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The Classroom

The Classroom – December 2019

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

The Classroom - American Bee Journal
Q  too much — or not enough

Hi Jerry,

One of our local beekeepers asked me the question below. I don’t know the answer so I am forwarding it to you for your expert advice/comment. We are located in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

“I have noticed that my bees are coming in loaded with pollen, most of it from Goldenrod. I checked my hives and they are absolutely packed with pollen.  Why are they stock piling pollen this time of year? Thought they would be shutting down broad rearing in another month or so. Don’t understand why they need so much now. Are they just gluttons? Also, in another month when I go through my hives and organize the frames, what do I do with all of these frames of pollen? Move it down next to the brood chamber? Or put some in the top box for spring brood rearing?”
Vince Aloyo



Great question. Thank you for the “expert” compliment. An expert is anyone at least 250 miles away from the questioner … so with you in Pennsylvania and I am in Missouri that is about 900 miles so that makes me a true genius. :)

Stuff you know … honey bees are temperate insects who maintain a large colony throughout a long cold hard Pennsylvania winter. Because they evolved in a cold climate with winter in Europe they learned to gather and store a large quantity of nectar-to-honey and pollen-to-beebread as food reserves to be used during the period of time when everything is frozen and nothing is blooming. Kind of like Pennsylvania right now. My guess is you don’t go shopping at the grocery store every day for every meal. You have food reserves you have gathered at the overflowing bounty at the grocery store in your fridge, and in a food pantry and perhaps in a freezer in the basement or garage. Ultimately this is insurance against lack of nutrition, sickness and starvation.

A honey bee colony in winter has to maintain its individuals nutritionally and with lots of calories to maintain that 93F in and around the queen and the small but enlarging brood nest as days get longer after the shortest day of the year — which this year in the Northern Hemisphere happens at 10:19 p.m. on Saturday, December 21st. After that the days start slowly getting longer, more sunshine and solar gain and the bees are excited about spring coming. They get ready by slowly and surely, if they are healthy, starting to respond to the queen laying small areas and the “nurse” bees feeding on beebread and nectar to feed their developing sisters. As days get longer and warmer the colony grows and grows so that they can take advantage of spring-flowering and begin the next preparation for winter 2020 by gathering and storing lots of honey for winter along with beebread and the nutrition the colony requires. Honey Bee success is a numbers game, more “bees” is better than less “bees.”

Your friend‘s question relates to the colony taking advantage of lots of resources provided by Goldenrod as winter approaches. It may be too much or it might not be enough. We don‘t know at this moment in time. Leave it alone is my suggestion until late spring, then reassess.

The question I have for you is why in the world would your friend go through the colony in another month and rearrange/organize the frames? The colony has their “hive” organized for winter. Why would one disrupt this? It’s like you having somebody barge into your house and move the kitchen to the living room and the bathroom to the basement and your bedroom to the garage. Other than to be sure mite samples led to treatments in August, leave the colony alone in late fall and early winter.


Thanks for your cogent explanation.

In the fall I check colonies for proper placement of their stores. Sometimes, a colony will cluster on one side of the hive with honey on the other side and above. I move the cluster to the center of the hive and ensure that they have honey on both sides. In the past, I have had colonies apparently starve on one side of the hive but lots of honey on the other side of the hive. My feeling is that in the cold of early spring, they were not able to cross empty comb to reach their honey stores. I hope that by centering them in the hive, with honey on both outer edges, I mitigate that cause of starvation.


You are correct again Vince. If the beekeeper has not done his/her varroa control and impacted the Varroa/Virus Legacy issues this automatically creates a smaller, weak colony going into winter. Which means an even smaller weaker cluster in late winter, early spring. Being too small they simply cannot can’t create enough heat for the population to access food reserves even a few inches away. And yes, perhaps anticipating a problem with an already small colony could help. You never know until you try. But, remember they placed certain future needed resources in a particular spot for a particular reason. Try not to confuse them too much. It’s an awkward balance if colony is pre-weak and then how weak based on size. It may help and it may not.

Q   Varroa Control

 Hi Jerry,

I really appreciate all the information that you give us in the monthly ABJ. I thought maybe you can educate me on how to use one of the mite treatments that are used on bees. I have tried to nail down the right way to use Apiguard and how I can get the most effective kill of the mites on my bees. Through all the blogs/internet/articles I have read, I have not been able to distinguish if I use 25g every week for 4 weeks versus 50 g every 2 weeks for 4 weeks, will I get the same kill of the mites on my bees. I only have 10 hives and most of them are in 4 medium hive bodies. The weather in my area can get very hot and humid; usually during treatment the temperatures are in the high 80s and 90s. In the past when I have used the 50g dosage, the bearding is very heavy for days on end. I found when I used the 25g every week, the bearding is not so bad. I also read that when using 50g every 2 weeks for 4 weeks and the bees get rid of it pretty quickly, then I have actually treated for only 3 weeks, however by using the 25g dosage every week for 4 weeks, I get a true 4 weeks period of treatment.

Thanks for your help.

P.S. And why does Apiguard recommend that a beekeeper peel back the foil to the corner then leave it on, why not take it off?


You know what happens when you assume, but I am assuming you have gone to the Vita site and focused in on ApiGuard,

Yes, you can apply 25g of ApiGuard for shorter repeated consistent time periods if you want for control of varroa.

The reasoning for leaving the foil lid on the “trays” in the hive is that many times X amount of Apiguard is stuck on the lid. I think you can remove excess with your hive tool to remove any stuck on and wipe it on the top bars.

Thank you for the Classroom compliment. I appreciate it.

How Many Varroa in sample?

 Could you reiterate number of mites/hundred you said was the doomsday count for survival? A friend is doing an alcohol wash demo next week and could use the talking point.

Rob Couchman



Good morning. Just back from Apimondia in Montreal.

Three or less per 100 bees is the measurement currently. Always cross your fingers with any numbers but you are probably in reasonable shape with that number. Three or more mites getting up to five or more per….