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Why Did My Bees Die? Part 2 Of 2

In our post last week, we discussed the factors and variables that can cause your hive to fail over the winter.

In this weeks post we'll round out some other common factors that can cause your hive to fail over winter.

Blocked Entrance

During winter, bees will die and fall off the cluster and onto the bottom board.  If cold, the bees aren't able to perform the housekeeping chore of keeping the hive entrance cleared making it difficult for live bees to enter and exit.  To prevent this, periodically clean the hive entrance with a stick or hive tool.

Enemies - Yellow Jacket Invasion

In the fall, hungry yellow jackets invade beehive to feed on bees, larvae and bee bread.  This invasion can and will completely tear up the inside of a hive.  A strong hive can fend off a normal amount of yellow jackets.

Prevention:
*Place yellow jacket bait traps near hive
*Reduce entrance as much as possible, but leaving enough space for bees to enter and exit
*Use a robbing screen

Absconding

There are very few reasons as to why bees would leave a perfectly good home in the fall.  Some reasons though might include:

*Fleeing from irritants inside or outside the hive
*Mite treatment is overpowering
*Pesky creatures such as skunks, raccoons and bears force fleeing (there would be visual signs of this such as scraping on hive or tipped over hive)

Other Diseases & Possibilities

1.  American Foul Brood - signs for AFB include spotty brood pattern, perforated sealed brood with coffee brown larvae inside, sunken sealed brood, coffee brown larvae sunken to the bottom of the cell and rotting smell.

2.  Pesticide, Herbicide or Other Toxic Buildup - signs include piles of dead bees.

3.  Chalkbrood - normally happens in early to late spring and rarely destroys a colony on it's own but can weaken a hive.  Signs include white and moldy hard larvae or grey/black mummies in cells, on the floor or on the front of the hive.

4.  Nosema - it is rare that a hive will die from Nosema.  Signs include declining population, poor honey production, reduced brood production, dysentry in and around the entrance of the hive and worker bees crawling around the hive with swollen or greasy looking abdomens.

Some final thoughts in regards to what to do when your bees die.  We commonly get the question on what to do with your equipment and if boxes and frames can be reused.  99% of the time they can.  Here are some tips and suggestions on what to do with your equipment if your bees died:

1.  Clean out dead bees and uncapped nectar.
2.  Freeze frames for 48 hours.
3.  Scrape out propolis from brood box.
4.  Clean off burr comb from inside of the hive, inner cover and top.
5.  Pull out old or broken frames.  It is recommend to replace brood frames and foundation every 5 years.
6.  No need to scrape wax off the frames.  The bees will clean up mold off themselves.
7.  Don't be discouraged!  Bees love used equipment and drawn foundation will mean speedy spring build up when you get your new bees.

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