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Discussion Starter #1
I was doing inspections yesterday and noticed a small cluster of bees on the ground in front of a row of 6 hives. I sifted through them and found a queen in the process of being killed. Grabbed her and put her in a cage and proceeded to check all hives in that row. The first 5 all had queens and eggs, larvae and brood but in the last hive in that row I found 2 queen cells that appeared to be recently hatched but it was too dark by that point to see if there were eggs. I saw a queen and she appeared to be mated and there was plenty of brood. It made me wonder how two queens could make it that far along in the process without one being killed seeing how it takes at least a few days for them to mate once hatched. The original queen that I suspect was superseded was only a few months old and laying well but this makes at least 4 supersedures of young queens I've observed in the last 4 months. Any ideas on why? Thanks.

Hunter
 

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Hives often keep multiple queens before they decide who to keep and who is to go, so no surprise there.

Only times I've had hives supersede multiple times in a row is when there is an issue with the hive and the bees are trying to correct it by replacing the queen. This could be everything from foulbrood, chalkbrood, nosema, or most likely mites

I had a couple mite bombs in my hives this year that were otherwise incredibly healthy. Once noticing the heavy mite load I did a full inspection and noticed the start of queen cells with larvae. I knocked down the cells and treated the mites for a month, 3 days apart, with OAV. They are now booming again and have not drawn any more queen cells. As such, when I see queen cells at strange times, I know to look a little deeper. Otherwise, they may have replaced a perfectly fine queen with one that may not be. Requeening is one of the only tools they have when things get bad. That's when the beekeeper needs to act like their keeper, and not their landlord.

How are your mite loads in this hive? How's the laying pattern? How large is the colony?
 

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I was doing inspections yesterday and noticed a small cluster of bees on the ground in front of a row of 6 hives. I sifted through them and found a queen in the process of being killed. Grabbed her and put her in a cage and proceeded to check all hives in that row. The first 5 all had queens and eggs, larvae and brood but in the last hive in that row I found 2 queen cells that appeared to be recently hatched but it was too dark by that point to see if there were eggs. I saw a queen and she appeared to be mated and there was plenty of brood. It made me wonder how two queens could make it that far along in the process without one being killed seeing how it takes at least a few days for them to mate once hatched. The original queen that I suspect was superseded was only a few months old and laying well but this makes at least 4 supersedures of young queens I've observed in the last 4 months. Any ideas on why? Thanks.

Hunter
This year I noticed supersedure cells after I treated the hives with Formic Pro; not everyone has seen this that had used this product, so I am not really sure that caused it (and I did follow directions etc.) Just a thought.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I am a glutton for punishment and am attempting a treatment free approach so I have not done a mite count. Brood pattern was normal and it's a moderately strong 10 frame deep.
 

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I ran into this same problem before I knew about varroa mites. I had a strong nuc that just kept producing queen cells throughout the fall. I was too late with the Apivar and it was one of my first-year losses.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
To be clear, the same colony hasn't been superseded multiple times, it's been different colonies each time. The first two were immediately upon bringing recently purchased colonies home.
 

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It is something to consider though, varroa is a possibility, or the bees perception of the queen being the problem as a result of varroa. That paper that Lisinger just posted on Dr Seeleys article on TF and different queen stock was interesting; they could tell if the bees were varroa sensitive by them uncapping and recapping cells. I did not finish reading so cannot tell you any more except it was in the October ABJ. Something along the lines of what you are describing happened in one hive that I found queenless, no brood whatsoever. I did not treat this hive thinking the brood break would be enough but I was wrong. It weakened, developed bald brood,and PMS, supersedure cells. I have about 23 hives and most had lots of varroa this year.
 

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That's even worse. Just tells me you have multiple hives with issues that are being ignored.

Get a mite wash done and I promise it will be off the charts high.
 

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TF beekeeping solves itself by natural attrition.

Beesource used to be full of TF beekeepers back when Sol was telling everyone to do it. I remember when you would not dare say you treated or recommend anyone else treat, cos you would get shouted down by hordes of 1 year in TF beekeepers calling you ignorant or worse.

There are some TF beekeepers succeeded, but 99% of them lost all their bees and quit, or started treating and are still here. Sol been wiped out several times but keeps collecting swarms to make it up. Although he is still a TF beekeeper, he is not a sustainable TF beekeeper.
 

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There are many new beekeepers near me, and I attribute the high mites in some, not all, of my hives to them in addition to how I have the yard set up. I wish I could do TF, I did try it a few years ago with a top bar hive. It lasted 2 years before it collapsed.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks for the input. The guy I bought my first two colonies from is who turned me on to the treatment free approach, he's a small scale beekeeper, as in less than 15 colonies, and has hives that have lasted 7-8 years without treatments. He does a lot of cut outs and removals which is where he gets his stock so I'm guessing those feral genetics have a lot to do with it. I've only treated them with a fgmo fogging a few times and mine are still thriving though I think one queen has reached the end, she's been laying a lot of drones.

I haven't treated any of my new colonies or splits I've made yet, though I think one or two may need it. I've seen a few bees with wing issues this week but relatively few considering there are 19 colonies now. They are all in the colonies that have queens I bought from a local big commercial outfit. All my Carniolans and splits I made from those queens, and my two original feral colonies are doing fine. I'll be making my last round of splits for the year with daughters of the feral queens on Sunday. If there are enough cells I'm able to cut out I may go ahead and replace those commercial queens.
 

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Get a mite count on your hives and that will let you know what to do. Some are undoubtedly more resilient to mites than others. Some may be able to go treatment free, the others may not. I'm not one to let a hive die just because I don't want to check or treat.

Maybe treat the hives that need it and breed the ones that don't. Use those new queens to replace the hives requiring treatment and repeat. This is a much more balanced and scientific way of going at treatment free - other than letting the majority of your hives die. Genetics are a complicated thing and some hygienic traits are hard to replicate without breeding your queens in a lab. Even then, the experts with multiple PhDs and years of experience haven't yet figured it out. . Without taking a smart approach, you'll soon be very frustrated.

A healthy hive is a healthy hive, treat the bees!

Again, without knowing your mite counts it's just a shot in the dark, beekeeping by luck is no way to bee keep IMO.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I said as much in earlier threads;. I'm not one to let a colony die out without doing anything and none are anywhere near that point currently. That being said, I also don't favor killing 300 bees just to get a mite count when they are doing fine. I keep a close eye on my bees as I have a desire to make at least a partial income at it but don't yet find it in my interest to do alcohol washes. I'm pretty new at it and things may change and I might be saying I shoulda listened but I have to do things my way first to see if it can be done. Everything out there was impossible till someone did it.
 

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If you keep bees...you have mites! If you don't want to kill 300 bees to do a wash, treat with OAV and put a sticky board down for 48 hours and then count the mite drop. The treatment-free people will forgive you.
 

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I said as much in earlier threads;. I'm not one to let a colony die out without doing anything and none are anywhere near that point currently. That being said, I also don't favor killing 300 bees just to get a mite count when they are doing fine. I keep a close eye on my bees as I have a desire to make at least a partial income at it but don't yet find it in my interest to do alcohol washes. I'm pretty new at it and things may change and I might be saying I shoulda listened but I have to do things my way first to see if it can be done. Everything out there was impossible till someone did it.
How about a powdered sugar roll? just for the heck of it. You probably know this; shake a few frames of nurse bees from different areas of the hive into a dish washing container and LOOK FOR THE QUEEN so she doesn’t get shaken into the jar, scoop them up from the rounded corner of the container (The foragers fly) When you roll them make sure they are covered with powdered sugar and set it aside for a few minutes (they’ll get hot and the mites will let go) then shake onto a paper plate and spritz with water to see the mites. Your bees will survive the sugar roll and you’ll have some data to refer to if needed.
 

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Lot of ways to monitor mites without killing bees. I use the OAV method listed above.

Also, ironic that you don't wont to kill 300 bees but are willing to kill the whole colony wanting to be "treatment free".

Think about it...
 
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