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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I went into the winter with 2 hives that were thriving to all appearances. I've seen activity in both hives on warm days and have popped the top a couple of times to see bees on the sugar cake under the top, and heard noise when rapping on the side of the deep. I notice recently activity greatly reduced and then nil in one of the hives. I did an inspection today as it was warm and sunny and the hive is completely empty. There are perhaps 2 dozen dead bees on the screened bottom board, and a 10 or so dead bees that were in the act of emerging from brood cells. That's it. Zero other bees. Out of 12 full frames of honey there are about 6-8 full frames of honey untouched, a sugar cake about 25% eaten, a pollen patty put in in January untouched. Did they swarm on one of the unusually warm days in January/Feb? Why swarm and leave honey? The other hive has a ton of activity today. The only different between the hives was one has a screen bottom and the other a partially screened bottom. Other than that I treated both of them same and both were packed with bees in October. Treated both with apivar in July and December. What happened?
 

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When was your last mite check? Treatment does not always produce the desired results.

Why overwinter with screen bottoms? That is like leaving the trap door of your jammies down! Gonna chill your gibblets!
Once the honey is dry the hive doesn't need the extra ventilation. An insulated top cover will limit condensation so it does not rain inside your box.
 

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Need location - temperature - climate info. (I overwinter on screened bottom boards but I do put some polyester stuffing inside to allow moisture out without a draft)

I went into the winter with 2 hives that were thriving to all appearances. I've seen activity in both hives on warm days and have popped the top a couple of times to see bees on the sugar cake under the top, and heard noise when rapping on the side of the deep. I notice recently activity greatly reduced and then nil in one of the hives. I did an inspection today as it was warm and sunny and the hive is completely empty. There are perhaps 2 dozen dead bees on the screened bottom board, and a 10 or so dead bees that were in the act of emerging from brood cells. That's it. Zero other bees. Out of 12 full frames of honey there are about 6-8 full frames of honey untouched, a sugar cake about 25% eaten, a pollen patty put in in January untouched. Did they swarm on one of the unusually warm days in January/Feb? Why swarm and leave honey? The other hive has a ton of activity today. The only different between the hives was one has a screen bottom and the other a partially screened bottom. Other than that I treated both of them same and both were packed with bees in October. Treated both with apivar in July and December. What happened?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I was told screen bottoms allow the air to circulate better and keep down the moisture. I didnt do a mite check, I bought these as 2 nucs in May from a reputable beekeeper who assured me he had treated and tested for mites. I am in northeast oklahoma. The winter has been a series of weeks with 1-3 days in the 20s-30s and 3-7 days in the 50s-60s.with a day in the single digits here and there. Very little precipitation this winter.
 

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Here is a PDF to help diagnose a deadout - https://nybeewellness.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/winter_deadout_key_2-24-14_final_draft-2.pdf

An unchecked mite population can overwhelm a colony in a very short period of time. Mite populations can triple every brood cycle.

The situation is so dire 95% of colony failures can be attributed to the mite. You can no longer keep bees like your grandpa did.

I am convinced genetics is the answer, buy local survivor stock queens, test and treat as needed to keep mite levels below 3%.
You want queens produced from known overwinter survivor colonies, not mass produced poorly mated queens and migratory bees.
All of the great BeeKs profess that your best queen is one your surviving colony(s) made by your selection.

The following is the easy stuff and nothing is written in stone, So much depends on location.
But keeping your mite level at less than 3% (by whatever method) is critical to colony survival.
And the only way to know is a mite wash, just looking at the bottom board is not enough.
Everyone freaks about killing bees, but in the bee world the individual is disposable, the colony is the organism you are saving.
A strong colony will not miss a half a cup of bees, a sugar shake is the alternative but not as accurate, and accuracy is critical when the target number is so low.

While honey is drying humidity is crazy, some will have problems some won't. Some space the lid with coins (it doesn't take much), sticks, drill holes, Vivaldi boards, quilts, burlap, etc.
Once the honey is capped the hive can be closed down, some stuff screen boards, some switch boards to solid, upper venting is limited so the bees can propolize it closed as needed.
I highly recommend 2" of foam insulation minimum on the lid to prevent condensation. A piece of plywood leaned up against the front of the hive at an angle will block wind and drifting snow from the entrance.
There are lots more things that can be done.
As long ago as before the advent of removable frames, bees have been kept in a cellar over-winter.
The other big part is what will fit with your methods, how much effort can you spare.
Stacking hives is beneficial, one BeeK stacks multiple hives in a cluster and wraps them up, they all share the heat.
NUC boxes stacked next to each other, the clusters will hug the shared wall. Double screen boards can be used to separate stacked colonies so they can share heat.
Don't give them more space than they need, this means you have to monitor them to prevent early swarming coming out of winter.
Don't over feed them, they will fill every cell in the box with syrup, no room for brood.
I don't like the wide open aspect of a screened bottom, it does not take much of an upper opening to create a chiminy effect and change the air in the hive.
Opening the whole bottom is too much, it's a gulp when the girls need a sip.
I don't have a hive beetle problem in my area so I'm leaning towards a morning sun afternoon shade setup to keep the boxes from over-heating, an insulated lid helps here as well.
 
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Mites are a perennial problem. I treated this winter, and my bees are alive.

Given the temperatures you mentioned, and if you did not use a cover board under your screened bottom board, the cluster might have done ok until the queen started laying, then they will cover brood even if it kills them, and I have lost a big hive to a screened bottom board without a sticky board in it, that covered the brood in the bottom box during a hard early freeze. Lost too many bees at that point, they did make it about half way thru the winter, because I saw them when I checked fondant, but in the end a small hive will not survive.

Use the diagnostic, but I would say mite losses. When they get sick they fly away from the hive, no bodies. When cold or condensation kill them, the cluster is between the frames, if cold, usually small. Condensation usually gets the bigger hives. (hence my use of a filter floss filter in my screened bottom board, and I use a cover board since my stand is a pipe stand.)
I lost a nuc in last year's deep freeze. Not to a screened bottom board, but to repeated robbing from my big hives that lowered their population too much going into winter. Not enough bees to stay warm. And yes I always put styrofoam over the roof of my hive, then a medium box with telescoping cover on top of that, then a big rock. If you need photos, ask.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
. When they get sick they fly away from the hive, no bodies.
Thanks to everyone for your answers and help and the helpful link. Also the info about bottom boards. . The quote above is what I was really looking for. I couldnt understand why the bees would be gone if they died from illness due to mites. Thanks again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
One further question... my other hive sitting 2 feet away from the one described above is bursting with bees. So much so that I will do a split this weekend or next. The only difference is it has a partial screen bottom (6 screened holes about 3inches in diameter covering half of the board). Otherwise they are physically and have been treated the same. So what's the difference? Genetics? Mites infesting one at random and not the other?
 

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It seems the larger the colonies the more susceptible they are. 3 or more mites per infected cell can emerge!
This is what happens in fall as the hive bee population declines the mite population is peaking, to a point where more mites are hatching than bees!

Yes there can be one colony in a group that is a mite bomb, where the rest are ok. Genetics I presume.
The only way to know is to test.
 

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There may be other diagnostic resources for your area.
I have a study that was done for my area.
Check with Jason Chrisman JCs Bees He is an ohio beek and may have more info to share.
 

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There may be other diagnostic resources for your area.
I have a study that was done for my area.
Check with Jason Chrisman JCs Bees He is an ohio beek and may have more info to share.
I follow JC Bees. Jason is one of my go to people to get a practical take on things right here in Ohio. 👍
 
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