As an apiarist in Ohio, I have been researching this topic a lot. What you are referring to is related to CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder). There is
no consensus on what causing CCD, but studies are showing that it is linked to 4 things, and possible the combination of all four:
1) Pesticides on crops.
2) Mites on bees.
3) Antibiotics used to treat bees.
4) Stress caused by hive moving hives for seasonal crop pollination.
We lost 1 hive this spring, it didn't die, it disappeared. Any beekeeper can expect a natural loss of 20% of their hives over winter, and we
experienced a 25% loss. At first, it looked to us as a classic case of CCD, so I became seriously interested in my CCD research.
The symptoms of CCD are when a hive simply disappears, virtually overnight. They leave behind the queen, and a few workers, but not enough to support
the hive, and the hive collapses. Basically, the whole hive collapses because, for still unknown reasons, the workers abandon the hive, get lost,
whatever, but they never return, and the remaining queen and workers can't keep the rest of the hive warm, and there aren't enough bees to feed and
care for the hive. Normal hive population coming from an over-winter should be about 30,000.
We did a frame by frame inspection of our "disappeared" hive, and found no queen dead in the hive. There were only a handful (less than 50) of dead
bees total. All the honey was gone, there was no fresh or rotted brood, but there was two hatched queen cells, and 12 aborted queen cells.
Basically, with our hive, it swarmed three times, each swarm taking a supply of honey, the old queen leaving first, then a new queen with her swarm,
then finally the third queen took the rest of the honey all but the last few bees, and we wound up with an abandoned hive, in perfectly good shape,
sans honey and bees. There must be a certain percentage of bees in a hive for temperature regulation, (core temp needs to stay around 95 degrees F)
and without enough bees to generate heat, the remaining bees were doomed to die. Inspection of the other hives showed no abnormal activity, they were
still honey bound, and producing fresh white brood. Healthy as hives can be during the spring pollen flow.
I am confused by this:
only have 2 Queen Bees instead of the normal 14.
A normal healthy hive only has 1 queen at any given time. You'll have to clarify that a bit, but let me continue:
A hive knows when their queen is healthy and happy because she is laying eggs. She is responsible for producing replacement bees. When a queen is
old, or not laying properly, the hive will start building "queen cells", enacting a process called "supercedure", in which the hive will produce a
new queen to replace the old one, and then the old queen will take a portion of the hive and swarm. This is usually done in the early spring or early
fall, but usually during the spring. Supercedure is a perfectly natural process, one in which the hive creates their own genetically superior queen
adapted to the local in which they forage from.
Studies have shown that commercially produced queens are being "superceded" by the hives (meaning replaced) at at 80% percent rate, in the hives
they are introduced to. Queen bees are supposed to live for 3-5 years normally, but now the commercial queens are being replaced 12-14 times a years,
as opposed to the normal 1-2 times a year. Why?
Commercial bee producers are treating their hives with antibiotics. The commercial bees are foraging in their environment, and gathering pollen from
fields with pesticide residue, and gathering pollen and nectar from flowers that have also been treated. The current trend is to ship truckloads of
hives to areas where fields need pollinated, often across the US, usually to California to pollinate the almond crops, then to Florida to polliate the
Peach crops, up to Maine to pollinate blueberries, and hive transportation is a very lucrative way to make cash, as farmers pay the commercial bee
keepers for their services. The farmers don't have the headache of keeping their own bees, and have become dependent on out-sourcing the bees they
need for pollination. There is a problem with this, a very big one.
A normal bee will forage for a radius of 10 miles from their hive. The pollen and nectar they collect is brought back into the hive to be processed
into honey. The pesticides used in CA are brought in trace amounts to FL, re-distributed in ME, and at each location the bees are sampling the local
variety of pesticide and dosage, and suddenly a hive is saturated with a blend of 3 or more varieties of pesticides, and the queen becomes
contaminated, and genetically, can no longer lay normally. The hive will promptly supercede a queen that is not laying properly. It takes 21 days
for a hive to produce another egg-laying queen, so the hive misses pollen flows, and becomes weaker overall.