100% losses

Basic beekeeping, this is beekeeping after the first winter until about the third or fourth year. You are a beekeeper, but you still have a lot to learn. Talk about normal everyday beekeeping here.
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Rurification
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100% losses

Postby Rurification » Sun Jan 21, 2018 5:48 pm

In June of last year I had 8 hives of varying sizes. By late summer, I had lost four to dearth and absconding. I lost 2 more early in the winter, 1 during our first wicked cold snap in Jan and the last one this week to another cold snap. Plenty of stores and extra sugar. 100% losses.

I am so discouraged. Trying to decide if it's worth it to even try again. There is little support for treatment free here. The local guys treat everything, every time, everywhere.
Robin Edmundson
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moebees
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Re: 100% losses

Postby moebees » Sun Jan 21, 2018 6:17 pm

I am so sorry to hear about your losses. I would encourage you to try again but of course I'm not in your shoes. Since you are in Indiana you might see if you can get your hands on some of the Purdue ankle biter queens.

I had about 40% losses heading into winter and it has been too cold to check them so I don't know where I am at but I suspect the worst. Losses average 80% in the area where I am. So you are not alone. There are allot of people losing 100%
Sam Droege, a biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey—“bees are not optional."

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Dustymunky
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Re: 100% losses

Postby Dustymunky » Sun Jan 21, 2018 8:15 pm

Sorry to hear about your losses. I lost all of mine year 1 as well. Very discouraging for sure. I attributed my losses mostly to my own mistakes and the difficulty of starting with zero resources.

Year 2 was much better for me, currently at 50% loss but remaining hives should make it. If you stick with it I guarantee your 2nd year will be better. All of the comb, stored pollen and honey will be huge benefits for you.

If you love bees and beekeeping then stick with it. Get good bees or swarm trap if you dont want to dump more money into it.

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Rurification
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Re: 100% losses

Postby Rurification » Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:32 pm

This was my 6th year.

I checked out the Purdue queens and bees and they are running 20% more in cost than other bees. I just can't justify the expense anymore. Things were affordable-ish when we started. Now bees are running almost 3 x what they cost when we started. I think it's time to stop the madness.
Robin Edmundson
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Dustymunky
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Re: 100% losses

Postby Dustymunky » Sun Jan 21, 2018 11:57 pm

Another option is to remove dead bees from hives then leave them set up. Decent odds a swarm or abscond will move into your hives. Doesnt really sound like your into it though. No wrong decision. Best of luck to you!

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GregV
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Re: 100% losses

Postby GregV » Mon Jan 22, 2018 1:15 am

Rurification wrote:This was my 6th year.

I checked out the Purdue queens and bees and they are running 20% more in cost than other bees. I just can't justify the expense anymore. Things were affordable-ish when we started. Now bees are running almost 3 x what they cost when we started. I think it's time to stop the madness.


Sorry to hear.
Since I am already here for a short while, let me post my thoughts on this under the "what is the buzz".

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Re: 100% losses

Postby moebees » Mon Jan 22, 2018 1:34 am

This was my 6th year.


I know you have been at it for some time. That is why I had great appreciation for you sticking with it in the face of large losses when I ran across your blog. So I will hate to see you quit but understand that you have to do what is right for you. Best of luck however you decide.
Sam Droege, a biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey—“bees are not optional."

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Salvatore
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Re: 100% losses

Postby Salvatore » Mon Jan 22, 2018 4:01 pm

Robin, My deepest condolences for your losses. Unfortunately, purchasing bees can be expensive and there is not a readily available source of T-F bees in all areas.
Another option is to remove dead bees from hives then leave them set up. Decent odds a swarm or abscond will move into your hives. Doesnt really sound like your into it though. No wrong decision.
Good advice Dusty! Swarm catching is a whole lot cheaper.

Robin, Does your local beekeeping club offer a swarm list? Our local club along with our agricultural extension co-op sends out a text alert when they receive a report of a swarm or a cut out from within our community.

If you are in Indiana is there any way to connect with Jason Bruns? I thought I heard Solomon mention that JB was a moderator on this forum.

I think one of the most difficult aspects of keeping honeybees is acquiring quality genetics. This is amplified if your approach is completely treatment-free. As most of us in this community agree, T-F is a commitment we make regardless of win, loose, or draw. After working several years for a beekeeping supply store and helping to sell 500 nucs and 200 packages each year I was overwhelmed with the loss rate. I would see many of the same people next year or run into them at bee meetings to hear of their loss and see them purchase more bees next year to try again. The store also imported 500+ queens from California with similar results for the end user. It did not matter whether or not they treated or fed, the loss rate was high. I think that this is true for most of the country. According to Dr. John Kefuss about 1 in 10 conventionally kept colonies has the right stuff to transition from treated bees to T-F. A fellow beekeeper in my area purchased 10 nucs in 2015 (at $150 each) to have only 1 survive the first winter. But that one lone-survivor turned out to be something special. If our goal is to be "Treatment-Free" and we are purchasing bees from conventionally kept producers then we are starting at a disadvantage. But do not fear, there is hope!

As a result of the above mentioned difficulty in acquiring quality stock a group of us here in the western part of the North Carolina began a T-F beekeeping community last year with our primary focus on a community queen rearing program. https://beecentricalliance.wordpress.com/ We raised about 70 queens last year from the best of the overwintered and T-F bees we could locate in our area. Because none of us, at the time, had more than 20 colonies we looked at dozens of hives in many different apiaries to determine the best to breed from, and we found some great colonies. Our requirements were; 2-3 season old queens, must have been completely T-F, and did not require fall feeding. We put together a document to outline our technique and our work days. The majority of the work we conducted as a group / co-op where all who were actively involved benefited with ripe queen cells. We made up 2-3 frame mating nucs and used a different area for mating from where our breeders were located to ensure diversity. As a result of our efforts most of us in the queen rearing co-op increased the size of our apiaries by 4-5 times. As an example, I lost 7 colonies last winter, yet was able to take the 4 colonies that survived and grow them into 15 colonies by mid-July thanks to our cooperative queen rearing efforts. As of 1/21/18, 10 of the 11 - 2017 spring nucs were flying on a 58°F day. It has taken me 6 years to get to this place.

Robin, I wish you all the best in the future and hope a massive spring swarm from a wild colony moves into one of your old hives.

Keep the faith,
-Joseph
"Everyone must, in reality, take the greatest interest in bee-keeping, for in fact, more in human life depends on it than one usually thinks."
- Rudolf Steiner

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Rurification
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Re: 100% losses

Postby Rurification » Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:42 pm

Thank you for all of your thoughtful replies!

I, too, had thought of swarms- and since I've lost a few swarms and had 2 big hives abscond last year, I'm hopeful that there are feral bees in them thar woods. FINGERS CROSSED!! I'll set up a few single mediums or deeps and see what happens. At this rate I've got nothing left to lose.

We do have a swarm list, but there is a LOT of competition for bees here, hence the high prices for packages/nucs. It's a seller's market. I can also do cut outs, but don't have a good bee vac, so...

Joseph, your description of the losses is sobering. I had 2 hives overwinter 2016-17 and was thrilled to grow them into 8 colonies during last year - swarms and splits. Then we had a dearth and 2 absconded - one left 1 1/2 supers FULL of honey. I lost it all to bugs. 2 died because they had no stores at all - even though we had a great flow and they could have stored at least something. [The big one was packing it in and the others did nothing!?] 2 stayed small, but didn't make it to the end of December and the last 2 died in the January polar vortex. I was careful about brood breaks, so I don't believe it was a varroa issue. I reduced hive set up to a single box for the winter - same as the year before. I had quilt boxes on the winter setups and there was no moisture buildup in the deadouts. The dead clusters were on the honey, so they didn't starve. They just....froze?

I think what kills me is that I had made a lot of mistakes, but I was learning. Every time I wanted to interfere, I'd hear MB in my head asking if I want to be a bee nurse. No. I don't. And I got them to overwinter, t-f, split and build. I understand survival of the fittest and I do believe that it's best to let weak genetics die out, but am so disappointed that all of mine turned out to be weak 2nd gen.

Hoping for swarms.
Robin Edmundson
www.rurification.com

Beekeeping since 2012

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Michael Bush
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Re: 100% losses

Postby Michael Bush » Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:57 pm

> By late summer, I had lost four to dearth and absconding.

Sounds like the main issue may have been malnutrition. They need that last batch of young bees going into winter and if there is a dearth that may not happen. Sometimes you need to intervene. Learning when is often a difficult lesson. I try to make sure they have that last batch of brood. Sometimes I just need to give them pollen. Sometimes I need to feed and give pollen. Most years it's not a problem as the fall flow usually takes care of things.
"Everything works if you let it"--James "Big Boy" Medlin
http://www.bushfarms.com/bees.htm

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Rurification
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Re: 100% losses

Postby Rurification » Tue Jan 23, 2018 1:41 pm

Michael Bush wrote:
Sounds like the main issue may have been malnutrition.


I hadn't considered that. You're right. We usually have a heavy spring flow, a good summer flow and a heavy fall flow. It never even occurred to me that I should feed pollen in the summer or fall. We had plenty of rain until late summer. We have a very nice summer flow of white sweet clover and sumac and pastures full of dutch clover.

I did examine the deadouts and find lots of pollen, but I'm not sure just what that means anymore.
Robin Edmundson
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Michael Bush
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Re: 100% losses

Postby Michael Bush » Tue Jan 23, 2018 3:22 pm

A lot of the issue is timing. Also bees gather whatever dust seems the most nutritious. Sometimes that is sawdust and coffee grounds. When I see the bees gathering poor sources is when I put out pollen.
"Everything works if you let it"--James "Big Boy" Medlin
http://www.bushfarms.com/bees.htm

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Re: 100% losses

Postby Varroa Apiary » Wed Jan 24, 2018 10:01 am

Michael what do You think about feedeing good quality bee bread substitute in situation, like You just saying before. In situation when beekeeper don't have access to good quality pollen. I mean what is better for You in emergancy: good quality fresh substitute or old commercial not frozen unknown mix of pollen?

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Michael Bush
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Re: 100% losses

Postby Michael Bush » Wed Jan 24, 2018 10:05 pm

I try to stay away from substitute by always having some pollen in the freezer. But I suppose substitute is better than sawdust...
"Everything works if you let it"--James "Big Boy" Medlin
http://www.bushfarms.com/bees.htm

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Re: 100% losses

Postby moebees » Wed Jan 24, 2018 11:44 pm

This is a video from Australia showing open feeding of pollen substitute. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKdw4VDxo44
These beekeepers are very happy with the results. Since it is Australia you probably won't be able to find the same supplement but at the end of the video they show the label and you can compare to what is available in your area. It looks like it is probably comparable to ManLake Bee Pro.
I have to say that I tried feeding last year during our extremely wet summer and dearth because I thought they were short on pollen. The bees totally ignored it. So I guess I need to do some learning on when they are short on pollen. :lol:
Sam Droege, a biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey—“bees are not optional."

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Re: 100% losses

Postby clong » Thu Feb 08, 2018 3:34 pm

Robin,

I totally understand your frustration. It hurts. I experienced 100% losses the first two years. This winter I have two hives left after starting with four. The two survivors are trapped swarms.

I would encourage you to put out some traps if you can, and as was already pointed out, bait a couple of your current hives. If you can capture a couple swarms, you can build up from those. You can try putting polystyrene insulation under the hive top to help the bees stay a bit warmer.

I hope you will decide to give it one more try.


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