The Beekeeper’s Companion Since 1861
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The Classroom

The Classroom – March 2018

- March 1, 2018 - Jerry Hayes - (excerpts)



Found this lady outside of her hive in Northwest Georgia. The temperature had reached the high 40’s that day. The red in her pollen sacs is what caught my eye. I thought it strange, as I had never seen pollen that color, let alone in cold weather. An internet search led me to believe it was propolis, but further research said red propolis comes from Brazil. Any ideas? Great column too. Thanks a lot.



This is exactly why I Love honey bees and beekeeping. I don’t know :)!

Here are some things to think about though. There are many plants that produce red material in South America, Asia, and the US that is collected by honey bees that we call propolis. I have a big hunk of red propolis I was given years ago when I was in Nepal.

The main plant source of the red propolis in Brazil is Dahlbergia ecastaphyllum, common name is coinvine or fish poison vine. This plant also grows along both coasts of Florida.

I couldn’t tell from your photo if it was propolis or pollen. There is a plant I am sure you have seen called Lamium amplexicaule or Henbit. Henbit is a wild member of the mint family, but doesn’t have a mint flavor or smell and is edible. It grows very well in the Southern US. The many small purplish flowers produce a very red, almost ruby red pollen.

If I was going to vote on the two above, and there truthfully could be more as plant propolis or pollen colors have not been extensively studied, I would vote for a late or early Henbit in a warm protected area not far from your colonies.


Amazing!! I noticed this stuff growing at my neighbors last week when I was feeding their dog when they were on vacation. The purple flowers caught my eye. I was amazed she’d be foraging in such cool weather. I hate not knowing something. Thank you!

I started thinking about bees while in prison. I spent 9 years there after living a terrible life. I was released in March of 2016 and had 2 hives by May. I was in it for the honey at first, but now I just love the bees. They have given me a positive place to channel my energies. And what is it about them that is so good for what goes on in our heads? (mine anyway). I love that you can never stop learning something new, no matter how much media you shove into your gourd or how many experiences you stack up. Thanks again for teaching me about henbit. Take care.


Jerry, I am trying to figure out the cost of a 3 lb. package to build a deep super from foundation into drawn comb.  If the 3 lb. package was started on drawn comb the bees would not have to spend time making wax.

I thought a long time ago I read in ABC XYZ that it took 22 lbs. of honey to make 1 lb. of wax.

Are you aware of any information published anywhere on this subject?


According to the book ‘Beeswax Production, Harvesting, Processing and Production’ by Coggshall and Morse there was a person by the name of Whitcomb who did experiments and came up with the numbers of 6.66 to 8.80 kg of honey to produce 1 kg of beeswax.


Good morning Jerry,

I have read many times that when preparing bulk bee packages or just separating bees from brood frames, the frames are banged on the sides of a funnel.  It seems as if this would do considerable damage to bees in the pre-pupal or pupal stage of development.  I know that queen cells are carefully handled at a similar stage of development to prevent damage.

Thanks in advance.


The conundrum is that for the last few decades since the varroa / varroa virus legacy has gotten a firm hold in the US there has been so much incredible interest in honey bees and honey bee health. This vast interest has encouraged the growth of ignorant, lightly managed beekeeping resulting in lots of bees/colonies dying, which in turn opened the door for the package bee business opportunity. It’s all about dollars at the end of the day.

Well managed honey bee colonies are very flexible and resilient because of their biological potential and the huge size of a honey bee colony based on queen fecundity and nurse bee population. More bees, at all stages, means that they can sacrifice X amount of population and recover if parasites and diseases are minimal. Go past the X and significant damage and lag in recovery can happen. But, if you can sell a package for $150.00 maybe that is OK. Business decision, not a purely colony health decision.

Yes, if there are larvae and pupae at certain ages and stage of development they can be physiologically damaged by bumps and rough handling. Not all will be and most will recover. The package bee producer wants more bees for that small window in time of sales, so blatant disregard for that next few weeks of bee emergence to make another $150.00 from that colony is minimal. Just think if 2-3 or 4 packages can be shaken from a healthy colony for what a package costs at retail. And the price keeps going up, because so many new beekeepers