The Classroom

 The Classroom October 2014

by Jerry Hayes


Q Other Visitors
I make my own screened bottom boards specifically designed to provide 75% bottom board and 25% screen, which prevents all the dropped pollen and wax scales from falling into the tray, which otherwise would result in significant loss for the bees. This system has produced very strong, productive hives with a 95% reduction in small hive beetles without chemicals. The bees also seemed to have learned to push debris, worm larvae, etc., into the areas in the bottom board that are cut out for the screen. The beetles and debris fall through the screen,leaving the rest of the floor neat and clean for the working bees.

Anyway, I use standard cafeteria trays beneath the screened bottom boards ($2.00 each), which work great and because they are white, they provide an excellent background for viewing what falls through (unlike black trays normally used in commercial beetle trap trays).
I have noticed in the oil tremendous numbers of tiny black insects--some of which resemble microscopic ants, and some which look like very tiny winged gnats.

I never knew hives could be plagued by these very tiny insects. Is this normal? Are these insects doing any significant harm?

Reeves Jones


Have you sent any samples to your state entomologist for ID? They certainly could be ants or small flies. This would not be unusual.

As you have discovered, there is a lot of debris that is generated within a colony of honey bees. That is why small hive beetles, dermestid beetles, ants and flies, etc. are attracted to a bee hive because the odors it emits—bee bread fermenting, honey ripening, bees dying from the colony—these all can produce additional trash/garbage which is attractive as a food source for many organisms. Now add in some type of vegetable oil which can be a ‘food’ item when fresh or as it degrades and becomes rancid (it has larval skins, small hive beetles, flies, ants, other insects, honey bees, pollen, bee bread and who knows what else in it and this becomes a very attractive ‘buffet’ for lots of things including skunks and raccoons).

An opinion is like a nose, and here is mine. I think the oil and the hive debris in the oil are attractants to some insects for food and reproductive reasons. And when they go to access the ‘food’ you have provided, they get stuck in the ‘buffet’ oil. (Kind of like the La Brea Tar Pits that caught Mammoths and Saber Tooth Tigers)

Q Neonicotinoids

How are you doing these days? I am sending along an email received from my friend here on the Gaspe’ Coast, an outstanding artist and naturalist, John Wiseman. I was wondering what your read is on the subject of the use of neonicotinoids. Is there definitive proof of their destruction of the bee colonies or is it still subject to question, etc.? I don’t see any honey bees on the fields of clover anymore. (So sad)

John Affleck

Wiseman Letter
I have heard recently of an international study concerning the uses of neonicotinoids (not sure if I have that spelling right), as an insecticide and its deleterious effect on bee populations the world over. This type of systemic insecticide has now been proven not only to be quite possibly the main reason for bee population collapse, but it is also having a dire effect on fish and birds. Well, surprise, surprise. Researchers have been warning of the potential neonicotinoids for years, but no one is listening and one can bet that in the meantime the big tobacco producers are rubbing their hands together with glee. The researchers have gone so far as to declare that the use of neonicotinoids could be as much as 10,000 — that’s ten thousand times — worse than DDT!

John Wiseman


The list of problems with honey bees starts with

1) an introduced parasite called the Varroa mite which came from Asia and was first reported in the US in 1987. Our European-derived honey bees are unadapted to the Varroa mite and as such, the mite is a bad parasite because it kills its host, our honey bee. Make a fist and place it somewhere on your body. Proportionately, this is how big a Varroa mite is to a honey bee’s body. It is a huge parasite sucking the bee’s blood and vectoring viruses, etc. Varroa is everywhere and approx. 95% of the wild /feral colonies that were living in a tree or wall of a barn, etc. are gone…dead. So, you are right, unless you have a beekeeper around you someplace, you don’t see too many honey bees.
2) Varroa mites transmit viruses to honey bees which cause disease--kind of like mosquitoes on us that transmit viral diseases.
3) With the growth of suburbia, roads, malls and agriculture, there simply are not as many wild blooming plants that provide pollen and nectar.
4) The crazy thing about Varroa mites is when they came on the stage, the only thing beekeepers were given to control them were pesticides. Pesticides are introduced into honey bee colonies to kill a little bug (varroa) on a big bug (honey bee) and there is collateral damage, of course.

And then, there are others pesticides used by homeowners, golf courses, road sides and in agriculture that, if honey bees are exposed, may result in death. Neonicotinoids (more commonly referred to as “Neo-nics”) are a very minor part of the threat to honey bees, but the public has been sensitized that these chemicals are bad. When applied as seed treatments where the seeds are planted in the ground, the exposure at the early stage of plant growth is limited to the insect pests in the soil and later to those eating on the foliage of the plant – thus the term “systemic insecticide”. This targeted application results in extremely low exposure to all other living organisms including honey bees, fish, birds, dogs, cats, cows and people. In addition to limited exposure, neo-nics also have low toxicity to mammals and have become widely used as replacements for more toxic chemistries. They have incredibly low mammalian toxicity which makes them safe for us. Neo-nics are effective insect killers and if you improperly use them, they can kill honey bees, but when used as seed treatments, there is no credible evidence that they are the main reason for bee population collapse. The bottom line is that label directions must be followed and Best Management Practices should be used 100% of the time.

Q Gluten-Free Honey ... What!!

I have a friend with a small farm stand on the east end of Long Island, New York. A customer asked him if honey is or can be Gluten free. I told him I didn’t known, but knew how to find out. I have read the American Bee Journal for years, “The Classroom” first. So now you have been enlisted to solve the mystery.
Thanks in Advance,
John Carson


You have a first to add to your bucket list John. You are the first to ask me about Gluten-free honey!

 Let me give you my Readers Digest version of what gluten is: read the complete article please click here to subscribe