The summer is drawing to a close and I have been looking at my hive records. I was pleased with my hive survival rate last winter, when I only lost about 18% of my hives. This spring I began a program of apiary expansion with purchasing of new queens, raising queens, plus the purchase of a few packages. This effort went very well and most new hives look to be winter ready without the need for heavy feeding. Each package made a respectable honey crop. No losses were detected with these first year queens.
However, the record of my over-wintered hives is more checkered. Over the spring and summer about one quarter of the over-wintered hives have gone queenless. This was mainly detected during weekly inspections, but also in a few cases by a decline of flight activity. The losses have occurred across all queen types (Italian, Carni and Russian). All were second year queens. Also, I had to dispatch a 3rd year queen, which either turned into a drone layer or her pheromones were not strong enough to prevent laying workers. The combined winter and summer losses point to a continued poor overall survival situation.
These summer losses seem to be the norm throughout the country. See the article link below, which was written back in 2013. Also, as a raiser of queens I have received numerous panic calls from beekeepers with queenless hives. What is the experience of other club members? Do any members conduct yearly queen replacement in the fall? What is your experience with summer queen losses?