I'll preface my comments by saying this is one weird winter. Have had rain the past four days - and we don't usually get rain. Snow by the foot maybe, but not rain.
Took a peek at the ladies today. Was hopeful when I saw...
Bees inside were doing well. Not taking sugar. Just being bees in the winter.
As I continued my peeks and adding sugar cakes, the day went down hill. I have 66% colony loss at this point in the winter. A buddy has a 50% loss and a neighboring beak has 75%.Hope they make it through the rest of the winter.
If you haven't yet, please take a peek and give the ladies some extra help if they need it. The bees need all the help we can give them.
I've been looking at beekeeping the past few weeks still very green so this maybe I dumb question but what is causing the bees to die off
Not dumb at all. There can be a lot of reasons.
Verroa mites tend to be the main problem, weakening bees and enabling a multitude of other virus and physical issues to spread unchecked. Hives without enough numbers going into winter, or weakened by verroa or other issues are unable to sustain the hive through the winter - they are just sick.
Hives with lack of stores will starve out. Bees in a hive shiver to keep the ball of bees warm enough to make it through their winter. Bees form a ball of bees to conserve heat and do a movement from inside the ball to the cold outside of the ball. The ones on the outside shiver to generate heat. Shivering takes energy in the form of honey. Bees need to move the ball to the stores within the hive. If it is really cold, they often are unable to move even a few inches to get more energy and can die out.
I had a major issue with swarming this summer and my hives went into fall without the kind of numbers I would have liked to have seen. Without exception, my dead outs were due to numbers. Still have honey on the comb in all the dead hives. In two of the hives, I found the bee ball almost totally intact. In both of these hives, they were unable to move to stores. Where my bees weakened by verroa? Likely, though I monitor and treat as needed. Smaller numbers and bees going into winter at less than 100% are not a recipe for success.
Hoping the rest of the winter goes better with less sub zero weather and that the ladies will make it until spring.
The bees here on my property belong to keepers one hive, they combined two boxes and a small late swarm I caught in a catch box.. the keepers are up in their 80s and not in great health at this time so they haven't been looking in on the bees since fall..
I have been watching them as best as I can. we have had some nice temperatures in the 70s lately and the bees are active. there is a large sugar cake in the top of the hive that doesn't seem to be bothered much. the bees are bringing in orange pollen, no idea where or what this is.. nothing I know of is blooming here yet. zone 7 North Georgia.
Its an interesting thing to study and watch nature.
I have an opinion about bees, I'll share it but its just my opinion. have no prove just my idea now..
Bee harvest pollen from corn, and this GMO corn makes its own BT to kill off the ear worm moth larva.. Bees feed their own larva with pollen.. Makes sense to me that if it kills moth larva it can't be good for bee larva.
I can't find the info right now but read somewhere that a University was doing a study on honeybees and GMO corn and soybeans. If I can find it I'll post the link.
We sure dump the chemicals on our crops, and I'm not convinced that all our ag progress really is progress. We have a lot to learn about how we have impacted our world and the long term effects we will have.
Your bees sound like they are doing well. If they aren't using the sugar cakes, that is a good thing. Their poll an and carbs are better than sugar any day. Good luck with the ladies.
Not good to hear of such high losses this winter. Temperatures here have been fluctuating a lot. From highs of -10 to -15 celcius to days seeing +6 or +8. The warmer days are not so good to check hives as its generally pouring rain and windy. Usually some time in March before they can be opened up quickly and given medication and pollen. Bees don't collect pollen until some time in April here.
That being said I can still see bees in the top of the hive through the ventilation hole in all 13 of my hives. Next month and March will be the hardest on them when the queens begin to lay again but they've made it this far so I'm hopeful.
I agree swampcat,I believe varroa to be the biggest problem. They weaken the bees to where they become more susceptible to diseases and other problems. I also believe the use of pesticides and gmo are causing great stress on our bees. I think another reason is that we always want the biggest number of hives going into the next spring so we sometimes send some hives into winter we shouldn't.
Hives that are low in numbers, whether from late swarm, inferior queen, or just bad weather and no build up should be combined. As should hives who are light on stores. No use in trying to winter 4 iffy hives that are less likely to survive than if you can make 2 strong hives that stand a good chance.
I am lucky that where I live there is no commercial farming where pesticides are used and varroa has only arrived the last 5 years. I do not seem to get high levels of mites so my main concern is keeping a colony populous and heavy with stores for winter. I wish all of you minimal winter losses and a successful season!
Last Edit: Jan 25, 2017 21:54:17 GMT -5 by dewolfe
Great post, dewolfe. Good to hear your hives are still solid. Let us know how yours did come spring. Your experience was what I was expecting - made for a hard day.
My area is heavy with "industrial ag" and heavy in the chemicals. I know I'm fighting that situation. Also a lot of small beeks and one commercial beek around - know of five others with in a mile and a half so my bees share the good and the bad.
Heavy hives with with good numbers are so important as you have pointed out. Good to hear solid beekeeping wisdom. Thanks to adding your wisdom and experience. Good luck, and will be interested in hearing your wintering success.
The weather in Ontario, has been mild the last week, just above and below the freezing mark, I have checked my two hives. I see bees at the upper entrances. Just at the lower entrance in the other. I expect that the one hive had a much larger population than the other. Weather is supposed to turn to cold and more snow, so winter is not over yet. Have been making equipment this winter, most of the parts are completed . Plan to try making some frames next. Got some pine planed up today, will let you know how that turns out, my woodworking skills are not always precise. old243