The Beekeeper’s Companion Since 1861
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Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor – May 2022

- May 1, 2022 - (excerpt)

beehive deadout
Deadout Caused by Mite Treatment?

Note to Dewey Caron:

Your article in March ABJ (page 262), the picture of “Spring deadout.” You didn’t mention why they died. I noticed the dead bees were out along their walls and I noticed the mite strip. It brought memories of the first year I had bees.

A beekeeper came around on Dec 4 and asked me if I had treated for mites and I had not. He answered, treating for mites is a must. He gave me 4 strips of some kind that would kill the mites and save the bees. He also gave some to my neighbor.

When I put them in the hives all four seemed very good, albeit very unhappy to receive these strips stuck right in their midst. The next time I looked at them the mites had all perished along with the bees. The bees were found out along the hive walls as far away from those mite strips as they could go.

Later I asked my neighbor how his bees had fared. He didn’t know yet but when I tried to explain how my mites had all perished along with the bees from trying to get away from those strips, he wasn’t about to believe me. But he later admitted that his colonies had all died except one. It seemed that one colony had reached a unanimous conclusion. That strip had to be removed. As I remember, the strip was bent in the middle and stuck down between the frames right in the cluster. So these bees had to chew the strip through the middle to get it out. But then they likely had lots and lots of old bees who were nigh dying anyway and were willing to donate a few bites in that strip for the good of the colony.

The point: Better results might be obtained by applying the strip before the bees are on a cluster.

Sam Kanagy
Romulus, New York

Dewey responds:

The hanging strip technology for mite control was developed from the concept of dog and cat flea collars. There are three possible strips your neighbor gave you: The dark brownish HopGuard strip (hops beta acids) or the white Apivar (synthetic miticide amitraz) strip — or if you started several years ago the strip could have been Apistan — this chemical, fluvalinate, is no longer effective since mites have developed resistance to it. I was not sure from your description which one you used. (The strip you see in the photo is Broodminder, a hive temperature sensor.)

Bees don’t “like” either of these treatments. The use of the term “like” is giving bees human characteristics — it is not that they “like” or “dislike” but that they are generally averse to strong odors as their sense of smell is quite critical and advanced — it is how they survive in the dark (smelly) hive interior. So they tend to move away from where we place them. To be effective bees need to walk on them to distribute the mite-killing chemical. So your observation that the bees had moved away from where you had placed the strips is not unusual. Both these miticide strips need to be used during the active bee season, not when they are in cluster. (Oxalic acid dribble or vaporization would be the preferred miticide treatment once the bees cluster.)

Loss illustrated in photo could be starvation — bees moved from brood area to honey and simply ran out of honey. Mites could have been a factor as well, as mites and their transmission of virus are directly or indirectly responsible for 70% or more of winter losses.

Dewey Caron

Kudos to May Berenbaum

Kudos to the American Bee Journal and Dr. May Berenbaum for providing Planet Earth with one of the most interesting, comprehensive and elucidating treatises chronicling, “A Sad history of pesticides in the U.S.”

It was truly a Master Class in writing, teaching, analysis and most of all, beekeeping. It was an article I thoroughly enjoyed reading a multitude of times.

It should be nominated and, in my opinion, is worthy of “The Best American Science & Nature Writing” of 2022.

Henry Mulzac
Rockville, Maryland



Dr. May Berenbaum describes how, in 1814, a compound known as Paris Green, which contained arsenic, was developed initially as a pigment for use in wallpaper, and by the end of the century its global use as a pesticide “radically changed the status quo.”

A year after the compound’s inception Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by the British and Prussian forces at Waterloo and exiled to Saint Helena, a small volcanic island in the middle of the Atlantic, where he died six years later. In 1840, in an attempt to boost its image, the Orleans monarchy moved his remains to their present resting place, Les Invalides, in Paris. When the body was exhumed, arsenic was detected in the hair and fingernails, which seemed to give credibility to the rumor that the British doctors on St. Helena, and in particular Dr. James Verling, had poisoned the Emperor, which did not exactly enhance the delicate relationship between France and Britain at the time.

Napoleon spent most of those six years in a small room writing his memoirs, which like those of Bismarck and Churchill, were an attempt to re-write history and justify his actions with the benefit of hindsight. That room was decorated with a green wallpaper, the color of which came from Paris Green.

Bonaparte was not exactly killed by his wallpaper, but he absorbed enough to explain the presence of arsenic in his remains. The irony is that one of Napoleon’s prominent emblems was the honey bee, and if traces of arsenic could widen a rift between nations, imagine what it did to our poor Apis mellifera!

Jeremy Barnes
Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania 

 Trapping Yellow Jackets

Regarding “Yellow jacket help” in the March Classroom:

The commercial traps are too small in volume, and the bait too short-lived.

I use both 5-gallon pail and 55-gallon drum funnel traps to trap yellow jackets, wasps, and hornets. While an acquaintance complimented my “industrial-strength” design, these traps are not a cure-all. The bait is powdered sugar. As long as the sugar remains dry the honey bees do not forage it! What makes the traps work is trophallaxis, bait, polarized light, instincts, and multiple smells.

Trophallaxis is where the attendant nurse workers groom and feed the larvae; in turn the larvae reward the nurse attendants with a sugar solution. Adult foragers are hard-wired to sugar! Trapped foragers also add attractant hormones, and odors. Polarized light (overhead parallel rays) draws the foragers up through the funnel cone opening. Direct incoming overhead light works best, but allows rain in (lighting reflected from the sides less so).

Once trapped the foragers cannibalize each other, adding additional food odors, this creates an impressive positive feedback loop. The more you catch, the more you attract!

Yellow jackets also like the color yellow. They only consume the bees’ flight muscles, so you lose a lot of bees to individual yellow jackets.

To start the baiting process, place traps on the upwind side of the bee yard, elevate 3/8 to ½ inch off the ground, bait the traps, but also use starter bait around the outside of the traps and in front of the hives. At the height of the trapping season I catch thousands daily in the 55-gallon trap. Makes good chicken feed.

For me, the easiest construction is a cylinder and 1/8” hardware cloth, to make a bottom funnel cone and top escape barrier. My best trap incorporated an electric bug zapper, but there is