What is Normal?

Discussion in 'General Beekeeping' started by Dbure, Nov 29, 2011.

  1. Dbure

    Dbure New Member

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    It has turned cold here in northeast Texas and I have been checking on my bees everyday. I have one weak hive that I worry about and would love to know what is happening inside. A week and a half ago my husband and I opened it up and saw that it had plenty of stores for the winter (about 8 frames of capped honey) and even though the hive seemed smaller than the others it still had a decent amount of bees so we left it alone and closed it back up.

    A couple of days ago I decided to put some white paper on the ground in front of each of my hives to see what kind of debris gets tossed out and how many dead bees I might find. Each day I notice dead bees showing up on the paper in front of each one, some days more than others and some days less, say maybe 10-20 on the weak hive. To get around to asking my question, :mrgreen: what is a normal number of bees to die each day at this time of year, or is it normal? I know there is not some "magic" number, but I worry about the weak hive dieing this winter because of a lack of bees. Does the queen still continue to lay eggs and raise brood even in the colder temps? :confused:
     
  2. Americasbeekeeper

    Americasbeekeeper New Member

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    A few workers die. Drones get the boot this time of year too. The queen may stop laying when the brood cannot be maintained at 95 degrees.
     

  3. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    very interesting..

    normal in this case would have something to do with the total population of the hive and the age distribution of the hive in question. both difficult question to answer exactly I would guess.

    so the weak bee has 10 to 20 and the strong hive has how many dead/day?

    are the bees flying and then dying or are they being tossed out of the hive by the undertaker bees?

    if flying and then dying... we are currently having some cool morning with evening temperature rising to the point where the bees should be active as the evening warm. if you have a thermometer about watch some morning as the temperature rises and see if perhaps the weaker hive begins flying at a much cooler temperature than the strong hive. the critical number being 55 on the thermometer. <particularly at this time of year this may suggest nosema (most likely nosema c).

    'most' hive have just about stopped brooding up here. some may have small patches of brood but typically not much more than two small circular areas on either side of one frame. this area will be about constant till about january 5 when you should expect brooding to begin increasing once again.
     
  4. G3farms

    G3farms New Member

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    the bees that are getting carried out of the hive, are they worker or drone bees?

    excessive drones being tossed out could be a queenless hive with a drone laying worker, just a thought anyway.
     
  5. Dbure

    Dbure New Member

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    The weak hive seems to have the most bees on the paper, where the others each have about half of their number. Most of them seem to be worker bees and I don't see many drones. Without going into the hive it is hard to tell what is wrong. I don't want to disturb them while it is cold for fear it will cause undue stress. I know how I feel on a cold morning when my bedcovers get pulled out of place. :wink:

    I was thinking what you mentioned about the age distribution Tecumseh, wondering if it is normal for some to die even in the cold months simply because they have reached the end of their normal lifespan. However, from what I have read about hive activities in winter, bees can almost reach a state of torpor or hibernation for a period of time which should slow down their death rates. For a hive to survive I understand that it depends on having enough bees to keep the cluster temperature manageable yet not too many bees where the food may possibly run out. Thus my concern about the loss of any bees at this particular time, especially from the weaker hive. You would think that the stronger hives will break their clusters as the temps get warmer during the day before the smaller one would. If this were the case then you would assume that housecleaning would be more prevalent in those stronger ones.

    One thing I had almost forgotten was that ants were a real problem for this hive until we treated the ground for them. My husband said they were fire ants, and I don't think I have to say much more about how bad they can be. The stronger hives it seems were more capable of dealing with them, but the weaker one was not able to defend itself. The presence of the ants makes me feel there is an undetected problem inside and it may now be too late into the year to address the problem. I'll have to wait until a warmer day and hopefully see what kind of activity arises. It is wild how quickly things can change for hive from one day to the next. I've thought about installing cameras on each one just so I can see what happens. :shock:
     
  6. brooksbeefarm

    brooksbeefarm New Member

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    Was a insecticide used to get rid of the ants? also what breed of bees do you have,the carniolan bees can go through the winter with a smaller cluster than other breeds and can look like a weak hive.Just some thoughts i had. :confused: Jack
     
  7. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    Dbure write:
    I was thinking what you mentioned about the age distribution Tecumseh, wondering if it is normal for some to die even in the cold months simply because they have reached the end of their normal lifespan. However, from what I have read about hive activities in winter, bees can almost reach a state of torpor or hibernation for a period of time which should slow down their death rates.

    tecumseh:
    without some bee keeping intervention or unless your bees were in an unusual place (ie exception even in the most extreme years are quite possible) a lot of hives this year should be assumed to have untypical age demographics. here late in the season a lot of hives simply ran out of pollen and totally ceased brood rearing so there is more than a good chance that the age demographics is a bit tilted towards older and not younger bees.

    to readjust your understanding somewhat. bees do die through out the winter months and quite typically show up in some number on the bottom board after each cold snap. a bee's total life is more about flying time than anything else... so in the winter time they fly less and live a bit longer but they still do die at some rate.

    your approach is correct in that you don't want to break apart hives at this time of year randomly. on most sunny and not windy days here whenever the temperature rises above 55 there should be little downside to looking quickly inside.

    I suspect??? at this time of year you can see a rise in nosema carena. with an inside feeder you can somewhat recognize this new malady. a frame feeder filled half way and then reexamined 4 or 5 days later (you do need a day or so of warmer weather for the bees to access and pick up the feed) if you see a hive that doesn't quite throughly clean up the feeder then nosema c is typically the problem. just a bit of feed + fumidil in a baggie feeder (ideally the feed needs to be directly above the feeder where it can be easily and safely accessed by the bees) will correct this problem.
     
  8. Dbure

    Dbure New Member

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    Jack, you had asked if any pesticides had been used to treat for the ants. I have to say yes much to my unhappiness and objection. :beg: It was the first thing I had considered and I would have thought it might be the trouble excepting that the other hives seem to be doing well and even today when I went out to check, all of them had bees coming and going bringing pollen in while the temps are a little warmer. I had tried so many natural methods that were not working and my husband insisted that unless we got the fireants under control they would decimate the weak hive and move on to the next. I know he was right, but I would not advise it to anyone. It was a big risk and I lost alot of sleep over it. :cry:

    I also considered what you said Tecumseh about nosema and there does seem to be signs of this occurring. The tell tale sign showed up as brownish or yellowish streaks on the paper in front of the hive which is not on any of the others. I would not have noticed this without the whiteness of the paper. Today I also noticed what appears to be a few streaks on the outside of the box and on the landing board. My gut feeling is that you hit it and this could be the trouble and needs to be treated for. I don't have the medicine and will have to get some sent overnight. I thought I had thought of everything that I would need with it being my first year at beekeeping. There is so much to learn. You feel like these are your children and you suffer when they do.

    Also Jack, you had asked what kind of bees I have. I could not honestly say because I think 3 of the 4 hives of which all I started from nucs did not come as I had ordered. I had ordered queens clipped and marked and only one of the nucs had that done making me wonder. After opening them all to install back in the spring and discovering this I thought it best to just take them as the Lord provided. Sometimes I just look at things that way as happening for a reason. There was no way I would have ever refused them. All of them came from Beeweaver here in Texas and are suppose to be a hybrid from the Buckfast. :confused:
     
  9. gunsmith

    gunsmith New Member

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    Dbure:

    I'm not sure if it would work on fireants or not, but up here in Ohio I sprinkle ground cinnamon on the ground around the hives for ant control.

    I was stationed in TX twice, so I have experienced those persistant little critters. We used to have paths worn in the front yard from the fire ants coming and going.
     
  10. brooksbeefarm

    brooksbeefarm New Member

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    Dbure, from what you discribed (the brown streaks) i'll have to go along with tec. Good luck. Jack
     
  11. rast

    rast New Member

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    I understand that fireants in Texas are probably bigger and better :D . But, I have not had them damage/kill a hive, even a weak hive. Go all over it yes. Bull ants are another story.
     
  12. Dbure

    Dbure New Member

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    Hi Gunsmith. I did try cinnamon and it worked well enough for the little black ants that like sugar so much, but those horrid fireants I could hear laughing all the way across it. I also tried teatree oil spayed on the ground around the hives and had heard that works too. I mix a few tablespoons in water in a garden sprayer and spray it around the base of the hives. I did that throughout the summer and had few signs of any ants so I figured it worked. That is until the fireants discovered what they had been missing. :ranting: I think the cinnamon and teatree oil is suppose to mess with the ants receptories. I figured the fireants just hold their breaths and march on through.

    The one thing I learned in researching about control of fireants around hives is that this is one reason why they regulate the movements of hives across the country. Fireants can collonize a weaker behive and take over. Once introduced into a new area they quickly multiply and spread. What I found was interesting in that the USDA recommends treating the ground under hives as well as pallets that they rest on with permethrin in order to control fireant damage. It has alot to do with the process and method of doing that in a manner which does not harm the bees. I can't say it is something I would want to do but thought the information might be of some interest to others. I have a link here.

    http://www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/ ... rs2006.pdf
     
  13. Dbure

    Dbure New Member

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    I thought that too Jack. All of you had been helpful and I appreciate the input. :thumbsup:
     
  14. Dbure

    Dbure New Member

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    Bull ants? :shock: I'd ask what they are like Rast but I don't think I want to know. The only other ant I know that is becoming a problem worse than fireants are the crazy ants. They eat pesticides as a fertility drug and come back for more.
     
  15. 2kooldad

    2kooldad New Member

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    bull ants are basicly ants with really big heads an huge jaws...cant miss em...they live in old wood like fallen tree branches (thick ones) or dead stumps....they also love walls an plywood or boards laying on the ground...an a hive would be a ready home after they chomp some bee heads...they keep their nest moist to the point if it were in your wall the drywall would deform an fall apart...they bite hard too...lol...trust me...they dont have near the numbers that fire ants do...an fire ants are the new florida state mascot....i absolutly hate fire ants an hope a plague of epic preportions from god wipes them from this earth to the very second to last one...which if god permits it...i would like the pleasure of squishing that one personaly myself.
     
  16. barry42001

    barry42001 New Member

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    bull ants I have heard of refer to harvester ants ( red ) there are a few different color variations of the same ant they sting and have huge heads, usually the collect seeds from the surrounding plants, and store them for future feed, thier nests atleast in the south east, are hallmarked by a cleared area around the entrances, I mean to the ground clear. the area maybe as big as a dinner platter according to the size of the colony. Generally ther won't bother you if you don't bother them--but if you do--they sting like a wasp, and bite with a passion. Carpenter ants are a different creature, also big head, bites readily, are very aggressive, and I have heard of them raiding honeybee colonies if the colony is weak enough. pictures to follow
     

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  17. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    i suspect at Dbure location fire ants or wood ants are what she might be exposed to in North Texas. fire ants can be a problem but generally only so on hive on the ground or weak in population. fire ants in an area and most specifically if they are on the outside of a hive will make the bees much more defensive (I suspect based on conversation here with folks that are experts on fire ants that they create a sub sonic sound/vocalization that get the girls all stirred up). wood ants may take up in a hive between the inner cover and outer cover but are never a real problem (as far as I can tell).

    given our current problem with varroa and shb the fire ant is now my friend.
     
  18. Dbure

    Dbure New Member

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    I have to say that Tecumseh has a good point. SHB and varroa are much more of of problem and can go undetected in a closed hive. Now I would not be so upset with ants if all they wanted was to take those pests out of the hive. :D

    Thanks for the pics Barry. Those look downright evil if you ask my opinion. Kinda makes you wonder how those little bodies can lug around such a big head. Oh wait.....I've seen some people that are like that. :lol:
     
  19. 2kooldad

    2kooldad New Member

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    yes...they are diffrent...alot of people dont know the diffrence...the harvester ants are a more orange color an live a much diffrent life....mostly in, but not limited to, sandy soil in grassy areas...they will clear an area about 2 ft or a little more in a circle....toss the rocks an seed husks they dont want around the edge of that....what we round here call bull ants are the large headed black an red ants...they live in or under dead wood....an like i said they keep it wet/moist/humid....if they were to invade a hive...(an its never happen to mine) i would expect they would do it between the top cover an inner cover or between the side of the box an the closest frame to that...an im just guessing at that because of all the other places i have caught them....in florida if you toss a board or piece of plywood on the ground an leave it for a few weeks you'll find out first hand what they look like after you lift it up....we have soooo many ants here....the twigg ants bite pretty hard to an there are these little bity tiny weeny almost cant see em orange ones that live in the trees....when they are mad they will walk all over your arm an then when they have you where they want you....KAPLOWY....all of them bite at once....an they burn...feels like you burnt your arm with fire...no joke o_O
     
  20. efmesch

    efmesch Active Member

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    Could any of you fellows supply a scientific name so that those of us living where your common names are not used will know exactly what ants you are talking about? :roll: