Dead Bees Mystery

Discussion in 'Beekeeping' started by Ramon, Feb 22, 2005.

  1. Ramon

    Ramon Active Member

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    Well, I was hoping that one of my hives that was a split would survive the winter. I had been feeding them syrup consistently since October since I knew their honey reserves were low. I checked them pretty often but this week I opened up the hive on a 65F day, only to find 4 clumps of bees that appeared to be dead. It was like a normal winter cluster, only all the bees appeared dead. I thought perhaps they might be dormant, but first of all, I don't think bees go "dormant" and I looked at my other hive 5 feet away and bees were going crazy flying in and out.
    My question is, what killed my bees. My initial thought is that they somehow froze to death (although it never got below 25F here in North Carolina)? Could it be anything else that would trigger a mass simultaneous death?
    thanks
    Ramon
     
  2. jlxian

    jlxian Also known as Jean Supporter

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    I do not know for sure about your bees. But we lost one of our two hives this winter as well. It appears that the fluctuating temperatures, warm during the day, cold at night, or a few warms days followed by a few cold days, will cause the bees to huddle during the cold spell and actually starve to death, even with a food supply close by. The bee expert at our local farm supply told us that there have been a lot of similar losses this winter.

    Our stronger hive is faring just fine.

    If this does not sound likely to any one who is most likely more of an expert than I am, please share your ideas!
     

  3. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    I am a newbie, so I have limited experience, but, did you treat for mites in the fall?

    As the hive gets smaller in the winter, the mites have fewer bees to feed on and the load can get large enough to weaken the bees.
     
  4. Ramon

    Ramon Active Member

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    JLxian and Hilltopdaisy,

    I think you guys are right. I feel bad but it sounds like many of us just had a bad winter. We had some seriously fluctuating temperatures and while I tried to keep up with syrup, I was concerned that they didn't have enough of their own honey stored. The dead hive had two separate huddles of dead bees, just like you said and my other stronger hive was doing just fine. I don't know if you ever saw the old Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk and Spock went to the surface of this planet and found all the folks frozen. Well, that is how this felt, minus the eerie music.
    That being said, I think I'll just have to enjoy my one strong hive this year and then think about expanding next year. I doubt my wife will buy into me buying two more hives this year, especially since in North Carolina, prices are super high for Nucs due to high demand if any are left at all this late in the ordering season and also since I am spending big money on our sheep operation.

    Thanks Bee Friends!
    Ramon
     
  5. jlxian

    jlxian Also known as Jean Supporter

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    Ramon, we have been told that even with a food source inches from them, the bees will starve rather than go to the food. I don't think you have to feel to blame, its just something that happens -- maybe weaker hives are more prone?

    It is sad to lose a hive; hopefully the coming year will be good for the bees. Good luck.
     
  6. beeman97

    beeman97 Well-Known Member

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    The winter has been a tricky one for the bee's ,, i am also in N.C & in feb we had a week or more that was really warm ,, acouple 70 degree days in there , this will cause the maples to start to bloom which draws the bee's out to forage, this in turn causes the queen to start laying, which , puts more strain on the hive to create heat, also the queen will lay in sporatic patterns which makes it harder for the bee's to cover to keep warm,
    they will cluster on spots of brood & cannot create enough heat to keep the hive & themselves warm enough, so they in turn freeze to death or starve one of the 2.
    the situation you describe fits this to a T.
    Nothing you could have done to save them unless you would have built up the hive stronger in the fall when they were split.
    better luck next yr with them
    Rick
     
  7. foxtrapper

    foxtrapper Well-Known Member Supporter

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    It's been an interesting year for dead bees for me. 4 of 5 died this winter.

    Two I somewhat expected. They weren't great going into the winter, and they didn't make it.

    One very large and strong hive clustered off the honey and died of starvation.

    One strong hive did like yours, several broken clusters. Interestingly, that hive have a lot of ice on the top of the inner cover.

    One hive left, and they are not flying on warm days, which may well be a good thing.

    We had a very mild early winter, with a rather bitter flakey late winter. I've still got snow, and we regularly go down to the low 20's during the night.
     
  8. Runners

    Runners A real Quack!

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    My wife and 3 of the girls are the bee keepers in the family - I just build and paint the stuff for them - and watch from a distance.

    We started with 2 hives last spring, did a split for 4 hives and it was off and running. Requeened last fall with Hawiians, all 4 hives and everything looked like we might be OK. Every warm day, I'd fuss about her need to 'check the hives' - and sure enough, they needed syrup or something.

    Then it happened. The warm weather in Janurary lead us to believe we had all 4 hives going good, but the original 2 hives were getting weeker and weeker - but the two from the split were getting stronger...?

    She added some of that home-made pollen and more syrup to all 4 hives about 6 weeks ago. The hives from the split -exploded- in bees, but of the original hives, one died and the other one looks terrible. Oddly enough, the remaining original hive hardly touched the pollen cake, but the other two hives devoured theirs.

    We're members of the Caswell Co. bee keepers club (N.C.), but unless I get on their case, they forget about the meetings...

    Did I say they have a great program for beginning bee keepers?
     
  9. Elizabeth

    Elizabeth Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I have kept bees for 9 years, but recently moved from Florida to Minnesota so I feel as if I am having to re-learn everything, or just about everything, that I knew about bees. Last weekend I attended a beginner's beekeeping workshop at the U of Mn in St. Paul. There, they recommended going into winter with three deeps, which should include at least 100 pounds of honey for winter feed. Yikes, in Fla I ran all my hives with one deep for the brood nest and one medium for feed- I need to go get another 60-100 boxes just to get my current hives up to speed for next winter (they spent this winter in Fla- I am bringing them up here in April, now that I know what to expect in this climate). Of those who lost hives, how many boxes and how much honey did your hives have going into winter?

    I think if I had hives in the fall which seemed weak or were light in stores I would kill the queen and combine the weaker/lighter hives with stronger one(s) for the winter. In the spring I would split again and add new queen(s) to get my hive numbers back up.