Why am I losing my Queens?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Nelson, BC Canada
    Posts
    50

    Default Why am I losing my Queens?

    I have only two hives and BOTH have lost their queens soon after purchase. Purchased as NUCs in early May. For each NUC, I immediately transferred the 4 frames of brood plus Q into single deep. Then added top box within a couple weeks.

    Within 2 weeks, Hive 1 had no queen. Then, at 6 weeks, Hive 2 had no queen. The bees created new queen cells.

    Is this just an unlucky coincidence? Or perhaps the beekeeper (me) isnít doing something correctly.

    I purchased the NUCs from a person who imported the young queens from Hawaii. My hives are in southern interior BC (north of Spokane, WA).

    Thanks for feedback!

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Location
    San Mateo, CA
    Posts
    6,739

    Default Re: Why am I losing my Queens?

    It is my experience that a lot of commercially produced queens are not mated adequately. I think many here on this board will suggest you get locally mated queens maybe from swarm catches.
    All of my opinions and suggestions are based on my five decades of actual beekeeping,
    not so much on book learning, watching YouTube videos nor reading internet sites.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Algoma District Northern Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    4,577

    Default Re: Why am I losing my Queens?

    Most places in Canada the weather makes local mated queens unavailable till mid June at least, and that would even require prior order. Bigger buyers get first choice. One breeder here did not sell his first batch of queens because he did not feel they were well mated. My first queens have not started laying yet. No drones were flying to do it earlier. Admittedly this year is 2 to 3 weeks late.
    Frank

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Campbell River, BC, CA
    Posts
    1,607

    Default Re: Why am I losing my Queens?

    I would look at the colonies and ask how much comb they were drawing out if you put a nuc into a box with brand new equipment, and, how much were you feeding them. I know if you go online and read, they say 'feed feed feed' for new nucs, but, at that time of the year (mid may) in your area the spring bloom will be going in full force, nectar will be coming in faster than the bees can build comb to store it, so they start back filling in the brood nest and swarm. I know that you will be endlessly told that new start colonies wont swarm in the first year, but it just aint so. I've got that t-shirt. Our first year we were told 'feed feed' so we kept the feeders on. At 6 weeks they all swarmed. I know this for certain, they were polite enough to wait for us to come to the yard on a Sunday morning, then swarm out of both hives right in front of us.

    I know it's trendy to blame the imported queens, but if you talk at length to the larger scale beekeepers that bring in queens from Hawaii by the thousands in the spring, in general, the queens do well. When you talk to folks that deal with one or two, they tend to complain. I often wonder if this is because there are two or 3 extra handling steps along the way as those queens come thru the importer, then on down the retail distribution chain.

    Look in the hives, and if the area that should be the brood nest is full of nectar / syrup, then the most likely reason for them to be queenless and making cells is because they swarmed.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
    Posts
    9,898

    Default Re: Why am I losing my Queens?

    Also, do look at your beekeeping, it might be you.

    When you open the hive do this. - Very gently remove the edge comb and lean it on the outside of the hive, end bar down. Do not allow long grass or other vegetation to touch the comb surface so that bees (and queen) may wander off the comb and onto the vegetation.

    The next frame you remove, first prise it away from it's adjoining comb so there is a gap each side of the comb then gently lift it out, in such a way it does not touch the comb on each side of it and no bees are rolled or bumped. Repeat this procedure for each comb you remove.

    When looking at the comb be sure not to drop any bees on the ground. To do this, hold the comb over the hive so that if the queen drops off, she will land in the hive.
    "Thinking Inside The Box"

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
    Posts
    9,898

    Default Re: Why am I losing my Queens?

    Just to reinforce that I'll tell you a story of one of the most expensive customers i had.

    Nice old guy i met at a bee meet. He told me his story that he had bought nucs that turned out to be rubbish, because they went queenless. The vendor did the right thing and came and requeened them all, but again they went queenless, this time the vendor was less helpful and the nucs eventually died. So, he decided this guys bees were no good, and bought nucs from someone else, but exactly the same thing happened.

    So the bees were clearly rubbish, he had heard good things about my bees and would like to try again with bees from me. Foolishly i ignored the red flags and agreed to sell him some nucs. He lived about an hour from me, i delivered the nucs and installed them into his hives myself. Month or so later he rang to say they were doing real well and he was adding boxes.
    But then the trouble started. He called and said some of the bees were queenless. To do the right thing, I drove over with some queens and requeened them. But then he rang, and other nucs were queenless. I started to suspect his beekeeping so went there and got him to open the hives and sure enough, he was yanking frames out roughly, dropping bees on the ground, etc. etc. my heart was in my mouth just watching him. I told him straight up he was killing the queens and showed him how he should work the hives, but, he just could not learn, if i turned away, he'd be doing the same stuff.

    So I put all his hives right, and drove off. Sure enough, not too long afterwards i get called again, some of his hives are queenless. Again i went out of my way and went there and fixed everything up for him. And this happened several more times, in fact i realised he was killing queens every single time he worked the bees. At this point i had to make a decision. I have never said this to anyone before or since, but in this case i didn't see any option. I told him he was incapable of keeping bees and should quit. He did.

    Wow i felt so bad saying that, but there wasn't an alternative. Well, there was, it would have been to spend the rest of my life requeening his hives once a month. The guy was so effective at killing queens, he killed one or probably several queens in the apiary every single time he worked the bees. I could almost have hired him to dequeen all my hives for me when i wanted to requeen them.

    Thing was, he just had no idea he was killing queens, he thought his techniques were fine. He still thinks the bees i sold him, and the bees from everyone else also, were rubbish.
    "Thinking Inside The Box"

  8. #7
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Nelson, BC Canada
    Posts
    50

    Default Re: Why am I losing my Queens?

    Great feedback. Although I'm still not sure why the Qs are gone, these are good tips!

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Colorado Springs, CO United States
    Posts
    1,365

    Default Re: Why am I losing my Queens?

    How frequently did you have your head in the box after transfer?
    Please excuse me, I am now free to go manage & treat ;)
    my ladies the best way I know how.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Nelson, BC Canada
    Posts
    50

    Default Re: Why am I losing my Queens?

    I inspect about once per week.

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Aylett, Virginia
    Posts
    3,260

    Default Re: Why am I losing my Queens?

    Quote Originally Posted by mpmurray View Post
    I inspect about once per week.
    Why? Instead of going into the hive, grab a chair and watch the hive from the outside on alternating weeks. Twice a month inside is plenty.
    Last edited by JWPalmer; 07-07-2019 at 06:09 AM.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Location
    Butler Co, Missouri, USA
    Posts
    417

    Default Re: Why am I losing my Queens?

    Quote Originally Posted by JWPalmer View Post
    Why? Instead of going into the hive, grab a chair and watch the hive from the outside on alternating weeks. Twice a month inside is plenty.
    While I agree for the most part, JWP, I think it was important when I started to do weekly inspections my first year. Sometimes it was practice for refining technique, many for learning stages of growth or lack there of.
    Hindsight is 20/10, not 20/20...
    I always have an idea what I shouldn't have done after the fact.

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