Friday, April 10, 2015

Post-Mortem & Spring Managment

Sorry for the lack of photos in this post. I forgot to take a camera/phone when I went out to the hives last Thursday.

Temps were in the sunny, calm 60's that day, so it seemed like a good time to dig in and see what was going on. Looking through the three dead hives, there was black mildew on the walls and follower board -- a definite sign of moisture. The bees looked wet and slick, too, another sign that condensation had killed most of them.

A number of bees were also buried head first in the cells like they had starved. I'm thinking that condensation probably killed most of them, and there weren't enough bees remaining to stay warm enough to move to new honey.

There was also a some poop in the hives. Not crazy poo like I'd expect with nosema, but a little bit. I did some research on the subject and found that contrary to popular opinion, bees will go #2 in the hive during extended cold weather. According to Dr. Milbraith, extended cold weather in combination with a digestive issue will cause dysentery.

Nosema can be diagnosed/ruled out only via lab test, but instinct tells me that this was a digestive issue. There wasn't any poo on the outside of the hives and very little inside. However, I believe I made a mistake last fall. It was starting to get chilly last November when I closed up my hives. I figured it would get too cold for syrup, soon, so I put straight up sugar in the hives. But it didn't get really cold -- not until January. Meanwhile, they were filling up their little guts with difficult-to-digest sugar. Then the relentless cold hit cold didn't allow them to evacuate for months on end. I didn't really realize until recently that straight up sugar should only given during the early spring when it's too cold for syrup, but warm enough for cleansing flights.

Another interesting thing I noticed is that Peach, the colony that I felt was the strongest had a supercedure cell. It wasn't capped, but it did have a frozen larval occupant.

I know the colonies went into winter on the small side, but none of them (including the one that survived) went through more than 3 bars. I guess I shouldn't have worried so much about feeding them last year. They had collected more than enough honey on their own.

I ended up dumping out the bees that were lying on the hive floor. The new packages will have to clean out bees in comb. I also consolidated the combs from the dead hives into two hives. My freezer is stuffed to the gills, so I left the comb outside. If they get robbed, they get robbed (and I have seen robbers). In the event that they aren't looted, I may scrape the caps off and give them to the new bees.

Finally, after dealing with the dead hives, I followed the diagrams in Les Crowder's book and reversed the comb in Austeja. (Full bars of stores go next to the end entrance followed by brood nest and empty bars.) I don't know if I used the right timing. His book just says to do it in spring. Well, I saw bees bringing in pollen (actually, they look like little yellow ghosts from swamp cabbage pollen), so I figured it would be ok.

As I pulled the comb out, I didn't look for the queen, but I also didn't see any brood. Carniolan/Russians are known for not laying much until the nectar flow starts, but I hadn't expected to see nothing either.

Next Tuesday is supposed to be in (gasp!) 70's, so I'll take another look at it then. Fingers crossed.


  1. I also get confused about when "spring" is in Crowder's book but I think your timing is okay. I did that in my hive a couple of weeks ago. Last year, my Carnolians didn't really start building up until April. Did you not see any brood, or just not much? None would be troubling. I hope extended warm weather comes your way for your new bees. I'll be getting mine at the end of this month which guarantees we'll get snow the last week of April or first week of May! ;-) I have to check for queen cells in BnB2 today - they look pretty crowded in there through the window.

    1. I didn't see any capped brood or larvae. There could have been eggs, but I frequently have trouble seeing them. However, today, I talked with my bee club president, and he said that the fact that they're bringing in pollen says I have a queen and brood. He's been keeping bees for over 20 years, so I've decided to relax.

      Fingers crossed that it doesn't snow when you get your bees! Hope you post on your your inspection! Would love to hear how your girls are doing!


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