Lost colony.. now what?

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tararusiewicz
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Lost colony.. now what?

Post by tararusiewicz » Sun Feb 18, 2018 3:20 pm

I have a new hive/colony (got them last April). After our last couple of warm days, I noticed that there was no activity at my hive, so I investigated and found that my bees had died :( Today, I went through the entire hive to try to figure out what went wrong, and how I have a few questions for some more experienced beekeepers.
I found a lot of stored honey in the hive, and no evidence of any disease. I did find a few (3 or 4) varroa mites on the dead bees, but that was it. And I looked a most of the dead bees. They were not deformed.. seemed healthy. I also found the queen. The frames that the bees were on were mostly empty and dark colored. I already ordered a new package of bees that I will get in April
Based on what I am seeing, my (amateur) guess would be that they died from cold or moisture. Could that be correct?
Is there anything else I should do to investigate this loss, or just move on? I removed the frames that had the dead bees and put them in a garbage bag, with plans to throw them away. I put the hive back together, for now, but I am wondering if I should do anything with all of the frames full of honey to save them for my new bees. I read that they can be frozen or stored. What is the best way to store them?
Any other information anyone could give me would be greatly appreciated. Obviously I would also like to prevent this from happening again next winter.
Thank you for your time!

Wally
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Re: Lost colony.. now what?

Post by Wally » Sun Feb 18, 2018 3:48 pm

You don't say how many dead bees there were. If less than a quart, they probably had too few bees to produce enough heat and froze.

DO NOT throw away the frames with dead bees. Shake out the dead as best as you can and put them back in the hive. The new bees will clean everything up and use those frames.

Yes, place the frames, with or without honey, into plastic bags, seal with tape, and freeze for 4 days or more. Then store at room temp or cooler.

Jacobs
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Re: Lost colony.. now what?

Post by Jacobs » Sun Feb 18, 2018 3:52 pm

This has been a brutal winter. A lot of beekeepers are suffering heavy losses. For whatever reason, a lot of clusters were not as strong going into winter. It could be failure to get effective varroa reduction or queens not continuing heavy brood rearing when nectar flows slowed and sugar water was not available to take its place. Many would have survived our usual winters, but with the brutal cold stretch and the extended cooler than normal and wetter than normal January and February, my guess is that queens were slower than usual brooding up, older bees continued to die, and clusters got critically small. As the queens laid some eggs, the small clusters could not cover brood AND get to food stores. As a result, the bees starved in place.

Pull your brood frames out of the garbage. Gently knock as many dead bees out of the cells as you can. When your next hive is stronger, those bees will remove the remaining dead bees and clean up the frames. If you have freezer space, freeze all the frames until you are ready to use them. If not, cycle them through the freezer after freezing them for at least 4 days. You want to protect the frames from wax moth damage now, and wax moth and small hive beetle damage as temperatures warm. Your new bees will have a real head start with the comb that you give them. It is your most valuable resource.

[Wally beat me to the punch, but I am posting this any way.]

tararusiewicz
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Re: Lost colony.. now what?

Post by tararusiewicz » Sun Feb 18, 2018 4:38 pm

The frames are not in the garbage yet.. just in a bag. Was waiting to see what responses on here would be before I threw them away. I don't have enough freezer room to freeze them all and keep them there all winter, but I will start cycling them through for 4 days. After the 4 days, can I just store them in my garage, in air tight containers?
There was some mold on the dead bees.. it's still ok to use those frames, after I shake out the dead bees?

Thank you for you help!

tararusiewicz
Newbee
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Joined: Fri Mar 10, 2017 2:02 pm

Re: Lost colony.. now what?

Post by tararusiewicz » Sun Feb 18, 2018 4:40 pm

Oh, and I would say there were more than a quart of dead bees, but the colony did look smaller than I expected in the cluster, so numbers may have gone down.

Jacobs
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Re: Lost colony.. now what?

Post by Jacobs » Sun Feb 18, 2018 5:22 pm

The main thing about storing the frames is preventing wax moth and small hive beetle access. If I were going to bag them, I would use the heavy plastic bags and duct tape to make sure that all seams are sealed. I would still examine the bags about once a week to make sure nothing has chewed through them. You will have mold around some of the dead bees and around some of the pollen, but a strong hive will also clean that up. If I was going to use an airtight container, I would still examine the frames at least once a week to make sure nothing bad was happening. Wax moths can do major damage very quickly. Even if wax moths get started in comb and you see some webbing and tunnels, freeze those frames again and immediately, and if not too dreadful a mess, the bees will clean and repair that comb.

tararusiewicz
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Joined: Fri Mar 10, 2017 2:02 pm

Re: Lost colony.. now what?

Post by tararusiewicz » Thu Feb 22, 2018 5:23 pm

Hi again. Went out to get more frames to freeze today and there are a bunch of bees in the hive now. I’m guessing they are from other hives, and just taking the honey. Anything I should do or just let them be? I got out the frames I needed to freeze, but they were buzzing around me the whole time.

hamptor
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Re: Lost colony.. now what?

Post by hamptor » Thu Feb 22, 2018 8:44 pm

I had a similar experience this year with my last hive. (Previous 4 hives had already died.). My last hive had gotten small, but the queen had started laying. There were just too few bees to cover the new brood and reach the food so they all died.
As a side note - there's a really good article by Randy Oliver called something like "Absconded or Death by Varroa." You might want to Google it and check it out.

herbcoop
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Re: Lost colony.. now what?

Post by herbcoop » Tue Apr 03, 2018 11:37 am

I had 2 going into the winter; both looked on the smaller side but the smallest hive when we had the weather for at least 8 days not getting out of freezing temps did that hive in...
Through the years I've had experiences that you described and I now use a quilt box to help keep the moisture from dripping down on the bees.

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