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The Classroom

The Classroom – September 2017

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


Jerry, I came upon this wasp with no wings.  I have numerous honey bee colonies nearby and have, on occasion, had cases of Deformed Wing Virus affect some of my honey bees. Can DWV affect other Hymenoptera? Are you aware of other explanations for the lack of wings on this wasp?

Hermann, MO


Varroa is the vector for Deformed Wing Virus and its activity causes immunosuppression of the honey bees and voila the DWV multiplies and the result can be what you see in the honey bee photo shown. It is all Varroa-related in many ways.

Wasps do not have a problem with Varroa mites as Varroa mites cannot reproduce on wasps. So, there can be no transmission of DWV to wasps from Varroa mites. But, wasps being insect eaters, catch and eat honey bees. And theoretically that could expose wasps to a variety of viruses and other pathogens as they eat an infected honey bee.

However, if you Google “wingless wasp”, you will find a number of different species in the photos provided. The photo you provided is probably one of the many different wingless wasp species, although the literature does not list any that are commonly found in Missouri.

Q Small Hive Beetles….The Continuing Story

The Classroom is my favorite part of American Bee Journal. I am a small-time beekeeper with 14 colonies. What is the best way to control small hive beetles (SHB)? I have had strong, disease-free hives that have been decimated by these pests. I have read and used most of the devices that can be found online. These include Beetle baffles (some success), beetle blasters and beetle jails, (some success). I have used the sandwich box with bait and oil to little success, but this is an ongoing experiment. I have used Freeman beetle traps with oil and with lime. The oil works better. I have even taken to bouncing a super on a table to knock loose the beetles and then smash them by hand. Treating the soil with poisons is like throwing water on a house fire after the house has burned to the ground. None of these methods give total control, nor are they a strong deterrent against colonies from becoming victims of these pest.

What is the truth about predation by SHB? I have heard that the small hive beetle is actually a predator that snatches and eats the eggs in the hive. As more eggs are consumed, the workers begin to look cross-eyed at the queen for not laying enough eggs and prepare to replace her, or the bees throw in the towel if there are too many larvae and abscond. Once a hive is weakened by the SHB, wax moths move in. I know there are two facts about beekeeping that can’t be avoided. One, if you are beekeeping you will get stung, and two, bee colonies die. I just want to give my bees a fighting chance. What works up north, may not work well in the south. Heat, humidity and lack of insect-killing frosts require us do things slightly different. I hope you can help.

I have another question about bees rejecting their queen for no apparent reason. This has been a battle ever since I have taken up the hobby. I have introduced queens to new colonies only to have then rejected in just a few weeks. I have placed eggs into colonies so that they will make their own queens. These are rejected in just a few weeks. It seems that some colonies do not want to survive and kill the queen without a replacement. Queens that are damaged, lack pheromones, or are slow in laying eggs may be replaced or killed outright, but these reasons do not seem to trigger the rejection. What is actually going on?

Thank you for your invaluable information.

Bob Ardary
Mobile, Alabama


Hey Bob,

Thank you for enjoying the “Classroom”. I hope it continues after my answers.

Here is the short story. SHB have adapted themselves to using a weak honey bee colony for their reproduction and nursery. A honey bee colony has lots of concentrated food resources and once the honey bee colony population drops to a certain level and they cannot police and protect themselves, that is an opening for SHB females that have gathered in this weak colony to lay their eggs that hatch and feed on beebread, honey bee larvae and pupae and make a mess as the colony is put out of its misery.

Here is the longer story. SHB do not kill strong colonies. They are secondary predators. Honey bee colonies are strong because of proper control and management of Varroa. The Varroa/Virus legacy and accompanying diseases of many kinds are in turn using the weakened honey bee immune systems both individual- and colony-wise to reproduce. Weak honey bees are ‘food’ for lots of viruses, bacteria and fungi that all result from high levels of Varroa impact.

When a honey bee colony is weakening, it sends out an odor called an alarm pheromone because it is stressed. SHB adults in the environment can pick up and identify this stress odor in very small amounts and follow the odor to a sick and stressed honey bee colony from up to 10 miles away. Living in the beautiful location of Mobile, Alabama with warm sub-tropical weather, SHB populate the general environment and can survive in the general environment eating fruits and berries until a higher protein source is found (a honey bee colony) to support their reproduction and feed their larvae.

Many times SHB adults will enter a colony that is weakening, but hasn’t reached the stage where the SHB adult females can lay eggs. The SHB adults just hang out and wait for the right time. You can put in as many SHB traps as you want and they will catch some SHB, but more SHBs in the environment simply fly to that colony that is weakening and attractive and hope they can take advantage of it. In the early days of SHB when I was in Florida we could trap 200 SHB tonight and 200 SHB tomorrow night and on and on. Keeping colonies strong so they can tolerate SHB visitors is the goal.

So my ultimate question is how often do you sample for Varroa and what are your counts and what is your treatment method? Remember, SHB are secondary predators and they need a weak colony that can’t protect itself.

* * * * * * * * * *

For the ‘queen’ question, I do not think that queenless honey bee colonies reject queens for no reason. The queen is the only fertile female in a colony and without her the colony is doomed to fail. Honey bees are survivors like we all are and want to thrive. Sometimes they are fooled or make dumb decisions like we do and set themselves on course to die, but their goal like ours is to survive and multiply. Reasons for queen rejection or non-acceptance can be for a few reasons that are mostly tied to the recognition of those odors (queen pheromones) that tell the colony that she is alive. If she is laying eggs that hatch into larvae and produce “brood pheromones” that add to this odor profile and bring confidence, that colony is stable or growing.

A honey bee colony will reject a queen if they already have one.

A honey bee colony will reject a queen if they think they have a functioning queen. Remember, all of the workers in a colony are…