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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Finally got around to cracking open the hives and looking at each frame. One hive wintered in 2 ten frame deeps. It is packed with bees top to bottom, has huge pollen stores and almost no honey stored. Lots of capped brood, no queen cells. Lots and lots of drones running around, and lots of drone brood. So far no drones sighted outside the hive. I also spotted a varroa mite, placed right on the bee's back. I looked for others but didn't spot any, but it's a bad sign when you see them like that.

The second hive, which I thought was fairly strong looking at front entrance activity, actually only has three frames covered in bees. I took it out of it's ten frame deep and put it in a 5 frame nuc, hoping that'll help it control internal temps better. Also lots of pollen and little honey. A few bees had malformed wings.

Third hive wintered in a 5-frame deep nuc, and also has about three frames of bees. Also very active at the entrance. Left it be, no manipulations.

Forth hive, always weak, I noticed about a week ago no longer had any bees flying. Sadly, it died sometime in the last two weeks. Not sure why, as the dead cluster was covering small patches of brood across 3 frames, and it had honey and pollen stored. I wonder if the recent sharp temperature changes didn't whipsaw it. From 60s to 20s overnight, several times recently. It had been weak since last fall, since it was a very late queen and never had time to build up, but I was hopeful and it did survive until April. There was what appeared to be an opened queen cell, so maybe the queen was failing, but there was capped brood present. Way too early for a queen to mate.
 

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....I also spotted a varroa mite, placed right on the bee's back. I looked for others but didn't spot any, but it's a bad sign when you see them like that....

........... A few bees had malformed wings......
So, AR, as suspected the next winter will be worse for you.
This past winter was a lucky one.
Time to make some decisions about what your goals and the strategies are.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
So, AR, as suspected the next winter will be worse for you.
This past winter was a lucky one.
Time to make some decisions about what your goals and the strategies are.
Very likely so. My plan is mostly unchanged. Split like crazy as early as possible and split again if possible. Long brood breaks.

I'll watch for drone activity and keep an eye on my swarm traps around the yard for scouting activity. I don't like to deep dive in the hives for queen cells, but those signs will be clues that splitting time is here. The big hive will be very soon I suspect. I had planned to use that hive for making some honey this year, but the sight of that mite has leaned me towards removing the queen and giving it a good, long brood break, with that queen (the original queen from last year's swarm trap) used to make expansion queens.

I purchased oxalic acid last year but didn't need it...this year may be very different. Those few with stunted wings were only in one hive, but the way mites travel around if there's a virus in in one hive it'll be in all of them soon. I'm taking some to another location. Maybe tomorrow.
 

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AR, I think for you it would be a good idea to bring in some known TF line to prop up your stock.
A single queen even.
I don't claim to own such stock but we can talk it over come June.
 

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Yes, quite possibly so. However, alcohol tested and found not one mite.
When was the alcohol shake done. Just wondering if you could have been inundated late with outside mites. It can take 2 or 3 rounds of brood raised mite free to get rid of pre-existing virus levels.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
When was the alcohol shake done. Just wondering if you could have been inundated late with outside mites. It can take 2 or 3 rounds of brood raised mite free to get rid of pre-existing virus levels.
That's a very real possibility. Also, not every split was alcohol washed, and at this point I have no memory of which was or not. So I really can't claim that that hive was alcohol washed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Put a medium on top of the big hive. Saw a few bees buzzing the bait hive.

Placed a swarm trap at my dad's farm. Have not caught one there in 4 years trying. AFAIK no neighbors keep bees, but there are wooded areas scattered all around in every direction. The honeybees I see on the flowers there must be coming in from somewhere...
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Finally saw drones flying from the big hive. Also lots of scouts busy with one of the bait hives. They look like my own bees, very dark in color.

I hate to do splits this early since I don't believe there are enough drones flying from other hives. Earliest I have caught swarms here is end of May. My two other hives have no drones yet. Keep an eye on them. If the big hive did swarm there is a good chance they'll go to my own trap so nothing lost.
 

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Go three high now rather than splitting now. Screw a couple of scraps to the top box to put your five frames on as the third box if you don't have the standard box.
 

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I hate to do splits this early since I don't believe there are enough drones flying from other hives. Earliest I have caught swarms here is end of May.
AR1:

I apologize that I am just now seeing your thread- I am sorry to hear about your dead-out, but in my humble opinion 3 out of 4 is not bad- particularly considering that you made some splits to get to 4 last year.

While I cannot presume to speak about your local conditions, I know that 'swarm season' started a full three weeks earlier here than it did last year, so depending on what you are seeing this may portend eminent swarms in your area over the next week or so.

I am interested in continuing to read about your progress, so please do keep us posted.

Best of luck to you with your trapping efforts- and the idea to have a remote yard or two makes good sense to me...
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks Litsinger. Agree, 3/4 is fine. 2 were nucs, one a single ten deep, so I'm happy.

I looked again in the weaker hive and found little brood other than drone, and a single queen cup, open with a larvae in it. That hive has dwindled just since I last looked. Did not see the queen.
I grabbed a frame full of capped and open brood and stuck it in with the hanging bees. Hope it helps.
 

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I grabbed a frame full of capped and open brood and stuck it in with the hanging bees. Hope it helps.
I hope so too. I always struggle knowing whether a hive is too far gone, and what resources best serve their needs if I decide they're worth intervention.

Playing a little armchair quarterback, I might have been tempted to dump the nurse bees in without the brood frame given how early it is in the season (in your locale), but you may have made exactly the best move...

Any swarm reports from up in your area yet? I suppose the next week or so will be slow with this cold front moving through.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Painting the top of my very first swarm trap I ever made, that caught my very first swarm. As I was painting it a bee went in the front door! My bait hive a few feet away is also getting a little attention the last few days. Lots of drones and heaps of capped drone comb. Getting close to swarm season in my back yard.

I did a walk-away split. Took one of two deeps and set it up 50 feet away with grass stuffed in the entrance. Took them about an hour to make a hole and start coming out. Fortunately it was grey and rainy so I suspect not many bees returned to the mother hive. Maybe some of the foragers will reorient to the new location, maybe not.

Did not find the queen so I won't know for a while where she is, but lots of brood in both boxes. Hopefully get some nice queen cells and can make some splits.

No signs of wrinkled wings in any of the 3 (now 4) hives. I need to cut out some of the drone comb and take a look for mites.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
Bees were pissy today, probably because I messed with them yesterday splitting the hive. I was putting in the garden, a few feet from the hive and they buzzed my pretty hard, one sting. That's very unusual for these bees.

Planted lettuce, rocket, zucchini, bitter melon, onions, parsley, sunflowers, tobacco and several types of wildflowers.
Did a booboo. I had two containers of saved seeds and mixed them. They looked identical and I thought both were cantaloupe. Only then I saw the label on one said cucumber. So I'll plant lots of them and hope I get at least some of both!
 

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Did a booboo. I had two containers of saved seeds and mixed them. They looked identical and I thought both were cantaloupe. Only then I saw the label on one said cucumber. So I'll plant lots of them and hope I get at least some of both!
That's one way of adding a little excitement to gardening. Glad to read that your hives are off and running and strong enough to start splits.

Best of luck to you this year.

Russ
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
The split last week appears successful. One split is full of eggs, the other has queen cells. Spotted two open queen cells, but the bees were clustering so thickly there may have been a few more.

Another hive, that had been broodless and was given a frame of brood, now has a few queen cells, so it may be saved.

The fourth, a 5-frame, I saw the queen and lots of eggs. Pretty brown with no stripes. It isn't a strong hive though, with only three frames covered in bees, and not thickly. I suppose it has had trouble covering enough brood with workers so is building slowly. Next spring I will leave the insulated top on another month.

Cut out some drone comb. Found one mite in maybe a dozen drone larvae checked. No other signs of disease in any of the hives. A few small beetles which were not SHBs!
 

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AR1:

Glad to read that you had a successful split and have hopefully been able to salvage the weak hive.

I understand that you are planning to make more increase this year via splitting? When will you look to make your next round of divides?
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Wonder if I am not seeing an insecticide kill. Lots of bees outside near the hive resting on plants, looking dopey. Some dead. It's the season for my lawn care neighbors to be out killing things. Farms not far away too. Bad timing, since this hive is between queens.

The other hives look Okay.
 
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