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The Classroom

The Classroom February 2015

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


Being a beginner beekeeper with 3 years to my credit, I always look forward to reading “The Classroom” upon receiving the ABJ.  Many thanks for your answers and insight.

I have a friend who constructs colloidal silver generators. He gives them away to people of interest who have various ailments, and tells me often about people who have received a new lease on life due to the taking of silver suspended in water, at very minimal cost to them. His generators, once advertised on E-bay, were removed by request of the EPA, I was told. He recommended I propose this question to you…Have you ever heard of beekeepers treating their water sources with silver to promote bee colony health? It has been proven that viruses do not grow in the presence of silver…nor does bacteria or fungi. Bob tells me it costs pennies for him to prepare his daily glass of water.

Looking forward to the next issue of ABJ, and your Classroom :)

With the love of bees in common,
Richard Ogden
Warner Springs, CA


Good Morning Richard and thank you for the Classroom vote.The first thing I think of is that silver is a metal like steel, copper or aluminum and in high doses I don’t think I want to consume a metal above my biological need for it like the iron we need for red blood cells. There is lots of anecdotal information about colloidal sliver and how it helps or hinders or does nothing in a variety of biological systems available. Remember, in the world of science correlation is not causation, meaning just because something happens in parallel with another event doesn’t mean one was the cause or result of the other. As an example, many things are said to contribute to the rise of the diagnosis of autism in the US. The rise of autism can be directly “correlated” to the growth in sales of organic produce almost exactly. And for that matter, so does the rise in the sales of HD TV’s and the number of Americans who ride their bikes to work every day. Do I personally believe any of these correlations….no, but some people do who like emotional correlations more than science and they are not causation. The European Union banned the use of colloidal silver for treatment of human disease in 2010, if memory serves me correctly. That tells you something right there.

No one has done a peer-reviewed study on the use of colloidal silver with honey bees. So, we just don’t know. Would I use it personally on my honey bees? The answer is no simply because we have approved, researched and proven products, systems and processes that have been shown to work successfully on honey bee parasites, pests and pathogens. Why fill up a honey bee with metal silver particles and not know how it affects queens, drones, larval food, foraging behavior and all the things that a honey bee colony has to do in concert to be able to prepare to survive the next winter. Might be an interesting experiment to see if you kill them or not, but that is not why we are beekeepers, I don’t think.


As we look at all the feeder boxes we pulled off our hives, my husband asked, “Why don’t people put out community feeders in their yards instead of having to fill a feeder on each hive. It would be less disruptive to the bees also.” I am referring to helping the hives build up for winter. Thank you for any insight you can give us.

Laura Faust
Eastern Missouri Beekeepers Association


“Community feeding” of apiaries can promote serious robbing and robbing can lead to loss of the weaker colonies in your apiary. Robbing does not always occur, but taking a chance on it starting is not something most beekeepers would want to risk. However, since you did not know this, your question is a perfectly logical and one that makes a lot of sense seeing how much time and labor it takes to feed each colony individually.

If your colonies are like mine, they are all separate and individual units — the sum of their bee parts, sometimes communally called a super organism. I have a small number of colonies, but enough to see that 30% are boomers, 30% are mediocre in the middle and 30% are junk. Managing each colony based on its own needs and your needs as the beekeeper is logical. Feeding is labor and resource intensive if you are looking to maximize whatever beekeeping goals you have set for this season. There are few things that are consistent among honey bee colonies, cows, chickens, the fruit trees in your yard or kids you have or have raised. They all should be treated individually because they are different and they need those slight management/attention nuances so they can achieve their genetic best.

I think you can visualize those 6 o’clock news stories where people are hungry and they have no roads and the helicopters swoop in laden with food and water and blankets. Notice they never land.  That is because the biggest, strongest, toughest individuals will engulf the helicopter and not only take the food but destroy the helicopter and its crew. So, the helicopter hovers and pushes the food out where the biggest, strongest, toughest take control of this resource. Hopefully they are also empathetic and the smallest, hungriest and weakest get some too.

The same thing happens if you open-feed your honey bees. The 30% that are boomers will dominate and take as much as they can. They are not empathetic. The 30% in the middle will get less and the 30% that are weak get very little if any.  Instead of the 30% of boomers deciding who gets what, you the beekeeper need to manage the 30% in the middle and the 30% that are weak and make those decisions with certain management techniques that can make them also become boomers. That means feeding, treating and doing all the other stuff

To get the best results from your colonies, you, the Beekeeper Manager, have to make decisions for each colony as a separate unit based on what you see when you open each colony. You need to assess things like: What season is it? What your Varroa sampling shows? Is the queen laying? And, the dozens of other inputs you get from the colony. It isn’t easy and the more colonies you get, the harder this gets, but it is the best way to manage for success.


I run a pumpkin patch in central Minnesota and I sell most of my honey in my serve-yourself pumpkin stand.  I am having some trouble with honey starting to crystallize. I presume from the outdoor temperatures? Any ideas? Is there a temperature that I need to stay above or below to keep my honey from looking bad?

Thanks much, love your articles,
Dick Hanson


Here is a slightly longish Jerry answer. Honey is a super-saturated sugar solution. All honey sugar profiles are slightly different because each flower produces nectar with different sugar ratios. So, when you have a naturally blended product as honey bee foragers visit and collect a variety of nectars, there is large variability. The ratios of the sugars fructose and glucose determine how fast the honey granulates or crystallizes. Some honeys do not granulate at all because these ratios are already balanced. Honey crystallization is a normal, natural process and is actually encouraged in many parts of the world since it makes eating and using honey easier when it is a semi-solid.

To balance itself in this super-saturated solution (honey), the glucose will precipitate out and form sugar crystals. Fructose is more water soluble, so it stays in solution. Temperature also influences how fast this sugar balancing/crystallization takes place. A temperature between 52 and 59 degrees F encourages crystallization. Below 52F, even to freezing, crystallization slows. Above 77 degrees F crystallization slows as well. Above about 100 degrees F the honey degrades and produces off flavor and color chemicals.

Sorry the honey looks bad, but this might be a consumer education process as this indicates a pure natural process. And, if you wanted to take advantage of this natural process, you could produce your own wonderful crystallized honey spread. Search up “Dyce Process” on the internet. In the meantime, if you want to reliquefy this honey, a hot water bath in a large pot with the honey still in jars will be needed. Not boiling, but about 100 F to 125 F with a quick heat up and fast cool down so the honey does not degrade, darken and taste poorly.


Jerry— have you seen this you-tube film?
Did the AgChem companies actually partner with Greenpeace to produce this or is it a blatant poke at the companies? Maybe you can help me out with wrapping my head around the politics here— hope all is well with you.


It was produced by Greenpeace. There is an actual lab at Harvard working on ‘robo bees’, but I think it’s more of a robotics/engineering goal than a ‘replace pollinators’ goal. Activists seized on this and have used it to claim big ag is behind it all. Everybody has an agenda. Agendas are great, but truthful agendas are better. And then, there are agendas designed for fund raising.

Just an FYI. Back in the 1960s, a French Marxist-turned-devout-Catholic theologian named Jacques Ellul wrote a book entitled “Propaganda.” One of the many points he made from his research was that the more educated you are, the more susceptible you are to propaganda. It flies in the face of what we might normally believe – that the less educated are more susceptible.

His point was that the more educated you are, the more you depend upon what you read and the more you are shaped by your worldview. The less educated you are, the more you depend upon your own direct experiences. So, I guess …