Sudden reduced bee activity

Discussion in 'Beekeeping 101' started by dejswa, Nov 4, 2010.

  1. dejswa

    dejswa New Member

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    This is my first hive, started in the spring, in Dallas urban area. It is an 8 frame size and now has (I think) 3 full brood supers. (I haven't checked the lower two, though.) I have been feeding with a top feeder a couple of months. Recently, the activity around the hive entrance has been really intense with ?100's of bees going in and out per minute and visable pollen on returning bees. I went out of town for about 5 days and returned to find that the activity is markedly reduced, maybe 20 bees per minute at best during daytime. We have had a bit of a change in weather with a temp drop into the 50's, from the 70's. I removed the top feeder which had run dry and they were making comb all over it. (they normally empty 2 gal of 1:1 sugar water in 4 days). I noted that the top super appeared 'filled up' with capped honey cells visable and 'normal' activity although I did not remove any of the foundation boards. Looking from the bottom through the screen, there are some bees moving around slowly, but hard to say if normal.

    I completely removed the feeder to clean it out and just replaced it with the top board.

    I have a couple of questions. My first concern was that someone poisoned my bees. I had started a prior hive in a rural area and I am pretty sure that is what happened as it was full of dead bees and moths at one point and there were some issues with neighbors, so I am a bit paranoid after that incident. It is really not so cold, now in the 60's, but we have had a bout of rain x 2 days and still activity is slow. What I am wondering is this - Does bee activity suddenly drop at some point at a certain temp or time of year? Does it return if we get a brief warm spell?

    I suspect that I should take off each brood super and inspect and look for the queen as well but I haven't had the time to disassemble the whole thing.

    Another question - since all supers are (presumably) full, should I add yet another super at this time in the year? If I do, I have a queen excluder grid - should I put it under the new super?

    And last question - should I continue to top feed over the winter if everything is full at this point?

    Thanks for reading. I know these are basic questions, but I want to start strong in the spring and make some honey!
     
  2. G3farms

    G3farms New Member

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    The bees will slow way down in 50 degree weather and will not fly in the lower 50's. Cold mornings the bees will not fly until the sun warms the air temp up.

    If you are seeing piles of dead bees at the hive it would be a good chance of poisoning.

    No need to actually find the queen, look for signs of her, eggs (been there with in 3 days), hatching brood (was there 21 days ago).

    I do not know about what it takes to get a hive through the winter in the Dallas area, but it sounds as though there is enough for them to make it.

    There is a couple of beeks from the Texas area that will chime in on the continue to feed part, but I would say to stop.
     

  3. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    Bees store from the top down. The top box may be all you have. Check all 3 boxes immediately. You don't have to find the queen, but you need to know how many frames have honey, how many have brood, and how many are empty. Then we can help you decide what to do.
     
  4. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    I would suspect if dejswa has been feeding even a bit that the 3 box are full. hefting or tipping the entire hive... this would add a lot of information and change suspect to know.

    poison is not so hard to recognize since as Iddee suggested there will be a dead pile of bees at the front entry. there will also (typically) be a large number of dead bees on the bottom and very few live bees inside the box. robbing typically takes place a day or so later but only when some entry thru the pile of dead bees on the bottom board can be navigated.

    as G3 pointed out you really don't need to directly see the queen.... just the signs of her presence. this is fairly simple to do by breaking apart the box(s) tipping these backwards and (after giving the area a whiff of smoke to drive the adult bees upwards and downwars) looking downward thru the top bars and upwards thru the bottom bars to see if you have any sealed brood. That pretty much says that 'yep the old girl is there and functioning'.

    feeding is always a concern. having some idea of stores would be useful information but given your prior desciption I SUSPECT you likely need not be concerned about additional feeding until sometime in January or February. even then the hive may not be anywhere near being without feed. feeding at that time does provides some insurance against starvation plus it boost brooding and adult population to enhance the spring time honey season.

    I would guess what you are seeing now (or not seeing might be a better description) is about the end of the fall flower season. you are likely to see (Dallas is on the cusp of three bio areas) some pollen collection all winter long.
     
  5. Omie

    Omie New Member

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    I'm no expert, but.... lol!

    Anyway, in my humble opinion...
    Bees normally slow way down when temps get down in the 50's and especially if combined with rain, which you mentioned.
    To me it sounds like your bees are doing well and are prepared for winter enough to stay calm about. They have a nice upper layer of capped honey stored. :)
    If it were me, at this point in the season i would just leave them alone and stop feeding. You might consider reading up about insulating the top cover to help prevent cold winter water condensation from dripping down onto the bees.

    However if you feel compelled to take the whole hive apart, may i humbly suggest that you take care to put it all back in the same order it was before? (unless you find any completely empty boxes in which case you can safely remove those) What you don't want is to majorly disrupt all their winter preparations by switching all their frames and boxes around just as they are going into winter and they won't have time to correct anything you might mess up. In the 40's and 50'sF they will be conserving their energy and food by huddling/clustering and being way less active.
    My two cents. ;)
     
  6. dejswa

    dejswa New Member

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    Thanks for the replies.

    I think that the cold weather has just put them into winter mode.

    Regarding feeding or not over winter - Since they do not forage during winter, would they even use a top feeder in cold weather? Could there be any harm in feeding over winter here in Dallas?

    My thoughts are as follows. I imagine that I will add a honey super with excluder in the spring. If I have been feeding them up until the time of nectar flow, wouldn't that mean that their food stores within the brood supers might more full and thus any new honey in the spring would be more likely to go into the honey super instead of just restoring the honey cells down below?

    I will seek out local beek's as well for recommendations.