Winter Losses

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Countryboy
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Winter Losses

Unread post by Countryboy » February 22nd, 2017, 6:02 pm

We've been experiencing some nice weather the past few days. The bees are starting to bring in some silver maple pollen. I've even found a few frames with fresh nectar. I'm not sure if they are getting it from maples or something else. (I don't see anything else blooming.)

I usually put on mite treatments the beginning of March, but it's supposed to get cold again for the first half of March, so I am putting on Apivar now and checking hives.

40 hives checked and treated so far, and only 4 losses. We're not out of the woods yet, but it's looking good so far. I still have more yards to check, but if losses are comparable, I can live with 10% losses. So far , maybe a half dozen are 3 framers, but the vast majority of them are 6-8 frames. (I run singles.)
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Re: Winter Losses

Unread post by BDT123 » February 22nd, 2017, 10:28 pm

Congratulations! Hope that's not a jinx!
We had a 5 day warm-up and bees got a cleansing flight but we're going back in the deep freeze for a couple more weeks starting tonight.
Hope all goes well down there!
All the best to you,
Brian

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Re: Winter Losses

Unread post by BadBeeKeeper » February 23rd, 2017, 1:02 pm

So far I've only lost one, and I'm pretty sure it was my own fault- insulation hadn't been installed on time and I missed putting an entrance reducer on that hive, we got hit with a stretch of sub-zero temps earlier than usual and it was combined with high winds. Bees were spread over 6-7 frames, not really clustered tightly. I know from experience that hives exposed to cold/wind at temperatures near zero or below for more than half a minute or so will die fast.

It's warm here too, and they are flying, but nothing is blooming yet. Nothing should be due to bloom for some weeks yet, but if it starts early it could get killed off with a cold snap.

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Countryboy
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Re: Winter Losses

Unread post by Countryboy » February 23rd, 2017, 4:31 pm

Bees were spread over 6-7 frames, not really clustered tightly.
When I started beekeeping, I bought into the treatment free nonsense for a few years. You just described a common deadout I would find back then.

I made it around to the rest of my bees today. 15% total losses overall so far.
I was late getting mite treatments on the last yard last fall. That yard didn't have a very good fall flow. That yard had heavy losses.
I also had some nucs that I never got treated last fall. Several just had palm size clusters, so I counted them as losses.

If it weren't for the yard that got treated late and the untreated nucs, I would be at a 6% loss. (Assuming all the hives in that yard and the nucs survived.)

I can blame myself for most of my losses. Nah, couldn't have been me. It had to be the neonicotinoids and GMO's. :D
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Re: Winter Losses

Unread post by 1bee2u » March 23rd, 2017, 11:25 pm

I have bees in Wisconsin and Minnesota. The 2 hives in Minnesota are doing fine. Wisconsin nine of 10 hives died. They were all treated the same way. Winter wraps, candy boards and vented quilt boxes. All mite away strips applied at the right temperature before it got cold. It appears they died early in the winter as they never made it up to the upper boxes.
I left 2 deeps and three suppers on each hive so they would have plenty of honey. Too many boxes? Yet last year Was about the same here and they did OK with that many boxes.
So I am thinking mites.....If it was mites did all the mites die too? I did not do a mite count last year I just treated. There was a lot of robbing so I put on the robber screens. I fed bees in each hive from September to late October. Could robbers have dropped that many mites to cause this. No signs of any other problem.
Now what do I do with all the dead outs. Do I reuse the frames? Some I will have to trash with all the dead bees still clustered. It was not foul brood. Bees died in cluster. I ordered new bees but I am heart broken at starting over again. Any ideas or suggestions? Weather is wet and cold here now so I have done nothing with the dead outs.

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Re: Winter Losses

Unread post by BadBeeKeeper » March 24th, 2017, 2:58 am

1bee2u wrote:
March 23rd, 2017, 11:25 pm
I have bees in Wisconsin and Minnesota. The 2 hives in Minnesota are doing fine. Wisconsin nine of 10 hives died. They were all treated the same way. Winter wraps, candy boards and vented quilt boxes. All mite away strips applied at the right temperature before it got cold. It appears they died early in the winter as they never made it up to the upper boxes.
I'm not going to go off on my usual rant about treating too late or improperly, though usually it is better to knock out the mites sooner rather than later (preferably around the beginning of August), because you may have another enemy to deal with- a bacteria called Sicaria, known as SS1 for short. This little beastie has been causing problems in the Midwest, particularly in Wisconsin, and is vectored by mites.

A little more information here:

http://www.uwstout.edu/news/articles/Pr ... y-bees.cfm

You'll have to go on the hunt for more info.

Ordinarily I would say just use the deadouts, frames and all and don't worry about it...but I won't in this case. You'll need to find out some more information first- you'll need to learn more about SS1, how long it can survive without a host, at what temperatures, etc. and get those hives tested to see if SS1 is what killed them.

At this point in time I have very little information or advice regarding this new pest, so you will need to actively research this topic.

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Re: Winter Losses

Unread post by Allen Dick » March 24th, 2017, 4:15 am

I really can't say, either. The article cited is interesting, but we do not know how long this bacterium has been around or if it is the killer or just an innocent bystander, hitchhiker, or opportunist found at the scene. No solution is offered either.

Could also be this critter has been there all along and is everywhere and has just been picked up this new technique. We have to remember that everyone is looking for the cure and the first to find it gets instant stardom. As a result, we get 'explanations' like the infamous 'Harvard' study and many more. Could be this is it, but science requires more than one study by more than one group to establish credibility.

At any rate, in my experience, sometimes whole yards just die and the cause might have been some event that leaves no obvious clues, like hives being packed full of snow by some freak combination of wind and snowstorm, then melting out by the time we get there or spread of a virus.

You treated, but Miteaway strips alone and applied late are not likely sufficient -- and by then the damage is done. Also, formic action is temperature-dependent. I have strong doubts that Miteaway alone can control mites long-term anyhow without too much collateral damage. Furthermore, they can only work if initial loads are under 6% and by late in the season, after brood rearing is reducing, chances are your loads were 20%+.

Occam's razor suggests that mites are the prime suspect, especially since you did not check to see what your mite loads were before and after or if treatments worked.

Lately, it's always the mites.
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Countryboy
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Re: Winter Losses

Unread post by Countryboy » March 24th, 2017, 4:49 am

This little beastie has been causing problems in the Midwest, particularly in Wisconsin, and is vectored by mites.
I'll concur with Allen about not jumping the gun on this info. For all we know, this bacteria could be a beneficial bacteria that is almost always present. And then again, maybe this bacteria likes to live on lab equipment that isn't sterilized perfectly, and the college researchers are contaminating each sample, making it look like the bacteria lives in the bees and mites. Stranger things have been known to happen.

Correlation does not equal causation. I hate to state the obvious, but 100% of the samples of dead bees and mites tested had multiple sets of legs. Yes, that is a correlation, but it's a big stretch of the imagination to say the dead bees were caused by the bees having 6 legs and the mites 8.
They were all treated the same way. Winter wraps, candy boards and vented quilt boxes. All mite away strips applied at the right temperature before it got cold. It appears they died early in the winter as they never made it up to the upper boxes.
I have a few questions. Were the MAQS applied before the bees started raising winter bees? How many MAQS strips did you use? How big were the clusters of bees going into winter? How big are the dead clusters now?
I left 2 deeps and three suppers on each hive so they would have plenty of honey. Too many boxes? Yet last year Was about the same here and they did OK with that many boxes.
I don't know what size boxes you are calling supers, but a hive that is 3 deeps tall should be more than enough to overwinter almost anywhere in North America. How much honey was in the hives? Simply stacking on boxes doesn't mean they were plugged out. What is the winter configuration of beekeepers around you? Ask local beekeepers what they are doing.

Why would you put candy boards on hives that are 2 deeps and 3 supers tall? Something isn't making sense here. It sounds like you added candy boards just as insurance, without knowing if the bees ever needed the candy boards or not. And if you did not know if the bees needed the candy boards, (and didn't check mites) that leads to a whole host of other questions about what other things you didn't pay attention to which we might take for granted. (If the location is in a low spot, and damp fog settles around hives, that can cause them problems that beekeepers don't always immediately recognize.)

In my experience, the two most common reasons for hives to die overwinter are starvation and mites. A small cluster is a sign of mites. (I like clusters that are the size of a volley ball or bigger. Anything smaller and it's not unusual to have problems.)
Now if you had a hive with lots of honey above the dead cluster, and you had a big cluster of dead bees, (bigger than a volleyball) then I would be more confused.

I wouldn't be afraid to reuse the frames. You can always spray them down with a bleach solution if you are really worried about it.
Some I will have to trash with all the dead bees still clustered.
Why do you have to trash frames with clusters of dead bees. Knock off the bees than you can, and reuse the frames. The new live bees will clean out all the dead bees.
I ordered new bees but I am heart broken at starting over again.
Try to get local bees if possible. The local bee club did a survey after I started beekeeping, looking at overwintering success of local bees (swarms, previously overwintered hives) versus package bees from California or Georgia. 52% of packages died. 13% or 14% of local bees died.
B. Farmer Honey
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Re: Winter Losses

Unread post by 1bee2u » March 25th, 2017, 11:19 am

Thanks for your reply. The weather here has kept me from cleaning up my hives. This week I will get into the boxes and send samples off to the U in Madison and see what they find. I did not find mites in my drone comb when I checked. I should have done a mite count.
I am kicking myself all over for not having done that. I checked my records and mite strips went on 8/29/16. I also fumed all the hives in June and July with mineral oil during the summer. It only takes a 1/2 hr to do all the hives and I can do it when the temps are high. I would never use it as my only means of control but it is not as weather dependent as other things. I try to use as many natural things as I can.
Big project ahead. Pull all the boxes, clean and scorch. Since I don't know what killed the bees I don't know what I will do with the drawn comb. I have enough to set up all new hives without it.
I was so looking forward to my sweet bees this spring.....
I hate to learn the hard way....my bees deserved better.

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Re: Winter Losses

Unread post by Allen Dick » March 25th, 2017, 11:42 am

> This week I will get into the boxes and send samples off to the U in Madison and see what they find.

I doubt they will offer much insight.

> I did not find mites in my drone comb when I checked. I should have done a mite count.

Not seeing any mites in drone comb is encouraging. It is not a reliable indicator, but if you do see them, you know things are getting bad.

> I also fumed all the hives in June and July with mineral oil during the summer.

Mineral oil does not work. Period. I knew the originator, Pedro Rodriguez, and followed the development of the idea. He tried and tried to find a way to make the oil work. Long and short, it is not effective no matter what anyone says.

> I try to use as many natural things as I can.

Then you need to read and follow Randy Oliver. http://www.scientificbeekeeping.com. He is a scientist beekeeper and very credible.

> Big project ahead. Pull all the boxes, clean and scorch.

I would not do that. Chances are your equipment is fine and it had to do with your bees. Get an experienced beekeeper to look with you to make sure you don't have AFB and otherwise, save it for later. See what the clusters look like and how much honey is around the dead bees.

Post pictures here if you like. Use a web picture service like Dropbox, Google, M$, or wherever and post the links. Some of us can tell at a glance what you'll not figure out on your own. If you take pictures, make sure you have good light and it shines over your shoulder into the cells.

> Since I don't know what killed the bees I don't know what I will do with the drawn comb. I have enough to set up all new hives without it.

Beekeeping is mostly about unknowns. Anyone who pretends otherwise is fooling himself.

Bees are bugs and just like any other bugs, they have their good seasons and bad seasons. One year the caterpillars eat all the trees and the next year you don't see any. There are explanations for everything, but few are actionable.

Chances are this loss was a one-time thing.

IMO, but I have been wrong before.
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Re: Winter Losses

Unread post by 1bee2u » March 25th, 2017, 12:56 pm

My Wisconsin bees are 1 1/2 hours from home. I can't get in to check them during the winter. Until the clay and mud are dry in the spring I can't get in either. So I set up in the fall with extra honey and candy boards. The weather is suppose to be dry this week so I will start my clean up. I will send some samples to the USDA.
What would you recommend for mites for my new bees I will be setting up in April. April here is still cool.
Lows in the 40's at night. The hive boxes I opened were still full of untouched honey. Sounds like mineral oil is now on a list of things I will not keep doing.
What about Borax traps for SHB. I make those every spring. Sad to say I am the only old bee keeper in the area. Never want to have another loss like this. I will take some pictures and post them. I might need help with posting them. My grandkids should be good for that.

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Re: Winter Losses

Unread post by Allen Dick » March 25th, 2017, 1:05 pm

> What would you recommend for mites for my new bees I will be setting up in April.

Depends. If your packages are free of mites, then nothing at first, but be sure. A package is ideal for treatment since there is no brood for varroa to hide in for a week.

> I opened were still full of untouched honey.

I have found installing packages on deadouts to be less than ideal although if the combs are sorted and made into brood chambers they seem to be fine.

> What about Borax traps for SHB. I

I have little experience with SHB. Do they give you trouble?

> Never want to have another loss like this.

It happens to the best of us.

> I will take some pictures and post them. I might need help with posting them. My grandkids should be good for that.

For sure!
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Re: Winter Losses

Unread post by 1bee2u » March 25th, 2017, 2:47 pm

Never have had a problem with SHB but I don't know if it is the Borax or what. I also have never had a problem with moths. I probably will be sorry for saying that. Don't want to Jinx myself. Can I do a mite count on my new bees before I install them? I would like them to build up some before I do a count. All the bees sold in this area are from the south, Georgia or California. There are nucs but that's a gamble around here. I bought a nuc last year and it was nasty. Since my grand kids come up a lot in the summer and work in the bee yard with me I moved it to another location and replaced the queen. 10 days later I couldn't find her, no eggs no larva. Pulled a frame with eggs and put it in the hive wanting them to make a queen. Ended up with a worker queen. Didn't end well but it did end.

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Re: Winter Losses

Unread post by Allen Dick » March 25th, 2017, 3:34 pm

Never have had a problem with SHB but I don't know if it is the Borax or what. I also have never had a problem with moths.

Seems to me that you are too far north to have much problem with either.

> Can I do a mite count on my new bees before I install them?

Yes. Or you can ask the supplier what measures have been taken.

Seems there are some easy ways to treat packages before or after installing.

> I bought a nuc last year and it was nasty.

One nuc is hardly a good sample.

> Since my grand kids come up a lot in the summer and work in the bee yard with me I moved it to another location and replaced the queen. 10 days later I couldn't find her, no eggs no larva. Pulled a frame with eggs and put it in the hive wanting them to make a queen.

Introducing queens can be difficult.

Were there any other hives around? Queens need drones to mate.
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Re: Winter Losses

Unread post by Countryboy » March 25th, 2017, 6:39 pm

Why do you have a yard of bees 1.5 hours away in Wisconsin (9 out of 10 dead) if you are not an experienced beekeeper?

Do you think that maybe being 1.5 hours away had anything to do with how well you were able to take care of them?

I've been keeping bees for 11 or 12 years now. I have about 100 hives. The farthest yard of bees is a half hour drive. Actually, I have 2 yards a half hour drive away. The other 7 yards are within 15 minutes.

I would encourage you to forget having hives 1.5 hours away. Keep the hives closer to home where you can take care of them better, until you become experienced and learn how to keep bees alive overwinter consistently. Once you become skilled and experienced, then you can think about keeping hives farther away, if you feel so inclined. (You may decide it isn't worth the extra hassle of a drive that far.)
Can I do a mite count on my new bees before I install them?
If you are installing packages of bees, knock the bees to the bottom of the package with a thump and then quickly remove the feed can and then put the cover back on the package. Then lay the package on its side, and dump some powdered sugar through the screened cage onto the bees. Since all the mites are phoretic, the powdered sugar will do a pretty good job of knocking the mites off.

Or put an Apivar strip in with the bees when you install them.
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Re: Winter Losses

Unread post by 1bee2u » March 26th, 2017, 1:09 pm

Thanks for your input. I am sure being 1 1/2 hours away from my bees is not the greatest. It is what I have had for 20 years. I can only keep 2 hives where I live. They tell me new cases for bees are plastic. I will try powdered sugar with them and let you know how it works for a count. I am not the kind of bee keeper who replaces bees every year. Never have been. The new bees are from a reliable seller. What saddens me the most is to have lost stock I have had for so many years. Can't tell you how that hurts. I will split my two hives at home and start again.
I bought one nuc as a trial. Never did that before. They were a buckfast cross. It only took one nuc to tell me what I wanted to know.
There are always things to learn in life and that is what this site is for. Your insight has been helpful.
Thanks

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Re: Winter Losses

Unread post by Allen Dick » March 26th, 2017, 1:48 pm

Was the nuc in the yard where you lost the hives?
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Re: Winter Losses

Unread post by 1bee2u » March 26th, 2017, 9:44 pm

I did have the nuc I bought in the bee yard for a while. I moved it after 2 weeks to the back 40. Just to mean to keep with so many grandkids around. Dang bees would follow them right into the house which is more than a block away from the bee yard. Stung too. I did not move them off the property. I should have just soaped them. Just wanted to give them a chance.

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Re: Winter Losses

Unread post by cgybees » April 15th, 2017, 3:51 pm

Allen Dick wrote:
March 25th, 2017, 11:42 am

Then you need to read and follow Randy Oliver. http://www.scientificbeekeeping.com. He is a scientist beekeeper and very credible.
I second this. Scientific Bee-keeping is a must read for any bee-keeper.

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Re: Winter Losses

Unread post by cgybees » April 15th, 2017, 3:56 pm

Countryboy wrote:
March 25th, 2017, 6:39 pm

If you are installing packages of bees, knock the bees to the bottom of the package with a thump and then quickly remove the feed can and then put the cover back on the package. Then lay the package on its side, and dump some powdered sugar through the screened cage onto the bees. Since all the mites are phoretic, the powdered sugar will do a pretty good job of knocking the mites off.

Or put an Apivar strip in with the bees when you install them.
Another option is to use OAV any time within the first week or so. It's the current front-line treatment for mites, and far more cost-effective than Apivar, beyond the initial purchase or fabrication of a vaporizer. In the first week, you'll catch them without brood, and get a 98% kill rate. With brood, you'll need repeated treatments, 1 / week for 3 weeks to catch the emerging brood with mites. Have to block off supers or remove them, but that's the only real caution. I see a lot of advice on MAQS / strips, but nobody's mentioned OAV in the thread that I've seen yet.

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