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Well the National Bee Diagnostic Center has been researching Queen failure. They also had Jeff Pettis as a guest speaker. Really interesting data points. The temperature variations during queen shipment were recorded and then the sperm viability of the queens were recorded. Temperatures below ~8 Celcius and above ~40 Celcius were recorded on some shipments. Very short durations below ~8 Celcius (one hour) were found to damage the sperm in the queens. High temperatures above ~40 Celcius were found to damage sperm after 2-3 hours.

Why are queens failing? It turns out that shippers may be partially to blame.

A second takeaway was that acaracides may be affecting sperm in the drones and even within the spermatheca.

Also Shelly Hoover did an update on her hygienic bee research. All I can say is that I would question the quality of the New Zealand stock after her presentation. I would think that requeening would be mandatory for anyone bringing in NZ packages after seeing her findings. Resistance to varroa and AFB is nil verses local stock which in 3 generations she had crossbred and proven could resist succumbing to AFB and Varroa after being inoculated by both. Incredibly fascinating work.
 

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Maybe your queens mate with drones that have been in contact with the chemical.
When was the coumaphos based treatment first approved under section 18?
 

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I'm more inclined to agree with the original post and add that IMHO the queen breeders are raising to many queen cells per starter and not supplying enough drones, along with the finding recently that the spraying of growth inhibitors are affecting the brood. I raise my own queens that don't fail any where near as often at queens purchased from the queen producers, the last three years have bought some queens from comm. beeks that raise their own, and the Comm. queens are far better than the queens from the static queen "breeders/producers", still not as good as my own. The only queens I purchased that were acceptable came from the bee works in canada, and I merged these in with my own, made an excellent Italian bee. Wish they were still shipping them. and as to my queens mating with drones that have come from coumaphos treated hives, I have one are that I have hives in a triangle config with my nucs in the center, there is one beek that moved in with two hives, but most of the drones are mine.
 

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most of my losses (about 15% per year average) have been from queen failure and most of those have occured from late fall to early spring when there are no drones flying. these queens have not been shipped and no chemicals are used in the hives.
 

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My mentor and his small group of mentees did an informal poll last Friday. We were finishing up a 20-hive inspection in two apiaries, and had found several more failed queens. Between us, we'd gotten 8 queens from northern California this spring. Of these, 7 had failed already, with their hives producing supercedure or emergency cells, plus a couple of cases of laying workers.

Our most productive hive was one of the failures, and I think our other hive may be the lone survivor. I expect to see queen cells the next time in to that one.

One of the members of the group wondered, since these suppliers raise queens for a living, if they have not managed to raise queens for their propensity to raise queens, which is NOT what we're after.

The strong hives in the group were raised from locally adapted stock.
 

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Why are queens failing? It turns out that shippers may be partially to blame.
I was fascinated by the way they do the testing, counting the dead and live sperm from the queens. The charts showing temperatures in the shipping containers while those queens were enroute were enlightening. The next phase of that research will be even more interesting, figuring out if that sperm was dead already when she collected it from the drone, or if it died enroute.

One thing we took away from the whole event up there at beaverlodge, it was interesting enough, we will probably time our visit up to see the kids next year so that we can take in the field day again next time around.
 

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>Why are queens failing? It turns out that shippers may be partially to blame.

I blame the beekeepers who demand queens earlier and earlier and instantly rather than when the weather allows good mating and good shipping...
 

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All this has me wondering about our group's failures, and just what the symptoms would be.

I think our failed queens shipped all the way across the US from Northern CA this April, which was notoriously cold. Hence, for the queens to have bee chilled below 8 C (46 F) could easily have occurred. In fact, it would be hard for it to have NOT happened unless proper precautions were taken.

Our bees recognized the failures in time to make supercedure or emergency cells, but in yesterday's inspection I noticed we still have a lot of capped drone brood, probably as much as capped worker brood, in this particular hive where the supercedure cells appeared. A couple of the guys think they have laying workers, but only in one hive did they definitely see multiple eggs. If what they are seeing is a preponderance of drones, that sounds like the queen was laying but out of sperm. The drones are not being found in purpose-built drone comb, but crammed into normal-sized comb. I can't tell if the cells were deliberately modified to drone size, or just laid in normal-sized cells but fertilization failed.

Can you spot laying workers?
 

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>Why are queens failing? It turns out that shippers may be partially to blame.

I blame the beekeepers who demand queens earlier and earlier and instantly rather than when the weather allows good mating and good shipping...
Hard to argue with that, but we ordered our nucs back in January, and the makeup was not specified at the time. The local apiary that put the nucs together was nearly a month late due to the cold weather, and I don't hold that against them. (I just wish they'd keep us posted). So our supplier DID delay due to the cold weather, and we still had the problem.

I can't blame the shipping companies. They may be set up to keep packages from freezing, but I would not expect them to have a 8 C cold limit guarantee.

But I think this reinforces what my local bee association says ... breed bees locally. The strong colonies in my group are Virginia-bred. I would have used club-bred nucs except that we were installing them in West Virginia and it was not clear that the club nucs would be inspected for crossing state lines.
 

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>Can you spot laying workers?

In a mating nuc that has gone laying worker and there are only two frames, I have spotted one before, but since a two frame mating nuc that has the symptoms of laying workers, probably as a couple of hundred laying workers, it's not so hard... you catch them with their butt in the cell doing the laying movements... but what good does it do? If you want to know if you have laying workers, the early symptoms are: very spotty brood, what there is has dome cappings and queen cells with domed "kix cereal" caps on them. Later symptoms are more drone brood (still no worker brood) and multiple eggs.
 

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Between us, we'd gotten 8 queens from northern California this spring. Of these, 7 had failed already, with their hives producing supercedure or emergency cells, plus a couple of cases of laying workers.
The queen producers that go to almonds have been having problems with the Growth regulators that are sprayed in almonds. Randy Oliver has talked about this on Bee-l and may have more on his site.
 

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>Can you spot laying workers?

In a mating nuc that has gone laying worker and there are only two frames, I have spotted one before, but since a two frame mating nuc that has the symptoms of laying workers, probably as a couple of hundred laying workers, it's not so hard... you catch them with their butt in the cell doing the laying movements... but what good does it do? If you want to know if you have laying workers, the early symptoms are: very spotty brood, what there is has dome cappings and queen cells with domed "kix cereal" caps on them. Later symptoms are more drone brood (still no worker brood) and multiple eggs.
I asked because of a discussion a couple of days back in which someone said that once workers start laying, they're hard to dissuade. I was wondering if, once you introduce a queen, they could be pinched. This particular hive should be raising a queen now, and we've not seen multiple eggs in cells, just more capped drone brood and little capped worker brood.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
>Why are queens failing? It turns out that shippers may be partially to blame.

I blame the beekeepers who demand queens earlier and earlier and instantly rather than when the weather allows good mating and good shipping...
It is possible that I misunderstood the data. However it appeared the temperature extremes were from the same shipment. Both the 41c and the 8c appeared to be in the same shipment. Further research by Jeff Pettis revealed that a temperature extreme below ~8c for 1 hour or above ~40c for 2-3 hours caused the sperm to die in the spermatheca. So I am not sure that early would be entirely to blame as temperature extremes on both ends affect viability. Perhaps more controlled shipping methods might be a way to solve this?
 

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Generally all hives have many workers that have partially developed ovaries, capable of producing some eggs. These "laying workers", who generally only lay haploid eggs, capable of becoming drones (thelytoky, which is very rare, except in A. mellifera capensis can produce diploid eggs without fertilization). Since running almost all of my colonies with predominantly queens homozygous for the Cordovan trait, and the lighter Italian coloration, I've discovered that many drones produced in drone comb, are, sometimes deposited there by laying workers (if they were all laid by the Cordovan queens, those drones would all be Cordovan, too).

In other words; laying workers are pretty much ubiquitous, and only become a problem once the nurse/house bees discontinue policing those eggs that laying workers manage to deposit into worker size cells. Once that happens, regularly, it can lead to a colony dwindling and failing. Because along with the drone brood cropping up in worker comb, the remaining workers in the colony begin accepting some of the laying workers as surrogate queens, and rejecting actual queens.

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For me, the fastest and easiest way to determine if a colony has or is beginning to have "problems" with laying workers:
Examine any open drone cells, laying workers quite frequently load drone cells with eggs, and often many of them will hatch, filling drone cells with many larva. They often do this, lay-up drone comb, before they have the chance to lay in much of the worker comb. Most likely this is because it's easier for them to lay in drone cells than worker cells.
 
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