Message from IN State Apiarist, Kathleen Prough

Swarms calls have come in from Southern Indiana. Southern beekeepers should be getting honey supers on their hive. Even if it has been colder March and April the bees are bringing in lots of pollen and some nectar (sugar water?). Give that queen room to expand.

Reports of winter losses are coming in from the state. Losses are going to be high in northern Indiana. Some have reported 80% loss. The rest of Indiana reports are around 35% loss. Even at 35% loss, it is too high. Economic loss of 15% will allow the beekeeper to make up losses without hurting their business.

Several of the dead hives I have inspected thus far, I have found the bees starved to death. Not an ounce of honey anywhere and way too many adult bees. Bees need to have at least 80 pounds of honey to make it through our winter’s now. Beekeepers can supplement feed with 2:1 sugar water in the fall to get them to store it for the winter. Many beekeepers are putting sugar blocks on top so the bees can use it if they need to. They needed it this year.

Another interesting death is where the beekeeper reported that the bees literally died overnight. It was where one day was in the 60’s but that night and it dropped into the low 30’s and we had 10 inches of snow. The photos she sent show the larvae coming out of the cells. The adult bees died and were not able to feed the larvae. When I inspected the hive, there was some honey left in the hive, but there was a lot of undrawn comb.

Having undrawn comb or foundation in a hive in the winter is not good. Foundation cannot store honey. The bees cannot cluster on foundation. The queen is not able to lay eggs. If all you have is foundation above the clustering bees, they will not move up into foundation. This can lead to starvation.

Packaged bees are coming into the state already. I just hope the beekeepers are feeding sugar water to them. We still have cold nights and the bees need that honey/sugar water to be able to shiver when they cluster at night.

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