The Classroom

 The Classroom August 2014

by Jerry Hayes


Q Pro-Biotics?

I’m sure this is a new one for you. I give my racing pigeons a product called Primalac Pigeon. It helps prevent E. coli and salmonella by providing helpful bacteria. It’s a water soluble powder (1 tsp per gallon). If I put this in the bees’ outdoor water source, do you think it would benefit the bees?
Ingredients: Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product dehydrated Lactobacillus casei fermentation product, Bifidobacterium thermophilum fermentation product dehydrated, dextrose and citric acid.



This is not really that new. The racing pigeon part is new and sounds pretty cool. There has been lots of interest the last several years, especially due to the loss of honey bee health in general on the ‘nutrition’ component of honey bee health. Do a search on ‘fermented’ diets and the honey bee gut micro-biome and you will come up with lots of interesting information.
Jack, you and I have more organisms living in our intestines than one can imagine. They do the majority of food digestion for us and out compete bad bacteria, provide a healthy gut pH and even make vitamins for us. If you watch any TV at all, there is a solid advertising effort to sell us Pro-Biotics in the form of capsules or yogurt or kefir to introduce a continuous supply of good bacteria to us for improved health. Honey bees don’t eat pollen; they eat bee bread, which is a fermentation product of pollen. Think yogurt again.


You are on the right track. What I cannot say in fact is if the pigeon product is good for honey bees, bad for honey bees or will have no value. My guess is that if fed directly, it probably won’t kill them. Putting it in an outdoor water sources is a bit iffy because UV may destroy the organisms and/or allow the harmful bacteria, fungi and yeast in the outdoor water source to eat these as food, etc.

Q Continuously Expanding Brood Nest

I appreciate reading The Classroom each month. I’ve picked up a number of principles that have been useful to my beekeeping. In the June 2014 edition you mentioned a “continuously expanding brood nest” technique. I googled that term and found information about checkerboarding, and unlimited broodnest management. Are these the principles you are referring to? Or is “continuously expanding brood nest” a separate concept?
Stafford, Virginia


Nothing is really new in beekeeping Pete. Our smart forebearer beekeepers had a lot of stuff figured out. So, yes these are similar to what I do, but with certain twists and turns that just complicate the goal I think.

The goal in this more intensive management process is to simply give the queen as much room to lay in the “brood” area, whatever combinations of boxes and sizes you pick. Unclog the brood area and worker brood production goes up so populations go up. Unclog the brood nest and swarming declines because brood pheromone concentrations are one signal that the colony is populous enough to swarm (reproduce). Unclog the brood nest and nectar collection goes up in parallel with forager population increase. This requires more equipment.
All you are doing is moving late stage larvae and capped brood frames above the permanent brood area into another box separated by a queen excluder and replacing those frames you moved up with frames with empty open comb. Then keep doing this. As brood emerges in the frames, you have moved up, rotate those back down as those brood frames below become full of brood are moved up.

Supers can be placed on top of this stack and if Varroa is under control and diseases are absent, then you have met the population parameters to collect and produce a lot of honey. It is just a management manipulation game, but does require more beekeeper work.

Pete Replies
I’ve been thinking through various implications of this practice, and I think I’ll give it a try. I think that the bees will tend to store the honey in supers (and not in the brood box above the excluder) as long as that box is managed intensively to keep it full of brood. I’m excited to see what happens.


Q Too Much Bee Bread and Nectar

The bees in my yard are flying and robust as yours must be too. However, bees in one hive must have flown to Colorado for Cannabis... A single super was put on top in April. Since this hive was strong, there was no need for inspecting the hive. Then about a month later I added another super. Ten days later the second one, which was on top, was inspected. There was nectar in all 9 frames. Last week the bottom super was inspected for the first time. I was shocked to discover much beebread in the frames (~30%) and capped honey (~10%). It may have been due to 50% of top deep frames only having foundation. Just a guess...

So, how can the beebread, nectar and honey be removed from this weird situation?

Ken Brown


Rocky Mountain High....Dude.

But seriously, when there are a lot of easy resources coming in, the colony will store anything anywhere in the most convenient place because they “know” it won’t last and even now they are preparing for winter. Perhaps this is similar to humans. We may not need all the soft drinks, pretzels and mashed potatoes right now, but genetically our bodies know from a historical standpoint that there will be lean times, so we store all this stuff as “fat” in our belly, hips, back, face, etc.

Sometimes this is called being “honey bound or pollen bound.” All reasonable space is used to store food coming in. This does restrict the queen from laying and is a signal to the colony that it might be a good time to asexually reproduce (swarm) as conditions look good for a swarm to successfully survive and prepare for the coming winter.

All that to say you need to provide empty combs for the queen. If you don’t have any and they haven’t drawn out foundation, you can take some of the frames with a majority of nectar/honey out and place them 40-50 yards away and let the colonies rob them out. (Be careful not to do this during a dearth since it could cause mass robbing of your weaker colonies.) This creates empty comb and the resources have not been wasted, just transferred. Beebread will not be removed this way, but maybe you will need it when the queen starts laying again and brood needs to be fed. If you really need to get rid of it, cut or scrape the comb down to almost the mid-rib and disturb, mess up the beebread, then it might be removed as junk.

This is a good problem to have Ken. However, from a beekeeper management standpoint, it slows things down.

Q Food and Drink in the Hive

I teach a beginning beekeeping class each year through our club. I frequently see new beekeepers trying to be helpful by putting water next to or even on top of hives. I counsel that this is unnecessary and unwise. But it does raise a question. What are the parameters of bee dance communication? What is the shortest distance that a waggle dance can communicate? Practically, what is the farthest they communicate in terms of distance?


Remember that honey bees do not forage for food or find food in its ‘raw’ state within a hive. As a result, ... read the complete article please click here to subscribe