I dont know what’s going. Its -15 Celsius outside and the bees are just flying out and dying. They seem very stressed and are anxious to get out. I put a small mash screen to prevent them from flying out and they are even forcing themselves through that. Is it a cleansing flight or Dysentery or something else? There doesn’t to be much poop on the snow either. Can anyone help me.
Hello and welcome to the Flow forum!
It is normal for bees to fly in winter even on cold days, especially if it is sunny with little wind. Please don’t block them inside with mesh. Even if they don’t have dysentery, they have got to poop! If they do have dysentery, locking them inside the hive won’t save them or the hive. You shouldn’t see a lot of poop on the snow, dysentery or not. They are quite good at spreading it around. With dysentery, you usually see a lot inside the hive, not outside. However, you can’t inspect at this time of year.
One other thought. Did you treat them for varroa before the winter? Dying bees will often take themselves out of the hive to die. The escapees could be those which are afflicted, leaving the hive for the last time.
I would suggest that you just let them fly. At least you have living bees in your hive, and that is a good thing!
Thanks for the reply! I did go and let them fly today. I dont think its Varroa because the mite levels were low this year. lower than the year before. But did treat them anyway.
One thing I did notice today that they were clustering outside the entrances, with there proboscis out as if trying to find something and few of them were flying away and drying in the snow.
Later, I put a tablespoon of water up to the cluster and they licked it up in about 30 seconds and then went back into the hive.
Would that indicate that they are out of food or a water shortage?
It could be either. Without an inspection or a hive scale, it is hard to know. I am glad that you let them out though, thank you!
So what method of wintering are you using Coldclimatebees that would require you to “let them fly”? Bees wintered in this extreme dry cold climate (RH 20%) are desperate for water after several weeks/months of confinement. But the hives wintered outside with upper entrances are continually re-using that condensed water (frost buildup) at the upper entrances…throughout the winter. If you have no upper entrance, and you have the bottom entrance screened, the bees panic eventually…and they head to where there is light irregardless of the ambient temperatures.
We winter inside in a beehouse just a short distance from you I suspect…so we watch when the first chinook winds roll in during February/March. That’s when the flight tunnels to the outside are opened but only if there is a film of water on the snow…if the snow is dry, and the bee lands on the dry snow, it’s fairly certain they will perish. The white snow for meters around the beehouse is brown from the accumulated wastes that the bees rid themselves of…after they clean themselves out, water is brought in in large quatities.
As far as dysentry, you know if the droppings are firm…not runny…generally that means your bees don’t have dysentry or nosema…and Dawn_SD is correct about internal hive defecation when conditions are dire. Here is a photo of what I look for in the spring during their first flight…not runny.
Hi Doug1, thanks for the reply.
I do use both upper and bottom entrances. The average humidity in my area is 50 to 60% sometimes even up to 70. On the top entrance I noticed there has accumulated some icicles. So I’m thinking there is enough water in the hive.
Today I noticed that the bees do fly out and I put a black plastic around the hive to create a warm microclimate. the bees land on the black plastic and they do poop, even when flying, it’s not running at all it looks like a normal cleansing flight. The thing is I don’t know why they would be cleansing in such cold temperatures.
The problem is that after they are done pooping the fly out and the land in the snow and can’t return back to the hive. I’ve watch them for several hours and not one bee can return to the hive because the fall into the snow and die even after they are done pooping. Some of them tried to but I think the cool temperatures weaken them.
Normal attrition from wintering could be as high as 1/3 to 1/2 of the bee population that went into winter. And some winters they have a patch of brood most months so that attrition is compensated somewhat by hatching bees…so there still is the chance that what you are seeing is completely normal. I’m sweeping a layer of dead bees from the beehouse floor on a regular basis. Generally confined hive populations due to cold ambient temperatures are fine until the end of February…after that it gets dicey.