The aftermath of winter

You have just gotten your bees, either in the mail or you have gone and picked them up in person. Now what do you do? Covers from installation in your hive until the end of the first winter and the first blooms of spring.
Freshman Beekeeper
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Joined: Sat May 30, 2015 10:30 am
Location: Parker, CO

The aftermath of winter

Postby bigtreemover » Sun Mar 20, 2016 5:35 pm

Spring in Colorado is finally here. It's been a tough winter and I'm trying to learn from my mistakes.
I started last year with one sick nuc that never flourished and 2 packages of italians that kicked butt all year. Thanks to the advice and encouragement from beeks like yourselves I jumped forward and made splits on the 2 hives that boomed
Long story short I harvested about 70 lbs of honey and had 6 hives 3 mediums deep going into winter.

In preparation for winter I had added an additional medium on top lined with newspaper and filed with dry sugar(leaving a gap of course for ventilation and access).

This spring I was happy/sad to find that only one give had made it.
The dead hives all still contained at least one medium full of capped honey so I assume they died early. The frames were full of bees frozen in time. No brood left really and half the bees had their heads buried in the cells.
Their was some thick syrup on top of a couple frames but not much. That made me think I might have had a condensation/ventilation issue that mixed with the sugar. No mold was found.
The other thing was white crystals in the cells. At first I assumed it was the sugar but have read that mite feces looks quite the same.
My thoughts are forgo the dry sugar next winter and improve ventilation. But I feel that the major factor is probably that my drug dependant package bees succumbed to the mites over the winter.

The things different with the lone survivor hive are that it was one of my splits and may have breed with feral bees? (I had them on different properties for mating). It was a smaller size cluster and may have had a smaller mite load? The last thing that was different is that the hive bodies are painted a dark blue on that hive.
I'm glad I was able to make splits the first year. I don't know where to order tf bees around here. I wanted to try Russian bees but I couldn't find anyone that would ship them to colorado. I ordered corniolans this spring and am putting a lot of effort into catching a swarm this year.

What do you guys think happened to my hives and any suggestions moving forward?

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Posts: 506
Joined: Wed May 20, 2015 6:36 pm
Location: Kamloops, BC

Re: The aftermath of winter

Postby lharder » Sun Mar 20, 2016 7:42 pm

Sorry to hear you lost 5 of 6.

I had some moisture problems with sugar on top of newspaper as well this year, and I wasn't as successful with my overwintered nucs as a result. The newspaper seemed to wick the moisture from out of the hive into the hive. I also didn't give my nucs enough protection from the weather. The surviving nucs seem quite a bit weaker than last year, and I been trying to boost them using my stronger colonies. If I use sugar again, it will be in brick form without the newspaper. I may just put them on late in winter on a warm day on a case by case basis rather than giving them all some just in case.

Its hard to know about your losses. That loose sugar gets into everything making diagnoses difficult. Each additional stressor adds up for the bees. If they are weakened by mites, then have to deal with moisture, then it may be enough to finish them off. Your winter bees may have been weakened by mites causing them to die early.

What I do is backtrack and start ticking more of the boxes that successful tf beeks use for success.

1. TF, feral, or otherwise resistant stock needs to be found or used. Try to find some better queens when you do your splits this year.

2. start using small cell in the broodnest if you haven't already. Not proven but benefits may be indirect.

3. reduce sugar input

4. How do regular beeks in your area configure their hives for winter? Find out and copy.

Also keep in mind that your location may influence outcomes. More may have to be done and more patience/stubborness may be needed in some areas.

I'm making greater efforts in all these areas and hope for a little better outcome for next spring myself. I would like my colonies stronger coming out of winter.

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