Can you tell the difference between a cold and a dead bee?

Discussion in 'Beekeeping 101' started by onehorse, Jan 14, 2010.

  1. onehorse

    onehorse New Member

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    Okay, checking my favorite bee websites and people are starting to check their hives for losses. How do you do that? What does a dead bee look like versus a cold bee? At what temperature can you hear them buzzing in the hive? What other ways is there to check? I know that, as of now we have 1 hive that's kicking, can hear them and on warmer days, 30 deg+, they have been pushing the dead out. The other three have been quiet without much activity, but they were all different types of bees. It has been brutally cold and windy here for the last month and it's our first year, so I am looking to figure this out so that I can get over my pouting and adjust accordingly for this coming spring.
     
  2. BjornBee

    BjornBee New Member

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    Tomorrow is supposed to be in the 40's before cold weather sets in again. Take off the lid and peak down in the inner cover hole, between the frames. Use a flashilght if that helps. You can gently knock on the hive, and you should be able to hear something. You can do this and get a response at any temp, although I would not do it when it's real cold out. If you hear absolutely nothing, then knock louder. Eventually pop the inner cover or even pop the boxes. You might as well know for sure if they are dead as you may want to store/protect the comb and clean it up now rather than later.

    Just do the minimum to determine if they are alive. But you should easily determine if the hive is dead or alive.

    Good luck.
     

  3. onehorse

    onehorse New Member

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    Will this is kind of depressing! The three non-kicking are non-kicking hives. We are going to be in NJ this weekend(tomorrow), so it was today or never.

    So, who is willing to help with anaylsis what I did wrong? Bjorn? Please! 2 of the 3 I am not really surprised at, but I am surprised at what I found. The one hive looks like it absconded at the end of the season. It was light on reserves, we knew it was light, fed the blue blazes out of the thing (1/2 gallon of heavy syrup per day for 2 months), put on fondant in November, but there are very few bees in the box, with a handful of what look like emergency cells. The second one, the cutout that we had all sorts of issues with, actually had a good population in it and appears to have just died, they were pushing out dead bees a couple of weeks to a month ago. I think they just froze, if that is possible? The third one kind of has me baffled, they were a feral (lady pointed out the tree that they came from and said they had been there for 10 yrs) swarm, they did well through the summer, but the numbers started to decrease in September, I assumed the the queen was shutting down for the winter and that everything was good, they have a full medium of honey, but the cluster is/was all of the size of my fist. Is that a mite issue? I did start noticing some things towards the end of the season that, from what I read, indicated tracheal mites, but not in that hive and they tended to be very clean. That one has me confused, as does the one where the decent sized cluster died also. Ideas?
     
  4. BjornBee

    BjornBee New Member

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    onehorse,
    Are you close by? If so, just close up the hives for now. Do not clean them out. If possible, maybe we can get together and I'll take a look. It's very hard to pinpoint such a situation without looking at the hives. I may be able to run out next week, or if you have a truck, bring them on down to the house. I'm more than happy to help out.
     
  5. onehorse

    onehorse New Member

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    Pretty close in the swing of things, that would be outstanding, thank you! I believe you are in the Dillsburg area? I am outside of Newville and I could do either or, but I work during the day, would evening or weekend work? Thank you!
     
  6. Hobie

    Hobie New Member

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    If you have screen bottom boards, pull out the tray, clean it off, and replace. Look again after a few days. If there is capping debris on the tray, the bees are alive and eating in there. You can actually "watch" them move around the hive thru the winter this way.
     
  7. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    one horse writes:
    How do you do that? What does a dead bee look like versus a cold bee? At what temperature can you hear them buzzing in the hive? What other ways is there to check?

    tecumseh:
    I would suggest to you one horse that you can inspect a bee hive at too cold a temperature (windy and cold being extra bad). In the 'typical' case small cluster can move off available stores and 'appear' dead. warmer temperatures (if it comes soon enough) will revive the cluster and then if they have the energy the cluster can move to where stores are available. long ago while doing a commercial bee keeping gig an old migratory minnesota beekeeper showed me how to almost magically revive a hive I was fixing to pronounce dead* with a little warm thin sugar water in a spray bottle.

    anyway my suggestion to all is to be extremely careful about pronouncing a bee hive dead and be somewhat temperature sensitive when it come to all winter time inspections.

    *we called this kicking bottoms.
     
  8. sqkcrk

    sqkcrk New Member

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    If you have bees in cluster and you don't know if thyey are dead or not, blow on them. Some of them will move a little. They'll flex their tail ends, sorta pulsing.

    A small cluster is more likely to be dead than a large one will. It has to be of a certain size to maintain warmth and thereby viability.

    As far as the temperature at which you can hear them buzzing, I'mm not sure, but I think that if they are alive, when you put your ear right up to the side of the hive and rapit w/ your knuckles, like knocking on someones front door, you aught to hear some buzzing at just about any temperature.

    Why are you checking them at this time? Were they light when you last looked at them?
     
  9. onehorse

    onehorse New Member

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    My main reason is that I would like to be able to adjust my bee orders for this spring accordingly. Past that, we have signed up for a couple of classes that should help us prepare better for next winter and I do want to figure out what did these hives in, as it will help us adjust accordling. We are a bit surprised at the number and the ones that we lost and I am pretty sure that they are lost. Outside temp was up to 40 - 45, hives in direct sun and nothing out of the three hives, just the last one.
     
  10. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    I usually consider +50 degrees to be the minimum temperature when I begin to notice activity. I have popped tops at less than 50 but whatever I am doing has to be done very fast (like filling a frame type feeder). I operate in the winter months with temperature always in mind and I keep a thermometer at the front door to remind me that certain activities (mine) just have to wait.
     
  11. barry42001

    barry42001 New Member

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    In winter cluster, bees vibrate thier wing muscles to generate heat. there should be no time when you can't hear a gentle hum o slight sound but there dead bees will of course nover move a live bee but chilled will sting you if you pick it up. If you had a break in the weather and it warmed up a bit, you may have a number of bees taking " cleansing flights ", or literally taking a poop--the yellowish/ brown stripes that dot the front of most hives. A few of those bees may have made the flight too late in the day to avoid the colder temperatures and chilled down too much. If a colony is dying out yuo might not see any dead bees at all--at first until you check in spring and see bees headfirst in cells and the rest of the clusted died in place.