CIBA March 2019 Meeting

For their March 2019 meeting, the Central Iowa Beekeepers Association had Dr. Judy Wu-Smart from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln speak on Troubleshooting Queen Failure.

Before the meeting, Abigail interviewed for the position of the CIBA Honey Queen.


Olivia and Elianna helped set up the drinks.


Abigail introduced herself to the CIBA members.


Dr. Wu-Smart shared about how to Troubleshoot Queen Failure.

First, she explained a little bit about the queen’s biology and function. It takes a queen sixteen days to develop from an egg to an adult. She takes one to two orientation flights once she has emerged. She takes one to five mating flights and will mate with seven to seventeen drones. A queen can lay 1500 eggs a day. She lives up between two to four years. However, beekeepers will sometimes pinch (kill) a queen if they do not like her or if she is failing.

Some common problems concerning queens are poorly mated queens, genetics, age, pesticide exposure, viruses, poor attendants, low pollen, beekeeping error, and managements practices. Poor mating can be caused by bad weather. Bad weather prevents the queen from being able to mate when she needs to be mated. Queens that mate in the early spring may not be well mated because there are not a lot of drones around in early spring. Ideally, a queen should been genetically diverse. The more diverse the genetics are in a colony the more productive they are and the less susceptible to disease. Historically, queens can last two to four years, but now beekeepers tend to replace her every year. Pesticides can hurt a queen. Pesticides can reduce egg-laying and her locomotion ability. Queen can get viruses. She often gets it passed to her from workers and drones. She can transfer diseases to her offspring. Viruses can shorten a queens longevity and can lead to brood diseases. Poor attendants can lead to a poor queen because they will not take care of her. Low pollen causes the queen to have not enough protein. Beekeepers can easily kill a queen by accident. This does not happen often if the beekeeper is careful. Managements practices go with beekeeper error. Mite treatment and migratory stress can kill the queen or reduce her productivity.

Supercedure cells and emergency cells are signs of queen problems because the bees want to replace the queen. All drone brood is also a sign of a poor queen.

No or low brood may be a sign that the queen is failing. The bees may also be honey bound. (Honey bound is when the worker bees backfill the brood nest with nectar.) No or low brood may result from a lack of empty cells. Low brood may be a result of a lack of pollen. Honey bees will actually cannibalize brood when there is a lack of pollen.

Laying workers may come up when a queen is absconded. If the bees do not replace the queen quick enough, some of the worker bees may start being able to lay eggs.

How does a beekeeper tell if the queen is failing or if the colony is just having problems?

First, a beekeeper should examine the brood pattern. Is the queen laying well? Is the brood pattern spotty? If the eggs are not reaching pupation it may be the worker bees fault that the brood pattern looks poor. Spotty brood can lead to reduced care efficiency, reduced egg laying efficiency, and disruption in the thermo-regulation for brood (controlling the brood next temperature). Small, tight brood patterns are good but large, shotgun brood patterns are not good. Does the colony have brood in all stages? Are there signs of brood diseases, such as uncapped pupae, perforated pupal cells, and larvae with the wrong appearance? Is varroa mites, poor brood care or nutrition, or pesticides stressing the larvae? A varroa mite test should be done at least every spring and fall.

Are the larvae well fed? The level of brood food in the brood cells should be checked. Not well fed larvae leads to larvae mortality; spotty brood; eggs and pupae present, but very little young larvae. A beekeeper should check the pollen stores in both the hive and outside the hive. Are foragers bringing in pollen? Is there fresh pollen in the hive? Fresh pollen has a powdery appearance. Contaminated pollen is covered with propolis.

Frames should be removed from the hive every three to five years. This helps decrease the amount of disease and chemicals in the hive.

Does the hive have plenty of newly emerged adults that can be nurses. New bees are very fuzzy, light, and they have fur around the eyes.

I beekeeper should monitor for pesticide incidents. Pesticide incidents are very difficult to see. Dr. Wu-Smart is researching pesticide usages using dead bee traps. Dead bee traps are specially made boxes that when the bees throw out dead bees the dead bees fall into them and can be counted. Pesticide incidents should be reported to a state agent. State agents look for high mortality in short periods of time.

A beekeeper should also monitor the landscape. What is currently in bloom?

A beekeeper may choose to replace a queen. There is no good rule of thumb for replacing a queen. Often the bees will know when to replace a queen.

Depending on the situation, a failing queen may be due to the colony’s health, not the queen’s health.

CIBA honored John Johnson, a former CIBA president, at the March meeting. Look at this lovely cake a CIBA member made.


Olivia found a queen at the March meeting!


After the queen committee deliberated, Abigail was crowned the 2019 Central Iowa Beekeeper’s Honey Queen! Congratulations, Abigail! She has enjoyed being queen so far and is looking forward to some of her upcoming presentations. To remain updated on Abigail’s activities as queen, like the CIBA Honey Queen Program page on Facebook.


Keri Kenoyer, the vice president of the Iowa Honey Producers Association, crowned Abigail.


The 2019 CIBA Honey Queen Abigail.


The March meeting was excellent. Dr. Wu-Smart was an excellent speaker. We enjoyed talking with beekeepers and voting in the business meeting.


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