Winter losses in Montana

So around the end of February I had a warm day that was pretty calm. I took off the lids and peeked under the wood chips in the moisture quilts I have on top of my three hives. All three were still alive. Today I went out to add some more food to get them thru the last month of winter before spring arrives to find two of the three hives dead. Right after we had the few warmer days in late February we had a long cold snap with the temps in a 15 day period in the negatives and highs in the single digits. There was a week in there where the temps stayed below zero(fahrenheit). Food was definitely not an issue. The upper brood boxes in both colonies have over four solid frames of untouched capped honey. The remaining four frames have 1/2 to 3/4 of honey remaining. My guess is that they broke cluster and then did not get back together when the cold snap came thru and froze. There were small clusters of bees on the frames with bees headfirst into the cells with bees around them maybe a three inch group. I can also see a lot of bees on the bottom of the hive. So now I need to get a plan together to rebuild three hives. I had one abscond in October. :cry:


-not great news John…I recall you wrap your hives up with insulation too.

Oh man :disappointed: I’m so sorry for you.

No definitely not good news @Dan2. Sucks but the one good thing I can look at is that I have four full deep brood boxes with fully drawn comb to start new colonies from. I will probably get another NUC to go along with the two queens I have ordered. That should give me the bees I need to start the new colonies along with the one that I have left.


Sorry to hear about that John. It a tough break to have come so close to spring :slightly_frowning_face: I’m in the same boat.

Good on you for trying again - cheers!

Hey @John_Yeager - I realize this thread is two years old, but I have been searching this site for the same issue!

I’m north of Chicago and this is the second year in a row that I’ve lost a hive in the springtime. Last year, I even got them through the polar vortex and then they barely made it into March. Same this year, but without the uber cold weather. (We’ve had some days that were in the high 40’s, low 50’s and then a couple of days later down to 19 degrees. But overall the swing has been anywhere from 55 as a high down to about 28.)

My hives have winter hive wraps on them, moisture boxes with cedar chips, candy boards (new this year - thought it may help) and I even stacked a couple of bales of straw around them to block the wind. With all of this being said, I think it’s just that they broke cluster and couldn’t get back together fast enough. :pensive:

Hoping that in the two years since this post, you’ve had better luck? Please let me know! I’d be interested to hear.

And hoping for @Dawn_SD to chime in as well! :slight_smile:

Thanks, all.

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Dawn_NorthChicago What was your fall varroa mite control? Did the hives that failed originate from packages or nucs? Did any of your hives have this sort of brood pattern?


Sorry to hear it, Dawn - it’s very discouraging but I hope you’ll try again. I had two healthy colonies going into winter, made from last year’s tiny survivor colony boosted by a “queenless nuc” bought from a local beek. They’re mutts, and they seem overall more hardy than my first-year Italian package bees did. But, my skills are much improved from my first year too. Anyway, only one of my colonies survived this year. When I took apart the deadout, I found a small circle of oxalic acid that must have recrystallized almost immediately when I did my last late-fall vape. They never got a good dose then and must have succumbed to varroa-related weakness/disease as colder weather set in.

@Doug1 do you vape at all or just use shop towels?

Haven’t used my OA vaporizer for 2 years…using shop towels impregnated with glycerine/OA but switching to Randy Oliver’s new “cellulose sponge” idea:


Thank you for sharing that, I’ll look at the link :+1:

I have been using the vaporizer as my method of treatment since this post. It has worked better for me. I will admit that when I tried the towel treatment method I didn’t get the temp on the glycerin high enough to dissolve all of the oxalic crystals. I have upgraded to a pro-vap style device to do my treatments. I will be doing them in the next day or so since the weather has been decent. The article from scientific beekeeping in this thread from 2019 looks promising. If one was to follow the directions in the article it would be a cost effective way to treat. The numbers show that it worked but if the counts were high it would probably require a re-application.


Sorry for the delay in replying. I have been dealing with my mother’s funeral in the UK, then getting back to the US afterwards. Epic times. :hushed:

I agree with the comments above. The most likely cause of the demise of your hive is varroa. I lost 2 hives to varroa last year, despite treating. It seems to me that we have to be far more aggressive and conscientious with varroa treatments now, even than 3 years ago. If you have photos of the frames, we could offer a more evidence based opinion, especially if you can take a close up of empty used brood frames.

Sorry for your loss. If you are looking for replacement bees, it may be worth giving Mann Lake a call. They are shipping packages at the moment, and the bees are of excellent quality.

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Hey John, I have a few questions I was wondering if you could help me with, I am located over in Billings. Can you call/text sometime? 850-1800

Any thoughts on this method, @Doug1? I am very interested in trying it out. How much OA do you soak into each sponge - 50g or something different? I presume that you are the “meticulous Canadian” that he refers to! :blush:

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Ha, I just mentioned the sponges in a reply to you on the Busso post! Had them in all five hives this summer & I see good results. I’ll look for the recipe and will be keen to hear what else Doug has to say also.

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I think it is 1:1 glycerin to OA, 40g OA per sponge on Randy’s web site. I am ordering the yellow sponges. I might cut them in half to increase access.

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I followed Randy’s recipe & used the flat Swedish sponges cut in half.

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Thank you @Eva! I am shocked by how many mites have accumulated in a few short months. I think I will put the sponges in now (like Randy did in September 2019), and then put new ones in for March next year. The OAV is working, but the accelerated mite drop each time is shocking - still many 100s of mites in 24 hours.

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Don’t think I am the meticulous Canadian beekeeper he mentions…but I follow his website closely for his newest research. And I’ve heard from an independent source that the “higher eschalon” package producers from your part of the world use Randy’s methods…that says something. Perhaps OAV has become “passe”…I know it has for me…but it does give the beekeeper a warm feeling when all those dead mites show up after treatment.

After using the combination of the “blue shop towel” method during summer and Apivar strips in fall for several years now, I think my mite levels are extremely low. This summer I never saw them in with the drone larvae/pupae or laying dead on the white linoleum floor under my screened bottom boards…so for now I’m relaxing somewhat.

When your mite levels are low, it’s next to impossible to tell if the yellow cellulose sponge cloths work better than the blue shop towels…so Eva’s experience would perhaps be more relevant. One thing I will say, the blue shop towels are great in the sense that I can see when the bees are shredding them as the blue debris ends up on the floor…telling me that the OA is being distributed in the brood area. Give me another season or two with the yellow cellulose sponge cloths.

Photo shows towel fragments…and lots of mites…taken a couple of years ago.

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This was my first year to ditch the vape wand in favor of sponges, haven’t tried towels. I believe the sponges hold more OA solution than a similar-sized piece of towel and are longer-lasting. Yesterday’s inspection showed that the strongest hives had chewed away the most sponge material, but some was still left and being worked at in those three.

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