experienced beekeepers.....help please

Discussion in 'General Beekeeping' started by honeybear, Dec 24, 2009.

  1. honeybear

    honeybear New Member

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    Hi All,
    I am just finishing my first season in beekeeping and unfortunately lost both of my colonies.
    My belief is that they starved. In both of the hives, the bees were in a cluster. Many of the bees
    died with their heads in the combs. I've read that this is the telltale sign of starving. I feel like
    a heel not knowing to feed them more throughout the whole season. Definitely a lesson learned
    the HARD way.
    My questions to you are:
    1. One of the hives was empty after one month before a near full medium was there.
    So what happened? I also did not add entrance reducers. Could it be robbing?
    2. The other hive had about 3 frames full of honey left. Why didn't the bees eat it?
    I did not insulate my hives...I've heard this can cause problems. I uncapped the
    comb and strained the honey drippings. The honey has a strange odor and tastes
    kind of yucky. It is rather dark also. Is this because it stayed in the comb too long?
    Is it because of the nectar used? OR Is this a sign that something is wrong with the
    honey? I saw no signs of mites, chalkbrood, foulbrood, nosema, etc....
     
  2. barry42001

    barry42001 New Member

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    Hello Honeybear,
    First off, sorry for this being your first experience with beekeeping, and to have this happen. But this is also a learning experience. How you say--to properly overwinter in your area or for that matter anywhere in US, atleast 60 pounds of honey plus whatever they stored in the corners of brood chambers this is a minium. As they form thier winter cluster they will redistribute the honey to better serve the cluster, when they can not reach thier stores, they will starve only inches away from honey if is that cold. As for the few frames you found inside the colony you infer it had a foul odor and was really dark--not knowing what flowers were in bloom last--some nectar sources are very much inferior to others, and generate nasty tasting honey others fermenting rather quickly. Bee's can't use fermented honey or nectar, they will discard it if possible. Large numbers of bee's headfirst in cells in a general pattern are difinate signs of starvation. Also is you lift on the back end of bottom board and easily lift it--is too light on honey, feed massively with sugar syrup or even dry suger, although the bee's will have to work harder to use it--they will on days when it warms up a bit. There should also be pollen stores in the colony somewhere and some quanity--as they plan to raise brood in small numbers through out the winter .
    Again this is a extremely valuable learning experience don't de discouraged be enlightened.
    Barry :thumbsup:
     

  3. honeybear

    honeybear New Member

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    Thanks Barry,
    Already putting together my order (which will include in-hive feeders) for spring.
    I've got big plans to stick with it. Once I feel confident on a small scale, I hope to
    eventually run 200 hives and provide pollination services here. Not going to rush growth,
    but I'm studying hard and trying to attend as many learning opportunities as possible.

    Merry Christmas
     
  4. BjornBee

    BjornBee New Member

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    honeybear,

    I was not paying attention this past late summer, as the rains were often, and the weeds were plenty. I went out to one yard on the first of September to see how things were going, and I found 5 full size hives, and 15 nucs......all dead from starvation. They had no stores, and apparently were bringing just enought to survive as they were brooding. But a couple bad days of weather, and they starved. I think many will be shocked at dead hives this coming spring after not realizing the amounts of stores that were consumed over fall and the bees ended up going into winter light. This probably explains your first hive.

    The second hive, the one with stores, could of been for a combination of factors. But lack of forage probably played into it in many ways.

    Merry Christmas to you too!
     
  5. barry42001

    barry42001 New Member

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    I would never attempt to discourage you from providing pollenation services, but I would prefer to have the hives in one location all the time--the moving constantly is a distraction for the bees, and upsets the colony for quite some tome sometimes over a week to get fully organized again--you know about the time they are being packed up to move again. Ac tually usually inplace for about 3 weeks but thats too little time to totally recover from the shock and stress of being moved to begin with. I do firmly believe that stress on colonies is a major contributor to colony collaspe, providing for a lessened immuniological response to any given disease. Stress is a killer to people--to bees to all creatures great and small--anything we can do to lessen both thier stress will probably lessen our stress in the end--just a thought.
    And
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Years :thumbsup:
     
  6. barry42001

    barry42001 New Member

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    One more thing--I have always adhered to the simple policy that the first ( and as so happens is the best quality honey ), nectar flow is mine--the second or fall flow is theirs, gennerally the fall flow will generate enough honey to fit the needs of a overwintering colony again 60+ pounds in the rule of thump or one deep super/ brood chamber totally sealed honey, plus whatever the colony stores in corners of brood chamber :hi:
    feliz navidad
     
  7. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    New beekeepers should keep in mind that amounts of honey stores needed by a hive for the winter vary greatly depending on your location and climate.
     
  8. Bens-Bees

    Bens-Bees New Member

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    It probably wasn't robbing because based on your second question, I think it would have been too cold for robbers to fly, and you would have seen signs of fighting bees. So in this case my best guess would be that the bees burned through their resources trying to rear more brood for the coming winter, then when they were out of food, they turned around and ate the brood.

    In this case, insulating the hive might have saved it. If the bees weren't sitting directly on those frames of honey, then the reason they starved is because they were unable to break cluster (too cold) to get to the rest of the food in the hive.

    No, there's really no such thing as too long.

    The color is most likely a result of the nectar used (my guess would be sourwood).

    The only pest that could destroy honey would be small hive beetles if they had defacated in it... but if there were enough SHB in the hive to do that, then you would be able to see that the comb had been damaged by their larva boring through it. Barring that, then it's likely just a flavor of honey that you don't like. Personally I love sourwood honey but can't stand tupelo honey. Different people have different tastes in honey.
     
  9. Bren

    Bren New Member

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    I lost my one and only hive last winter. I'm not sure why, they had plenty of honey stores. I think the weather just played a nasty trick on them and they didn't cluster fast enough.
    It was cold, then a freak 70 degree day in Jan., then dipped back down to below 0 that night.
    Anyway, this year and new bees, I fed them heavily this fall, I made sure to put wind blocks around the hives (2 now), and I spray glued a thin sheet of foamboard insulation inside the telescoping top on each hive. I also switched out to screen bottom boards for air circulation, so we shall see how they do this winter.
    Sometimes it's hard to learn by losing your bees, but hopefully it makes you more aware of their needs for next winter.
     
  10. honeybear

    honeybear New Member

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    I want to thank you all for your replies. Barry, thanks for the expert advice.
    SgtMaj, very astute thoughts. Bjorn...my condolences for your losses. Mother
    nature can be a very unforgiving force. Can't wait for spring to "get back on the
    horse and try again"

    Thanks again
     
  11. Bens-Bees

    Bens-Bees New Member

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    That's the right attitude, and these days, it seems like that's what beekeeping is all about anymore.
     
  12. jajtiii

    jajtiii New Member

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    I am not sure where in Virginia you are, but you might consider looking up a local Beekeepers Association. You can find a list of them here (hopefully one is near your area):

    http://www.virginiabeekeepers.org/association_map.htm

    I found them invaluable (I belong to two different ones in Richmond.) You'll get all kinds of advice (sometimes contrary), but the point is that most of the old timers seem very dedicated to helping out and answering questions, most especially if they come from new beekeepers. Plus, the topics of the monthly meetings will focus on the subject(s) at hand (feeding during a poor nectar season and maybe winterizing).
     
  13. barry42001

    barry42001 New Member

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    Weather in Virginia can get rather cold but with that said, in Upstate NY where the weather gets about as cold as any place in America, I never insulated my colonies, I did make sure that never would I allow a colony in say October, to go further along with out atleast one deep super of honey or it's equal. more honey/ syrup is better, less is setting the stage for failure. A strong colony entering winter cluster will starve when they are only 6 inches from honey--if cold weather prevents them from reaching it. They must remain in contact with a portion of the stored honey somewhere. With a full depth fuler of honey and whatever is stored in the upper section of the brood chambers will keep and allow the cluster to move up a bit and maintain contact with the food source to both fuel the " heating system ", and also provide for feeding the small amount brood that are almost constantly.