Help with diagnosing a deadout

Discussion in 'Beekeeping 101' started by d.magnitude, Feb 17, 2011.

  1. d.magnitude

    d.magnitude New Member

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    Hi guys,
    I'm very sorry to report that my 2 hives and one nuc were all found dead today. I was devistated; I really tried to do my best for the girls all year, had some problems along the way, and thought I had learned a lot in the process. I'd like to at least figure out what went wrong. Forgive me if this gets long-winded, but I want to give any relevant info.

    Unfortunately, I only had time to go through one hive thoroughly, but here's what I found: The top deep (of two) was 90% full of capped honey. The bottom deep had probably the equivilant of a couple frames of honey and some bee bread altogether. There was a thick layer of dead bees on the BB, and dead bees found here and there on the frames, as if in suspended animation when going about their daily activities. On the very bottom of a couple of frames from the top deep, there was a very small (< baseball size) cluster of dead bees, some with heads in cells, many just on top of each other. This little clump of bees was touching an area of capped honey above. I didn't poke through the clump to see if the queen was in there.

    On one frame in the lower deep, I found some cells of brood. They were pupae, some capped, some w/ perforated caps, and some almost completely uncapped (but not fully developed). There were only about 20 like this on each side of one frame, and there was no other brood to be found in the hive. I poked a couple w/ a twig, and they were not ropy, and didn't smell.

    They went into winter in two deeps w/ lots of stores and I set them up w/ 5lbs. sugar "Mountain Camp" style in early winter (almost all of which was still there). They had an open SBB and ventilation via a dado in the inner cover. I seem to remember seeing little brood in late fall, but was told by someone on this forum that the queen was probably just slowing down for the winter (and all of my hives looked like this), so I left it at that. I did treat w/ Fumagilin in the fall, but had trouble getting them to take all of the syrup, as their stores were so full. I think they got a 70% dose.

    Any ideas would be much appreciated. I'm at a loss, except that maybe they essentially had a weak population going into winter, and had an under-sized cluster. I'd like to rule out at least the bacterial diseases so I can use all this comb and honey for new hives this year (but maybe that's wishful thinking).

    Once again, thanks-
    Dan
     
  2. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    Sorry for the loss. I think you are right in your last paragraph. Too few bees going into winter. The reason for that could be varroa, tracheal, nosema cerranae, poor queen, late pesticide kill, or any of many more things.

    It doesn't sound like AFB, which is the only one that would stop you from re-using the hives. I think it would be safe to just add bees and continue, after shaking the loose ones out. No need to pick out every dead bee from the cells. They will clean up the frames and the dead.
     

  3. Mama Beek

    Mama Beek New Member

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    just wanted to tell you how sorry I am for your losses. It can be so hard to lose them, but there is really nothing to do but learn and go on. Don't give up, it's worth it to keep learning and going forward.
     
  4. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    did you ever read the book 'The Right Stuff'? When things went wrong is was almost always at least three things that went wrong that led to disaster.

    1) possible a small cluster of old bees.
    2) an open screen bottom board (you can do that in PA?).
    3) and likely the most important ingredient of the loss (with some guessing by me for sure). you had a slight improvement in weather and the cluster begins rearing brood down low. brood rearing sticks them to that place which is just far enough away from the stores that when the weather shifts quickly back into winter mode they freeze and starve.

    ps... is it just me or do folks learn much more from their failures than from their successes?
     
  5. d.magnitude

    d.magnitude New Member

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    Thanks for the condolances and encouragement.

    I'm still at a bit of a loss about what I should have done differently last year. I did a series of powdered sugar shakes, and thought I had varroa levels down to a tolerable level. Leaving SBB open over-winter actually seems to be the norm in my area (southern PA). I may try differently next time. Perhaps I should have combined in the fall when I saw little brood. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps ....

    Adding bees to this equipment as-is would certainly be a silver lining (these hives are still loaded). Could I just shake a package into these double-deeps w/ the 10 frames of honey up top and walk away? I wonder if I shouldn't checkerboard it w/ some empty comb, or even scratch cappings to get the bees moving. I suppose I would go ahead and super immediately when the flow starts.

    Thanks, Dan

    * I forgot to mention that I actually did find a few dozen live bees clinging to one of the inner walls of the nuc I was trying to over-winter. I think they'll be goners soon, as it won't stay warm long, but it was curious.