The Classroom

The Classroom – January 2019

- January 1, 2019 - Jerry Hayes - (excerpt)

The Classroom - American Bee Journal

Hi Jerry,

For the first time, I went through the whole alcohol wash with ½ cup bees, pour out on white bucket lid, count the mites ritual, chanting Jerry’s mantra, “varroa, varroa, varroa”. There were 2 mites for two of the hives, 1 for one, and none for one. Although I treated with Mite-Away Quick Strips in late May, this is hard to believe. I took the bees from the top super. Was that my mistake? Should I have gone down to the brood box? The girls are kicking the drones out now, which could have affected the count, but still…please advise. Also, one of the hives had a number of small queen cells, still closed….maybe ½ the size of the usual…what’s with that? Should I worry, try to get a new queen, combine that hive with another? All 4 of my hives seem healthy and produced a lot of honey. Thanks for your time and wisdom….



OMGosh Spirit! One question at a time. :) I am joking as I hope you know.

Yes, samples of bees should be taken from open brood area. This is where the mites are because that is where they need to be to reproduce. Mites in supers would be ‘dispersal’ mites that jumped on a bee and are just riding around for a while until they can get back to the brood area which is the varroa nursery.

So, queen cups are not actual queen cells with a developing queen in them. Is that right? Open one up if closed and observe what you can see. In the colony do you see a functioning queen with eggs and young larvae and all the signs she is there in the colony?

Glad to share my time as honey bees and beekeepers are super important. Wisdom is not just past experiences, but rather past experiences revisited and explored so one can get better next time and/or pass that insight on. :)

Let me know what you see as you go back out.

2nd Question from Spirit

Hi Jerry,

My friend Phil and I went out to see what we could figure out about the mite count, taking bees from the brood box area….and again, only one or two mites. I don’t understand unless I have miraculously acquired bees that take care of the mite problem themselves. Having strong doubts about that, I went ahead and treated for mites and hope Apivar won’t hurt them. The instructions say the strips MUST come out in 56 days, so I’m hoping for a warm spell to allow that. Three of the hives have lots of brood and bees. One hive, we think the one that had odd queen cells (which we did not find) had very little, spotty brood, and lots and lots of bees. This really worries me. Looks to me like a failing queen, and too late in the fall for the hive to replace her. Any suggestions? In truth, we did not pull out every single frame, just representative ones in the middle of each super (2 mediums and a deep). Maybe in another 10 years of beekeeping and I’ll have a better idea of what I am doing…



You may have the honey bees that will save the industry globally as they can control varroa or you may not be close to other beekeepers and the dispersal mite issue may not be a contributing problem. Regardless, I think the take-home message is that you sampled from an area that in all the scientific literature indicates you will obtain the most accurate mite numbers from bees in the brood area. That is great consistency that you need to continue.

Another consistent action for beekeepers of all sizes, shapes, and locations is, “Take your losses in the early fall.” Meaning if you have colonies that you know or suspect of inherent weakness, except for American Foulbrood or European Foulbrood at this late date, combine them with another colony and call it good.

Ten years is not enough Spirit. Anybody who says they know everything about honey bees is a liar.

Q Small Hive Beetle TREATMENT

What are your thoughts on ground treatment for small hive beetle? I am getting ready to move some pallets and thought about a pre-treatment and then a little later a second ground treatment. I have also been doing some research on some other possible ground treatments for the small hive beetle…..but that might get into a labeling issue with chemical companies.

Andy Case


Personally, I think ground treatments are a waste of time Andy. Having gone through this when I was in Florida, treating the ground is an after-the-fact management decision. By the time the small hive beetle (SHB) larvae get to this stage, the colony has been destroyed already. If the ground below the colonies is too dry or too wet, the SHB larvae will crawl 100 yards+ to find a good site to burrow into the ground and pupate.

I think managing colonies so you know the level of  varroa and other negative health issues and treating appropriately to keep the colony healthy and population from dropping is a much better use of your time and money rather than losing a colony and killing just some of the SHB after. And there are hundreds of adult SHB waiting for your next colony to get so weak it can’t defend itself. The cycle starts again.

SHB is a SECONDARY predator because the colony is sick. Heal the sick.

An opinion is like a nose, everybody’s got one! That’s mine:)


Hi Jerry – I always enjoy your column.

I did alcohol washes on my 5 colonies the other day and decided to get scientific. After the alcohol, I did successive washes with water until no more mites were dislodged (usually 2 or 3 washes). I then saved the samples and counted them the next day to determine the accuracy of my 1/2 cup measure. I then looked at 50 bees through a 40 power magnifier to see if any mites had not been dislodged. I found no mites and no deformed wing virus symptoms as well. What I did see, however, was that 11 of the 50 were completely black on their top sides. Would this be the result of the heavy washing, or could it be a sign of something else?

Best Regards,


Great home-centered scientific experiment. Good job to get a solid baseline.

I think their appearance changed simply for the reason you indicated. Multiple washings changed the hair structure and visually they appeared differently as a result. No pest, predator or disease issue.


Given that Varroa destructor ‘VD’ prefer drone brood and that colonies have a small percentage of the brood devoted to drones and that one of the IPM strategies suggested by the Honey Bee Health Coalition is to destroy drone brood … is an examination of capped drone brood a valid indication of the degree of infestation of a colony by VD?

More precisely … is there somewhere, in the research, a statistical model that would tell us if ….