The Classroom

 The Classroom September 2014

by Jerry Hayes


Q Bee Chemistry

I have a bee chemistry question for you. Each year, we feed our bees large quantities of sugar syrup. Sugar is sucrose--a disaccharide. Honey contains glucose--a monosaccharide. My question is this: Can honey bees digest the sugar syrup directly or do they have to break it down using some enzyme in their body? If that is the case, would it be healthier to feed the bees surplus or old honey when their supply is low. Enjoy your articles! I’ve been keeping bees since 1949.

Hugh Gravitt
Virgilina, VA


Yes Hugh, the bees invert the disaccharide sucrose (2 sugars bonded together, fructose and glucose) sugar to a simpler form--a monosaccharide (1 sugar by itself) of just fructose or glucose by adding enzymes. It does take energy for the honey bee to produce the enzymes. That is why feeding (disease free) natural honey or fructose itself is better because they do not require the conversion from a di(2)saccharide sugar to a mono(1)saccharide sugar.

Q Critters in the Barn

I am keeping all my beekeeping “stuff” at home in my garage. I have been driving out to a new location (45 min) to the bees. I want to move all my beekeeping equipment to an old barn out in the woods that is much closer to my new location. The barn is not in perfect shape. It has a good roof, but critters can come in. I would share the space with medical billing records. It’s amazing how many critters there are in the woods! We forget how buggy the world is when we live in suburbia. What issues will I have if I keep all my equipment out in an old barn? I figure you have seen it all visiting apiaries in Florida! Thanks again.

St. Louis, MO


If I can assume that the old barn is porous, then you will have some visitors/residents in supers and hive bodies. You live in a house that is nice and secure from the elements--your food is protected, you don’t have birds, rodents, roaches, raccoons and on and on. Well, out of suburbia mice, rats, wax moths, roaches, dermestid beetles and innumerable other creatures are looking for a nice secure home too. It is tough to protect drawn comb unless you seal it up in some big tub or tote with some wax moth repellent (paradichlorobenzene). Mice and rats will nest in unprotected equipment. All this to say that you can store stuff here, but it takes some forethought and planning. Your garage or basement would be better. However, as you indicate, it is farther away from your new apiary, so is not as convenient.

Q Vaporize Them

I have read several articles about Varroa Mite Vaporizers that use 12 Volts DC for heat. What are your thoughts or experience with these? Thank you for your time to answer this question

Merl from OK


Vaporizing requires another piece of equipment and your car battery that heats up crystals that volatilize into toxic acid vapors that you gas the colony with to kill, hurt, damage a little bug (varroa) on a big bug (honey bee). You have to wear a respirator, eye protection, a long-sleeved shirt and long pants, so you don’t have acid burns in your lungs or on your skin or eyes. Then, you must also consider how this product will hurt the bees with similar acid burns on their antennae, eyes, wings, mouths and more?
Since vaporizing mite-killing chemicals in the hive with an electric vaporizer to control varroa is not an EPA-approved varroa control method in the United States, I do not recommend it. There are several safer, government-approved and effective varroa-control products on the market. Why not use them?

Q More European Drones to Control Africanization?

I have been wondering for a while if it would lower African bee populations if we put a capped European drone frame into every hive in which we installed a new queen.
Could we flood the mating areas with gentle bees and reduce African genetics? Has any research gone into this?



That is what they tried in Brazil in 1959 and subsequently in several other countries. Hasn’t happened yet. Defensive trait dilution could help if you could get enough European honey bee (EHB) drones to consistently compete against African honey bee (AHB) drones. Because AHB will swarm 15-20 times a year, under good conditions, they contribute lots of drones to DCA’s (Drone Congregation Areas) and can dominate the breeding scheme. They not only breed with AHB virgins, but also with EHB virgins and mixed genetic populations. Over time they actually will refine and stabilize the local genetics to a point where the population of honey bees is predominately AHB.

AHB are a super bee. Not nice or safe, but a dominant survivor in the tropics and subtropics.

Q Queen Laying Eggs on Bee Bread

I installed a nuc two weeks ago and I have noticed that the queen is laying on top of cells that are already half filled with pollen. So, I replaced a couple frames with just foundation with frames that had empty comb in order to give her more room to lay. Will this solve the problem?

Also, even with the upper entrance blocked, my bees are still packing pollen into the supers. Is there a way to discourage them from this behavior? I would prefer they kept it for themselves in the brood box.

Your column is fantastic; thanks for all the great information.

Kind regards,
Lara Jones


Are you sure that the queen was laying in cells with pollen/bee bread? That would be almost impossible given how a queen selects a cell to lay in. But.....Yes, having emptier comb will give her room to lay if they are honey- or pollen-bound.

So much of honey bee foraging behavior is a blend of what is available and what they are genetically programmed to seek. It can be a bit of a balancing game based on what flowers are blooming and then what proportion of nectar and pollen they are offering to pollinators with what the colony developmental needs are and what the bees “like” to collect--some bees picking one over the other.

Our European genetically based honey bees are always preparing for winter, so they collect what they can, regardless of where in the colony it can be stored. So, for right now there is lots of pollen, lots of foragers that want to collect it and a place in the colony to store it. The supers just happen to be the place. Not your fault.

About the only thing you can do is take the supers off and hope you can guess when the next bloom period might produce nectar to be stored to put them back on. If you were producing comb honey for your own use, a little high-protein pollen mixed in with your comb honey would not necessarily be a bad thing if you enjoyed the combination.
Remember, if beekeeping were easy, everybody would be doing it.

Q Queen Cell Surgery

Jerry, here is my question: Can you successfully cut out a well-developed queen cell from plastic foundation? (My friend does not want me to take and replace the frame). I suppose asking why is the better question!



Tell your friend to lighten up as you only need the frame for a week or less, depending on how far development of the queen is along and you’ll bring it back.

Remember, that if it is a natural queen cell produced from what was going to be originally a horizontal worker cell on the comb face, the colony had to somehow transition from horizontal to a vertical cell position. They do this by copiously feeding the selected larva a lot... read the complete article please click here to subscribe