Just started my third year. To be brief,I started with Italians. For some reason I lost a lot of queens which as you will see is a big problem.I have 4 hives and this year I requeened all four hives to Saskatraz. Sounds good-supposed to be good with honey,stands cold weather, and varroa resistant. Just what is varroa resistant? In August I treated 3 of my hives with Mighty Mite for varroa.
Ok four hives. I look at my weak hive and I cant believe it but I so no Eggs ,larvae,or pupae. Well I see this is a no brainer. I order a saskatraz queen and requeen and hive is good now. Hive 2 I see no eggs at all. To make a long story short, when i used the mighty mite the queen went up in the super. Got her down and ok. Hive three on looking at I saw a bunch of supercedure cells with bee bread and soon queen cells. Took out all of the queen cells. Put in a new queen and ok. Fourth hive just could not find any eggs or young larvae so requeend it and is ok. So within a week I requeened all four of my hives. The second summer when I had Italians I lost all three quuens of my 3 hives. I thought they were queenless and I paid two experts to check and they said all were queenlees. So I go to Saskatraz ans doing good and I think I am queenless in all four.I dont kill a lot of bees in doing anything but queens I THINK are disappearing. I was told Italians were continous layers and you should always see eggs during their breeding season. What about Saskatraz.. Can they start laying eggs, stop, and then start again. If so when do you know if they have just stopped or they are gone. How do Saskatraz queens work. I am used to the Italians who I think lay eggs all through breading season. When the Saskatraz started laying it seemed like no time and cells just full of capped brood. More than Italians. Do they lay a lot take a rest from laying. I just seem to use a lot of queens. Italians just lay and Sacatraz lay rest lay. If so with the Saskatraz how do you know. One hive had no larvae,eggs and pupae and no supercedure or queen cells. One was full of supercedure cells that went to queen cells. On 3 queen just got misplaced. On four could not find any eggs or young larvae. I replace a lot of queens. Any help is welcome. I can take it, I am a bee keeper. SasKatraz info please where can I get it. I am definitely staying with sakatraz. Never let queen cells hatch replace with bred queen from Lappee
Hmmm, some thoughts come to mind - but a few questions.
What month did you see the 4 become queenless?
How strong were the hives in June and July? were they at least 2 deeps full of bees, and 2 supers? Was the capped brood pattern pretty solid? There is always an empty cell here and there, but you should see a lot of sections with no missing cells.
Did these hives swarm? A strong hive which loses half of its bees, but has capped brood emerging, still looks like a strong hive if you check 7 days post-swarm. Queen cells are usually at the bottom of the TOP deep, but not always, and can be well hidden. Though often there's like 20, and it's hard to miss. But...sometimes they tear the queen cells down by 7 days post swarm. Yes, bees swarm in the fall, and late summer.
I have seen a similar pattern with multiple hives in June not having a laying queen, where I could not find a frame of eggs because my would-be production hives had swarmed. And seen the egg-free frames late Aug. In those cases, when I checked back 10 days later, there was a laying queen and small patch of eggs in most of the hives - I usually get 8/10 or so queens returning from mating.
Were your purchased queens marked? If not, you may have added a laying queen to a hive with a virgin queen, and the house (queen) always wins...
As for queens stopping laying, this happens in the summer if there is a dearth of pollen and nectar. So, if you're looking at a brood frame, a dearth will look like this: there is no nectar on the upper parts of the brood frame, and the honey storage toward the top is shrinking or gone. Also you'd see fewer bees foraging than you'd expect. AND my bees take a lot of water, to dilute the honey they are feeding to the brood.
I count my incoming bees - I mentally "lift a finger" for every group of 5 bees coming in per 10 seconds. The highest I've ever seen in 10 sec is 20 incoming bees, and that same hive can go down to 10 if there is no forage coming in, if there is a dearth. But mine always have pollen coming in, so I really don't see a no-egg period.
So, one idea to see if there really is a difference in laying for the Italians vs Sassies: note the size of the brood nest. I don't check every frame to do this. I start at frame 2, which I'm expecting to be honey, but is sometimes brood. But say there's capped brood on frame 3, then there will also be capped brood on frame 8 - the bees almost always have a centered sphere of brood-laying, unless they are small and covering only 5 frames or so. So I will note that frame down, frame 3, for the brood nest, and I then know they have 6 frames of brood up top. I prefer to note that kind of detail every other week in the summer, but with production hives it can become once a month. I would also note whether I saw larvae/eggs, and keep inspecting the top deep until I did see larvae/eggs.
If I'm only getting into the brood nest once a month, I will miss a lot of details, like whether they swarmed and whether the brood nest is contracting or expanding. I have to check every 10 days to see if a swarm happened, or to see expansions and contractions of the queen's laying. But, that doesn't always happen. I make a pretty serious effect though in mid May-early June, because I am tracking which queens swarm and not breeding from them.
Also when requeening - I prefer to requeen a nuc or split, rather than a full-sized hive. So, for a full-sized hive, I would temporarily split it, for 4 days, and requeen the side which made queen cells. Of course, I have to cut out all the queen cells first before introducing the queen. If I miss one, then that queen is toast. A queen which has just started laying will start with a small egg patch, which is on one of 20 frames, which is hard to find. This way I see queen cells if there were eggs.
No eggs? Then there can't be queen cells made if I split! So, in that case, I like to wait 10 days after I "diagnose" queenlessness, just to be sure they aren't in the middle of their own requeening. I really prefer to only requeen if I see queen cells made on a frame I put in that had eggs/larvae (so I check 4 days later). If not, I can get burned and have wasted money on a queen.
So, sounds like you're queenright now, so, ready for winter? I would suggest taking careful notes - especially the last time you saw larvae, and the frame that has the "edge" of the brood nest, that is next to pollen/nectar/honey frames for stores. That habit has really helped me get a sense of "normal" hive behavior, and helped me figure out how much longer I should wait before adding a queen (I have mating nucs through the summer with queens readily available, which makes mistakes cheaper). And note the stores in the brood nest, if you think your queens might shut down a lot - if there is nectar on the brood frame, or if it looks dry. And really, getting into the brood nest every 2 weeks minimum is more optimal for catching issues with the queen swarming or being superceded or whatever. Good luck to the girls getting ready for winter! Hope your fall forage has been awesome too!
That is a very thorough description of the many things that can be involved with missing queens or queen acceptance failures. I have to remind myself to take all the precautions and make no assumptions. I had to buy the second queen to get one colony requeened because I used some guess work!