The Classroom

The Classroom July 2014

by Jerry Hayes


Comment - Kathy

Hi Jerry,
We are all so sorry to hear of the passing of your wife, Kathy. We are a beekeeping community and when one of us suffers, it reverberates throughout the industry. Heartfelt condolences to you and your family. I once read When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner. He talked about what to do when someone you know experiences a terrible loss like you have. Words present a challenge; we know we can’t say enough to comfort you. Kushner says to just be there - be supportive, be present, be around when times get tough or lonely. Jerry, your beekeeping friends are here to hold you up. We appreciate what you do for bees and beekeepers and we are here to continue working together to make the world a better place for bees. Hang in there.

Christi Heintz
Project Apis m.

Thank you Christi. I thought I was tough and in control and Master and Commander. It all changed pretty quickly. Sometimes the testosterone is flowing and my game face is on. And at other times a sound or a song or a situation will make my eyes well up--which I think is a good thing. I have had to get up and excuse myself from some business meetings here, but that is life and perhaps recognition of the importance of life. We all have various families. We have our Biological Family and maybe a Church Family, Work Family, or Club Family, but next to Kathy, and our children, and Aunts, Uncles, Brothers, Sisters, the Beekeeping Family is truly amazing. I have been contacted by so many I have known for years like you and others from all over the world who I have no idea who they are, but all have reached out and offered sincere support and encouragement and love.

It is pretty amazing. I guess if I were to give some free advice at this time, it would be don’t take the love of a spouse or friend or acquaintance lightly as it can change dramatically in a short time. And as much as you think you are ready, you are not if True Love is there. So, be aware, be grateful and find your husband, wife, parent, friend or….the person in line behind you in Wal-Mart and give them a hug, no matter how much it may surprise them. We have a picture kind of a thing in our house that says, “Life is a Journey and Love Makes it Worthwhile”. Make it worthwhile. You have for me by simply reaching out. Thank you and I would give you a hug if you were close by. Next meeting OK?

Q Managing Bees in a Building

Just received May’s issue and noticed the article on the Historic Illinois Bee Castle in Taylorville, IL.I am wondering that if one were to raise bees in a structure like that, would your overwinter survival rate be better? Also, when you are working the hives and bees start flying around in an enclosed structure, how would they get back home?
I live in Elgin, IL and my winter colony survival rate here is at best 40%. Are there more people out there doing this? Need more research.
The first thing I read is your articles on Q&A; keep up the good work.

Nick Borodaj


Having colonies inside a building with an outside entrance or on an enclosed wagon/trailer type arrangement was very typical and still is to some degree in Europe now and for the last 100-150 years or so. This extended on a moderate scale into the US and Canada, mostly from immigrant beekeepers. This was a way to keep control of valuable colonies and to prevent them from being stolen, primarily.

Some Canadian and U.S. beekeepers have taken the concept a step further by overwintering their colonies in climate-controlled buildings, but these hives are removed from the buildings in early spring. Use of year-round “bee houses” or “house apiaries” is no longer common in the States.

There may have been some advantage to an enclosed structure from winter with cumulative heat and protection from the wind and direct cold, but this is probably minor. I have been in places in Europe and Eastern Europe where colonies were kept inside a trailer-like structure with 20-30 or so colonies inside. I found it a bit restricting in how you could manipulate a colony. Management there is that you take out full frames of honey and add empty ones back in because there is not room for supers that we are used to. It is a frame-by-frame honey collection, management, varroa treatment, feeding system. But for a small number of colonies in a remote area, it is a protective method. Bees that get out are provided a small window to exit from and get back to their specific colony.

I am sorry your winter survival rate is only about 40%. Winter, spring, summer, fall survival is all about safe, effective Varroa control, which influences the Varroa / Virus complex, and finally the quantity of easily available stored food resources for over wintering. It is not totally about the “container or multiple containers” the bees are in, but more about colony overall health.

Thank you for the Classroom comment Nick.


Jerry, I enjoy your column every month in the American Bee Journal. I was reading ABC&XYZ of Bee Culture and in it they say there are some 16,000 species of bees. Out of all these species, how many are experiencing CCD and are the feral hives having the same loss as the managed ones, or may CCD be something that we may have created?

Thaddeus Brzustowicz


Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) was a condition of managed honey bees that appeared in about 2006 in some colonies managed by commercial beekeepers. We didn’t know what it was in 2006 so we called it a “Disorder”. Now we know it is a combination of 1)Varroa destructor mites (introduced parasite) 2) Viruses vectored by Varroa 3) chemical pesticides honey bees are exposed to, some in the environment and primarily the ones used to control Varroa mites and 4) Poor nutrition.
Other pollinators seem to be affected by loss of habitat, and can certainly be exposed to pesticides in and around our homes, in production Ag. and weather events, but Varroa is unique to honey bees. CCD is a particular “disorder” specific to honey bees. If we could control Varroa and the Varroa/Virus complex safely and sanely without miticides (pesticides), CCD would probably go away in large measure, but beekeepers would continue to experience some winter losses, as they always have. Other pollinators have other things to worry about.

Q Marked Queen Found in Swarm

Yesterday a swarm came into a box I was storing in the backyard. No major event except when I found the queen, she was marked with red, last year’s color.

I am delighted about this. They are Italian bees and should not have the aggression problems most swarms we get in Ventura have.

The surprise is that I know of no other beekeepers anywhere near here. How far will a swarm move from the mother hive?

Bill in California


Pretty cool. Free Bees are nice and even better when the queen is already marked. Swarms generally don’t go any further than they have to based on the reports the scouts have brought back on colony “cavity space and volume” they need and what is available. Swarms fill up with food before the trip, but it is a finite resource, so not using it up in long distance flights helps with the set up and stability of the new swarm in a new cavity. In addition, the new swarm has to begin building comb immediately and brood production needs to start, etc.. My guess is that there is a new beekeeper within 1/2 mile of you who you don’t know about and s/he doesn’t want anybody else to know about. Enjoy.


We live in Vermont and this last winter the temps got down as low as -30. When the weather warmed up, we thought two of our hives had survived the winter. But when we were able to open the hives, we discovered that we had lost all our bees and the bees there were only robbing the honey. We did remove most of the honey frames, but left a couple of honey frames in each hive and did not close the entrance. We are receiving more bees to replace the ones we lost. Therefore, my question is: Should we close up the entrance so the robbing bees cannot get to the remaining honey or don’t worry about it and let the new bees we install resolve the problem themselves?

Thank you for your help!


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