The Beekeeper’s Companion Since 1861
icon of list

The Classroom

The Classroom – September 2019

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

The Classroom - American Bee Journal
Q  It’s All About Timing

 I am proud to say that I caught a big swarm and it is doing well! I’m putting a 2nd super on today. Just wondered when would be a good time to treat for varroa with MAQS? I thought I should let them be well established before doing that, and have the 2nd super so they would have more breathing space … considered using only one packet instead of 2. Also purchased a booming nuc to replace the hive that was uncovered in a wind storm. Will give it its 2nd super today, and again wondered when it is OK to treat with MAQS. Always enjoy your column in the ABJ, and appreciate your help.



You really want the truth, Spirit?

If not, delete this now.

Here we go. Remember that varroa requires honey bee larvae to reproduce and grow. Brood is needed. At the height of brood rearing approximately 2/3 of varroa will be hidden in brood cells protected behind the cell caps. That is why ALL varroacides suggest waiting until brood rearing slows and more adult varroa are exposed such as fall, winter, early spring after sampling. MAQS advertises that the formic acid will penetrate brood cell caps and kill, hurt or damage varroa in the cell. But a honey bee egg, larva or pupae is not any more designed to be resistant to an aggressive caustic acid that is designed to kill varroa so they can be damaged as well.

The best time to have treated your swarm was when you collected and hived it. All varroa that tagged along with the swarm would have been exposed. Now they aren’t.

The nuc could have been treated when it was a nuc and had less brood than now as well.

Water under the bridge. Read and follow label directions. With my assumption that you have sampled to get varroa infestation numbers, then treat, then sample again after two weeks to see if it worked.

Q  Disease, but which One?

Thanks for taking the time to share your wealth of knowledge and experience. We really appreciate you. Today’s question: Two of my bee club members have called recently to tell me this same story … they open their hive on a routine inspection and find no capped brood. The first guy who told me this suspected EFB, he also saw a few twisted larvae and melted larvae, but very few. I’ve never seen EFB take all of the capped brood at once. I thought maybe he had missed a swarm, and his new queen was just getting going. He pulled her into a nuc, just in case, and shook the rest of the bees onto the bare foundation. Both colonies are still struggling due to low numbers.

The next story came from a very experienced beekeeper who saw full sheets of open brood the week before and expected to find full sheets of capped brood now, only to find no capped brood at all. She stirred some of the open larvae and found no ropiness at all. Any idea what this is?





Hey Tina,

I had another question from another beekeeper about 50 miles from where I live that was almost exactly the same as yours. Don’t you love serendipity?

Diagnosing anything in 2019 is a challenge because of so many multidimensional challenges with managed honey bee health, let alone from a distance.

Sounds to me like Parasitic Mite Syndrome (PMS). Colonies that survive with higher than suggested varroa populations have a higher incidence of viruses, especially Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) and all the other viruses associated with varroa, and a weakened individual and colony immune system. When the horizontal transfer of these viruses and the continual infection by high uncontrolled levels of varroa reaches a point where most if not all bees, larvae and pupa included are infected, they get sick and ultimately die from these infections.

Dispersal of adult varroa is hard to find when there is significant capped brood, as most are taking advantage of brood rearing trying to reproduce themselves and are hidden under capped brood, so any alcohol washes or powdered sugar sampling might show no or few varroa. The beekeeper thinks they are amazing beekeepers and all this crazy goofy stuff about varroa and treating is baloney and I don’t need varroa control. Remember that in the best of times 2/3 of varroa are not exposed but are hiding, if you will, in cells, using larvae to make baby varroa.

When there are these high horizontal transfers of the Varroa/Virus Legacy and most of the larvae are affected, the larvae are sick, not normal and ultimately die early. These larvae that die primarily from Varroa/Virus issues also are used as a petri dish for a whole host of other organisms, primarily bacteria as a food reproductive source. That is why they kind of look like EFB and maybe kind of like AFB and maybe kind of sacbrood but actually represent a soup or stew of septic tank organisms eating the dead larvae. If there are enough bees left in the colony they do what good residents do, they clean out the dead and dying in preparation for the queen to give it another shot. This is why one may see a whole frame of larvae or pupae and a week later it’s gone. It’s gone because they died and were cleaned out. The problem is that at this stage the colony can’t build, and with the extreme nature of general infection in a colony, even with significant varroa control efforts, it may take 6-9-12 months for the colony to flush out the viruses and rebound.

What do you think?


From Tina

I think you are on the right track with the viral stew, that was what we suspected, as well. If these were any other two beekeepers, I’d be agreeing about the mite loads and deceptive counts. However, these two beekeepers are really on it. They do mite counts correctly every month, and at least one of them has 0 or 2 counts (and that is per 300, not percent) every single month last year and up until now. I counted mites there myself last week: 2/300. That is why we are wondering where this is coming from. is it worth paying for virus detection? What would the treatment be anyway? I’m thinking we should feed, and create a brood break. Will that be enough?

Thanks, T



You can have virus identified all day long. Doesn’t really mean anything. I can take a blood sample from you and send it to the CDC and they will identify all sorts of viruses in you, even scary ones, but you are not sick because your body’s immune system is keeping them in check. There are not treatments for viruses in honey bees. Kind of like us, we get a runny nose, coughing and your head hurts and you go to the Doctor. He tells you you have a cold and go home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and if it isn’t gone in 3 days come back. Let’s take a chapter out of the Commercial beekeepers’ “how-to” book. As you said a brood break, re-queen, isolate the colonies, treat for varroa using softer products so Honey Bees ae not stressed even more, and feed, feed, feed to try to have bees out-reproduce the virus and over X time (months) wash it out of the communal honey bee colony system.

Q  Should I Stock up on Honey?

My name is Kiran Healey and I’m conducting something reminiscent of a personal research project. I found you from the American Bee Journal but I’m not sure who to contact on this matter so if you can’t help, that’s alright.

In the case that bees go extinct or the number of bees decreases, the price of honey will skyrocket. If I’m correct, the average cost of a pound of honey is around $7, but of course, every seller is different. Additionally, the typical grocery store honey is significantly less, which can skew some results. What can be an expected price per pound if honey becomes scarce?

And due to the everlasting nature of honey, isn’t it logical to buy it in bulk now and sell for exponentially higher when the time comes? Imagine it as an investment in honey.

Thanks in advance.


Great question.

Honey bees and flowering plants came to an agreement that they would help each other. The flower said I need to move my pollen (male element) to that flower across the field so we can make seed and reproduce. Its called Pollination. So I’ll make a sweet liquid, nectar, to give to my friend the honey bee so she will get paid to come to my flower and take my pollen to the next flower. The honey bees learned to take this sweet watery nectar back to their hive and evaporate the water, add some enzymes and preserve it so they could have food during a long cold European winter, and voila … Honey.

Humans’ relationship with honey bees has until relatively recently been because they could steal, take, harvest this “free” food called honey from this insect’s nest. Our ancestors didn’t have to clear any ground to grow anything, but went hunting with spears and bow and arrows in the wild for days, picked lots of fruit and ate it before it rotted, figured out how to catch a fish and on and on. They could take pounds of honey that were the only high calorie sweet available and it would not rot, or go bad or make you sick like other foods that they had to figure out how to dry, smoke, cook to preserve. For a few stings, it was a good deal.

Honey is simply a byproduct of pollination.

With commercial production of sugar cane and sugar beets, there is lots of sugar available as you know from reading the labels on most of the foods in the grocery store. We don’t need honey as the primary source of sugar anymore. From a human food standpoint, it is ….