Autopsy 1 – Italian

My Italian hive had survived the winter of 2014-15, but didn’t make it through this last winter, dying late February. They had worked their way from the bottom box to the top of the top box and didn’t move from there, even though there was plenty of honey stores around them.  As you can see the cluster was about the size of a softball and they could have died due to their population size and their inability to keep the colony and queen warm.

Italian - frame

Just below them is capped brood and perhaps with our teeter-totter of a winter, where it went from warm to cold and back again, the Italians began brood rearing.  When this happens the cluster will not move from the brood for food.

Within this small cluster I found the queen, frozen in time.

As shown in the frame below, I found evidence of varroa mite feces. The white specs found lining the cells are from the mites. I treated this hive late in the fall with OAV, 2 times in August and 1 time in Sept, with one week intervals between. I find that even after treating, a very populous hive will struggle with mites.  I believe I might need more experience with using the OAV method.

Italian - Varroa feces

Observations:

  1. The colony was unable to reach the honey around them
  2. They may have started brood rearing during late December/ early Jan, which would of caused them to not leave the brood area
  3. Varroa mites may have weakened the hive.
  4. It appears to me that they became small due to Varroa, they reached the top of the box and were unable to move to honey, thus ultimately starving to death.

My plan from this analysis is

  1. to research more on using the OAV method, and to figure out a good method for determining it’s effectiveness.
  2. consider adding a medium super of honey to each hive.

Have you had success with using OAV?  What process do you follow to determine if it is effective?  Do you retreat again in December or January?

Would love to hear from you!

~ May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places!

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Overwinter Config

~ Wandering Creek Acres ~

Before you start your hive autopsies, you should first take some time to list how you prepared your hives in the fall for winter.  After each autopsy you can review that configuration and determine how you can make it better for the following year.

Here are my 8 hives that entered the new year alive.

Each was prepared for winter as follows:

Excel - winter config

As an experiment (ok, I’m an engineer and engineers love experiments), I overwintered 3 Nucs to see if I would have greater success in overwintering smaller colonies.

The five hives marked in red died before we reached April; 3/5ths of the 10-frame hives and 2/3rds of the Nucs. (60% and 67%, respectively). So not much of a difference.

Now that I have listed how each hive was winterized, I can easily review the autopsy results as I perform each autopsy and determine how I can improve on my overwintering plan for the coming winter.

As you can see from my overwintering plan for this last year, I do not wrap, how about you?  Do you find that wrapping helps your hives survive the winter?

~ May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places!

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Spring Inspection

Early in the year, when the weather permits, it is time to assess which hives survived winter.  For those that did not make it through the long winter, a hive autopsy should be performed to see what you can learn from what remains.

Last fall, I had ten colonies being prepared for winter, 7 in my Carniolan apiary (picture on left) and 3 in my Italian apiary (picture on the right).

Before we even reached December only eight remained. My Italians struggled all summer long, re-queening and one succumbing to laying workers. It was a struggle keeping them alive.  My Carniolan apiary was the opposite, I captured 2 swarms near them and was able to make 3 hives from one that was attempting to swarm.

However, by mid February, 3 more had perished, leaving us with 5.  We are now sitting at the end of March with only 3 hives remaining.  During each of the last 2 cold spells I have lost one additional hive.

Now is the time to perform autopsies on these hives, to see what I can learn from them, and determine what I could have done differently for next year.

Follow me on this journey and learn about hive autopsies and what signs to look for.

~ May all your wandering take you to may wonderful places!

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