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The Classroom

The Classroom – November 2019

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

The Classroom - American Bee Journal
Q  Using Discolored Honey

After draining my cappings they are warmed/heated to approximately 160 degrees F. The wax is poured from the top and there is always a good bit of honey in the bottom of the container. Realizing there is always a chance of disease causing agents in the honey would it otherwise be safe to feed back to the bees?

As I recall sugar syrup can be harmful if heated to that degree and was worried about any bad effects to the honey (other than darkening it). Thank you for your column, you do a great service to beekeepers.

Norman Adams
Freeland, Michigan


Darkening is the key visual clue here, Norman. If the honey has been darkened that is an indication of creation of HMF (hydroxymethylfurfural) from overheating, which is toxic to honey bees.

I would dispose of it appropriately so they or other insects can’t be exposed to it.

Thank you for the compliment, Norman. It is appreciated.

Thymol Off Flavor

I have a question on the use of ApiGuard that I can’t find through on-line research. I am in the process of using the treatment, 50g trays. After a recent honey harvest I placed empty supers back on hive for cleanup, and to my surprise after about 4 days, they are adding back small amounts of nectar after cleaning. I don’t intend to harvest this small amount of honey, but rather leave for them to consume or move down in the hive. If I treat while these supers are on the hive, is there a problem with using the drawn comb next year for harvested honey?

Ray G. Cole
White House, Tennessee


You’re good to go if the colony consumes all of this honey shortly. It’s not that it is toxic but rather ApiGuard, being composed of a natural ingredient thymol (thyme oil) can give an off flavor to the nectar picking up this flavor possibly as exposed to it.

Q  Upper Entrance

Hope all is well. And thanks for all the help you have provided to the beekeeping community over the years. I never miss your column in the American Bee Journal.

My comments and questions are in regards to the use of an upper entrance in place of the bottom entrance. I’m interested in this for a few reasons.

1- I don’t like bending over to inspect my hives.

2- I don’t like fighting with the weeds and skunks.

3- I would like to be able to do quick checks of the nest during the summer (mite counts, queen status or re-queening, pulling drone comb without having to lift the supers out of the way).

4- Better ventilation, keeping hive cooler in the summer and drier in the winter.

I tried it a couple of years ago without much success. I mistakenly used the same hive configuration as my bottom entrance hives, with brood boxes being at the bottom and supers being on top. From my observations the bees like to enter the hive nearest the nest so that all nutrients, pollen and nectar, will pass through the nest thereby keeping the brood nest healthy and well fed, with all surplus being stored around the perimeter.

This year I tried it again with much better success. Putting entrance on top, brood boxes on top and supers on bottom. I only tried it with a couple hives and before I try it with anymore I would like to confer with someone that has some experience with this type of hive configuration.

First – would you say my observations and new hive configuration is correct or have I really gone astray?

Second – I didn’t put any foundation in these hives, I used all drawn comb. In a regular hive, I have a hard time getting the bees to draw out foundation in the bottom boxes. With the hive being reversed would this tendency also be reversed? Or would this remain the same?

Third – with the bees storing the honey on the bottom would they start the winter cluster at the top and eat their way down? Or will they, going into the fall, push themselves as far down in the nest as they can and start storing honey above themselves so that they can work their way up during the winter?

Don’t know if this information will help with your feedback. But I use queen excluders, found that during the summer when it’s real warm the queen will break out of the typical brood area and lay all over the place. Hives that I move to higher elevations where it’s cooler seem to keep the queen laying in a tighter pattern so as to conserve energy, thereby eliminating the need for excluders.

Any direction and advice you can give me would be much appreciated

Best Regards,
Brett Chamberlain


I started with upper entrance interest long, long ago on a planet far, far away. As a beginning, take a look at my first foray into this at the below link.

I still use this configuration with a small modification. I keep a ½ to 1 inch opening at the bottom so trash and debris can more easily be removed. Honey bees in natural cavities don’t place the brood area at the very bottom. They establish it some distance above if they can so trash and debris falls X distance to the bottom and other insects and organisms can compost it and the colony is not living in the garbage. The entrance still being above if space allows.

Queen Excluder or Honey Excluder? | Beesource Beekeeping

Honey bees when they were ubiquitous in the environment living in hollow trees and cavities in a barn, shed and home walls, when given a choice would choose an entrance above the brood nest. Makes sense if you want to keep this so-important area where your “baby” replacements are being nurtured, responding the best to being raised with consistent and stable humidity and temperature. No huge drafts coming in the bottom.

Our hives are really designed for the human beekeeper with the familiar bottom entrance (door), and a nice porch and maybe a doorbell. :) This is not what a honey bee colony entrance looks like in the wild.

Our European honey bees are vertical space creatures seeking a secure brood area at the bottom and food storage above this area. Honey bees are super adaptable survivors and can live in many different configurations all over the world. I have seen them in mailboxes, old gas tanks in salvage yards, the trunk of an old Buick, walls of houses, a cavity underground in roots of a large tree and more. If you are an organism and are not biologically flexible and adapt you become a dinosaur and disappear. Bees adapt to the hives we provide them and we adapt to managing those same hives. Part of the fun of beekeeping.

Even though honey bees are super flexible and adaptable, I think it is our goal to make life as easy for them as possible by providing a non-stressful and efficient living space that we can still manage for the plethora of pests, parasites, and diseases our honey bees have to deal with on top of everything else.


You may be familiar with the phrase “Windshield Phenomenon” that came to the forefront a couple of years ago. This started with an insect population researcher who noticed that he did not have to clean his windshield or wash his car as much because there simply were not as many dead bugs on it when he drove around that in the past hit the car and got squished. As an anecdotal observation, it has gotten traction as a metric of fewer insects in the environment than a few years ago. And then the question of why are so many insects in the biomass disappearing.

I thought it was an interesting observation and then forgot about it. I am writing this August 6th, the day I have returned from driving to the Milwaukee area to speak to beekeepers and then back to my home in Missouri. MapQuest told me it was 409 miles there and 409 miles back through parts of Missouri, Illinois and Wisconsin, for a round trip of 818 miles. About halfway back today I somehow remembered the “Windshield Phenomenon” because the cleanliness of my windshield got my attention. When I got home I jumped out and looked at the car. I had -0- bug hits on the windshield and when I looked at the front of the car after getting home there was 1. Where are they going? And if they go so do birds and lizards and dragonflies and, and, and … that use them for food. The circle of life. Really has me thinking and concerned.

Q VARROA … Learning Curve

Thanks for your column, it’s one of the must read parts of ABJ. I am still working towards becoming a beekeeper instead of a beehaver and as a result I didn’t follow up with a mite check like I should have after I treated my 2 overwintered hives with HopGuard in the beginning of June (mite levels were 4-6/300 bees). Now I checked again in the 5 of the 7 hives I now have and I have mite levels of 4-6/100 bees in the 5 that I started from splits or swarms in the late spring/summer.

But the one overwintered hive has 43 mites/300 bees. I also noticed that the brood pattern in that one is a little spotty and that some of the brood is uncapped with what appears to be half-developed bees. I’m guessing that this hive is dead, just needs more time for it to happen. My questions are whether I should ….