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The Classroom

The Classroom – November 2017

- November 1, 2017 - Jerry Hayes - (excerpt)


Hi Jerry,

In “The Classroom”, December 2016, you made the comment about stored pollen, “… but unless it has been stored in a -80F freezer, the contents of the pollen (plant sperm) with all the nutritional elements begin to break down and are not very useful.” The protein content in the flowers in the environment that produce food for honey bees has dropped, so I am thinking that protein supplements are a way to counteract this. If the protein supplement is substandard, than it would be money down the drain and a false hope.

I would appreciate your comments.

Aldon Maleckas


Hello Aldon,

I am sitting in another airport so have time.

I don’t think that the nutritional value of fresh pollen that honey bees collect is less nutritious than in the past. I think the variety and diversity of flower pollen sources is diminished in some locations and that lack of diversity means possible nutritional issues. If you think of ‘fresh’ pollen as collected in a ‘pollen trap’ by the beekeeper as similar to fresh fruits or vegetables or meats that you eat, they will last longer and better keep their nutritional value if you refrigerate them. They will last even longer if you preserve them via freezing.

And there are even more special freezers that are used in research that can freeze material down to -80F. Such low temperatures almost completely stop degradation, as you mentioned. Preserving ‘pollen’ like you would food items for yourself by freezing maintains nutritional value longer.

In the grocery store all food is either canned, frozen, refrigerated, dried or if fresh has a ‘Use By…..’ date on it. This is how we get the best nutritional value for our food dollars.

When you leave pollen at room temperature or in your refrigerator, it does not stop bacteria and other microorganisms from using the pollen to feed itself. Just like that bowl of food you put in the frig that gets fuzzy, smelly and discolored from mold and bacteria. Then you go “OH, gross” and you throw it out. Money down the drain and false hope.

Q Pressurized

I recently experienced something I’d never encountered before in over 15 years with honey bees. During a recent inspection, twice, I felt like I was “sprayed” by the bees. I could feel it through the veil. Do they “spray” their alarm pheromone?

I am in the Pacific North West and north of the “Africanized zone” if that has any bearing. (Suit went into the wash as soon as I got home.)

Many thanks for your time and enlightening Q&A column.



Hi Kathe,

Short answer is No. Honey bees do not have any pressurized systems or organs to spray liquids.

My question would be did you notice an associated odor?

When in South America years ago I had thousands of African Bees on my veil and venom was dripping from the stingers. It was dripping and highly irritating but not sprayed. Honey bees can’t spray. The venom smells like ripe bananas.

Thank you for Classroom compliment.

Kathe Comment

Thank you. I didn’t think so. Yes, there was the associated strong odor. My suit and gloves were stung repeatedly (despite smoking myself) and there were bees hanging all over my hooded veil. So, perhaps dripping then? Definitely a new experience!

Thank so much.



New experiences. That is why you are a beekeeper….right? I hope so

Q The PMS Soup

Hello Jerry,

Just did a mite wash on a production hive this pm and thought the sealed brood had a ‘flat’ look to it like the caps were sunken. I did the ‘rope test’ but it sure didn’t draw out like the pictures I’ve seen of AFB. Also some of the caps were open.  This, to me, seems to point to PMS, especially after I counted the mites from the alcohol wash and came up with 23! Am I right? I thought maybe some of the older bees were just chewing their way out but they didn’t seem to be trying to crawl out as emerging brood usually does.

Jeffrey Detweiler


Hello Jeffery,

PMS, Parasitic Mite Syndrome, is the result of lots of Varroa vectoring lots of pathogens and causing immune system suppression which means anything and everything that is a virus, bacteria and fungus can use the larva and pupa to reproduce and spread. Survival of the fittest.

PMS can be confusing as it looks like AFB and EFB at the same time. What it is, is the larva being overwhelmed by this pathogen soup. It is not one thing, but rather everything is using the larvae as a buffet at once and so each larva is being digested and becomes this liquidy soup. And it all cascades from Varroa parasitism.

The pupae will be effected differently with different pathogens from Varroa feeding on them and in the progress injecting them with all sorts of pathogens. Kind of like a dirty needle. Varroa hope they don’t kill the larva so the adult bee can chew her way out and emerge and release them as they ride along. If pupae die in the cell, hygienic bees will open the cells and start removing the honey bee larva corpses.

With such high mite levels, obviously you need to treat …