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The Classroom

The Classroom – August 2019

- August 1, 2019 - Jerry Hayes - (excerpt)

The Classroom - American Bee Journal

REMINDER from Jerry

Beekeepers, this is now August. Days are already getting shorter and bees are equally understanding this seasonal cycle, getting ready for winter coming really soon as we live by the days. Winter Bees are different than Summer Bees. Winter Bees have to live much longer and store food in their bodies as “fat” as pretty soon in many parts of the country flowering plants will disappear.

Winter bees are being produced now and need to be super healthy to make it through a long hard cold winter. Healthy in 2019 means few varroa mites and limiting the Varroa/Virus legacy connection. Time to sample for varroa, treat, and sample again to be sure the treatment worked. Get out your “Tools for Varroa Management Guide” from the Honey Bee Health Coalition.


Hello Jerry,

I’ve gotten myself in a bit of a mess. Let me explain.

I’m a second-year beekeeper and I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can to manage them properly, (something I started doing a year before I got them). I opened up one of my hives to see if the bees have built up enough comb to put a honey super on. This was a few weeks after I rotated the boxes. I found they were filled with nectar, pollen, and brood with a few empty frames. I also found over half a dozen capped queen cells. I thought I could use these to start a new hive.

I found a queen making noise with her wings on one of the combs with a queen cell. She crawled on my arm and disappeared. I thought she flew off, so I left one frame with a queen cell in the original hive and put the rest in the new hive.

When I got back to the house I found the queen on the back of my hood under the zipper. I rushed her back to the hive in my backyard in a plastic container. I put her in the front entrance and put an entrance guard with queen excluder bar spacing to keep the queen inside. I didn’t want to open the hive again to grab the frame with the queen cell and stress the hive further. I put a brood patty on top of both hives and decided to open them up in a week or so. A few days later I go to check on their activity and found hundreds of bees either gathered at the entrance or crawling to the top entrance. What’s going on and how do I address this. I apologize in advance for any facepalms I may have caused you to do.

Really enjoy reading The Classroom in every issue of ABJ. Thank you.



When you are a passionate 2-year beekeeper it can be crazy. That is because honey bees have been around a lot longer than we have been and have the genetics to survive. They are kind of like rats of the insect world. They adapt and live basically from pole to pole as a result of great genetic variability based on survival of the fittest and based on global location.

The things to think about are, do you know if they were going to swarm a first time, or were there going to be after swarms, or were they superseding a failing queen, replacing a queen that died, or did they already swarm before you put on the entrance queen excluder? Who knows?

With the swarm preventer entrance guard on you have trapped all of the potential queens you saw inside if they emerged. The queen you put back in the colony could have emerged from a cell someplace and she could have gone around and stung through all the other un-emerged queen cells and killed them. Other cells could have had queens emerged at the same time and they had a WWF fight to see not who would be the best most amazing queen, but who was the best fighter and had the luckiest stinger.

I would remove the entrance guard thing and take a look inside and see what’s going on. The basic things, like are there eggs or larvae? Do you see a queen that is laying? Or, was a surviving queen trapped inside and couldn’t get out to mate and is still a virgin. Are there still unopened queen cells which might indicate dead, killed virgin queens in the cells. You need to let the colony stabilize from their forced confinement and seek normality.

Take a look inside and assess the situation as soon as possible. Let me know.


Last year was my first year as a beekeeper. It was super exciting and I did all you said by following the “Tools for Varroa Management Guide” and my bees made it through winter and crazy spring weather successfully. There are a few other beekeepers in my subdivision. I had a swarm on my kids’ swingset. It actually was on the bottom of the swing about 2 feet off the ground. I don’t know if it was from my colony or somebody else’s. I had read about and looked at YouTube videos about how to collect gentle swarms and I was all set, ready to go and pumped about collecting my first swarm. I got my extra deep hive body and bottom board and a top and took them and carefully placed and positioned them right under the swarm, no top on. I was a little nervous so put my bee suit on but didn’t put the attached veil on because I had read and seen on YouTube that swarms are always gentle and I wanted to see them better. I knelt down next to the hive under the swing and took a deep breath, grabbed the swing and, looking at the swarm and the open hive, gave it a good shake. Instead of the bees falling down into the hive like on the videos they went sideways into my face and all over me and I got more stings in 5 seconds than EVER! It hurt big time. What did I do wrong? I ran into the garage and warned my kids to stay out of the backyard. It was terrible! I don’t know what happened to the swarm because I really don’t care right now. This all happened after work and it’s getting dark now and I am emailing you from the safety of my kitchen.

1. Snow


Many years ago on a planet far, far away I had exactly the same experience with my first swarm. And it happened again about 2 weeks ago after many years of the perfect YouTube video of collecting gentle swarms that you could put your hand in the swarm and happy bees would crawl all over you. Brought back many memories. Not necessarily bad ones but surprised the heck out of me and brought back OMGosh memories.

First, I guess as a metric having a honey bee colony swarm is a validation that the colony is healthy enough and strong enough to want to asexually reproduce. Plus they can do it. Which all means that varroa and the Varroa /Virus legacy are not dominating and other diseases are not found at destructive levels. That’s my rationalization at least. :) In order for a colony to split themselves and a significant portion leave to spread their genetics around and set up a new colony somewhere, they try to coordinate the growth of the colony based on flower food resources coming in that allows colony growth, weather and stored food resources. If all is in line the colony grows, the weather is nice and the individual bees that have been recruited or made the decision to leave fill up on honey/nectar so that there are food resources available for the swarm when they find a new cavity to live in and there is no food. Change this dynamic a bit and the colony grows, but when they reach the swarming point there are 4 days of cold rain or a sudden shut off of flower nectar production and the swarm individuals can’t fill up on food to take along. The swarm still leaves as there are replacement queen cells in the colony ready to do their thing, the population has reached the growth tipping point and this asexual reproduction can’t stop. The swarm leaves. The bees that are supposed to be full of honey and happy aren’t. They land on your swing set and voila the bees that are supposed to be plump and happy and full of honey are skinny, they think you are a predator and attack and sting the snot — that is a research word :) — out of you.

It happens. And it happened to me again after I got complacent after decades of easy swarms, but I won’t anymore. And neither should you. Welcome to the diversity of honey bees. Kitchens are nice many times.


Hope all is well. Just wanted to send you an updated picture of the kale field in full bloom, When we get a sunny day (far and few between) it is absolutely full of honey bees amidst other pollinators. Wish you could see it up close, amazing!!

Another item that is very interesting I got involved in is hydroponic strawberries.

One of the vegetable farms I have a small apiary on is ….