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What do you think about dead bees?

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Mushy Bees 

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Hello

I started beekeeping this year and have tried so hard not to kill a single bee when working on the hives. Every little clumsy "crunch" was taken to heart and I thought I was doing pretty okay. No smoke and few casualties either way. Yay the beeking God cometh!!

Oh how different it is now though at the end of the summer.

Here are the casualties...

1/ The THOUSANDS of dead worker bees after screwing up the uniting of two queenright nucs.

2/ The two beautiful young fertile (and now dead!) queens from the above. Both the one I murdered, and the one they promptly murdered shortly after.

3/ The people I bought the nucs from who take huge pride in what they do. How do I tell them what I've done?

I truly love my bees, and when I saw that pathetic little blanket of dead bees outside their hive I nearly wept. It was all my fault and that's what made it so miserably painful for me. It nearly put me off the whole thing.


My question is this:

How much does your sentimentality about bees change with time and experience?
As a noobie, I'd love to hear fellow new beeks and especially the more experienced beekeepers thoughts on this.

This isn't a post about uniting methods.

MB
 
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Yes it is difficult when there is a crunch as you put the hive back together, but you can't get paranoid or you'll freak and quit. I guess the sentimentality will ebb for some and not others - everyone reacts differently. If you had deliberately hurt them it would be a different matter, but placing the boxes at 45 degrees and slowly turning will help and so will smoking the edges of the box to get the bees to move.

I am sure that your suppliers are used to accidental loses, and will be supportive, and you didn't buy them to kill them - let up on yourself. Everytime you think 'major decision made'...sit down, have a coffee, check another book, check google and forum archives and if you don't find an answer, ask the forum and pick the person who by their posts you respect the most and then go for it. There isn't a lot of point in 2 hours later saying ...here is what I have done, as it is too late for anyone to help.

And yes, I am a newbee too and I rely heavily on the forum and the friends I have made on here, have read about 15-20 books since April and visited a very experienced beek. All these things help - have you joined or are you considering joining a local assoc? If you have - use their experience and attend as many things as you can. If you haven't but are thhinking about it - visit a few local ones and pick the one that feels the best to you - everyone is different.

FINALLY - calm down and relax!!
 

Der Alte Fritz 

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HI Mushy Bees
You say you started beekeeping this year and have 4 hives and are doing fairly advanced things such as combining nucs. Do you have support and help from a mentor, local association, friend? If not then you are running way too fast on your own. Beekeeping is subtle and requires knowledge, so that you get it right first time as you often do not get a second chance. So I would get some help and support, especially when doing complex things.

I think you may do better if you adjust your mindset. Bees are not fluffy little friendly creatures, all working together for the common good, in a happy meadow like some communist workers paradise.

They work hard, they live about 4 weeks in the summer (which means that during the summer, the population of 40,000 bees will turn over about 6 times), they rob and get robbed, attacked by wasps, hornets, mammals, etc, things go wrong queens not laying workers, queens not laying and starvation. It is like any David Attenborough television programme - its about birth, death, sex and survival.

Find a way to think about bees in different terms. I am a historian so I imagine them as Italian city states in the 16th century, like Machiavelli.:biggrinjester:
 

Cazza 

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HI Mushy Bees

I think you may do better if you adjust your mindset. Bees are not fluffy little friendly creatures, all working together for the common good, in a happy meadow like some communist workers paradise.

:
Whilst this is true and having a farming background and being very used to birth/death etc I STILL wince inwardly and apologise every time I hear that crushing sound and try very hard to be as gentle as I can. Time has not made me callous.

Mushybees, you keep your mindset just how it is.
Cazza
 

Der Alte Fritz 

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That is quite right, you should never be callous and you should respect all individual lives no matter how small. :Angel_anim:

But you have to balance that with a realisation that you will make mistakes and there will be problems but if you are trying to do the best for your bees at all times, then you are acting in the best interests of the colony. You took the lid off to feed them, you did your best to get the lid back on without losses but one bee did get caught. The bee, probably a forager only had another 1-2 weeks to live but by feeding the colony, it will survive through the winter. Say a short prayer for the bee and move on. You are a far better beek for it.;)
 

Onge 

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Yes it is difficult when there is a crunch as you put the hive back together, but you can't get paranoid or you'll freak and quit. I guess the sentimentality will ebb for some and not others - everyone reacts differently. If you had deliberately hurt them it would be a different matter, but placing the boxes at 45 degrees and slowly turning will help and so will smoking the edges of the box to get the bees to move.

I am sure that your suppliers are used to accidental loses, and will be supportive, and you didn't buy them to kill them - let up on yourself. Everytime you think 'major decision made'...sit down, have a coffee, check another book, check google and forum archives and if you don't find an answer, ask the forum and pick the person who by their posts you respect the most and then go for it. There isn't a lot of point in 2 hours later saying ...here is what I have done, as it is too late for anyone to help.

And yes, I am a newbee too and I rely heavily on the forum and the friends I have made on here, have read about 15-20 books since April and visited a very experienced beek. All these things help - have you joined or are you considering joining a local assoc? If you have - use their experience and attend as many things as you can. If you haven't but are thhinking about it - visit a few local ones and pick the one that feels the best to you - everyone is different.

FINALLY - calm down and relax!!
Fine words Queens59.:iagree:
 

oliver90owner 

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My take on your sitation:

Get real.

You are never going to never kill a bee. That is life, if you are a beekeeper.

The individual insect is only a fifty thousandth of the organism - the super organism - and is virtually 'cloned' half a million times over in the year. The natural turnover in the summer months is every 6 to 8 weeks.

Worry when you kill the super organism, not one single insect. They all work for the colony and if they sting you they are dead, if they sting your glove or bee suit, they are dead. One of my colonies might sting maybe a hundred times when I go into it. The one next door is virtually sting free. Kamikaze or what?

If you get disease - AFB, and often EFB - the colony will be killed. It happens. The initial infection may most likely be 'unavoidable', but the beekeeper may very well aid the spread to other colonies.

If you are going to be that troubled over a few insects, you might just as well pack in before it gets really traumatic.

I certainly don't set out to kill bees. It happens. They are doing a d*mn sight better than fending for themselves - 75% losses with swarms within a year (and that was before varroa). Varroa was imported by humans, not the bees. The small hive beetle will be introduced to these shores by man as well. One might say how do you square the circle with those achievements? How many bees have been killed by insecticides?

No, either just get on and do the best you can, or pack in. Your track record speaks for itself. If you had been so very diligent you would have taken an apprenticeship in beekeeping before even considering keeping them yourself. You apparently failed at square one in that respect.

You have not packed in so far, so are you going to soldier on or give up? You will be making more mistakes, you will be killing more bees. Things may get better as you get more experienced, but dead bees are all part of beekeeping.

My take on your situation. Maybe cold and some may say callous. Last point; do you drive a car? If so, never hit a bird, or a rabbit? What are those little things squished on the windscreen, lights, front number plate? Gnats, moths flies, even bees. All part of life.

RAB
 

Cazza 

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My take on your sitation:

Get real.

Maybe cold and some may say callous. Last point; do you drive a car? If so, never hit a bird, or a rabbit? What are those little things squished on the windscreen, lights, front number plate? Gnats, moths flies, even bees. All part of life.

RAB
I am "real" and this may all be part of life but doesn't mean you have to be so hard hearted. Have you no compassion for the creatures you kill?
Cazza
 

margob99 

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I nicknamed myself "The Crusher" early on. I'm getting better at it, gentler, smoother when I work in the hive, less damage. While I am also becoming more matter-of-fact about the inevitable crushing, deaths, stings and individual losses sacrificed for the greater good of the super-organism that is the bee colony, I still spent a good few minutes yesterday trying to revive a bee that clearly was still alive but dying of something, don't know what ....

It's all very well being matter-of-fact but you don't have to be brutally so. And I do believe super-organisms develop a sensitivity to bad handling, however mystical that sounds. Evolution isn't mystical. Evolution is linked to learning and bees learn that "smoke brings fire", so why not "beekeeper brings death, therefore beekeeper must be punished by stinging".

I say sensitivity speaks a lot about sensibility too.
 

kazmcc 

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Before I did the bee keeping course, I had heard from somewhere you should never kill bees. I was shocked when our mentor told us we will kill a lot of bees while bee keeping. I imagined bee keeping to be all fluffy and natural.....how wrong was I lol :p

While putting the crown board on at my first inspection without our mentor, there was a few bees gathered and I couldn't turn the board to close with them in the way. I tried blowing them....no effect. I tried nudging them out of the way...no effect. I used the bee brush to brush them away, and got a very angry bee buzzing me for my trouble. Eventually I managed to turn the board and close it, but as I went to lift the roof, noticed I'd cut a bee in half on the other side. I try my best not to kill any bees while I am doing my thing, not only because they are living creatures, but also because I don't want them upsetting and trying to sting me lol.

I'm with Cazza on this. I would never intentionally harm another living thing. I got quite upset seeing the wasps attacking the bees, more than I thought I would. I think it is human nature ( for some of us anyway ) that when you put so much time into looking after something, you get emotionally attached, even in a small way. There seems to be something about bees. Everyone I have met who finds out a little about them, seems to get hooked.
 

oliver90owner 

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I am as careful as the rest of you and likely as good or better than a lot. But there is an inevitibility that some bees will succumb while we are manipulating them. Some cull drone brood; some change queens every year; some have double brood boxes and some larvae might get damaged each time the hive is inspected; sometimes comb is mis-shapen and needs cleaning up; some bees may be collected for disease checking (nosema, for instance).

These are really no different to squashing a worker or drone. Thing is, most on the forum are keeping very quiet about it. Probably not wanting anyone to think they ever squish a bee during manipulations. They may be squashing far more than me. If I take a bee for a ride in my vehicle after visiting an apiary, it will be lost, if it goes more than those magical three miles!

Lets just keep to reality here. Maybe this person should have TBHs or Warres, not framed hives, as an alternative?

RAB
 

kazmcc 

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You have a point Rab and I agree with you. All these methods involve deliberatly killing bees. I am a big softy, but if I want to keep bees I will have to get used to doing some of these things. Still, I sympathise with the OP, I can only imagine how upsetting it must be to find a pile of dead bees. That doesn't mean I don't feel bad though when I accidently squish a bee. :p

If I take a bee for a ride in my vehicle after visiting an apiary, it will be lost, if it goes more than those magical three miles!

I can imagine a little bee, sat in the passenger seat, with a little seatbelt on......" Are we there yet? " lol :D
 

spikespearman 

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Hi

I'm glad that so many people are at least trying to help the bees. I'm a newbe the same as you, and have gone through the bees comb being devoured by grubs because the hive entrance was a bit big, but then I've watched videos of the pros on line and they are honest about the loss of whole hives here and there. Sometimes I think there is a shortage of housing for everything...I've made bird boxes...Solitary bee homes...and all are appreciated by nature...finding a decent home is tough, but you are helping them out...don't worry about that.bee-smillie
 

Silly Bee 

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Totally agree Kaz

I have to tear myself away when the girls are being attacked by wasps. I kill loads with my blowlamp and I'm loath to leave them, but I can't stand there all day.

But, even wasps have a place in the great scheme of things.
 

Hivemaker. 

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What do you think about dead bees?

Nothing....not a thing....not much point is there,they are dead animals.
 

Rosti 

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But, even wasps have a place in the great scheme of things.
Yes, it's called my wasp traps! (sorry MB, we vary on this, your opportunity for a reposte bee-smillie)

I can identify with a number of the points raised in previous posts, but ultimately I am a beekeeper, not a bee watcher. I will actively (but sympathetically) manipulate a hive to achieve the strongest, most sustainable colony I can - just like the bees do themselves.

I cull drone periodically to reduce varoa loadings, the girls chuck'em out when they get fed up with them lounging round the house.
I had a queen this year that was creating agressive off-spring, she got squished and replaced, the girls do the same when a queen fails for a diff reason.
By managing external pressures (like wasps) I probably saved a few.
By practicising the off set and twist method for replacing hive parts I probably saved a few.
I spend hard earned cash on Apiguard, Oxalic and Fumidil when needed, that must save quite a few, if not all of them (well except those that die directly from the treatment of course)
Like the bees themselves I focus on the colony, the many v the few. Overall I believe I have a positive effect on those colonies I am managing ..... but I unavoidably kill bees in the process and I don't accept that there is a single person posting in this thread that isn't knowingly (albeit reluctantly) doing the same, and we haven't even mentioned all the poor dears that die during an inspetion where there is a sudden stinging attack.
 

beebreeder 

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Am I missing something here or did you say uniting two q/right nucs? effectively putting one q/right above another and not expecting mayhem, sorry they all try and look after their own queen and death results, as MM says read some books and what are your plans for a q/less box of bees in late september?
 

Mushy Bees 

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Your track record speaks for itself. If you had been so very diligent you would have taken an apprenticeship in beekeeping before even considering keeping them yourself. You apparently failed at square one in that respect.
RAB
What "track record" are you referring to here RAB? And where exactly do you go for an "apprenticeship" in beekeeping these days?

I started attending my local beekeeping association meetings at the end of last year. I bought and read four books on the subject over the winter. I've attended a course this spring/summer. I've spent over two thousand quid on starting up my apiary this year.
As it stands at the moment, I have three out of four thriving colonies with a queen arriving for number four this Tuesday.

Yes I obviously make mistakes and try to learn from them, but on the whole, things so far are looking pretty peachy. I hope I can say the same after winter and next years swarming season.


Beebreeder:
No, I culled one of the queens before uniting them. People are still selling mated queens and I have one coming.

Thankyou for all the replies. I'm glad I'm not the only sentimental "fool" here.
 

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