The Beekeeper’s Companion Since 1861
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The Classroom

The Classroom August 2015

- August 1, 2015 - Jerry Hayes - (excerpt)

Q Guttation

I just read about something that comes from plants called “gutating or gootation” or something that is bad for honey bees if they drink it. Help me out here Jerry, what is it?



Hey Mark. Here is one of my analogies. You drink water and plants drink water. Your body needs to balance water needs and hydration in your body and plants need to balance water needs within themselves. Water is removed from your body in the process of respiration—you breathing in and out and there is ‘moisture’ (water) in your breath. Plants breathe too, kind of, as they passively exchange CO2 and oxygen through pores in their leaves called stomata and water vapor leaves in this process. But, what happens when you have had too much water or other liquid to drink? Your kidneys remove excess water and other by-products from your body and it goes to your bladder. After a while you have to excuse yourself from the table and go to the restroom, as this excess water liquid must be excreted.

Plants don’t have kidneys or bladders, but they do have to balance water in the plant so biological processes can continue and they don’t explode to release the water build up and damage themselves. They do this when moisture levels are too high and the roots are still absorbing water. This generally is at night by excreting excess water from the leaf tips or margins where there are water glands (hydathodes) that ooze this excess water that is under pressure from the roots absorbing more. You can see this many times first thing in the morning. It is not dew that is evenly spread over the leaf, but actual droplets on the leaf edge. When I got your question, I went out a looked at some blackberry bushes I have and took the photo you see. See the leaf edges and the droplets? This is called guttation. It usually disappears when the sun comes out and evaporates the excess water.

What you read was that if plants are exposed to toxins in the water then some of these toxins could be secreted as guttation droplets and if honey bees are thirsty and there is no other water available, then they could drink it and be affected negatively. And I suppose that is possible, but unlikely as the water droplets are small, temporary and evaporate generally when the sun comes out. Honey bees are imprinted on other water sources like the ditch, puddle, stream, lake or swimming pool. Exposure this way is minimal.

Q N0-Fun Colony

I have one hive of bees that I requeened this spring. They are hostile and try to sting every time I lift the cover. They were mean last year but not as bad. They are in shade in the afternoon. Would moving to full sun tame these boogers? I have one super at bottom because the queen was laying brood in it and the deep hive body on top of it, so I just added an excluder and another medium super for honey production. I pulled honey last week, even though we have been getting a lot of that Oklahoma and Texas rain here (18 inches in 3 weeks—now over for at least 5 days we hope). Anyway, I only had about 5 frames filled and when I returned that super after extracting—about 4 pm in western Arkansas, mostly overcast-thunderstorm approaching after a hot day—they ate me up with multiple stings on arms through my suit even with BeeQuick sprayed on my sleeves!
Got any ideas other than killing them off! I might smoke the heck out of them and split it up if there is abundant brood. I have a couple of hives that need a more productive queen.

In the South


Well Sir, having grumpy honey bees for whatever reason takes the fun out of it. Behavior and temperament are all genetically based which means what they inherited from Mom and Dad. Depending on where the virgin queen came from and who were the 20+ drones she mated with will determine what the workers look like and how they express behavioral characteristics.

You have Africanized Honey Bees (AHB) in some places in the South which can have influence on the queen and especially drone-mating influence on all their progeny. I would buy a mated queen(s) from someplace in the North and eliminate the existing queen.
Splitting them and making nucs is one way to temporarily demoralize them, but if the emergency queens produced have a grumpy AHB genetic past and they open mate with drones in a drone congregation area (DCA) that has AHB-influenced drones, then you are right back where you started or worse.


The queen came from a Southern state, supposed to be a Minnesota Hygienic. I have been using this company’s queens for last 3 years to try and get those varroa-resistant genetics started in my apiary. I haven’t gotten any from the North; do you have any suggestions? I am a hobbyist beekeeper and I fluctuate between 15-20 hives each year and don’t intend to have over 20-25 in the future, just retired last July and have a lot of things to finally do and finish.

African Bees have not taken over Arkansas yet and the last I heard several years ago were down in the SW corner of the state and several hundred miles to the west in Oklahoma. I may go the route you suggest if I locate a queen dealer who sells to the hobbyist.


Hey Bob,
If you are a country boy, you know a little about dogs, chickens, cattle, etc. Take a female pure bred hound in heat and turn her loose. I wonder what the puppies will look like and act like if she mated with a local dog. Same thing with Minnesota Hygienic or anything else. The DCA’s will have drones from every colony within a 5-10 mile area. Can’t maintain those genetics that way and do you know what other genetics she is bringing back? AHB doesn’t have to take over; they only have to influence at first. Gets worse later. Look in the American Bee Journal since there are lots of ads for queen breeders.


I hope all is well. I thought I would share some photos from a cutout Sonia and I did a week ago. There were two hives in this house and we left with 7 ½ five gallon buckets of honey. Two buckets were not capped, so we are feeding them back to the bees. We were able to save most of the brood and got it back into the hives. One of the queens did not make it and they have queen cells capped and it will be 15 days since the cutout on Thursday, so I expect to see new queens soon after that. We have been crushing comb and will have about 5 gallons of honey when we are all done.

Sonia said that she had fun and would do it again. The bee vac is the best tool ever.

Eric Hasek

Q Frame/Comb Rotation

I’m considering a way to kill two birds with one stone, but I’d like to check that I’m not about to do something that would, to stretch the metaphor–boomerang myself in the forehead!

Bird #1: Various sources suggest that brood comb be rotated out every three to five years, as it becomes contaminated with Miticides or agricultural pesticides, and as the cells get smaller because of cocoon residues.

Bird #2: I’m considering how to extract honey this year, and I’m tempted to use the “crush and strain” method – that would avoid the need to buy and store an extractor, or to rent time on one and lug it (or my honey supers) around. I have just one hive, so from the point of view of equipment and work required, that method seems most reasonable – but I don’t like taking more wax than necessary from my bees, since they work so hard to make it, and I don’t have that much use for the wax myself.

Stone: All of my hive boxes and frames, that is, both brood nest and honey supers, are the same size (deep); this was suggested by the beekeeping company that helped me start up, because it means that the parts are all interchangeable.

This makes sense for a tiny operation like mine, where I don’t really have room to store extra equipment in multiple sizes.

Therefore, it occurred to me that it might make sense to “rotate” old brood comb up to the honey supers. This would meet the brood comb rotation goal (bird #1), and reduce the “wax cost” of the “crush and strain” extraction method since that wax was going to be removed anyway (bird #2).

I’ve been reading all kinds of bee books and journals for the past year, and I haven’t yet come across anyone suggesting this. I think the likeliest reason is that most people are using smaller boxes for supers, and the least likely reason is that I am a genius for coming up with the idea and no one else has thought of it! Another possible reason, and this is the one that worries me, is that there’s a good reason for not using old wax in honey supers, for example, because contaminants could migrate into the honey.

What is your opinion? Would it be a bad idea to rotate my old brood combs up to the honey supers before rotating them out?

Also, when they say to rotate that old stuff out, do they mean just the built-up comb, all traces of comb, the foundation, or everything including the frames? I was thinking I could just scrape off most of the wax, and let the bees clean up any residues before rebuilding comb on the same (plastic) foundation. But I don’t know if that’s good enough to meet the sanitary reasons for rotating the comb at all.

Thanks for your column – I’m learning a lot!

Anne Bennett
Montreal, Canada


Hello Anne,
You are thinking through all the birds and stone choices. Good job. You have already hit upon one reason not to use ‘old’ brood comb in honey supers—contaminants/residues of miticides and environmental toxins. The other reason is that …