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Basement beekeeping / overwintering — trying to keep it alive


#1

Just wondering if anybody has any experience or thoughts about what I am proposing to do:

I have one hive that is almost extinct and I’m pretty sure that the die-out is due to cold weather. I checked the other day during a warm spell and am pretty sure that the queen and a few hundred workers are still alive. I didn’t want to bother them more than necessary.

I’m thinking about moving them into a nuc (w/ food & water) inside a screened enclosure; and putting them in my basement until spring.

Or, possibly an observation hive.

Your thoughtful responses are appreciated.

Thanks!


#2

Where in the world are you? Your climate could have a big impact on the answers you will get from this forum. If you are in the northern US, is your hive insulated? Are you using a moisture quilt? Do you have another hive? If so, any idea about how that one is doing?

My concern is that taking a weak hive apart in cold weather might be lethal for it. I would probably be inclined to wrap it in insulation, put a moisture quilt box on top and wait until spring. If it really has only a few hundred bees in the colony, I doubt very much that it will survive into Spring, even if you put it in a nucleus box, observation hive or a basement. There just won’t be enough bees to forage, guard and nurse.

One option would be to merge them with a stronger hive using the newspaper method, but you would need to find and remove the queen first. However, even such a merge might prove a big stress for the receiving hive, and personally, I don’t think I would take the risk at this point in the season (late winter in the US).

Difficult decision, please let us know what you decide to do! :blush:


#3

Hi Somer,

Dawn has really hit the nail on the head. It’s truely upsetting n sad to have this happen bro ! I’m currently having to watch “like/same” situation in my newer five hive apiary. I lost 2 new season hives die-out from “mites” even after treatments. I won’t get into that issue here…

Hmmm, what neck/region of the world do you live in (as Dawn also asked)… Moving inside your basement might accelerate the problem if it’s mites. Just a thot. Also bringing the colony like that may give the hive/queen a wrong message n really start her laying really adding to the stress n limited resources of your struggling bees.

If your up here in the Northern Hemisphere n I’d guess you are ! Protect the hive (insulate n add moisture protection (new if the old is soaked). I’ve replaced the woodchips in one of my Moisture Quilts already this winter. Also make sure your bees have extra winter food (lots on here about that already) … I’ve had to add more on all my remaining colonies already.

Beekeeping is a learning experience n yes ! We will have losses at times. But the ups n pluses of this important venture are worth the challenges n sad events. I have four new Nucs ordered for this season 2017. I will replace my losses, add to my current apiary numbers, and try to get a swarm or so this new season n if not I’ll try to increase by the process of a “Split or two”.

Don’t get down in the Dumps bro … Just do your best n learn from it. Keep good records, study, interact with other beekeepers n get a good local mentor if you can. Stay positive sir. :honeybee::honeybee::honeybee::honeybee:

Danny is my mentor … One of the best helps n encourager I have !
Happy Beekeeping n good luck,
Gerald


#4

Hi Dawn,

I am located in Boston. I did not wrap the box, but I did give them a really good wind break— basically a box in a box. There are a number of schools of thought about wrapping hives with insulation. I have not done in the past, but perhaps I will going forward.

I had two hives, but lost one to mites. I treated it too late. The other hive going into winter was very strong and full. I left a super on it full of honey for them to winter over.

We had a warm spell not too long ago, so I cracked the lid of the remaining hive and found most of the bees dead on the floor of the hive. The remaining live bees were huddled in a corner.

I haven’t decided what to do yet. If they have a high chance of dying out completely, then it would be an interesting experiment if nothing else to transfer them into a smaller box and bring them inside for a couple months. Although, it would really suck if they somehow got out.

If they do somehow manage to survive inside, at least they will already have comb made and a good amount of honey to eat prior to the first nectar flow.

If we get another warm spell and they are still alive, I think I’ll go for it. I’ll keep you posted.

Cheers!

Mark


#5

Hello Gerald,

You guessed right, I’m in the Northeast — Boston.

You bring up a really interesting point about the mites. I don’t know if they would transfer to other animals or humans. I certainly do not want them to infest my basement. Maybe my shed would be a safer bet.

I guess I better order my replacements, anyway.

Thanks,

Mark