3 dead queens and zero bees in southern TN

Anna j

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After this mild winter, insulating 2 of 3 hives, treating for mites, and putting sugar “blocks” on top of frames for winter we were super excited that we should finally be in a good standing to catch the honey flow! Upon spring inspecting there just weren’t that many bees, and saw one marked dead queen at the bottom of one hive and trying to be quick (still chilly) didn’t see much or any brood. Upon re-inspection he found 2 dead queens and there were literally no bees in our hives. Whatever bees were there that day were robbing. :hit
This is our 4th year going into bees and haven’t had success through winter yet! We thought we finally had it. After doing yet more research, we found that the sugar blocks placed on top of the honey frames were supposed to be on top of the brood frames, this way that didn’t have to go too far to get it. We read that bees can recover from heat loss but not starvation so while there was plenty of food available it was just too far away and we should have re-arranged frames during mid-winter to ensure the steady food supply.
One possibility was also that they didn’t have enough pollen? We put a pollen patty out that summer but they weren’t interested. I’m curious as to what anyone else thinks may have been the problem? Possibilities are endless but my top suspicions:
1.Starvation 2. No pollen for brood 3. Bad/poor quality queens
There is a hive that’s been in an abandoned house for years and we are going to try to catch a swarm from them this year. Maybe that will be better stock?? Our bees had a very healthy population going into winter with plenty of food and were from TN (supposedly). Thanks y’all! Stay healthy out there. Thankfully life is normal for us farmer types with 1 neighbor in a mile. :frow
 

farmerjan

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Have you had any experience with bees prior to this? There are bee keeper associations here in my part of Va that mentor and help new bee keepers. I think you need to find someone like that to be a mentor so that you aren't continuing to do this as trial and error. I don't keep bees, but would certainly get someone else to mentor me if I were to decide to get them. Reading is great, but you need to spend some time with someone who has been there , done that.....
Try talking to someone at your local county extension office. They usually have people that can be referred to for different projects like the bees. I admire someone wanting to keep bees, they are a little past my "want to list"..... have several acquaintances that have bees and would rather just buy from them. That is their specialty.
 

Anna j

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We do and we’re a member, however with all the scare going on we haven’t been meeting so I’m putting this out there for anyone to comment on and hopefully they will too! This forum is much unused by the bee community.
 

farmerjan

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I applaud you being a member of a beekeepers assoc. I was only reading your post and had an "off the cuff" thought hence my post. Sorry that I can't help you at all. Good luck and I hope that you can get it figured out because we really need bees as pollinators and yes, the honey is a nice bonus.
 

Anna j

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I really enjoy our community when we meet. We did the trial and error thing for a year and a half and failed miserably. Our learning curve went straight up when we started attending. Every bee owner should be a member of a local bee association! Sometimes though they need a nudge getting into the digital age. There is a facebook page in their defense but I don’t do facebook. So I tend to look elsewhere. :caf
 

soarwitheagles

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Anna,
It is possible you had some yellow jackets or wasps that killed your queens, then the colony cannot survive through the winter. We had this problem this last winter.

I hope you find success in your beekeeping endeavors!

Soar
 

Anna j

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That is an interesting thought. I hadn’t thought of that. As we feed our two new packaged bees....we built their new homes with open frames from the old colonies with full honey frames. We’ve fed sugar water as well but we honestly have NEVER had the bees stop taking it. Whether we were in AL or TN....the bees always seem to drink that even if there is plenty of stuff around - pollen and otherwise. Has anyone actually had their bees NOT drink the sugar water? I’ve heard they’ll quit when they don’t need it but has anyone had them stop and not drink it? I don’t understand; if they have honey in their hive - lots of it and open frames for the new queen to lay, why do they need to have the sugar water and why do they prefer to drink it??? I just don’t understand bug lives I guess. :barnie
 

soarwitheagles

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Anna, if this occurred in the spring time when there was a nectar flow, those honeybees should not have even needed sugar syrup. They should have been bringing in lots of nectar and pollen.

One more quick question: Do you have any skunks around? Skunks can eat up to 1,000 honeybees a night...
 

Anna j

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No we’re pretty sure they died right before the spring. Apparently, they starved to death with food all around them. We had the hard candy sugar above the frames - but one box too high. We had plenty of full frames in the brood hive but not next to the center. They ate what they could get to and wouldn’t go any further. Because we didn’t want to open them in the winter, we didn’t know they weren’t eating the outside frames or getting to the candy on top. We’ve since talked to another local guy (via email) and he said he opens them briefly to switch frames out so they have honey next to them and the queen. They can survive the brief cold but can’t recover from starvation.
As far as this spring with the new bees, we’ve given them small pollen pattie cut outs and in hive sugar water. Here in TN we had an early spring followed by a long cold snap. Some things re-bloomed but the honey locusts didn’t which is a typical favorite. Typically they don’t go for our plentiful white clover, but this year they are all over it - probably because there was a lack of options. They were on sugar water for at least a month including the honey and pollen frames that were already installed in the hive. They always seem to eat it, it’s just a matter of how fast even with lots of stuff around. We don’t spray any pesticides on any fence lines or flower beds or gardens. Although there are plenty of times I’ve wanted to in my garden! We’re on our way to having some honey for us this spring - but we’ll see and try not to miss it! The only year we had honey available we waited too long and they ate it!
Had a hive place near a wild one hoping for a swarm but nothing yet.
 

soarwitheagles

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Anna,

So sorry again about you losing all your honeybees. I never would have guessed it becomes that cold in TN!

We learned early on that the sugar bricks must be placed above the brood, otherwise the honeybees often will not be able to access it.

Two years ago, our honeybees did not bring in much honey in the fall and we fed literally hundreds upon hundreds of pounds of sugar bricks all winter long. The results were amazing: in January, we had double decker deeps with entire frames of sealed brood. I never saw anything like that ever before. It was a huge game changer for us.

We did use 1.5 inch screened risers about the brood and then we loaded every colony weekly or bi-monthly with sugar bricks and pollen sub. The colonies were by far the strongest we ever brought to the almond orchards.

We used Lauri's ideas and recipe.


Strange thing was that last year, we had late spring rains that led to a massive late summer/autumn star thistle bloom, and every colony was loaded with honey and none needed sugar bricks at all.

Hope this helps!
 
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