The Classroom May 2013
by Jerry Hayes
Q Warré Revisited—Commentary from David Heaf
In the March 2013 issue, in the section ‘The Classroom’, Jerry Hayes replied to an enquirer contemplating getting Warré hives: “I think you will find Warré hives to be a pain.” I started beekeeping in 2003 with frame hives, building up to 15 by 2006. Now I winter 15 Warrés and only three frame hives. Far from being a pain, I find Warrés a delight after frame hives.
Jerry Hayes sourced the pain in ‘inspections, harvesting and treatments, etc.’ He does not seem to have realized that Warré beekeeping involves a totally different mind set from Langstrothian beekeeping. The fundamental attitude change that is occurring is characterized by a shift towards putting the beekeeper’s needs second to those of the bee. Anthropocentric beekeeping is giving way to apicentric beekeeping.
Beekeeping evolves. Frame hives belong to modernism in beekeeping. We are now entering its post-modern era. Hive types rejected by modernists are coming back into use. And in natural beekeeping completely new hive types are being invented such as Claude Bralet’s cylindrical ruche sauvage in clay and wood and Günther Mancke’s sun hive, a two-part skep with rounded frames.
It’s like the change from fast food to slow food. The fixed combs of ‘slow beekeeping’ do indeed require more care in manipulation than framed combs. This is not a problem as the Warré hive is managed in a very different way from that of a frame hive. Intrusion in the brood nest is severely reduced. Many of the modernist manipulations that promote disease and cause horizontal pathogen transmission are thereby eliminated. But disease inspection, when necessary, is done with the help of a comb knife and special holder, as can be seen from the photo of a state bee inspector at work.
Harvesting a Warré involves an inbuilt disease minimization system: the combs are not re-used. They are very easily cut out, chopped and drained using kitchen equipment. No extractor is necessary. The colony is always moving onto new comb. A former state apiarist like Jerry Hayes will no doubt see the benefit of this for bee health. And there is no expense of foundation or frames, which create much work in assembly and disinfecting.
Finally, treatment: here too the attitude shift stands out. Most Warré beekeepers I have encountered do not treat. Instead they enhance the bee’s natural defenses and avoid putting chemicals in the hive. Miticides just postpone the day when bee and mite co-adapt. Warré bees feed on their own pollen and honey, not relying on artificial substitutes. As the bee super-organism has been likened to a mammal, the bee equivalent of ‘breast is best’ further enhances its health.
David, I respect your opinions and desires. I think that many beekeepers who are as conscientious as you probably have a minimum of colonies in their garden or backyard and could use a “comb knife” to separate free-form burrcomb that has been attached to other comb and hive boxes, etc. I think this step backwards in concept and design would ill suit a novice beekeeper and frustrate an experienced one who appreciates being able to easily, smoothly and effectively remove frames and comb to learn, evaluate and become a better beekeeper with something other than a Warré hive. There are a lot of top-bar hives that maintain that exquisite realization of “Bee Space” that has allowed a relationship with honey bees to grow and deepen because of the ease of entering this valued insect’s world. The Warré Hive does not. Managed Honey bees in 2013 require the partnership with a knowledgeable, visually comfortable and adept beekeeper in this age of Varroa, Nosema, Small Hive Beetles, AFB, and Varroa-induced viral conditions. This only comes from inspecting the honey bee nest easily, comfortably and efficiently.
As an experiment, a whim or a trial in lazy beekeeping, the Warré hive is a fine tool. But, for those who desire to be great students of honey bees to quote me again, “I think they will find the Warré hive to be a pain.”
Q ARE YOU PULLING MY LEG.....?
Somebody please set me straight if I need setting straight, but I respectfully think a statistical or mathematical fallacy is being too easily accepted by beekeepers and passed along as absolute fact: In this January ABJ, is the statement, “...as small hive beetle (SHB) larvae leave the colony..., they do not necessarily burrow into the ground...around the colony, as they can crawl 100-200 yards to find a good place to pupate.”
I believe I have seen that figure before. OK, I will accept for the sake of argument that they can do that much crawling. But that doesn’t mean they can be expected to end up as much as 200 yards away, or even 20 yards. I am told that a golfer typically walks 5 miles as he plays a round—that doesn’t mean that when he takes his ball out of the 18th hole, he is 5 miles from the first tee. Likewise, however many miles the mail carrier in town walks on his route, by the end of the day that isn’t how far he is from the post office where he filled his bag that morning. So it must be with our little larva; he crawls around, and even if he really could go 200 yards on his wee feet, it is random wandering, and he will probably be more likely to end up only a yard or two from where he started.
I have also heard it given as an accepted fact that a female SHB can fly 10 miles in search of a honey bee nest. I don’t know where that 10 mile number came from, but again I will accept it for the sake of argument. So, I marked off 10 miles on a map of Chicago, my home town. I had one heckuva time imagining that insect emerging from her pupal case at the level of Roosevelt Road on the south side, and flying 10 miles due north up Western Avenue because she caught the scent of somebody’s hive on Pratt Avenue on the far north side. No, I think that she flies all around and perhaps really does put 10 miles on her odometer searching for what she needs, but in no way is she going in a straight line any more than a larva or a golfer or a mail carrier is.
For the quick answer I have attached an OIE (World Animal Health Organization) chapter that covers some of what you were asking about with references. It is a relatively short read that mentions the “wandering phase of SHB larva” and the “flight distance” of the adults under the section “Life Cycle”. While in Florida as the Chief of the Apiary Section, and I know this is purely anecdotal, I have seen SHB larvae crawl 100 yards plus in order to get out of the dry hot sand to cooler, moister scrub and tree boundaries so they can successfully pupate. I have also reached out to Dr. Jamie Ellis who received his PhD in South Africa on SHB to see if he can expand this for you. He is the actual expert.
DR. ELLIS COMMENTS
Allen – good comments. The truth is, I don’t think we know for sure. I suspect that it’s not very likely that they [small hive beetles] “often” end up over 10 meters from the hive. However, in theory, they “can” crawl quite a distance. Using the same random walking scenario you offer... one random option is that the larvae wanders a straight line 200 yards away from the nest. I am not really aware of anyone who has studied larval wandering schemes in the wild. I can say that I was once rearing larvae in a 2nd story lab. One night, they crawled out the lab, down the steps, and out the front door of the building. This was probably 75 yards or more total crawling. So, I believe that most people writing about larvae wandering this distance are discussing the extreme rather than common.
To my knowledge, we know even less about SHB adult flight. I have seen the 5 10 mile radius and I’m not sure where the number originated. However, they would likely never be following an odor plum from 10 miles away. They would be “randomly searching” the area, thus leading them to follow an odor plum if they encountered one. Until mark/recapture studies occur, adult flight length seems quite speculative to me.
Q INVERT SUGAR
Thank you for the information source you provide each month. I look forward to reading your column and getting answers that are not easy to find anywhere else. Your answers are a great resource.
I keep reading about “invert sugar” and its use in making queen candy. My question is: Do you recommend using it in queen candy, and if so, what is the recipe, and how is it made?
Thank you and keep up the good work.
Thank you for the Classroom compliment. It is appreciated. I am going to offer some basic chemistry to you, whether you like it or not:) The sugar sucrose, which is the granulated sugar we all know and love, is called a disaccharide. Di means 2. It is a molecule made up of 2 monosaccharide sugars Glucose and Fructose. Mono means 1. So, you put 2 monosaccharides together and you get a disaccharide, 1+1=2.
When honey bees collect nectar that might have the sugar sucrose or other disaccharides in them, they use enzymes and acids to break apart the sugar molecule into glucose and fructose. Glucose and fructose are easier to digest and when converted to honey, it won’t crystallize as quickly when stored in the comb. This process change produces an “invert sugar” in layman’s terms. This takes energy from the individual bee to make and provide the enzymes and acids to make this transition from “invert” sucrose into glucose and fructose. That is why when you feed honey bees a sugar syrup solution, it is a lot better for them to have glucose or fructose rather than sucrose like we find in our granulated sugar on the store shelf or kitchen pantry.
If you really want to do this easily, just go to your local Super Big Box and find the sugar aisle. There will be small boxes of granulated/powdered fructose. You can use this to make the small quantities of queen candy you need by adding a bit of water to X amount of fructose and making a little fructose dough-like ball.
If you want to make larger quantities, because invert sugar is easier for honey bees to digest and use, you can make your own invert sugar at home with some simple acids that will break apart (invert) sucrose into glucose and fructose. In your kitchen right now you probably have a baking ingredient called “Cream of Tartar” which is an acid or you may have a fresh lemon that contains natural citric acid. If you take a kilogram, 2.2 pounds, of granulated sugar and add water to dissolve it into a syrup, then add 1 gram of Cream of Tartar, and heat to about 120 F for a few minutes, you will get a yield of approx 85% Glucose and Fructose in that syrup. You can do the same thing with fresh lemon juice and citric acid by adding 10 ml per kilo of granulated sugar.
Ron, this is more information than you really expected or really needed, but now you are the invert sugar expert for your beekeepers’ association:)
Q WHAT HAPPENED?
I have a question. I have 5 hives in my apiary; they all did very well this last year. I left approx. 80 to 90 lbs. of honey on each of them for the winter. The honey was throughout the center of 3 boxes on each hive. I leave a ventilator on each hive so moisture buildup doesn’t happen. We finally got a warm day so I could open the hives. I was very disappointed and confused. The hives are full of honey and the cluster of bees in each hive was dead and located right in the middle of frames full of honey. There isn’t any direction they could have traveled without finding honey. I visually looked the bees over, and can’t see any other problems.
The frames are all new, drawn out beautifully. I’m just not sure why they didn’t eat all of that honey to survive? Now my question is – do I leave all this honey on the hives for the packages that I’m going to install on April 13, or do I extract it on a warm day, and sell it.
Where are you located again? Sounds to me like maybe you had a small cluster and if I were to guess, you had a significant cold spell and the small cluster could not generate enough internal heat. As a result, they couldn’t move to the food even an inch away and froze in place. If this is the case, the honey could be used now and forward to bolster other colonies or future splits. What do you think?
Thank you for getting back to me so fast. I believe you are right. We live in Boise, Idaho, and we had record-breaking cold this winter--not so much in below zero weather, but in most consecutive days in single digits. It was an extremely long cold winter. I did notice a couple of things. No bees outside the hive on the ground, dead bees all over the bottom board, and dead bees on top of the inner cover. I use a ventilator that gives them space on top.
One thing I need to know is this. Did I help cause the problem by having three boxes on the hive for winter? But I had at least 7 or more frames of solid honey in each box. Is the perfect setup for winter just 2 boxes with several frames of honey in each box?
Unfortunately, you just confirmed that they froze. First, I would figure out how to get 10 + deep frames covered with bees as the minimum to go through an Idaho winter. I have spoken in Boise a few times and I know that on average they have less severe snowy winters that other parts of Idaho but......having more healthy bees is better than less. If the cluster is large enough and healthy enough and weather gives them a break every 3-4 weeks, they can access frames of honey in multiple boxes all winter. Your problem was critical mass--simply not enough bees. Hang in there.
Q WHAT TO DO, WHAT TO DO?
First, I enjoy and learn a lot from the classroom and wanted to say thank you. Second, I have two questions:
1) This April I am starting 8 packages of bees. Right now when you look out you can see all the hives have feeders on top of them and I am wondering if when I put the bees in the box, should I put in a brood patty or feed supplement and what kind of nutrition should I look for when buying those.
2) What preventive measure do I need to take to control disease and what kinds of medication can I buy and store until needed?
Thank you for your time
It all depends on what flowers might be blooming when the packages come in, that will produce a variety of pollens for the colony to turn into beebread and how much nectar might be available. If you will need the “bees” to expand foundation into usable beeswax comb, this requires lots of energy in the form of carbohydrates (sugars) in order for the bees to produce beeswax from the 6 glands on their abdomens. If you will be providing drawn comb, then the carb issue is less important that the protein, vitamin, lipids (fats) and minerals needed by the nurse bees to produce the liquid food needed by the developing larvae. These larvae will appear very soon since the queen will be laying quickly in the cells of the comb. This gets back to natural flower resources. The food supplements that you can buy are nutritionally incomplete and can help for a couple of weeks, but because they are not complete, the bees cannot utilize them efficiently long-term.
Unless you have a disease, you don’t need to treat for a disease. My biggest concern would be the Varroa mite and how this will impact your colony in a few months as it prepares for that first winter. Be thinking of treating in late summer with a product like ApiGuard or ApiLifeVar and stay away from chemical miticides if you can, but regardless, always follow label directions to the letter.
Exciting time Kaleb. You’ll do fine.
Q BACK TO THE FUTURE?
What do you think about treating for mites in the spring, for example a new package of bees? Ostensibly, this would wipe out ALL mites. If no other beekeepers were in the area, where would new mites come from? We have such a short season in the upper midwest, it’s nice to catch the late honey flow from aster and goldenrod without having to worry about mite treatments. I am curious to know what you think.
If you could do it and really eliminate 100% of Varroa mites and you were not within 5 miles of any other beekeeper or feral colony living in a tree or wall of an old barn someplace, you would be back in 1980 and beekeeping life would be good. Then, if you could make this consistent and sustainable, it would be amazing.
All it takes is 1 mated female Varroa mite that is resistant to whatever miticide(s) you are using and you are back to 2013.
Being able to determine when you have NO Varroa is the tough one. Even if you have a varroa-free situation, but then a swarm moves into within a few miles of you and foragers or scouts visit your colonies carrying mites hitchhiking, you are back to square one. But it is possible to pull this off...maybe. Good Luck.
Q PUZZLEMENT REVISITED
It’s a puzzlement-- the January ABJ made me think of one of my hives with a ½” screened bottom board. They built comb under the screen and that was where the queen was laying.
Joel K. Letvin
Usually that happens when there is a supersedure and the newly mated queen doesn’t make it into the hive proper, Joel. Could be other reasons like crowding and lack of comb space, but that is usually it. Half inch screen is a little too big for securing the colony and excluding everything else.
Q IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MITE
What are your thoughts on using drone frames for controlling mites (allowing them to be capped and freezing the brood)? Is it worth sacrificing a frame or two for this purpose as a part of a chemical treatment-free approach to control varroa?
I think as part of an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) Varroa control strategy that drone trapping along with some type of hygienic queens, screened bottoms and monitoring Varroa populations regularly will allow you to limit the use of varroacides in your colonies. There is little data to suggest what I am going to say, but I would not simply make drone trapping the focal point of Varroa control. Remember, that if you select to remove Varroa from drone brood that you are simultaneously selecting Varroa that has a greater affinity for worker brood.
I was kind of perplexed at first with your answer, but still had a basic understanding after some thought on it. However, I am reading The Hive and the Honey Bee cover to cover and am currently in the genetics and breeding chapter, and on page 248, the last few sentences under the heading “Hygienic Behavior”, helped me understand exactly what you meant by hygienic queens and their help to get rid and/or keep the mite population in check; for if the mites are removed by the workers, they stay removed much like them falling through the screened bottom board. This art of beekeeping just keeps me fascinated!
Sorry for the “honey bee speak” and the confusion about terminology, but I am glad you had a great resource like The Hive and the Honey Bee to explain better than I did. Honey bees are amazing along with our system of movable frame hives to allow us to engage with them.
Jerry, I have been a beekeeper for well over 50 years and have seen lots of changes, both good and bad. I keep reading about Neonicotinoids in the ABJ and elsewhere. My intention is not to get into a debate with anyone about who’s position is right or wrong (the anti-neonic advocates or the scientific weigh-all possibilities, supporters, of which I’m one I guess). But, there is way too much emotion on this subject and I wanted to give my 2 cents worth.
Please note that many coming from the research community are not saying that the Neonics are either benign nor that we shouldn’t take reasonable precautions in using them. They are mainly saying that to date the actual scientific studies have not shown a repeatable and definite link between the use of the Neonics and honey bee decline. They are open to any new, verifiable and statistically significant studies that may conclusively show a direct relationship.
In the meantime, and in the real world of agricultural production and crop protection, the other major stakeholders in this situation are saying that the Neonics greatly reduce the need for more toxic and costly pesticides. The Neonics were also developed, as you may know, to greatly reduce the overall environmental impact on non-arthropod species, which they do. I believe that the snag in communication that happens when these two groups express themselves comes from a fundamental difference in the way the two groups approach the situation: the anti-activists are appealing to emotion and concern about worst case scenarios; the scientific group is appealing to reason and scientific proof, as well as consideration of the practical consequences for all stakeholders.
If I may say so, from my 50+ years of beekeeping experience, one of the biggest stumbling blocks for beekeepers in dealing with pesticide issues has been to take an adversarial position with regard to not only their use, but towards the manufacturers and applicators of these products.
There are still some beekeepers who vociferously hold to that position of which you are probably aware. However, rather than helping to ameliorate or remedy the situation of unintended pesticide losses, that attitude has proven to exacerbate it.
After 30 years of keeping bees in Colorado and 20 years before that in California, I can tell you the adversarial stance creates more problems rather than solutions for beekeepers. As you are also probably aware, the EPA, Bayer and Syngenta are currently working on re-formulations of the adjuvants and planting lubricants used with many of these products, so that the exposure to non target species at planting is reduced or eliminated. That movement has undoubtedly come from concerns of beekeepers, but also because it’s not in anybody’s interest to be negatively impacting the pollinators. Also, as most of the stakeholders in the larger agricultural community try to follow an IPM protocol, reformulation and modification of useful products is the direction most will follow, rather than freaking about worst case scenarios.
So, for the time being anyway, it seems to me and many others I might say that the best course of action with regard to the Neonics is to encourage further sound research into possible long-term effects and continue to support the re-formulations and modifications that the manufacturers are currently doing with these products to make them less hazardous. There is still lots of room for the organic and non-pesticide folks to do their thing if they want to I believe. But in the larger environmental and agricultural sense, there also seems to be a place for the use of the Neonic products.
That’s my thinking on this issue. In any event, thanks.