I just killed both my queens, am I crazy?
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  1. #1
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    Default I just killed both my queens, am I crazy?

    I have 2 top bar hives based on Les Crowder's design. I populated both just this year, one with a swarm and one with a nuc (yes, I had to trim the nuc langstroth frames to fit in my top bar but that will have to be the topic of another thread). Anyway, in my attempts to follow Mel Disselkoen's advice I killed both queens in both colonies (i know, he recommends doing it on July 1st but I've got too much other stuff going on tomorrow so I did it today). It wasn't easy especially since the queen from the swarm was performing well. The one from the nuc didn't have a great laying pattern so that wasn't as difficult. I also notched some comb on bars that had 3 day old larva. This is suppose to stimulate the bees to create queen cells there. I guess now I need to check in a week to make sure queen cells have been made and capped. If everything goes as planned, I will split the swarm hive because it appears to be the stronger hive while letting the other just recreate a queen and hopefully carry one.

    I guess my real question is not "am I crazy" (I already know I am). I'm really wondering if anybody else has done this sort of thing and what the results were?

    Also, I'm trying this because I lost 2 hives last year from mites and this brood break is supposed to be a lot harder on the mites than the bees. In addition, I will be getting, hopefully, local genetics which should result in bees better adapted to my area. Trying to be treatment free last year failed miserably so I'm also considering treating the hive with oxalic acid on July 25th. There should be no capped brood in the hives at this time so it seems like a great opportunity to treat only once and get all the mites.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: I just killed both my queens, am I crazy?

    Many people replace their queens annually. It is a personal choice. Personally, I would not have do it quite the same way, but to each their own. There are several brood break methods that don't require the killing of a good queen. There are also treatment free ppl that keep queens and let those with more mite susceptible genetics simply die off. Keeping them around means keeping the drones they produce around and the genetics possibly breeding into you good queen lines.
    Beek since 2016: Hardiness Zone 9a: in NW Florida

  4. #3
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    Default Re: I just killed both my queens, am I crazy?

    Quote Originally Posted by mchrist152 View Post
    ......... in my attempts to follow Mel Disselkoen's advice I killed both queens in both colonies ...........

    Any thoughts would be appreciated.
    Don't follow the advice blindly until you truly understand the logic of it (AND still agree with the logic once you understand it).

    If you only have two hives and killed both queens - you just now put your entire operation at risk.
    (consider - mating a new queen has a high chance of failing).

    1) put your queen away into a 2-frame holding nuc (this is your roll-back plan for any old reason OR a new unit to maintain if things work out well).
    2) no need to be killing queens right and left, anyway - a valuable queen is a keeper until ripe old age and is irreplaceable (only she can produces exact replica of herself - the drones - valuable drones, that is).
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: I just killed both my queens, am I crazy?

    According to Mel the mating flight has a 15% failure rate. Since I've got 3 hives (after I split one) there will be a 0.3375% chance that all 3 mating flights will fail. On the other hand I've got a 61.4% chance of all three being successful. So odds are low that it will wipe out my operations and, in fact, I will probably end up with 3 healthy hives. But even if I only end up with 1 or 2 hives, that is far better than last year when the mites took all 2 of my hives. Thanks for your input and, admittedly, I'm still learning. The only guarantee is that I will know a lot more when this is over than I do now.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: I just killed both my queens, am I crazy?

    I would plan on making several small (mating) nucs with the cells and combine the ones where the queen does not make it back. Increase your odds of success. Going three for three with a positive result in the summer is unlikely. Last year I was one for ten.

    Do you have dragonflys where you live? They find newly mated queens extra yummy.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: I just killed both my queens, am I crazy?

    Ditto on the dragonfly issue. The success rate is varied depending on many factors. Once I get into late summer, I forget getting queens back from mating flights. 15% sounds good for the middle of swarm season when all the factors are in their favor.
    Beek since 2016: Hardiness Zone 9a: in NW Florida

  8. #7
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    Default Re: I just killed both my queens, am I crazy?

    I never kill a good queen, I always move her over to a small nuc. By July 1, we have so many dragonflies and birds that I have only a 50% return rate on mating queens at that time. (In early spring, it is much better). I do try to annually requeen my big hives by pulling the queen and letting them make queen cells. In a topbar hive with new comb, you will find that you don't need to notch the cells to get beautiful queens. IMG_6249.jpg

  9. #8
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    Default Re: I just killed both my queens, am I crazy?

    Ruth, do you notice the return rate improving as it gets later in the summer? After my dismal mid-summer returns last year, I got about 75% late August. Too bad that is not really a good time to be making nucs, but I was able to get so so queens in all the queenless nucs after combining them. Most suprising was a mid Sept. swarm that produced a mated queen. I caught that one and had the daughter too.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  10. #9
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    Thumbs Up Re: I just killed both my queens, am I crazy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jadeguppy View Post
    ... Personally, I would not have do it quite the same way...There are several brood break methods that don't require the killing of a good queen...
    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    ...If you only have two hives and killed both queens - you just now put your entire operation at risk. (consider - mating a new queen has a high chance of failing).

    1) put your queen away into a 2-frame holding nuc (this is your roll-back plan for any old reason OR a new unit to maintain if things work out well).
    2) no need to be killing queens right and left, anyway - a valuable queen is a keeper until ripe old age...
    I vote with these posters on this. Here in Texas, it will soon be too hot for optimal queen production. Successful Queen matings can go to one or two in ten over 95 degrees. All beekeeping IS local. I just lost a queen with a five year old green dot early this spring. You want to keep good genes/bees in your apiary. If you are lucky, it will work out for you. Good luck
    ...We don't see things as they are, we see things as WE are...

  11. #10
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    Default Re: I just killed both my queens, am I crazy?

    Well, I think I'm a long way from late summer. These queens should take their mating flights in July. Mid-Summer is Aug. 6th. Late summer would be Sep.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: I just killed both my queens, am I crazy?

    Thanks for the input Ruth. I was wondering about the need for notching. Seems kind of weird that it is needed at all but if it is needed due to foundation that makes sense and something I'll try avoiding if I do this again. I'm basically just trying to get a hive to make it through the winter. I'm hoping the new queens will have more of the local genetics which should improve the odds of over wintering and also the brood break should hopefully take care of the mites although I'll probably still douse them with OA when they are without capped brood just to be sure. I'll keep you guys updated on the results.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: I just killed both my queens, am I crazy?

    When it comes to bees, statistical probability takes second place to Murphy's Law! If any thing can go wrong it probably will, and it probably will be worse than you imagined it would! When I have enough equipment it feels good to start a small nuc with the old queens until the new ones mate and prove themselves.

    It is early enough yet to recover if yours dont make it back.
    Frank

  14. #13
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    Default Re: I just killed both my queens, am I crazy?

    I did something very similar, at the start of June. Also following Mel's idea of post solstice queens. I had only one hive, a huge swarm I caught early in the season. I did not dare risk to kill the queen though, so for starters I moved her and a few frames of emerging brood into a nuc. (As a backup, should I have a queen not return.) This was on the 8th of June. Then let the main hive build their queen cells. On the 18th, couple days before the queens were due to emerge, I split the main hive into two, with 2-3 QC in each.

    Was in the hives last on the 29th to see if I could get a glimpse of new queens. I did see her in one hive, but the main hive had too many bees. They seemed relaxed as ever though, so I'm not worried. I'll be checking again in couple days to hopefully see some eggs.

    Should either of these hives have queen issues, I will be combining it with the nuc with my old queen.
    EU Hardiness Zone 5-6

  15. #14
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    Default Re: I just killed both my queens, am I crazy?

    Quote Originally Posted by mchrist152 View Post
    ...I was wondering about the need for notching...
    Since I am on natural comb, I don't bother anymore with "notching" as bees will do what they want anyway.
    Tried it - was waste of time.
    Don't anymore.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: I just killed both my queens, am I crazy?

    Quote Originally Posted by mchrist152 View Post
    Well, I think I'm a long way from late summer. These queens should take their mating flights in July. Mid-Summer is Aug. 6th. Late summer would be Sep.
    Regardless of what time it is - just make a good practice to have a plan B.
    Good luck!
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: I just killed both my queens, am I crazy?

    This is really useful input, if only I had posted before I killed the queens Anyway, the only plan B I can think of is to buy a new queen if I'm not seeing any eggs by Aug. Now i don't know how hard that will be since I've never tried to buy a queen at that time but I may find out. Barring that, if the worst case scenario happens and I have no viable queens and cannot purchase one, I start over next year a little wiser and a little poorer.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: I just killed both my queens, am I crazy?

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    Since I am on natural comb, I don't bother anymore with "notching" as bees will do what they want anyway.
    Tried it - was waste of time.
    Don't anymore.
    That is what I observed as well. I notched couple frames in a few places where I saw young larvae next to eggs. The bees completely ignored the notches and built their queen cells close by on an untouched comb.
    EU Hardiness Zone 5-6

  19. #18
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    Default Re: I just killed both my queens, am I crazy?

    Quote Originally Posted by mchrist152 View Post
    This is really useful input, if only I had posted before I killed the queens Anyway, the only plan B I can think of is to buy a new queen if I'm not seeing any eggs by Aug. Now i don't know how hard that will be since I've never tried to buy a queen at that time but I may find out. Barring that, if the worst case scenario happens and I have no viable queens and cannot purchase one, I start over next year a little wiser and a little poorer.
    In worst case scenario even a purchased queen in August will not save you.
    This is because by then your queen-less bees will be too old to do anything and just die off (regardless if they get a new queen or not - they will die - queen alone is worthless).
    Have to have young(-ish) bees if to rebuilt anything.

    So - cross your fingers and wait; the success of queen mating rate is > 0 - keep this in mind.
    It would be a good idea to mate NOT just 2 queens but 3-4 at the least.
    Pull most every QC you have into its own little nuc - just only for the mating reasons - then combine as needed.
    I would typically make temp mating nucs on 2-3 QCs each - just how it works out usually.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: I just killed both my queens, am I crazy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Thucar View Post
    That is what I observed as well. I notched couple frames in a few places where I saw young larvae next to eggs. The bees completely ignored the notches and built their queen cells close by on an untouched comb.
    Exactly, Thucar.
    I am pretty sure now - all that "notching business" came about from plastic foundation usage.
    The author of "notching" is not a natural beekeeper (but rather conventional) and so does not know this, I think.

    Plastic throws bees off as they can not work through plastic foundation - pretty obviously.
    Then they look for any irregularity to hopefully set the cells (like notches).
    To compare, bees can work around and through the natural comb in any way they want - so - don't even bother with the notching, save yourself a hassle.
    Worst yet with notching - you tell the bees where the best eggs/larva are, presumably.
    Well, the bees know best where the best eggs/larva are, not you.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  21. #20
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    Default Re: I just killed both my queens, am I crazy?

    I could split both hives since I have the equipment. That would give me 4 queens and 4 chances for a successful mating flight. I'll have to think about that.

    I still think an August queen might save the day if needed. There are eggs and brood in both hives. They should hatch out later this month. That means there will be young bees in the hives at the beginning of August. Given a 6 week lifetime they should make it to Sep.

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