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The Classroom

The Classroom – June 2019

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

The Classroom - American Bee Journal
Q  A Few Questions

I  am back with a few questions. Now I don’t care if it is a long Jerry answer or a short one but if you know anything about answers I’d appreciate hearing from you.

First question, why does sorghum honey ferment when granulating but not otherwise?

Second question, does it work to split bees in the later part of July and feed as much as they will take to build up enough for a Kentucky winter?

Third question, I lost 20 colonies to absconding. Why?

I sure enjoy The Classroom!

Sam in Kentucky


As far I know Sam, Sorghum is self-pollinating and does not produce any nectar or not enough for honey bees to collect and store a surplus for honey production. To double check myself, there is a USDA publication, “Attractiveness of Agricultural Crops to Pollinating Bees for Collection of Nectar and/or Pollen,” that I looked at online. Sorghum pollen is attractive to honey bees but not the nectar. So, if you have sorghum honey it really isn’t.

Yes, you can make late splits in July, queen or requeen and feed, feed, feed to get them winter ready. Good time and situation to treat for varroa as well. I would go with four frames of brood if you can as a faster buildup is better than not.

My initial concern with that level of absconding in a southern state like Kentucky is the influence of Africanized bees. Africanized bees when they mate with European drones don’t necessarily exhibit defensive characteristics. They do exhibit traits such as swarming, nesting in the open or underground in cavities like animal burrows or under tree roots, and/or simply the whole colony picking up and moving called absconding as you said, etc. My question is, where did those mated queens come from?

Thank you for the Classroom compliment. Hang in there. Have a good summer.

 Q Bursting with Bees – What should I Do?

Hi Jerry — thank you for The Classroom. First I read every month!!

I live in middle Tennessee and went out to do varroa treatment and brood box manipulation. And saw this. Opened hive, expecting not many bees. All three deep brood boxes bursting!! Manipulated top to bottom anyway, and removed a few mostly honey frames (there is a medium honey super still there). Captured swarm and placed in new hive with three mostly honey frames & five new foundation.

Questions: 1) What are the odds this swarm 10 yards away from my hive is mine?? 2) What the hell else should I do??

Thanks … all advice welcome!!



Lol, Anita!! Either you or a close beekeeper neighbor is AMAZING because this is a sign of a super healthy colony(ies). I am going to credit you with this for keeping up with varroa sampling and treatments at the right time. Nice job.

Textbook wisdom says to look in your colonies every 5-7 days and look for ‘swarm cells’ and destroy them and/or make splits to knock down colony population and create more colonies. You can use splits as a temporary swarm control technique, then later (this is March), say June, recombine the colonies when 87% of the urge to swarm is over.

I am going to say there are thousands of beekeepers who would love to have this problem. You have colony health under control and will get a great honey crop I bet. Per #2 (Smile).

Thank you for The Classroom compliment!

Q What Should Be Done?

I was thinking about why we still have so little resistance to varroa in our American bees and this came to mind. I am a farmer and use Bt corn. Getting away from insecticides for corn borer and rootworm has seemed a very good thing. The regulators forced a resistance management plan into Bt corn use. Scientists had created Bt resistance in insect populations in nine generations in the lab so the plan was to delay resistance buildup in the field with a high expression of Bt in the plant to kill every insect and then a 10% acreage no-treat set aside to let large numbers of unselected insects survive. The theory is that resistance is a recessive trait and any survivors will only mate with susceptible partners diluting the resistance to susceptible and killing it too … slowing resistance in the general population to almost nothing.

In our bee population we have very similar forces. The majority of colonies are shipped south and west to build colonies for almonds and overcome winter losses with actively expanding populations. The best commercial bee is one that makes brood all months and builds quickly. Wintering ability is irrelevant and mites are treated throughout the year to prevent buildup. These are the bees that southern and western queen and package producers are selling to everyone and commercial beekeepers are using.

Then there are some northern smaller operations trying to select for varroa resistance and wintering ability. They produce their own queens or get them from northern producers, but June queens are too late for this year’s honey crop. Varroa resistance is at best a recessive trait so both the queen and drones must have resistance. The commercial beekeepers are spreading susceptible bees over the country every summer so nonresistant drones are diluting gene pools across the country of those trying to concentrate resistance.

We need southern and western queen producers to expand northern selected survivor stock in areas flooded with the same northern drones to produce a pure undiluted line early in the year for us to concentrate resistance and produce honey. Their lines would have to be constantly renewed from the north to prevent genetic drifting. Then we need commercial producers to switch to the same lines to stop the resistance dilution. (I’m not sure what market force might move them in this direction.) … Perhaps lines could be maintained in Canada (Saskatraz or University of Guelph etc.) where commercial bees can’t reach. Southern selected varroa resistance is a good effort but most losses are winter related so wintering ability is just as important as mite resistance.

I’ve switched to Russians and they have helped, but giant colonies can get too many mites and die too, even with an August formic acid treatment and December amitraz. How are the Europeans doing? Have they any lines with good resistance that we could import?



If your ‘job’ is as a valuable Farmer then you will do whatever it takes to make more $$$ than you spend, i.e., ROI. That is why you use corn and soybeans with Bt traits for rootworm, and herbicide (Round-Up and Dicamba) resistance to keep fields barren of weeds, drought resistance is available, increased nutrition, and better quality of soy oil.

If your ‘job’ is as a valuable commercial beekeeper then you will do whatever it takes to make more $$$ than you spend, i.e., ROI.

And to expand on the ‘if,’ if because of honey bee biology you can do things to keep all of the colonies from dying and you show up every year for pollination of almonds, and apples, cherries, peaches, berries, pumpkins and hundreds of other food crops, then those recipients of your colonies who pay you for pollination don’t care. Honey bees are a production ….