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Discussion Starter #1
Started with a nuc of Russians in early may captured first swarm in early June and another end of June. Just inspected the three hives and winterized them. Nuc colony and first swarm have increased in number so they must have fertile queens but the last swarm colony is about the same number of bees captured. It too should have a fertile queen or after over three months since swarm those bees should have reached the end of their life by now and not have been replaced? All three colonies have empty brood comb
 

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The last swarm would be entirely dead if they didn't have a laying queen - due to the amount of time passed. It may simply be that they were caught later in the year and didn't have the nectar/pollen resources the other hives had available.

Russians are notorious for entirely shutting down their brood production when things dry up (nectar or pollen). We aren't sure what your swarms are, but it may just be they are shutting down for the winter.

If they have a good amount of stores and you've taken care of the mites, they may be just fine.

How large is each colony?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
We were concerned about new queens getting mated from just the Nuc drones but must have some feral bees in area(but waining pollination of all flowering things around us shows shrinking numbers).

Our hives are all double deep framed(18x18) in long horizontal hives. The original Nuc colony was condensed down to nine frames for winter cluster(7- half brood 1/2 honey on top, one full honey frame on each side of cluster no surplus this season. First swarm - 6 brood/honey with one honey on each side. this hive had one full double frame of honey which we collected and got 2 qrts of honey from(enough for our needs, we mostly want the honey bees and the natives which we are working to increase population for our new hobby orchard/fuit bushes). Second swarm - only 4 brood/honey and partial honey frame. This last swarm was after the(what I think) are the largest flows in our area, Lindon, Maple and orchard.

Caught by surprise by this last weaker colony(they looked as busy and active as they others over the summer we were unsure about leaving them in own hive for winter. Good or bad choice we had read about combining colonies but didn't want to risk the two that appeared strong so we installed two colonies in one long hive with division board between to share some heat. Our hives are 2" hi-R foam board insulated. Some death fighting happened for first day as both colonies were using the central portion of the full length slot entrances of their hives(we were keeping only 1/3 open and moving across the hive front as bees filled the installed frames). Shared hive had entrances open at each side, middle blocked and bees from both colonies were competing for it.

One thing we are learning as new beeks is that this is both simple and complex and you can have a plan but the bees DON"T have to follow it. Next, get them thru winter. Hopefully Russians and no week of 38 below nights will help that took out our first beeking attempt with itailians two years ago.

We have detected no varroa load yet from pollen dropping under hives or from bees observed(we put honey on a plate under a large quilt magnifier several times)and looked at hundreds of live bees.
 

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It's likely your queens won't mate with drones in your area, if unmated. It's likely they will fly much further to find unrelated drones to mate with.

However, I think your last sentence is of great concern and will be a hard lesson to learn...you WILL NEVER SEE MITES ON YOUR BEES. I've had HUGE colonies that show zero signs of mites. I never see any drop and I don't see any on bees. However, after treating with OAV, I'll see THOUSANDS fall on the mite board. Treat your bees! If you haven't treated it's likely they are heavily infested and you assume they aren't - a sure way to kill them.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
It may be our mistake but the other reason that we chose Russian bees besides being better adapted to our long winters is their proported natural resistance to varroa mites, not needing to be treated.
 

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You've got mites, there are no magic bees.
 

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It may be our mistake but the other reason that we chose Russian bees besides being better adapted to our long winters is their proported natural resistance to varroa mites, not needing to be treated.
Not sure where you got your info, but that's certainly NOT TRUE. Mites are not native to the European honey bees, as such, have no natural resistance to them.

You definitely have mites, and they are likely killing your bees as we speak.
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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My first year I bought into the hype about Russian bees and replaced the Kona queen I purchased with my nuc. By October, that hive had died from mites. An important lesson learned. I was able to get Apivar strips in the remaining hives in time to save 50% of them.
 

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BTW - 5th year beekeeper, currently with 21 hives, and I have yet to see a single mite on a bee.
 

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BTW - 5th year beekeeper, currently with 21 hives, and I have yet to see a single mite on a bee.
16 years with 40+ hives. I have also never seen a mite on a bee... I have no idea why after treating them for mites so many fall to the bottom board! Where could they be coming from!?
 

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Aylett, VA 10-frame double deep Langstroth
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Hah, I win! While inspecting a mentee's hive about two months ago, I actually saw a mite on the back of a bee. First time ever and I am reluctant to admit that it was the mentee that saw it first. But seriously, one could have thousands of mites in a hive and never see one on a bee.
 

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I figured someone would pipe up saying they have seen one. There is an old saying, "it is the exception that proves the rule." No idea how that makes any sense, but it sounds wise or something.

Seeing one is exceeding rare; not having any is more rare yet.
 

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Actually saw my first mite on a bee before I even had bees of my own. Last fall at the clubs monthly apiary inspection was handed a drone and spotted a mite on his back.

Have seen two more in photographs afterwards, first found by that AI program someone posted a link to months ago. And just the other day was taking photos and videos of drones being evicted and spotted one in a picture. Guessing it had just jumped from the drone to the bee and had not had time to hide properly. 20201008_180745-1_1.jpg
 

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I've also seen a mite on a bee...

I was apparently failing at being sarcastic - simply pointing out that it's super rare to see a mite on a bee and the OP should treat their hives before they dead.
 
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