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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I stopped in to meet an area BK. I had heard about him from several locals. This guy is a third generation BK. Kind of keeps to himself but very friendly.

He told me something puzzling. In the last 2 years he has had 28 of 30 hives survive and this year about the same but, all but 2 had queens that didn't lay. He had to do a lot of work re-queening. So I asked him if the queens were missing in action.....nope, they were present but simply not laying.

His available forage is very good. Most of the hives are along river bottom forest.

His comment was, Since the introduction of GMO crops the honey crop has been going down. Most of the local farm fields are no till soybeans or corn.

I am going back for a visit and one question I have is; are his combs old? I am wondering about neonic buildup in the wax. Is there evidence that this can negatively impact fertility?

The second question is; with old comb the bee size will shrink because the comb walls thicken over time. Could this have enough of an impact on nectar collection efficiency? (the little tanker trucks make a lot more trips to haul the nectar)

He has been treating for varroa with OAV.
 

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I have a similar problem in my area where queens don't get mated very well and can lead to present, but infertile queens. If they were fine and then stopped, it could be a lot of reason. It could be the age of the queen, and even the breed of the queen. Some of the more cold adapted bees races stop laying completely quite a lot earlier in the year as we suspect and someone inexperienced with those breeds can come to the conclusion that something is wrong when everything is proceeding as normal.

The idea that GMOs are lowering honey crops is asinine, just want to get that out of the way. That and GMOs and neonics have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Corn also provides no nectar at all, so a field of corn is useless for bees. I suppose I could see from an economic standpoint that the introduction of GMO corn caused corn acreage to rise (no use to bees). The dramatic increase in per acre yield made corn a much more profitable crop overnight. The Federal corn subsidies also happened around the same time GMO corn was introduced making planting it even more attractive to farmers, I would attribute the increase in corn acreage more to that than anything else.

Sounds more like a local drone problem more so than anything else. If local forests are being bulldozed for agriculture or suburban development that can be detrimental for other, wild hives in the area. Since virgin queens will not mate with their brothers or sons, if there are not a lot of high quality drones (Varroa prefers feeding on drone larvae) that can decimate local queen health. This is a problem where I am (under 10% queen mating success) and I have to take my queens several miles away to an area with better mating (where I get 80%-90% success).

Could be lots of things.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I think you misunderstand what I said, The queens were all laying going into winter, but in the Spring all but 2 seemed to be infertile. The guy is a third generation BK. At one time he was running over 100 hives. 30 hives is not small potatoes. I think he has far more experience than either of us.

Most of the GMO seeds are coated with neonicitoids. Neonicitoids build up in the soil and are taken up by plants along the edges of crop fields. I have had this discussion with soil/fertilizer consultants that admit that they expect them to be eventually banned. They are particularly toxic to bees.

This is in a very rural area. No urban spread.

He simply made the observation that he used to harvest 120 lbs. of honey per hive on average and have enough to overwinter his bees. In the last 10 years it has dropped a lot. Some years not able to harvest any honey on the majority of the hives and having to feed sugar syrup to build them up.

He did mention that a lot of farmers took out fence rows and wondered if this was the major cause, but then said that most of his hives were along the river were the habitat hasn't changed.

I can think of only one major ecological event that is certain. The Chinese emerald ash borer killed all the ash trees. I don't know if ash trees are, or were, a significant part of the nectar flow.
 

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As far as I know, ash are of no use to bees. How old is his comb? The available drones, do they come from operations that use miticides that are known to reduce sperm viability? A lot of variables to consider here.
 

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Sounds more like a local drone problem more so than anything else. If local forests are being bulldozed for agriculture or suburban development that can be detrimental for other, wild hives in the area. Since virgin queens will not mate with their brothers or sons, if there are not a lot of high quality drones (Varroa prefers feeding on drone larvae) that can decimate local queen health. This is a problem where I am (under 10% queen mating success) and I have to take my queens several miles away to an area with better mating (where I get 80%-90% success).

Could be lots of things.
That's an interesting perspective.

Could you tell me how many colonies are in the area with the 10% queen mating success?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I thought queens mated once (maybe a few flights after they emerge and go on a mating flight) and then stayed in the hive. So they were laying during the year previous and not after overwintering.

These were mated queens that had overwintered. Coming out of the winter they did not lay. He said he waited and checked for eggs until he got worried about the age of the bees. Only 2 of 28-30 queens in overwintered hives laying?

Another thought I had is: because a queen will live for several years, and considering that if the comb is old, and if there are neonicitoids in the comb. Does the honey in the combs over the winter pick up the pesticide more so because it has more time to leach into the honey? If that is true then it might explain why the queens became infertile.

There are a few other BK in the area but he is probably one of the larger apiaries.
 

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<<<<<<Since virgin queens will not mate with their brothers or sons>>>>>>>
Since they would no longer be virgins if they had sons,as unmated virgins can only be induced to lay by application of CO2( Late Steve Taber) mated queen with her own son to create a strain of bees.
Queens can and will mate with there brothers

In the case mentioned it would appear that the problem is either infertile drones or no drones
 

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Queens can and will mate with there brothers

In the case mentioned it would appear that the problem is either infertile drones or no drones
:thumbsup: when was the last time he brought in some non related queen stock
 

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another thing to look at, many years ago the state of Mich. introduced a fly(I think) that was to eradicate Knapp weed? did it, might explain why his honey production dropped.

took a while to find it, 2011.

Last spring, Michigan Beekeepers Association members, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Michigan Department of Agriculture, decided that two European beetle species would be released on six public land sites by a team of Michigan State University researchers. Since the summer of 2010, the beetles have been feeding on the invasive plant.

Other Great Lakes states like Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ohio already introduced the beetles.
https://greatlakesecho.org/2011/06/13/invasive-species-scourge-to-some-revenue-to-others/
 

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"on plants that would best replace knapweed : figwort, swamp milkweed and Culver’s root are all contenders."
And all have since fallen short of even the most conservative estimates to replace knapweed.

First purple loosestrife destroyed by biocontrols. Knapweed is under tremendous pressure with stands disappearing quickly. Next is knotweed.

Many states currently have active biocontrol programs of plants that are important, and useful and productive for both managed honey bees and native pollinators.

Honey bees and wild pollinators differ in their preference for and use of introduced floral resources:
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ece3.6417

What a load of bullshat this eradication effort by our government is.

Trin:
This current research may be of interest to you:

Neonicotinoid Insecticides in NY State, economic benefits and risk to pollinators.
https://pollinator.cals.cornell.edu/pollinator-research-cornell/neonicotinoid-report/

or the pdf:
https://pollinator.cals.cornell.edu.../0628 Accessible Neonicotinoid Assessment.pdf
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I got a laugh from Gray Goose's post that because most of Michigan was formerly under a Glacier, that one could argue that all of our plants are "invasive" non natives. I expect that as our planet further warms from the last ice age that species will move Northward. During the medieval warming period one could grow oranges in England.

On the other hand I keep my eyes open for such plants like giant hogweed which is particularly nasty and should be eradicated. If I could eradicate poison ivy I probably would.

My own philosophy is that we can be stewards of the earth and try to make sensible choices. If we went total non native with plants and other organisms, then a lot of plants in our gardens and our bees would be eradicated. Steaks would have to be from buffalo or deer or moose, and eggs would be a lot smaller. I would sure miss regular old bacon.
 

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This seems like a really strange situation. If what this person is saying is true, the queens are not just infertile but they are not laying eggs. If they were just infertile then there would be eggs but they would turn into drones. This points to maybe not enough forage to be able to produce eggs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I wondered about the previous season. If there wasn't enough pollen collection, As I recall we had a very wet season, then it might be that they didn't have enough pollen/bee bread which may have shut down brood rearing. Like you mentioned that you had a few hives that were pollen collecting machines, maybe the same was true for the 2 hives that did have laying queens.??? Weather patterns in Michigan are sometimes vary localized. Where I live it is common to not see much rain from July through mid-August. I live on higher ground just a few miles past a bend in Michigan's largest river. Some years the storms approach and then slide North when they hit the river valley. :(

I might go see the guy today and ask some more questions. Maybe.....it's 91 right now. The bees are hitting the cat watering dish on the porch pretty hard.

I was going to ask you if you are thinking of putting pollen traps on. I am, considering that it is probably better than pollen sub. I heard of one BK that alternates pollen trapping by days and freezes it. His pollen patties are made from pollen and honey.
 

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I might go see the guy today and ask some more questions. Maybe.....it's 91 right now. The bees are hitting the cat watering dish on the porch pretty hard.
Okay, it's the invasives, the GMOs, whatever

While there, I suggest you ask if he treats his bees, when, and with what? There may be some clues as to his infertile queens in his response.

IMO
 

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Okay, it's the invasives, the GMOs, whatever

While there, I suggest you ask if he treats his bees, when, and with what? There may be some clues as to his infertile queens in his response.

IMO
Not to be dismissive as well but, whatever. :eek:
I suggest getting a further account of the situation with details from the beekeeper and for the beekeeper look into the fungicide use in his area. Yup fungicides.

IMO
 

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I live in an agricultural area where GMO corn, soybeans, and winter wheat are grown. There are plenty of trees for the bees to forage on as well. Whenever I see a queen has shut down prematurely, an inspection of the hive will usually reveal scarce resources. Some capped stores and some pollen, but not the quantities I am accustomed to seeing. Application of pollen patties and heavy feeding often results in frames of eggs and brood within a week or two.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
So I spent an hour talking with the neighbor BK this evening. He does rotate out old comb. He has introduced new genetics. Italian/local mutts, Carniolan, and maybe some Russian.

Last year he used a mosquito fogger to do OAV treatments. He immediately acknowledged my question "how do you control dosage" with "I bought a conventional vaporizer tool for this year" He does not do mite checks, but treats for varroa in the spring and in late August and then once in January. The hives in question had plenty of stores.

He does feed and add pollen sub, but said In the past he never had to do this.

So in my mind I can think of 2-3 possibilities; These are guesses based on my limited experience. It could be possible that a varroa transmitted virus caused the infertility. And it could be that a farmer sprayed something that the bees picked up that caused the same. Or it could be related to neonicitoids. These have been in use since 1990 and do build up in the soil. Being a systemic insecticide it will be picked up by flowers at the fields edges.

I'm sure I probably missed some other potential causes. Maybe the weird weather we had last year? (wet Summer)

The other remaining mystery is the fact that honey crops are much lower than in the past.
 

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I thought queens mated once (maybe a few flights after they emerge and go on a mating flight) and then stayed in the hive. So they were laying during the year previous and not after overwintering.

These were mated queens that had overwintered. Coming out of the winter they did not lay. He said he waited and checked for eggs until he got worried about the age of the bees. Only 2 of 28-30 queens in overwintered hives laying?

Another thought I had is: because a queen will live for several years, and considering that if the comb is old, and if there are neonicitoids in the comb. Does the honey in the combs over the winter pick up the pesticide more so because it has more time to leach into the honey? If that is true then it might explain why the queens became infertile.

There are a few other BK in the area but he is probably one of the larger apiaries.
Yes the queens "mate" only during 1 time period, they may do so over 2 or 3 days, it is not a 1 trip event. But then they are done for life. "well mated" going into fall would not come out in the spring poorly mated. IE not likely a drone issue. maybe still not well mated however.

At one time queens lived for several years, now it seems if you get 3 you are doing good.

The build up in the soil is real, and if the next crop has flowers (beans or hay ) then any soil based chems can be in the nectar or pollen of those plants, later.
Perhaps small amounts but over time fed to a queen this may have an impact. As well the chems can end up in the runoff water, and then in the bogs and lowlands and eventually in the maple and willow pollen so (in the field) is not the only place where there is affect.

And how does he requeen? grow his own or does he buy them, perhaps the queen is affected where she is born/bred before arriving at his yard.

IMO this issue is likely several things and not going to be resolved with one "fix"

if he/you discover a fix please let us know this queen failure issue is in several places.

GG

Another aspect being studied is the effect on the bacteria and worms ect. seems with chems there are less critters in the soil to break down organic matter and thus the plants may need to rely on fertilizer more and the natural nutrients less, one may still have a crop but in pollen we may have a similar issue as the example of tomatoes from 50 years ago had 10 Time more iron that the ones today.

Wax is quite permeable so it can absorb some of the Chems. some suggest rotating every 2-3 years, in the 70's 10 year old comb was fine.
This aspect IMO would be local.
 

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He does feed and add pollen sub, but said In the past he never had to do this.

Had to ? so the spring pollen is now insufficient? that seems a change.

GG
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
This is an issue where we don't know what long term implications the use of GMO's and non-natural chemical controls are having on the environment. GMO's crops are very profitable in the stock market. Not so much to many farmers who have to grow in acreage in order to survive. Most of the local farmers are operating on thin margins and several are now owned by the banks.

I have heard the allegation that the food value as far as nutrients and trace elements are much lower in GMO's Don't know if this is true. If it is so, then I wonder where this is all going. Doesn't seem to be right minded.

To figure it all out would require a huge amount of $ and data. Is pollen more nutrient rich in isolated natural environments? It is logical to think that an ecosystem has a lot of symbiotic relationships between organisms and if something suppresses or kills off some of the species then there could be much larger implications. Moderation is becoming less valued when money dominates motivations in my opinion. Fertility is not just dropping in queens perhaps, men are also showing the same trend.
 
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