deadout forensics

Discussion in 'Beekeeping 101' started by d.magnitude, Feb 23, 2012.

  1. d.magnitude

    d.magnitude New Member

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    Well, I found my 2nd deadout (of 8 hives today). I hate to ask about something that may be rudimentary, but diagnosing deadouts is a subject of stress for me.

    Dead Hive #1: lots of capped honey still, no dead cluster found clinging to the frames whatsoever, maybe a couple of cups of bees found on the bottom board, certainly not enough to cover the BB. I know this hive was alive a month ago, but I have no idea what the population looked like at that time.

    Dead Hive #2: lots of capped honey as well, dead cluster about the size of a softball clinging to two frames. Maybe 1/3 of the bees had heads in cells, the rest were on top of and surrounding them. Not sure if that is tell-tale starving, or if that's just a snapshot of what a cluster might look like at any given time (only smaller). I noticed several dead SHB fall out of a frame when I picked it up. Also, there was some mold starting on a few frames and on the dead bees. I found several frames full of uncapped nectar.

    So... I'm not too sure about Dead Hive #1. Dead Hive #2 I'm guessing was weakened by SHB, and just had a dwindling cluster. I also wonder why they had so much uncapped nectar in the center of the hive, and assume that moisture was not helping things either. Perhaps I fed them 2:1 too late in the fall, and they couldn't reduce it down and cap it in time?

    I'm just "thinking out loud" as it were about what might have happened. Thanks for any thoughts or ideas about a diagnosis; I often feel like I'm grasping at straws with this stuff, and I want to make a learning experience out of every loss.

    -Dan

    ps- what should I do about storing the frames with mold starting to grow already? Should I just shake out all that uncapped liquid and set them out in the sun? I've still just got both of these hives out in the beeyard (with entrances closed to prevent robbing).
     
  2. PerryBee

    PerryBee New Member

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    Dan:
    Guessing out loud here.
    #1 - Sounds like maybe it went queenless in the fall and just dwindled. You may have heard the few bees left in there a month ago or if you saw bees coming and going they may have been robbers.
    #2 - Sounds like a cluster that just got too small to make it. They couldn't generate the heat needed and were unable to shift onto the stores still left in the hive.
    We do what we can and sometimes nature exerts her will. :(
    Shake out the uncapped liquid if it will, if you have a deep freeze you can pop them (frames) in there. These can be used later if there is no other apparent disease discovered. Bees in a strong hive will clean them up without trouble. (Closing them off was good). If you leave them outside, provide ventilation by screening off the bottom and provide some sort of opening on the top for air flow.
    Here's a few pics of mine from last year.

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    It happens!
     

  3. riverrat

    riverrat New Member

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    I would guess hive 2 may have cold starved did you have an extended period of cold where they couldnt move
    Hive 1 may have been to weak going into winter. It may have needed to be combined with hive 2 then split back to 2 in the spring
     
  4. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    Sounds like normal varroa death to me on both hives. The mites weaken the individual bees until they can't live through the winter, so they dwindle down to where they are too few to produce heat and freeze.
     
  5. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    Like Perry says, it happens.
    I couldn't quite figure out why one of my hives died last winter- a little nosema-like staining around the entrance, but not a huge amount. Some heads in the cells, but not a whole lot. Not lots of mold, but some. No signs of deformed wing. Plenty of food stored.
    Frustrating when it's a mystery! I wound up guessing condensation and poor ventilation (which would logically lead to the mild dysentary and mold).
    Did you find either queen?
     
  6. pturley

    pturley New Member

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    My trap-out hive from last July went down sometime in the last month as well (they were still flying about 4 weeks ago).

    The homeowner didn't see any bees flying in the last week or so (and it was nearly 50 degrees last Saturday) so I went out to check on them tonight (with plans to move them to a better hive stand).

    Same deal, with plenty of stores (capped honey, bee bread)) but the screen bottom board was literally covered wall to wall 3/4" thick with dead bees. The only empty cells were in a neat column right through the middle frames of the double deep. Only a handful (a couple dozen or so) head-first corpses and no mold.

    In the upper deep, a few frames over on either side of where the cluster was there are nearly complete frames of capped honey and bee bread. The lower deep was fairly well tapped out but the upper deep is still as heavy as can be.

    I am guessing they must have lost their queen a few weeks ago...
     
  7. d.magnitude

    d.magnitude New Member

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    Yep, Varroa, SHB, less-than-perfect queen, too much moisture... it all adds up to "failure to thrive". Thanks for the input, it does help to make it just feel like normal winter losses. I did not find queens in there, by the way, but I can't say I looked too hard for them.

    I can say that I did monitor Varroa levels, and just made a conscious decision not to treat these hives. I did evaluate hive strengths in the fall and combined a couple, but not these ones. Not sure that I feel like I have any big regrets there, but maybe I should just learn to be a little more conservative. I do wonder if I should have started my 2:1 fall feeding earlier, to avoid some of that wet stuff stored in the hive.

    Oh well, I've got some nice comb and honey to start new splits in the spring, right? Also, this puts me at 25% loss (for now), which is pretty acceptable to me. Bright side, huh? Anyway, it's way better than last winter's 100% loss.

    -Dan
     
  8. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    a Dan snip..
    Also, this puts me at 25% loss

    tecumseh:
    winter loss should be very much location specific. at your location 25% may be about as good as most folks can do.
     
  9. BRASWELL

    BRASWELL New Member

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    Your # 2 hive describes my loss exaclty right down to the word dead. This was a new package in the spring of 2011 with new equipment. They increased faster than any of the other ten hives. I asssumed_ I would not need to treat for varroa the first year. By fall there was 2 full deeps with 3 supers of honey. After reading this post my conclusion is_ I was feeding too late in the fall, these girls were the biggest hive in the yard and stored most of the sugar/water, Idee is right again_ a death sentence. We don't have enough fall flow in Northwest Guilford county so this year I will be finished feeding by first frost
     
  10. d.magnitude

    d.magnitude New Member

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    Forgive me Braswell, but why were you feeding at all if there were 3 supers of honey on the hive? What's your location?

    I agree that finishing up that fall feeding earlier would have helped (would have helped me at least). I had a tough time getting through with that 2:1 feeding period, because they just kept taking so much.
     
  11. PerryBee

    PerryBee New Member

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    I am assuming he harvested the honey (some or all) and decided to cover his bases with a fall feed?