. No more attempts to overwinter under-performing colonies for me.

Proper ventilation - The colonies stayed dry inside all winter and they never had a problem with moisture.

The only thing different for me last winter was the downsizing of colonies. I was much more aggressive at replacing queens with spotty brood, and combining wimpy colonies instead of trying to nurse them through. Now I have some strong colonies for the honey flow, and I'll be able to do splits for increase and nucs.
 

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Don't know why my winter losses are usually low. 0-20%
We use IPM, & small cell. Only feed when absolutely necessary,
 

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1) First winter beekeeper's luck. I wintered three out of three, including one which late in the year suffered a beekeeper-created huge loss of population. Catastrophic enough to take full-sized hive down to a nuc-sized cluster. Ouch!

2) Quilt boxes for warmth and excellent moisture management despite fiercely cold, extended winter. (My hives were so dry I've even thought that next year I'll think about some form of an in-hive, bee-waterer.)

3) Lauri's Recipe bricks - kept the girls happy and well fed. They had honey left over for early brood.

4) Foam insulation all around, and in the lid, of the hive. I had as much as R-20 (4") on the windward sides, less elsewhere.

5) Mite treatment as needed depending on tests in the Fall.

6) First year beekeeper's hyper-attention to just three hives so little things like slightly ajar entrance reducer would get corrected before the day was out.

8) Reducing the interior size of the hive to match (as well as I could guess) the size of the colonies and their stores by using solid follower boards and foam insulation panels behind that inside the hive. That meant that a colony with 18 frames of bees and stores went through the winter with 6 frames per box, stacked vertically. The vertical orientation seemed to keep them working upward and not laterally, and not stuck off to the side and reluctant to venture upward to the next layer of stores. (Lauri's recipe bricks helped them think UP, too, I believe.) The ease of having a nuc-sized colony in a nuc-sized space which could be quickly - and without disruption - re-sized to a normal-sized box worked very well this Spring. Yesterday I took out the last layer of filler on my smallest hive. When I split out to nucs in the next few weeks, I'll be doing the same thing: establish the colonies from the start in regular deeps with their interior dimensions reduced until the colony grows enough to need the extra space.

8) What may have made the bees cozy, but certainly made me feel betterl: wrapping the hives in wool blankets. Planned as a temporary measure after I moved them in December, and retained through the winter when it got cold, and stayed cold. It did look silly, though.

Enj.
 

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Right you are Michael. Can't be the hours and hours I spend micromanaging my hives.
 

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When I started in bees in 2011, after reading so much about the difficulties in beekeeping, I knew I'd need to become an 'expert' in mites & overwintering . What I saw as the most challenging aspects of keeping bees alive for beginners and the experienced alike.

While I am no 'expert', That is how I focused developing my early stage management skills. Honey was the absolute last thing on my mind. Learning to manage colonies so they were Healthy and thriving was my only goal.

To make a long story short, I'll just say that Genetics, Nutrition and Location are all extremly importaint. Thanks to a background in home farming and agriculture, and an interest in science, Focusing on that set me up for success in many areas, even as a beginner.

A lot of other management is for encouraging higher performance, especially in short season climates. Specifically timed feeding and nutrition is something I have seriously incorporated into my management and my winter losses are nearly 0/133. I only lost a hand full of queens overwinter, but caught it in time before the colony dwindled and requeened with my spare queens.

Queens that overwintered in very small mating nucs and came through below 0 temps (With wind chill) in great shape. Small healthy colonies because they didn't have time to build up, not small because they had issues. Big difference.
The sugar block you see below was a big solid piece when installed. You can see they consumed the center first which is totally gone now.



I lightly feed even hives that are heavy if there has been a lengthy late summer dearth for a great crop of young bees to go into winter. This is what my frames look like in winter. Lots of young bees, open feed and honey. You'll find no large areas of empty dry cells in my hives.

The more experienced I get, the less I feed and the more specific I am when I DO feed.
I am often asking bees to draw out new frames..part of the reason I may feed at times when there is no flow.

I also fed a LOT of my protein mix in fall. I mean a lot. My protein recipe is rich in fats, acids, vitamins, electrolytes as well as protein and carbs.




I overwinter in large colonies, but with genetics that are frugal with their stores. It's not always possible, as in the case of the late mating nucs, but most of my hives have good populations in fall.







2014 spring pic. 3 weeks before our main flow and ready to produce. Last year these nucs were made with 3 frames and a one gallon feeder. Now they are triple 8 frame deeps.



And yes, I gave sugar blocks to all my colonies that overwintered in singles. Many would surely have perrished if it wasn't for the blocks. All my hives would love to take them, but they are a little time consuming to make on a large scale and not necessary in a heavy hive that was well fed in fall. Sugar blocks on singles worked so well in fact, I have total confidence to overwinter more in singles in the future.

This is an example of a colony that was light going into fall, but just wouldn't take up syrup. WIth a good fortified sugar block it looked like this in February & took up the early Maple flow. It's currently in 3 deeps and ready for the main flow here in 2-3 weeks.



My location also is not near any commercial crops. I am not migratory and do not do pollination services. I do not buy bees and do not have any frames of comb from other apiaries in my hives.

The longer I manage bees, the more credit I give to good genetics . I've collected swarms near town that were likely from someones hobby yard and given the exact same care and location, they usually fizzle out by fall. It is almost shocking the difference in disease & mite resistance and hardiness.

And mite management? The longer I have my own genetics, the less I have to treat. Which is a pleasant surprise. And I would treat if necessary. My methods of brood breaks and simulated swarms + good genetics have served me very well. I have several packages of Apivar sitting next to my computer since last year collecting dust.

And I have many, twice- overwintered hives with 2012 queens in very large colonies you think would be mite factories by now.

Spring tests come out clean. But I always am on the lookout. I never wait for a winter broodless period to 'treat' if it is necessary. In my opinion, by then the damage is done. By the time they are winter broodless you'd better have young, healthy and content population of bees or you'll be dead in the water.

And by the word 'treat' I mean manage. Breaking up large hive into nucs -w- virgins or capped cells and simulated swarm for the older bees established queen is my 'treatment' of choice these days. IF it is caught early enough to do so. That's MY job. To anticipate potential issues Before they become issues. When I can manage them with methods instead of chemicals. I use no antibiotics in my hives. I've never used Fumagillin and have never had a case of nosema. I give my feed, which is high in acididity and nutrients some-if not all the credit for that. But that is speculation on my part. By not treating with antibiotics, I don't screw up their digestive system in the first place.

But these treatment free or treatment reduced methods were not possible immediatly with newly purchased bees. It took work and changes to get mine to the point I could manage them this way. Suddenly changing management methods and withholding treatments with newly purchased bees is a recipe for loss in my opinion. You can't learn about beekeeping if your bees are dead. Learn to keep them alive, clean them up from any possible previous negative enviromental exposures, make sure you have queens that are hardy for your local climate installed in hives early enough to make a difference in overwintering traits and hive organization, learn to nurture your colonies, then learn to be treatment free or reduced. THEN, you can harvest some honey.
Honey is very importaint, no doubt. But you'll get more honey in the long run if you focus on colony health and vigor.

If honey is the only thing on your mind, you'll likely never progress past a certain point.



I could go into details that would be lengthy. And details matter. This was the short version of what has worked for me in my climate, with my particular set of circumstances.

Having so many hives had given me a quick learning curve and great comparison examples. There are times I would have never seen the 'pattern' with just a handful of colonies.
It's been painful at times, a LOT of work, but very rewarding. I've been fortunate to make good choices partly due to beesource info. Truthfully though, I have probably learned what NOT to do more than what TO do. There are a lot of folks that make the same mistakes year after year and are bummed when their colonies are dead in fall/early winter. That is info I especially pay attention to. And I make it a point to do things differently.

Go back to posts made every fall on beesource.
Typical Thread title:
-My hives are dead!
replies:
Did you check mite loads? -No
Did you feed in fall-no
Were you queenright-? I'm not sure


My 'winter prep' starts in the spring. Choices I make today not only affect me next week, but also next month, next year and five years from now. That realization can make a difference in what I choose to do, because of the long term effects.
 

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Genetics are critical but also the management, nutrition and local environment play factors. Just like a star Athlete you make sure that even though they have potential they are not allowed to fatten up to much or become malnourished. Management is just as important as genetics. Yes those bees might be great but they won't be in your hive healthy if not managed properly. (be in some tree healthy)

Speaking of which for the last 6 years I have seen a feral colony in the top of a local bank. It has tons of bees foraging every year (Impossible to get to) good genetics I think. Good to know they are throwing drones.

I personally like feeding a little honey back prior to the fall flow to beef up colonies to maximize the fall nectar crop. That way I don't have to feed during the winter and they build strong in the spring on plenty of stores and nutrition.
 

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Speaking of which for the last 6 years I have seen a feral colony in the top of a local bank. It has tons of bees foraging every year (Impossible to get to) good genetics I think. Good to know they are throwing drones.
I wonder who is feeding and managing that hive?:shhhh:
 

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nutrition is most important, then mites. But i don't do anything to stop the mites.

The problem is feral hives do not have beekeepers screwing with them ie removing food. They also layout the hive as the wish, not only cell size but there food is stored
 

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formic acid in late august, pulled honey early enough to let them get heavy, then wintered indoors from november until mid january when they went to california. then pollen sub.
 
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