The Beekeeper’s Companion Since 1861
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The Classroom

The Classroom – February 2018

- February 1, 2018 - Jerry Hayes - (excerpt)

Mites, mites, mites A Comment from Wil in Alabama

Hi Jerry, I just read your reply to Mac in Maine in the December issue. I totally agree with you that a sticky board is a not too accurate estimation of mites in a colony. I have been telling other beekeepers to do the following: Take a pint jar and mark, with a permanent marker, a line up 1.5 inches from the bottom. Then install a circle of 1/8th inch hardware cloth (same material in a screened bottom board) into the ring of a canning jar lid so it can’t fall out.

Take a frame from the brood nest and collect a few bees by holding the frame in one hand and gently scrape it upwards from bottom to top and tap the jar on a hive lid to settle what you have down. Set the jar lid upside down on the jar so the bees can’t escape. Take a second brood frame and repeat the process until you have bees up to the 1.5 mark. This should be very close to 300 worker bees. But be sure you do not have the queen. Find her frame first of all and set it in an empty box for safe keeping until you’re through with this IPM procedure.

Now with the jar lid on dump 2 to 3 heaping spoonful’s of powdered sugar into the jar. Just one spoonful at a time. You will need to press some of the powdered sugar down into the jar with the palm of your hand. Finally shake the jar violently with both hands, one on top and the other at the bottom.

Lastly dump the sugar out into a white plastic container, the kind whip cream or margarine comes in with 1/2 inch of water. The sugar will dissolve instantly and the mites are visible making them easy to count.

Remember you have only tested for the phoretic mites not any under capped brood. But this IPM process should give you enough information as to the status of your mite population.

Sincerely, Wil Montgomery
Southside, Alabama


A month or so ago I emailed you about the viability of using Langstroth equipment to build a hive with a top entrance instead of a standard bottom entrance. Your reply at that time was extremely helpful and answered a number of questions I had. As would be expected, answered questions have led to new unanswered questions. Perhaps you could once again help me with questions that have arisen.

  1. When adding a second brood chamber to my top entrance hive should it go above or below the first brood chamber?
  2. When adding honey supers should they be place d above or below the brood chambers?  I’m guessing above the brood chambers because bees place their honey stores above their brood.
  3. Should I add a second entrance for the bees between the brood chambers and the honey supers for the convenience of the field bees returning with nectar?

Once again, any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

Hope all is well,


Hello Hal, more questions are good.

  1. Entrance should be above the brood chamber. My question is why are you adding another brood box to expand the brood nest? Honey bees anticipate and plan forward for colony size based on the volume of their nest cavity. If more (bees) is better for our beekeeper goals, then giving the colony early indications of what they have to work with is something to consider.
  2. Honey supers go above the entrance. And place them early as well. A long time ago there was some research that indicated a 10% bump in honey crop if bees knew early how much room they had.
  3. If we are duplicating nature then no. And one reason is that there are lots of potential pests and predators that could potentially benefit from more entrances/exits that are hard to defend.

I hope that helps.

More From Hal

I’m a little confused. If you have time perhaps you can help me understand your answers to my questions.

  1. I understand the entrance should be above the brood chamber. What is unclear is your recommendation for the number of brood chambers. Two brood chambers (deep supers) have always been the recommendation for wintering hives in CT to ensure ample food is available.
  2. I understand that the honey supers should be placed above the brood chambers. I don’t understand why the honey supers should be placed above the top entrance as you suggest especially if it is the only entrance.
  3. I understand. One entrance only at the top.

Hope I am not being a pest and taking up too much of your time.

Thanks again,

From Jerry

Hey Hal,

On #1, I wasn’t very clear was I. I guess what I was asking is how come you are adding a brood chamber when it should already be on…. 2 generally.

On #2, if you put the entrance at the top of the ‘brood chamber’ area it allows the pollen foragers to go directly in and down where it is needed for feeding larvae along with nectar collectors and then surplus nectar to simply go up to honey supers. Distance traveled is shorter and more trips can be made into the field.

If you didn’t do this, it would be no different than an entrance at the very bottom. Bees would have to traverse the whole length of the hive just like from a bottom entrance.

This make more sense?

From Hal

Thanks for the clarification Jerry.  Makes perfect sense.



Hi Jerry,

In the November 2017 classroom answer to a question regarding the protein content of pollen, you state that you don’t believe “the nutritional value of fresh pollen is less nutritious than in the past.” Plants exposed to higher CO2 levels produce more starch and sugar but less protein. Scientists have consistently found this trend—diminished protein content with increased CO2 levels—in studies of human food crops. In fact, it is precisely the….