Urban beekeeping in New Mexico's largest city.
I am new to bee keeping, and have taken over the hives at Growing Awareness- a part of East Central Ministries in the SE Heights....
I am hoping someone can tell me why my colonies have died!
This particular hive (link to video below) was going strong into the fall, had plenty of honey, and seemed healthy! On some of the warm days in November/December, I noticed there were no bees flying in and out and opened it up to find the colony vacated. I was told by one bee keeper that it sounded like colony collapse disorder, but it seems early.
As you will see in the video, there were a few bees (25?) left in the hive, dead in the comb, less than 10 dead on the bottom of the hive, and very few/none outside the hive on the ground. I didn't find any queen cells on the comb. I can't think of anything else of note that isn't in the video.
Actually I had this happen to at least one other hive. This is the second hive; I believe these are queen cells? Which could be the answer to why this colony collapsed. Correct?
Any questions, answers, comments, or feedback would be wonderful! I'd love to know what I could have been done to prevent this! Sad start for my first fall, though the Langstroth hives in the same location seem to be fine.
Thanks for your help!
Hi Morgan, so sorry to hear the news. This is so incredibly frustrating.
To test for CCD, you may want to contact John Garlisch (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the Bernalillo County Extension Office and see if they can test any of your remaining bees (or know who can).
Your first hive, to me, looks like classic winter kill. In winter kill, you'll see a small cluster of bees face first into the comb but dead just like in your video. Only your cluster of bees was tiny, so they probably just didn't have enough bodies to survive the winter.
The second hive video looks like your queen might have left (possibly with a swarm) or been killed in some other way as those "queen cells" are actually queen "cups" meaning that they never got fertilized and turned into a real queen cell. You can tell the difference in this photo. Queen cup is on the left and a queen cell is on the right.
So my guess is that your second hive failed because they were queenless.
There may have been nothing you could do to prevent this, Morgan. If in the future, you have the time, you might combine smaller hives into one for the winter. Or keep a close eye on the existence of a queen and replace immediately if she disappears.
We'll talk more about hive management at our meetings throughout the year. Hope you can join us.
I looked at your video. There are probably several factors that led to the death of this colony. This is very common now when a hive is left alone without any intervention from the beekeeper. I am going to list below the the various reasons and surrounding circumstances that had an influence on this hive. Most likely all applied, but all were not necessary for the demise:
1. This probably was a swarm that was captured in 2011 or even 2010
2. This hive may have swarmed in 2011 depleting the population and could not recover
3. The queen was not replaced (recommended annually) or the queen was inferior therefore egg laying was inadequate
4. The hive did not have young bees that would have hatched in October, November and the first part of December to maintain the cluster in the hive. (Beekeepers must feed after the honey flow is over to stimulate brood rearing for the winter)
5. Varroa controls were not in place to control this pest. Notice the brood cells that did not hatch out, but were partially chewed. This shows signs of heavy varroa populations.
6. The hive probably had nosema (dysentery) brought on by environmental factors
7. The final blow was the cold temperatures in December and the bees could not maintain heat with the small cluster of bees nor could they move horizontally to the available honey. This can be a problem with top bar hives. When you have days of cold weather where the bees cannot break cluster to retrieve honey that is close by. Bees naturally move upward feeding on the honey stores in winter (like in a tree), but have to have warm weather periodically to move sideways. This is complicated even more when there are empty combs between the cluster and the available honey.
It is commonly known among commercial beekeepers that the following must be followed in order to have a limited amount of colony loss:
1. New queen of a known stock each year
2. Prevent swarming
3. Feed protein and carbohydrates in the spring to build up the hive for honey production and again in the fall to build up brood for the winter cluster
4. Control varroa especially in July and August using the various controls:
A. Brood interruption (good time to re-queen)
B. Sugar dusting
C. Drone removal in the pupae stage
D. Essential oils and natural acids
5. Control nosema
I have few losses now that I follow what is now my own advice. I do not use chemicals in my hives, but I do perform all of the above in addition to moving my bees to Las Cruces for early buildups for my splits and package bees.
I have posted and will continue to add to my website (www.nmhoney.com) educational videos and material to help the beekeeper with their hives
Thanks for your responses Chantal and Ed.
To provide a little more background on the hive--
This colony was was established from a package this spring; so the colony and the queen were new and very strong/consistent throughout the summer, and we left 12+ bars, much of which was left when I found that the colony had collapsed. It was actively maintained throughout the summer and into the fall, and collapsed within a couple months after-- during late fall.
Could anyone see evidence of nosema from the video?
I believe I had the same experience as you did. Plenty of honey as far as I can tell, but no bees. I know that my hive was located in too shady an area as the sun angle moved, and I gradually moved it into a sunnier spot 2 feet away too late. I will go into the hive and look for varroa evidence, if I can recognize it.
Now I'm thinking of switching hive styles.