Translate

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Dead-Out Diagnosis

Monday, I was super bummed about my hives. After discovering my dead bees, I had to take my son to ski club where I was totally pathetic. Outside, I was smiling and chit-chatting with the other parents because I didn't want to appear ridiculous, but inside, I was sobbing like a baby. I kept second guessing myself about what I could and/or should have done differently. I was even considering switching to Langs this year!

Yesterday, though, various forums I follow started reporting on other dead hives, including quite a few in New England. One of the worst stories was about someone who lost 10 out of 11 Langs. (It appears that even experienced beeks with Langs were not exempt from frigid weather fatalities.) I don't want to say that misery loves company because I feel terrible for those other people, but I do feel like less of a dummy today, so I can stop crying and pick myself up again.

Meanwhile, after some consultation, I've determined that condensation was indeed the reason for the deaths. I was also provided with this link to some tools for diagnosing dead-outs. It was helpful for me, so I thought I'd pass it on.

15 comments:

  1. I was figuring that there would be others in NE with big losses this year, so I'm glad you heard from others. It will be interesting to see what the final tally is for that area. The treatment free FB discussion was quite interesting and I found the link for diagnosing deadouts really helped me as well. I think if anything, I'd switch to Warre which has the built in quilt box, but I'm going to stick with TBH for now. However, instead of doing Phil Chandler's design with the middle entrance, I think I might try Michael Bush's top entrance idea. I think keeping the brood area close to the entrance allows them to get out of the hive easier on the warm winter days. One advantage is that you could do a quick brood check if need be since you can start from the front end (like Wyatt Magnum suggests) instead of the honey stores end.

    It's easy to second guess ourselves at this time, but my advice is to take a deep breath, have a glass of wine and think about the new bees which will soon be here. ;-) Colony loss is part of the whole beekeeping experience (unfortunately) - we have to learn what we can when we are faced with that. You did the right thing reaching out to other beeks and figuring out what happened to your bees. Now you have more information on what changes you could make to give the bees a better chance next time!

    Hang in there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Don, for that encouraging response. I totally needed that -- in addition to a big glass of wine, of course. :)

      I agree about the top entrance. I'm planning to retrofit all my hives with a top entrance, too. Now that I've seen how little honey the bees can get by on over winter and how efficiently they can heat their space, my major concern has switched from stores to condensation. Sadly, I still can't control winter. Working on that next. ;)

      Delete
    2. A couple of things I wonder about a top entrance:

      - What do you do if other bees start robbing - how do you restrict the entrance? Maybe #8 mesh across part of the opening?
      - I enjoy watching my bees on the landing board - I guess they'll just congregate on the sides before going in.

      I'll see what I can do about the weather for you. For now, I can guarantee it will be warmer in a month. ;-) Looks like you might even get rain this weekend.

      Delete
    3. Yes! Definitely get on that weather thing! I'm sure you've got strings, right? LOL!

      Sounds like we're grappling with the same sorts of questions! #8 mesh sounds like a good solution. It wouldn't even have to cover the entire entrance, I'd think, just as long as only a couple of bees can pass through at a time. Probably better than duct tape (with a folded piece over the hole so the bees don't get stuck), which I've been known to use on occasion, since it allows for some additional ventilation. I've also been thinking about how to incorporate the kinds of reducers that are used with Warres. My ideal entrance, I suppose, would allow the length of the entrance to be easily adjusted for robbing, mice prevention, or for just air holes in case I had to transport it. Don't laugh, but I'm kind of inspired by my daughter's playdoh extruder tools. Basically, you put dough in a press and squeeze the dough through a hole. However, there are plates that you can place over the hole to change the shape of the dough that comes out. I'm kind of thinking of whether I can come up with something like that -- a bar with a slat & some interchangeable metal or plastic plates that can go over it. I may be over thinking, though. I guess it's research time.

      BTW, not being able to watch the bees going in is disappointing to me, too, but I guess we could still open some side entrances in the summer, though, right?

      Delete
  2. Julie,

    Thank you for the information. I'm sorry for your losses. I feel your pain. This was my first winter, and for 2 days I've been trying to live in total denial. Well, today it's 60 degrees by me, I don't know if I'm able to convince myself that this a slow Torpor wake up any more. It's so sad, they were good until this last blast. I believe both my hives are done. I'll be investigating, soon, but I'm too sad to deal at the moment. I just started thinking now what. So I checked Sam Comfort's site and I believe he's sold out. Have you ever gotten Bees from Gold Star? I believe you mentioned that you had, how did you like them? We'll soldier on. Thanks for your blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Mavis, I'm so, so sorry. That's just heartbreaking to lose all of your bees. I totally get that you don't want to deal with it at the moment, but if you do want to try again, I'd recommend getting a jump on the bees soon. Sam usually sells out in December, which I forgot, which is why I'm not getting bees from him this year. I haven't ordered from Gold Star before, but this year, I do have an order placed with Wolf Creek Apiaries in TN, which supplies Gold Star. (I don't believe Christy sells her own bees; she's just the middle person.) I don't know what kind of arrangement they have. Maybe Gold Star orders a bulk amount and then sells them off. Maybe she just places an order for whatever orders she gets. I don't know. However, here's what I do know. I talked to Ruth Seaborn at Wolf Creek last night, and they are not going to have bees available much longer. My order is scheduled to ship April 15, and I asked if I might be able to get it a week or so earlier. She said that everything before then was sold out, and every other date was filling up fast. Good luck!

      Delete
    2. Hey, I just checked the GoldStar website, and they have pkgs available for pickup May 30 -- http://www.goldstarhoneybees.com/products/21-/ for $150.

      I don't know if Wolf Creek could provide them any sooner, but you could check. http://wolfcreekbees.com/331-2/. I think their rates vary depending on the size of the package you order, how many pkgs you order, and where you are shipping. I ordered 2 3# pkgs for $220, plus $44 shipping to CT, so my final cost was $264 (which saved me about $40 & I don't have to drive all the way to Maine). Like I said, your price might be different depending on your order, but that may be a helpful comparison for you
      .

      Delete
  3. Sorry to hear about your bees, Mavis. It's so heartbreaking, glad you'll keep at it! Be sure to use the deadout guide that Julie linked to in the post when you look through your hive. It's very useful. I hope you are able to get bees.

    Julie, I'm wondering why you want to get your bees earlier than late April. Given your winter, your spring green up and flow might be later than usual. It's good to time the package installation with a big bloom like dandelions so they have something to forage on. Perhaps your first flowers come earlier - here the dandelions come out near the end of April on a normal year. Just curious on your thinking here.

    One more thing I thought of about a top entrance. When you go to do an inspection, you'll have bees coming in right where you are trying to look. I like having the bees "separate" from where I'm working and I'm not sure how this would play out. So, I guess I'm still on the fence about this. I think the debate is usually between a bottom entrance and a top entrance and in that case the top make sense for several reasons. But on your hives, you have the entrance holes close to the top of the end board which should provide similar benefits (ventilation up high, no problems with critters from below) to what Michael Bush is advocating.

    I love your play-doh entrance idea! Go for it and patent it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Usually, I think early bloomers like maple, crocuses, etc. start blooming here around March/April (though maybe not this year). The ship date for my bees is April 15th, but they'll be in transit a few days, so I'm expecting them closer to the 20th, which means those early bloomers should be available by then.

      To be honest, I only ordered the bees as a backup plan. I was fully hoping my bees would survive and I'd be able to cancel the order or sell the bees to someone else. In any case, I'm not too worried about the bloom maybe being slow this year as my bees left plenty of resources for the new packages. Also, I'm hoping this timing works out since the packages will have a couple of weeks to start building up before the big bloom starts around mid-May.

      BTW, I've thought about the bees coming in at the top. I think it should be ok since they'll still be entering at the opposite end that you're inspecting.

      Delete
    2. I think you should be okay getting them on the 20th given the winter from hell you've had. You are right that there are the pollen sources earlier from the trees. Glad you had a backup plan for more bees in place.

      Not to make you jealous, but our second round of crocuses are out now (at least in the non-shadowy snow free places). The first round withered under snow and really cold temperatures the past few weeks. And the daffodils are starting to pop up. I'm sure it seems hard to believe, but you'll be seeing those signs before you know it!

      Delete
    3. A second round of crocuses? You really know how to wound a person! ;-) LOL!

      Actually, I'm ok with that today since the chipmunks are out, robins are back, and there has been a snowdrop sighting today! Finally, the clouds have parted, the sun is shining, and all the angels are singing "Hallelujah!"

      Delete
  4. Julie,

    Finally, got up the nerve to look inside my hives. All dead, but I had a ton of bees flying in my yard only 30 ft away from the hives. When I peeked in what had been my strongest hive I found bunch of queen cups and only a few hundred bees. I had way more then that, could I have missed a swarm? Did some of them just relocate to a more natural set up? So hard to know and I wasn't much of a tracker. Hope your remaining girls are good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mavis, I'm so sorry to hear about your hives. It's is completely heartbreaking and demoralizing. Your dead-out autopsy is very interesting, though. I wonder what happened to them. I don't have much experience diagnosing, but I think it would take some more info before being able to figure out what happened. Swarming is a reproductive strategy that is triggered by an abundance of resources and a lack of room in the hive, so I think it would be very unusual for a weak hive to swarm. You mentioned that you had lots of queen cups and only a few hundred bees in the hive, so I would doubt a swarm.

      It might be possible for them to have relocated. Perhaps if there was a lot of old black comb in the hive and no space left to build more, they may have wanted a new home. You could look for evidence of pests or disease that may have driven them out, too.

      You said there were only a few hundred bees left. Were they dead or alive? Were there a lot of dead bees as well? That might provoke some new questions for you to explore, too.

      Good luck figuring out what happened.

      Delete
    2. Another thought -- if you see a lot of dead bees and cups, it might mean that your queen failed and they were trying to raise a new one. Some diseases, like nosema, can cause the queen to fail and stimulate queen rearing, so that's something you could look for, too.

      Delete
  5. Julie,

    Finally, got up the nerve to look inside my hives. All dead, but I had a ton of bees flying in my yard only 30 ft away from the hives. When I peeked in what had been my strongest hive I found bunch of queen cups and only a few hundred bees. I had way more then that, could I have missed a swarm? Did some of them just relocate to a more natural set up? So hard to know and I wasn't much of a tracker. Hope your remaining girls are good.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for your comment! I can't wait to hear what you think!