Queen issues?
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Thread: Queen issues?

  1. #1
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    Default Queen issues?

    A little history:
    I started beekeeping in the 80's with about a dozen hives. Had a great time, we had excellent yields in those days. Mostly the bees took care of themselves, I raised a few queens, but mostly to replace the occasional deadout. Overall the bees were pretty easy to care for.
    In spring of '99 the mites hit Colorado hard. They took out most everyone I knew. One fellow club member lost 195 of 200 hives.
    With that and some life changes I got out of the beekeeping game for around 10 years.

    Now, the last 7 years or so I have been back at it. It's much different now, more difficult.

    Anyway, I have noticed far more queen problems lately. Several times over the last few years robust, healthy, productive hives have gone queenless. My neighbor, who I help with her 2 hives has had this happen several times in 3 years.
    Last year one of my backyard hives' queen stopped laying. This year at our out yard 2 hives just went queenless for no apparent reason.

    And a co-worker whose son has a couple hives said out of the blue last month, "my son has so many problems with queens."

    My guess is something to do with mites
    Isn't it always?

    Anyway, what do you more experienced beekeepers think?
    Are you seeing similar problems?
    These are young queens, some first summer, others in their second.
    They have nice brood patterns, productive bees.
    I use oav to control mites.

    Is it just me?

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Queen issues?

    welcome back arnie. don't see any unusual queen problems around here or I've just gotten used to them. are these bought queens or produced by the beek. when you say they disappear, do the hives requeen them selves?
    mike syracuse ny
    Whatever you subsidize you get more of. Ronald Reagan

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Queen issues?

    I was recently talking to other commercial keepers around me about this very issue. I figure I have 20-25% queen failure rate each year now. And it seems hives are having a hard time re-queening themselves. Various theories about what is going on... I happen to know there is an article discussing this very thing in the next ABJ....

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Queen issues?

    So there is a difference between rearing your own queens, and seeing poor mating success and poor queen survival in the short term... and buying queens, and seeing poor queen survival in the short term.

    If the purchased queen was not 1) reared well, 2) mated well, 3) able to lay for at least 3 weeks, 4) kept at room temp during transit and storage, then you will see a failure shortly after installing her. Assuming the hive was actually ready for her; virgin queens can surprise us all. None of those causes are mysterious, could be that poor habits among queen breeders are becoming more common.

    I was rearing queens over the summer, in the neighborhood of 50. Here are some of the problems that I had, and my interpretation of the causes

    1. Queens which start laying, get enough laid to have a palm-sized section of capped brood, then are superceded a week or two later.
    Cause? This happened in the hives which were 3 frame nucs, did not get a mated queen back, I put in a frame with eggs, they made a queen cell. Those queens reliably were superceded not long after. Then the daughters would be superceded... ad nauseum. Deeper cause? I don't know. The queens raised in strong cell builders (with either incoming pollen, or a frame dusted with fake pollen in early may) were not superceded.

    2. Queens placed in hives that had been queenless a bit too long. They tended to kill the queen just after she started laying, so before the capped brood stage.
    Cause? I think those hives were on their way to becoming laying workers. They had been queenless for long enough that most of the capped brood had emerged. I am calling it "invisible laying workers".

    If you're referring to queen failure in your own yard, in your own splits, and you've never done splits in that yard before... it is possible to NOT have enough drones. I'd expect a small percent increase in non-returning queens, and a higher percent of drone laying queens. One buddy had 0% success with their own virgin queens.

    If there is something new going on with someone rearing their own queens... it gets a bit scary then.

    Roger Patterson, a longtime beekeeper from the UK who tends to Dave Cushman's informative website http://www.dave-cushman.net/, has done a presentation about poor queens.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wrW_04iJ_c

    None of my 2 barriers to a successfully reared queen sound like what Roger Patterson is documenting across the pond. He is documenting that the queens sometimes don't mature in the queen cell, that they emerge with deformaties, that they can't fly well, so aren't mated... I have not seen anything like that.

    There is one more source of queen failure that I have seen, but not in my yard thankfully: queens failing repeatedly due to a hive suffering from European Foul Brood (EFB). These hives started with a queen that had a good laying pattern of EGGS, spotty capped brood (like down to 50% of cells occupied), and as soon as a queen emerged, started laying, the bees would supercede. Seems to be fixed with oxytetracyline.

    So it's worth taking careful notes on whether the hive that had a failed queen was 1) purchased, 2) daughter of purchased, 3) capped brood pattern, if applicable, 4) brood left in hive with new queen - was there capped brood? How many frames? and 5) mite level. I wonder if Roger Patterson is describing a viral problem. Varroa levels in the UK seem to be allowed to stay higher than in the US, from a mention here and there...but maybe not.

    I'm keeping my mite levels down as low as possible - I repeatedly OAV in the fall/winter and see a mite drop of like 200 in Sept-Oct, for the first treatment. That's all the mites that accumulated over the summer. That's an acceptable mite load.

  6. #5
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    Default

    Hey wildbranch, my friend. How are you?
    These are home raised queens. They are heading up large prosperous hives.
    For instance, early this year we had a hive going gangbusters putting up some nice comb honey. 2 supers, almost ready for a third.
    Then I notice fewer bees coming and going.
    Sure enough, no queen, no queen cells, no brood, no laying workers. Pollen everywhere.
    We broke that hive down and distributed to other hives.
    Last year one of my backyard hives was very strong, putting up honey, and same thing..... no brood. That one I re queened with a nuc. Next day the old queen was lying dead in front of the hive.
    She had been in there, not laying.
    That's why they ignored frames of open brood I put in.

    Strong hives, good brood pattern, storing honey. Couple weeks later , no queen.

    It's a mystery.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Queen issues?

    Quote Originally Posted by Arnie View Post
    Hey wildbranch, my friend. How are you?
    .
    Having a wonderful time now that honey pulling season is over, you other than your queen problems? One recommendation I would make is look up how to send a sample to BVS of one of those hives and see if you have high levels of any of the virus's and or nosema. How much pollen is available out there? We really aren't having queen problems here but we have pollen almost continuously all spring through fall. We have had shipped in 200 or so queens this year, all but two of them were accepted in my hives, my buddy said he found 2 that had the queen cages in but turned to drone layers you can't ask for better than that. The queens we raised, I don't keep good records at home, mostly on the hives, but I think only two of the nucs ended up queen less and most of the people that I sold nucs to last I knew still had the marked queens. only one guy had both swarm, but he admitted he got to extract full deeps because he was late with his honey supers. just went back and realized you said pollen everywhere. puzzling?
    mike syracuse ny
    Whatever you subsidize you get more of. Ronald Reagan

  8. #7
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    Default

    Glad to hear you're doing well.
    I'll try to find out about the virus.
    Perhaps I will start a late spring oav regimen. Keep them cleaner going in to honeyflow season.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Queen issues?

    http://bvs-inc.us/ he doesn't list the price here and I don't know what it is now, I get mine done as part of a study. good luck
    mike syracuse ny
    Whatever you subsidize you get more of. Ronald Reagan

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Queen issues?

    another option could be to ask the question on bee-l and see what they think, not sure how to actually join it or if you have to join to ask a question

    https://community.lsoft.com/scripts/...S.exe?A0=BEE-L
    mike syracuse ny
    Whatever you subsidize you get more of. Ronald Reagan

  11. #10
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    Default

    Thanks for the reply RangerLee.
    I'll look for that article in ABJ.

    I just heard today from another beek who says he has the same problem.

  12. #11
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    Default

    Thanks for the info Trish.
    Your scenario where a queen might not have enough drones to mate with could explain my backyard problem last summer.
    Queen was still in the hive but not laying. Why she wasn't a drone layer is puzzling.
    Also puzzling is the fact that up until she suddenly stopped laying she was a champ. Maybe she ran out of sperm?

    But most times the queen is just gone.

    In your #1 paragraph in which 3 frame nucs are raising queens, the possibility of that small of a colony raising a quality queen is nil. So they keep trying again.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Queen issues?

    There have been a number of articles in recent times on queen issues. I think it's not all one thing, it is a number of things. There have been a number of research projects on the size of the gene pool, the complications of shipping, the selection etc.

    In my opinion it comes down to these things:

    A small gene pool.
    Infertility caused by chemicals in the wax affecting both the fertility of the queens and the drones.
    Poor mating because the queens are being raised earlier and earlier and weather isn't good and drone populations are as high as they should be for good mating.
    Earlier queens are not as well fed. Often they are raised on pollen substitute rather than real pollen. Food supplies coming in may not be very consistent.
    Queens are pulled from the mating nucs too soon and they are not allowed to fully develop.
    Poor handling by USPS or UPS etc. when shipping.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Queen issues?

    Quote Originally Posted by trishbookworm View Post
    Roger Patterson, a longtime beekeeper from the UK who tends to Dave Cushman's informative website http://www.dave-cushman.net/, has done a presentation about poor queens.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wrW_04iJ_c

    None of my 2 barriers to a successfully reared queen sound like what Roger Patterson is documenting across the pond. He is documenting that the queens sometimes don't mature in the queen cell, that they emerge with deformaties, that they can't fly well, so aren't mated... I have not seen anything like that.
    Do bear in mind that RP belongs to a relatively small group of beekeepers who are trying to breed with AMM in an attempt to restore a bee which was more-or-less wiped-out during the 1920's. I think it's fair to say that he must now be working with a very small gene-pool. I don't know of anyone else over here who is encountering similar problems.

    Speaking for myself, nearly all of my own queen-related failures (of which there are far too many) appear to be due either to inclement weather or mating too late in the season when predation from swallows and dragonflies is suspected of occurring.
    LJ
    A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com/

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Queen issues?

    Clearly, mites have created a game changer.

    But bottom line, good queens are a combination of, good egg from a good queen, good feeding while in their peanuts, good weather when mating, ample drones when mating, and healthy drones, etc., and all the other factors combined to make "great" queens. And there are some queen breeders doing it in today's beekeeping.

    I have a 3 year old queen going on 4. Kinda doubt whether that hive'll make the winter. Sad because my other queen record was also 3 years and they superseded her. (That was over 10 years ago, and much much closer to yesteryear beekeeping).

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