The Beekeeper’s Companion Since 1861
icon of list

The Classroom

The Classroom – May 2018

- May 1, 2018 - Jerry Hayes - (excerpt)

The Classroom - American Bee Journal


I have a student with a ton of linseed oil who wants to know if he can use it on his hives. Any idea if it is OK? I note that varnish is acceptable. It has a strong smell and a foul taste, so linseed might be OK. Your section has greatly expanded which I think is a good move.

All the best,
Doug Morris


Linseed oil, also known as flaxseed oil, has many uses. Flax is a crop that has been propagated and grown by our ancestors for millennia. It has been used as a human food and in recipes for thousands of years. It is also a human nutritional supplement, because of its important omega fatty acids. Its use as a wood preservative treatment has waned a bit as synthetic alkyd resins have become cheaper.

The feature that makes it good on wood is that it is a natural plant oil that is absorbed and then dries to a protective finish. Perfect for beehives.

All that long answer—so typical of Jerry—to say you can tell your student to use it and let it air dry.

It will be great.


Hey Jerry,

I have a question……could you please explain the difference between Hygienic Behavior and V-S-H? I have been looking at ads in ABJ for Carniolan queens. I think they are the strains of bees I want to start with.  I see the phrase hygienic behavior a lot, but not so much VSH. What’s the difference or are they pretty much the same!

Thanks for your help,
Joseph Fleming


VSH and Hygienic Honey Bees are kind of the same thing Joseph.

The trait is that the bees, and only about 10% of the colony population, possess a genetic trait that improves their ability to recognize sick or parasitized brood and open up cells and drag them out so they can be removed from the colony.

I think any help a beekeeper can get to enhance colony health even at a low level is better than none.


Hi Jerry,

We hear so much these days about the Genus/Species Varroa destructor, the many ways they can be deadly and how they may easily develop resistance to various chemical treatment options. However, we don’t hear anything about any other species within the genus Varroa, if they are pathogenic and if there are any lessons from them that can be applied to V. destructor.

Keep up the advice in The Classroom, great work.



Great question Randy. And my answer is that we don’t really know. The word Varroa is kind of a catch all for several different species. Our Varroa is Varroa destructor. Varroa jacobsoni was/is a good parasite on the Asian Honey Bee, Apis cerana. By good, I mean that because of their evolutionary history, Varroa and Apis cerana reached an agreement in their relationship: “I won’t kill you, if you don’t kill me.” This resulted in the very small colony size of A. cerana and Varroa choosing to reproduce only in drone brood.

I put a link below to the history of Varroa and one to Purdue researchers finding that Varroa jacobsoni is developing the ability to reproduce on our European bees as well. A question that I have always had is: at the right place and the right time, can these Varroa interbreed as they meet in a honey bee larval cell? Could that result in a hybrid Varroa that has even better survival qualities. No different than hybrid corn or soybeans or….? A super Varroa.

The genus Varroa contains these species:

  • Varroa destructoris a virulent parasite that infests its natural host, Apis cerana (Asian honey bees) on mainland Asia and also Apis mellifera (western honey bee) worldwide.
  • Varroa jacobsoniis a relatively benign parasite of Apis cerana.
  • Varroa rindereri
  • Varroa sinhai
  • Varroa wongsirii

Q   Queen Rearing Books

I am a fourth year beekeeper, looking to raise queens. What is, in your opinion, the best book on queen rearing.

Thanks again for the good info in the Classroom.

Terry from Colorado


There are good ones out there. My favorites are, “Rearing Queen Honey Bees” by Roger Morse and “Queen Rearing Essentials” by Larry Connor.

Have fun


I have heard that female workers, because of queen loss or dysfunction of the queen, can develop into fake queens that can lay eggs. The eggs don’t develop into worker bees, but drones because they are not fertilized with sperm as these workers didn’t mate. Soooo, if a worker that can sting you can now lay an egg is there a change in the sting egg laying machinery in them?



Queens can sting and have all the parts of a stinging apparatus. That is how they get rid of rival queens. Their stinger is just not a barbed stinger like those of worker bees that would get caught in the victim and pull out and kill them when they sting. That wouldn’t be a good strategy if you wanted to survive as a honey bee queen. Sexually undeveloped worker honey bees are females in all respects, except their reproductive organs are not fully developed and operational and they have not mated with drones. When a queen is lost and not replaced, those pheromones the queen produced that stopped the other females in the colony from developing functional ovaries are not active any longer.

Workers can now develop ovaries and lay eggs as a last gasp opportunity to share their genetics through…