The Classroom

 The Classroom December 2014

by Jerry Hayes


Q Drawing Out Foundation

When is the best time to put the queen excluder on? I've heard you have to make sure the queen gets her pheromones on the foundation. The thinking is that the workers would not move up in to the supers (above the queen excluder) to draw out the comb.

Jerry Housewright
Eastern Tennessee


The queen excluder would go on anytime that you don't want the queen going up into the super to lay eggs. Her pheromones are not applied directly to foundation in order to lure young workers to draw out foundation into comb. Comb is drawn based on the early spring rapid colony growth as the days grow longer and the population size increases. The colony starts on the next cycle of getting ready to spread its genetics around by swarming and the journey to the next winter and maximum storage of honey as their only food supply through winter. Temperate zone evolved honey bees are always only concerned with two things: 1) Being sure the species is sustainable (swarming) and 2) the next winter.

Comb building is a process that needs: 1) Lots of young wax-producing worker honey bees; 2) Lots of high sugar content nectar to fuel the production of beeswax; 3) A place to build comb.

One of the problems sometimes is that at a certain level honey bees don't like to travel through the excluder. One way around this  during a honey flow is to establish another entrance above the excluder into the super(s). A large percentage of the forager population will choose to use this entrance and bypass the longer route of the bottom entrance carrying nectar collected up to transfer to those young bees making wax and building comb in the super(s). It is a quicker route and process with an entrance above the excluder.

Q Sugar Syrup Fermenting

Can sucrose solution which has begun to ferment be used to feed the bees in autumn if the solution is first boiled to remove the alcohol? If so, how long must it be boiled?



Ultimately, it depends on if it is beer-level alcohol or moonshine 90 proof! I would heat it until the alcohol smell is gone. Remember, alcohol’s boiling point is less than water, so it doesn't have to be heated at 212 degrees F., but it might not hurt to bring it to a temporary boil to kill the yeast that started this fermentation process. Just don’t boil it too long or you can create harmful products in the syrup like hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) (an indicator for excess heat-treatment).

Q Honey Storage Pattern

This year for the first time ever, seven of the nine super frames (looking at the tops) appeared to be beautifully filled and sealed. However, when I removed them, all the frames had sealed honey on the sides and top, and the center of the frames was absolutely empty. The queen had not laid there either, so it wasn’t brood using that space. My bee library does not provide an answer. Do you have one, or is it just an unexplainable anomaly? The honey return was only about two-thirds or less for each super.

Thank you,
Dr. Robert Hough
Beaver Falls, Pa


It takes “X” number of honey bees and “X” number of nectar-producing flowers to allow the “surplus” nectar to be deposited in awaiting cells. If you don't have enough bees to collect enough surplus nectar or plenty of foragers, but not enough flowers to produce enough nectar, then in both situations nothing is stored. It may have started out good, but dropped off for any combination of those reasons.

The centers of the frames may have been filled with brood earlier in the season, but after that brood hatched, the queen may have cut back on her egg laying or moved to a different hive body, so those cells were not reused for brood. In addition, the honey flows may have dried up so they were not refilled with nectar either.

Hang in there! It is still fun and I'll bet the honey stored was still delicious.

Q Pesticides

I see a lot of feral bees recovering in North Carolina. I do a lot of removals here. I hive and relocate them. I never treat them and I don't lose that many to mites. I lose more to chemicals being sprayed in agricultural areas than anything else. As far as neonicotinoids are concerned, haven't they been banned in Europe because of their damage to honey bees there? Also, don't you work for a chemical company, so could your opinions be somewhat influenced.



 I work for Monsanto now and this is a company that primarily sells seed and herbicides, such as Roundup. The company also purchases neonicotinoids from other manufacturers and applies them to some of the seeds that our company produces and then offers for sale to farmers. Virtually all seed companies do that same thing because these products provide exceptional control of some very challenging pests, especially in corn production.

Neonicotinoids have been banned in Europe, but it is certainly not clear to me that this was the right decision. There is a lot of research done that when peer reviewed is considered flawed and untruthful. The EU situation is the same. Politicians responded to voters who have been convinced and manipulated by clubs, associations, and organizations that use ignorance as a way to make fund-raising appeals. Many times this junk science is embraced by some clubs and organizations to add to their fund-raising agenda for support.

We, the public, are emotionally manipulated so much because we/me/you can’t know everything, so depend on “trusted” sources. Be careful of the trusted source. Trust but verify. I just received a paper that said farmers in the UK were being devastated by ‘flea beetles’ on canola. They were not able use to use neonicotinoids that had been effective. Now they have to use chemistry that is 20-25 years old and much harsher to bees and the environment. There are always trade-offs.

I joined Monsanto a couple years ago because I felt this was a company that showed the capability to make a difference on the most important challenge we face, among many, in the honey bee industry. Effective varroa control has been a growing problem for 30 years and we have made very little progress toward obtaining a real solution. I decided to try a new approach. Monsanto is researching new solutions that I believe could be important in finally turning the tide on varroa. That’s why I am here, advocating for the bee industry and offering my experience and advice to the researchers involved in this effort.

Go to the Bee Informed Partnership website, and look at the multiple year survey questions and answers.

Take care,

Q Amitraz

Jerry, has Apivar (amitraz) been tested for leaving residues in the colony/beeswax? I am thinking about using it for my winter Varroa treatment, if needed, beginning in the later part of January here in SC due to the temperatures. If I put it in the later part of January, it will just make the 42 day/6-week period prior to the nectar flow starting around the first of April by about two to three weeks, which is the time frame they recommend it being out of the colony prior to the honey supers going on.

Dave MacFawn
Lexington, SC


One of the advantages of amitraz is that it degrades/breaks down much more quickly than some of the other 'strip' miticide formulations. But, it also takes a bit longer to control varroa as well. And, as a side note, it seems to be more toxic to queens. This is why we need to figure out a non-chemical way to control Varroa. Everything is a trade-off, Dave.

Q Bee School

I have an interesting situation I got myself into and I would like your advice. I offer Bee School 101 to raise money for charity. I do a bee-talk and hive visit as an auction item. I have always done the visits in the spring. This year, the folks just let me know last month, so I tentatively set the date for beginning of October when the Apiguard comes off. They just invited two more people, so now, four adults. Of course, they are interested in bees and possibly getting into beekeeping.

I visited my hives yesterday and I was stung three times on my foot in the back of the hive while I adjusted the screen closure for the bottom board. I was in street clothes and open shoes. No big deal—I’ll count these as my therapeutic stings for the season. But now I'm thinking that a hive visit with non-beekeepers is foolish in the fall. The bees are more defensive and you can't linger. I wonder if I should postpone for the spring and make sure everyone is suited up? I'm helping a friend with her hives tomorrow and maybe they are nicer than mine, but I'm thinking this defensiveness is a fall condition. What do you think?



Generally, it is not so much seasonal as it is read the complete article please click here to subscribe