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A Bee Conundrum?

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PhilG 

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bee-smillieHaving just returned to beekeeping after a 40 year gap. I am now doing what my father did for me when I was 14 - 15 years old and introducing my two sons to beekeeping. We have a small national hive (obtained from a local beekeeper) which at present comprises of just a brood chamber with a 2010 queen and a small colony of bees which we have been feeding with syrup over the last month. My sons and I have notice a strange thing, twice over the last month.

After a day or so when the weather and sun has been out and the bees have been flying, we have noticed about 20 to 30 bees dead or dying on the grass in front of the hive. Most of these bees are young worker bees with full pollen sacs. Those that are still alive on the grass seem dopey. I asked our local beekeeper and he himself was rather astounded but though perhaps they had got cold or as the hive lacks a landing strip they may have fallen off or landed on the cold grass.

Can anyone give me some ideas what the problem could be?
 

justme 

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Not sure, but dont think I'd put mind surrounded on 3 sides by brick walls. Must cut out the sun most of the time and solid walls/fences cause wind to go into turmoil rather than through. It may push some of it over if its not too high but I would say risky.
 
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Could be the result of robbing or wasps. I would suggest reducing the entrance down to something about 2 or 3" wide and a bit lower - a single bee space high would be ideal.
 

kazmcc 

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Do you see many wasps? That's what ours look like after a wasp has pounced on them, they walk about dazed then just stop, but the wasps are eating them before they die at our hive at the moment so there are no dead at all, even drones.
 

Midland Beek 

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Not a good place for a beehive - lots of shade. I would suggest that too many bees are crash landing and falling to the ground - you need a good landing ramp.

ANd the entrance is far too wide for this time of year.
 
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Lots of hives don't have landing boards but if you want to create one easily just slide the hive backwards on its stand for a little way. This will create a small ledge which may catch any bees which miss the entrance. You could also slide a board under the hive if you wanted to.

The location looks looks fine to me, again lots of hives are in shadow or face north and the bees do OK - shelter from the wind is the most important.

I suspect if it isn't robbing or wasps then bees are simply foraging in cold weather for the ivy crop and some of them are too chilled on return. Bees are also dying off in large numbers at this time of year naturally so a chill can only speed them on their way.
 

Onge 

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If they have pollen loads and walking about dying sounds like poisoning.

You do not need a landing board. I do not use them and they are not needed.

Find out if anyone has been spraying in your area.
 

oliver90owner 

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I would think it most likely that the bees left in sunshine and reyurned when things were cooling off. However your site may have lost any thermal gain and become quite chilly. Any heavily laden bees falling into the wet grass may just be chilled too much to recover.

Doubt it is wasps as it is now late for serious wasp attack and these are foraging bees, not guard bees which are succumbing.

The entrance might be too wide if there was wasp trouble but as long as the wind does not drive directly into the hive, it should matter not one jot. All my hives have OMFs fitted, so size of entrance for thermal consideration is immaterial.

Simple enough to try the landing board, under-board or step (using the hive stand). Any and all may help, particularly if the bees can easily fall from the landing area, although the texture looks fairly rough. Looks like some simple obsevation as to how the bees finish on the ground rather than inside the entrance is called for.

Regards, RAB
 

Hombre 

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A couple of days ago I picked up two bees off the top of a hive roof. They were lying on their backs, with their pollen baskets full, at around 4pm. At this time of year the apiary has a lot of afternoon shade and it can be a bit cold.

Bees supposedly reckon up their need and leave with just sufficient supplies to fuel their mission. Arriving back at an apiary that has become very cool, they just run out of juice when on the pollen run.

I put them into the palm of my hand and took them to the green house where it was still sunny and placed them on a sheet of kitchen roll. I called to my OH to watch and as the sunshine roused the bees, I gave them a cotton bud dipped in syrup. The probosi(?) were out licking it up in no time and shortly thereafter one of the bees began pumping her abdomen and then Bzzzzzzz pow, gone flying out the door. The other one got a lift to the landing board and she proceeded to walk in with her load.

So chilled, hungry or a combination is my best guess, mixed with natural die off of older bees. Sometimes in the winter dead bees on the landing board aren't so much a sign of how many bees died last night, as how much clearing out of the has been done.

I hope this helps you stop worrying somewhat. Most people have stopped gardening as the temperatures have fallen, so not a lot of spraying going on.
 

kazmcc 

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A couple of days ago I picked up two bees off the top of a hive roof. They were lying on their backs, with their pollen baskets full, at around 4pm. At this time of year the apiary has a lot of afternoon shade and it can be a bit cold.

Bees supposedly reckon up their need and leave with just sufficient supplies to fuel their mission. Arriving back at an apiary that has become very cool, they just run out of juice when on the pollen run.

I put them into the palm of my hand and took them to the green house where it was still sunny and placed them on a sheet of kitchen roll. I called to my OH to watch and as the sunshine roused the bees, I gave them a cotton bud dipped in syrup. The probosi(?) were out licking it up in no time and shortly thereafter one of the bees began pumping her abdomen and then Bzzzzzzz pow, gone flying out the door. The other one got a lift to the landing board and she proceeded to walk in with her load.

So chilled, hungry or a combination is my best guess, mixed with natural die off of older bees. Sometimes in the winter dead bees on the landing board aren't so much a sign of how many bees died last night, as how much clearing out of the has been done.

I hope this helps you stop worrying somewhat. Most people have stopped gardening as the temperatures have fallen, so not a lot of spraying going on.
Wow, what a great experience. I would have loved to have seen that. All I get to see at the mo are wasps picking the girls off the fence if they dare to land on it. They aren't trying to get into the hive now....they've learnt that mistake...they just linger around the floor of the enclosure and any bee that lands gets pounced on. They don't even come onto the landing strip to do it. They eat them there and then...it's horrible. I just cut one in half with my hive tool....I feel much better now :p
 

Hombre 

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Good on you. I had a little fun this morning. We were moving a hive that had a travel screen on it. We removed the roof and placed it on the back of a Land Rover and I was left alone for a few minutes.

I noticed that there were a few dead wasps on the top of the travel screen, but even more importantly there were two skipping about among the bees under the screen, inside the hive.

I was sucking a fishermans' friend at the time and noticed that breathing out over the mesh drove the bees wild and in the process, they turned on the two wasps in their midst and gave them a good pasting. Quite fun really.
 

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