April Newsletter

April, 2020

Hello Beekeepers! Welcome to the April issue of the Rockwood Park Backyard Beekeepers Association Monthly Newsletter. Of course, we are not meeting this month, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about bees. In case you haven’t noticed, the nectar flow is going full force and the bees are pulling in the nectar and pollen. Also, I have not heard any official report, but it sure seems like this season the bees are swarming like crazy.

Before we get into this month’s Newsletter, please note at the bottom, I’ve asked a few questions/survey and would appreciate a response.

April’s Meeting

There is no meeting this month, but do you still want some good live lectures about honey bees? We got you covered. Auburn University has some free courses that they are conducting with some pretty interesting topics. You can watch them on Zoom (if they have enough space in their room), on their FaceBook live broadcast or you can watch the recording after the presentations. Below are the upcoming talks:

April 16: Learning from Pandemics, Dr. J. Tsuruda (U. of Tennessee)
April 30: Queen Management Essentials, Dr. J. Rangel (Texas A&M)
May 14: Bee and Parasite Biogeography, Dr. K. Delaplane (U. of Georgia)
May 28: What’s Killing Honeybees, Dr. J. Ellis (U. of Florida)

The Zoom room for this meeting may be at capacity. Please join in using the Facebook Live stream at the Lawrence County Alabama Extension Office Facebook Page: https://facebook.com/LawrenceCountyextension/
Live streaming will begin at exactly 6:30 CST. If the stream hasn’t started when you reach the page, refresh the page every few minutes to bring up the stream when it begins.

Each session will be recorded and will be available on in the videos section of the Facebook Page for two weeks. Be aware if you want to watch live that the time zones for Auburn are Central, not Eastern. The direct link is https://auburn.zoom.us/meeting/register/vJ0lcu6prjkt_Px1BsAR8Gf-2dY_FolvJQ

March’s Meeting Recap

If you missed the last meeting, you missed a great one. Dr. Caron gave two very good talks and the room was packed. Dr. Caron was engaging, entertaining and it was nice to see the good folks from Huguenot Beekeepers Association who joined us for this meeting. It seems like so long ago that we could sit next to each other and talk about beekeeping and discussing what is happening in each other’s lives. Don’t despair, this will pass and we will all be together again soon.

Master Beekeeper Study Groups

Unfortunately, the Master Beekeeper Study Groups are on hold for now. The Spring Meeting of the Virginia Beekeeping Association in Smithfield has also been cancelled. That means there will be no testing for Apprentice, Journeyman or Master Beekeepers until possibly the fall meeting. If you are studying, be sure to ask questions on our FaceBook page or reach out to Stan or Carla, who have been chairing these groups. Just because we can’t gather doesn’t mean we stop learning.

From the Board of Directors

The Board of Directors met on March 23, 2020 via a Zoom conference. During the call, the Board approved purchasing one account that can host Zoom conferences for more than 40 minutes for up to 100 participants. The account has now been purchased and is usable. As the Board works through how to present materials, we will update you.

This Month in the Hive (April)

On cold days, the bees continue to form a cluster. The brood nest may be as much as 10 inches in diameter, however, and all the bees may be needed to prevent brood death due to chilling on the coldest nights. The brood nest continues its slow migration upward into empty honeycomb. The bees continue to bring pollen and nectar into the hive. The queen is laying several hundred eggs per day at the beginning of the month, and the population is growing fast. At the end of the month, the queen will lay 800-1000 eggs per day. The worker population will double this month. Drones will number above 200 by month end. A congested hive in April will lead to swarms in the last week of April and early May, or this year may even be earlier. Congestion exists where the combination of honey, pollen, brood and bees fills 80% or more of the available space. In a congested hive (for reasons about which there is no consensus) the worker bees begin to raise new queens in April. This is done by building “swarm cells” – peanut-like wax cells that often hang down between brood supers, or on the face of brood frames. From egg deposition to hatching is 16 days for a new queen – see that bee math you learned in class is important. A hive that is storing honey by April 20 is a hive to watch for swarming.

Food Consumption and Storage/Nectar and Pollen Sources will provide substantial amounts of pollen and sufficient nectar for brood production on sunny days. Many hives that have consumed sugar syrup in March will cease taking it in early April. By mid-April some very strong hives will begin to make and cap honey. At the end of the month, nectar flows will be strong from many sources.

Tasks to Be Performed

Pick up and install packages of bees or nucleus hives. Packages are delivered in Virginia each week during April and early May. Nucleus hives may be available, but they should have been requested or ordered in the prior year. Generally, it should be understood that swarms are not good for honey production. Hive bodies should be reversed when the likelihood of 4 or more days of consistent cold (45 degrees or less) weather has passed, or around April 1 in most years. This will reduce congestion by encouraging the queen to expand egg-laying upward and outward into empty brood frames. Remove any feeders where the syrup becomes moldy. Remove a feeder when 1 quart is not consumed in 1 week. Place a bait hive for swarms nearby if you have decided to use such a hive. Be prepared to place a queen excluder, if you use them and honey supers on top of the hive by the 4th week in April.

On a warm and still day, do a complete inspection of the hive. Can you find any evidence of the queen? Are there plenty of eggs and brood? Is there a compact pattern to her egg laying? If not, locate a new queen and replace any weak or failing queen. The final touches should be put on new hives and supers that will soon be full of bees and honey. Package bees should be installed as early as possible this month to take advantage of the heavy nectar flows at month end. Watch out for evidence of swarming (queen cells; live queen with no fresh eggs; queen that is reduced in size to fly with swarm). Remove frames with queen cells to a nucleus hive (with at least 2 frames of bees) or cut the queen cells from the frames and use them to requeen weak hives, or destroy them.

The above is mostly taken from (with some modifications for local differences and clarification): https://buzzwordhoney.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Northern-Virginia-Honeybee-Annual-Cycle.pdf

What is in Bloom (According to Maymont)

1st Week: Maple, Birch, Oak, Cherry, Pear, Silver Bell, Crabapple, Dogwood, Redbud, Camellia, Pearlbush, Sweet-Breath-of-Spring, Forsythia, Boxwood, Flowering Quince, Barberry, Azalea, Periwinkle, Narcissus, Candy tuft, Violets, Tulip, Pansy, Wildflowers

2nd Week: Crabapple, Silver Bell, Cherry, Dogwood, Redbud, Boxwood, Flowering Quince, Wisteria, Barberry, Lilac, Azalea, Periwinkle, Narcissus, Candy tuft, Violet, Pansy, Tulip, Wildflowers

3rd Week: Azalea, Dogwood, Cherry, wisteria, Violet, Pansy, Tulip, Lilac, Barberry, Periwinkle, Candy tuft, Wildflowers

4th Week: Azalea, Dogwood, Wisteria, Violet, Pansy, Tulip, Lilac, Periwinkle, Candy tuft, Wildflowers.

Keep in mind, this is what blooms in a normal April. It looks like we may be running a little ahead of this schedule.

Other Interesting Things

I just placed an article on the club’s website about overwintering bees in colder climates. John Davis supplied the article and said it is not Virginia specific, but has lots of good information. It can be found on the www.rockwoodbeekeepers.com website.

A Personal Note

My friends, it is a stressful and difficult time for all of us. Besides the support of my family, my bees are one of the few things that is helping with my stress loads right now. They don’t care about the virus, social distancing, or seem to care what we humans are up to. They continue their jobs, protect their colonies and carry on. May we bee like them. I hope and pray that if you don’t find that kind of solace in your bees, that you find it somewhere. Until next month,

Don Osborne


SURVEY: We are exploring various ways to help you with your bees during our lockdown. Please respond to Rockwood.Beekeepers:

1. Would you be interested in attending an online course on beekeeping?

2. What topics would you like to explore?

3. What times would you be available for a class? Morning, afternoon or evening? Any particular day of the week?

4. Is there anything we can do to improve communications and education while social distancing?

5. Is there any beekeeping information or club information that I am not covering in the newsletter that you would like to see?

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