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The Classroom

The Classroom – April 2019

- April 1, 2019 - (excerpt)

The Classroom - American Bee Journal

Casey Buckles here, first time/first year beekeeper. Just a few quick questions:

Is it normal to have carpenter ants greeting you each time you take off the telescope cover?

There are little strips of mold between the second brood box frames and the top of the inner cover, should I leave it?

The bees love the (facing at) left side of the box and have propolized frames 1-3 to the respective frames above them. Should I just let them do their thing and have them spread to their liking? And why is that, do they move up and over?

I had only got one package (3 pounds of bees) with the queen. How long should I use the feeder jar so to fill out the comb?

When is the correct time to remove the entrance reducer? Nights in New England can still be cold.

Thank you for all your great contributions to my understanding of the process through the Classroom feature.

Casey Buckles


Welcome to your first time/first year. It will be interesting, confusing, frustrating and amazing as you connect with an insect’s world and yours.

A honey bee colony in one of our nice containers called a hive is dark, warm and humid and the bees will protect their home from invaders in their living space. If you are an ant or cockroach, small hive beetle, other beetles, etc. and can get access to this protected hive and not draw too much attention to yourself so you are not attacked or harassed, what a great opportunity. In this case all sorts of different kinds of ants can gain access thru small cracks and crevices and get up below the telescoping cover to set up a colony of their own. You can discourage them from doing this by disrupting their colony by opening up and removing them, harassing them and making it an unfun place to be. Do not use ant baits or chemicals as they can impact the honey bees negatively. Ants generally are more aggravating than destructive.

Are you sure it is mold? If it is, it is because you placed the second brood chamber on too soon before the colony built up in the first brood chamber, and there are not enough bees to populate and keep it clean.

Generally one should keep all the bees in one box until frames are drawn out and that whole area is usable. You can consolidate the brood nest by taking those frames in the upper box the bees are on, moving them into the lower box and then removing the second box until 8+ frames are drawn out with comb in the first box. Then put the second box on. Just makes things more organized and manageable.

Keep feeding as per instruction above until the 8+ frames are drawn out. Then keep feeding until 8+ frames in next brood chamber are drawn out. Remember you are doing your best to help this colony prepare for a long, cold Massachusetts winter.

You can keep the reducer in until the second brood box is ready to be put back on.

As I share with as many beekeepers as possible, the Tools for Varroa Management guide from the Honey Bee Health Coalition is one stop shopping for how to control Varroa and keep colonies healthy from reduced Varroa impacts. You have to do it.


Are 3-pound packages worth the extra cost? Is there any advantage to using 3-pound packages instead of 2-pound packages when installing them on drawn combs? In the past I always used 2-pound packages. However, the retailer who is selling packages with the type of queen I want is only selling 3-pound packages this year. You probably won’t believe me but, back when I started keeping bees, even the big shot queen and package producers were happy to sell and ship to you a single queen or package. A small-time beekeeper wasn’t forced to go through an expensive middleman.

Joe Schultz 


Sorry for the latish reply. I have been at the AHPA Convention this week.

More bees is always better than less bees in this situation.

Package producers shake bees out of their colonies to fill the package. Are the bees old bees at the end of their lives or are these bees young bees? Because you simply don’t know what the answer to that question is, then add in loss of bees during shipping, and unless installed on drawn comb it might be a week or so until comb is built and available for the queen to access with more potential bee loss plus the three weeks to raise new replacement bees. Having as much expendable worker bee inventory is a good idea.

More Bees.


Hi Jerry, I need a quick response to the following: What is your take on using food grade mineral oil and wintergreen oil to fog hives using an “insect yard fogger?”

I have an annual symposium here in Alabama where I give my presentation on how to rear queens using the cell punch method, and like to mention useful things to help control varroa.

The formula for mineral oil is 4 tsp of wintergreen oil to a pint of mineral oil. Fog quickly into the entrance and move on, being careful not to over-do it.

Wil Montgomery, Southside Alabama


Quick answer Wil, is mineral oil only oils up and greases up bees and has minimal varroa control effect. Wintergreen oil is another oil that has another minimal effect on dispersal of mites.

Two-thirds of mites are behind capped cells reproducing. They are hidden and are not impacted. If you fog multiple times when there is brood, all you are doing is hitting the Queen every time. She suffers. Kind of like oxalic fogging/vaporizing.

If you are going to use an essential oil, use a labeled one like ApiGuard. Works good.  An opinion is like a nose, everybody has one. That’s mine:)


I will abandon the thought of buying a fogger and spend my money on ApiGuard. I’ve used it in the past.


Hello Jerry

I was intrigued and pleased to read a reply which you made to a gentleman called Fred Berthrong last month [January 2019] about varroa mites not necessarily “selecting “drone brood to reproduce in. I agree with this wholeheartedly and have quoted it many times to people. I am about to include it in a PowerPoint presentation about varroa for a local beekeeping group but cannot find any research to support this viewpoint. All of the papers I can find all state that varroa “prefer” drone brood. Can you point me in the right direction of any research papers that you are aware of which show that varroa do not necessarily seek out drone brood preferentially, so that I can qualify this statement with confidence?

Thanks in advance.

Clare Densley — Bee department manager at Buckfast Abbey, England


See what you think of this, Clare.

Selection of Apis mellifera workers by the parasitic mite Varroa destructor using host cuticular hydrocarbons.

Del Piccolo F1, Nazzi F, Della Vedova G, Milani N.


The parasitic mite, Varroa destructor, is the most important threat for apiculture in most bee-keeping areas of the world. The mite is carried to the bee brood cell, where it reproduces, by a nurse bee; therefore the selection of the bee stage by the parasite could influence its reproductive success. This study investigates the role of the ….