Hello Beekeepers! It’s time for our February newsletter. This month’s issue is packed with information, links to explore and opportunities to get involved. While the bees are huddled close to stay warm, we have a lot to do to prepare for Spring. To stay ahead of the bees, think about what equipment you’re going to need for Spring and start prepping it now. This month, look for warmer days to take an occasional peek in the hive to check on your girls and give them some food. Come armed with your smoker and be quick: 10-15 seconds max for the hive to be open.
For February’s meeting, we will share a presentation from the Virginia State Beekeepers Association (VSBA) Speaker Series. The presentation entitled Flower Power: Pollinator Habitat and Honey was given by Tammy Horn Potter.
Tammy is a State Apiarist for Kentucky and author. She grew up on a farm and decided to help her grandfather with his bees in 1997. She immediately became smitten with them. Balancing her career as an English professor and hobbyist, Potter wrote Bees in America: How the Honey Bee Shaped a Nation, Beeconomy: What Women and Bees Can Teach Us about Local Trade and the Global Market, and most recently, Flower Power: Establishing Pollinator Habitat.
Following the presentation, which includes a short Q&A, we will have time for questions from club attendees and general chat.
An invitation will be emailed to RPBBA members following this newsletter. The meeting is on Monday, February 8th at 7pm. We hope for you to bee there. 🐝 (Add to Google calendar)
RPBBA Membership Fees
The association has stopped sending out membership renewal invoices starting with the third quarter of 2020. This was done in light of the ongoing uncertainty with Covid-19 pandemic and the inability to regularly meet in person. The Board of Directors has decided to give all members a one-year grace period and make the membership dues voluntary from the third quarter 2020 until the third quarter 2021.
Anyone wishing to make a voluntary dues payment to help offset the association’s running cost, feel free to do so here: https://rockwoodbeekeepers.com/join-or-donate/.
🐝 Spring 2021 Beginner Beekeeping Class
The Board of Directors met to discuss the Beginner Beekeeping course which traditionally is held in early Spring; the course normally draws a large group. The course is set up to be very interactive with students in the classroom with hands on time also; it’s not suited for a virtual environment. The Rockwood Park Nature Center is closed to groups of our size due to Covid-19. As a result, the decision has been made that RPBBA will not be hosting the course this Spring. However this does not mean Beginner Beekeeping courses are unavailable. For those interested in taking a Beginner Beekeeping course the below alternate options are available.
Dandelion Springs Apiary is offering small, in-person, classes at their space in Chesterfield. They do in-hive sessions also, free of charge, on an appointment basis for those that want to come out and learn. Dandelion Springs Apiary also has beekeeping equipment for those that would like to see the equipment, hands-on, and talk through the pro’s and con’s of all the different pieces.
University of Florida is offering virtual Bee College, suited for all skill levels. It’s being held over 4 Saturday mornings in March. Attendee’s can choose to register for 1 class or all 4. The classes are going to be live, held through Zoom.
Penn State offers an online Beekeeping 101 course. It’s a self paced course with videos presented by their instructors, interactive questions, and a final quiz to test your knowledge.
North Carolina State University offers Beekeeper Education & Engagement System (BEES) which is an online resource for beekeepers at all levels. The system is entirely internet based. Their structure is broken into 3 levels of difficulty (Beginner, Advanced, and Ambassador) and 3 areas of content (honey bee biology, honey bee management, and the honey bee industry).
🐝 Apprentice and Journeyman Study Groups
Is anyone out there looking for a study group to prepare for the VSBA exam? RPBBA is looking to gauge interest at this time for a virtual study group while Covid-19 restrictions are in place. Depending on interest, we would begin with a combined session for the Apprentice and Journeyman levels with one meeting per month. If you are interested, please let us know by signing up here. We will use this signup to discuss further with the group of interested individuals. The VSBA meeting is currently scheduled for Oct 22-24th in Smithfield. This is the only time testing will be available for any of the Master Beekeeper exams.
Calling All Swarm Chasers
The club has a hotline, 804-404-BEE1(2331), which receives requests to remove a swarm. Sometimes swarms can be easily removed; other times it requires an extensive cut-out. Swarm calls are routed to a group of experienced beekeepers who are active in the club. These are immediate calls and you should have the flexibility to drop everything and help on short notice. If you would like to be on the list to receive swarm calls for 2021, signup here. Even if you do not have the experience to go get the swarm yourself, you might want to tag along with an experienced beekeeper to see how it is done.
Have you reserved your bees for 2021?
Whether you’re a 1st time beekeeper, or looking to replace a colony that didn’t make it through Winter, there are resources for you to get live bees locally.
For those looking to purchase Nucs, Packages or Queen’s check out our 2021 Resources*. The time is now to start reserving your order(s).
*This is simply a list of local suppliers; RPBBA does not endorse or give preference. Buyers are encouraged to do their own research before making their decision to purchase from any supplier.
Bee Vocabulary – “Nuc”
Nucs, or nucleus colonies, are small honey bee colonies created from larger colonies. Nucs often compose of 5 frames and can be medium’s or deep’s. Nucs are a better way to start new hives than package bees since a nucleus hive is functioning with brood hatching, a laying queen, drawn comb, and honey/pollen stores.
Beekeepers in the News
Shedding Light on the Secret Reproductive Lives of Honey Bees
Research at NC State and the University of British Columbia shows that there are trade-offs between sperm viability and the expression of a protein involved in the insect’s immune response.
Checkout the full story here: https://cals.ncsu.edu/news/shedding-light-on-the-secret-reproductive-lives-of-honey-bees/
Virginia State Beekeepers Association (VSBA)
The VSBA Speaker Series continues. The month, Toni Burnham will be speaking on the Challenges of Urban Beekeeping. Toni Burnham is an urban beekeeper in Washington, DC. He will be providing tips for keeping bees and developing a responsible beekeeping ordinance in an urban/suburban environment. The event is scheduled for Wednesday, the 17th from 7-8pm over Zoom. Click here to locate the Zoom information.
More information about the VSBA programs can be found on their website: https://www.virginiabeekeepers.org/
This Month in the Hive (February)
The cluster is still tight on most days. The cluster will break and move on those days where the temperature exceeds 57 degrees in the hive. The queen remains in the cluster, and as the days lengthen, she will begin to lay a few more eggs each day. There are still no drones in the hive. Workers will take cleansing flights on mild days. About the 20th of February, maples begin to blossom and to supply nectar and fresh pollen that are extraordinarily valuable to the growth of the hive. The maple blossom continues to mid-March. In areas of higher elevation, the maple blossoms start and end 7-14 days later. Alders may bloom in some locations and provide valuable variety in pollen proteins.
The cluster will remain centered around the small brood nest, which migrates upward as the lowest rows of capped brood hatch. The cluster will not quickly move up into new areas of honey after the brood nest forms, and mild days are important to the bees’ ability to move honey/pollen toward the cluster.
The bees will consume about 20 pounds of honey stores and nectar from maples.
On a day that exceeds 55 degrees, open the hive and quickly check for sufficient food supplies, for signs of disease, and to see if the queen is laying. Place a pollen patty near (but not directly on top of) the brood nest. More colonies are probably lost during this time of year than during all other winter months. A colony that is rearing brood will consume about 7 pounds of honey and nectar per week, and if the weather turns bad, a colony with small food reserves can quickly starve to death. Never allow the food stores to drop below 15 pounds. If they have less than 15 pounds of honey, start feeding stored honey or thick sugar syrup (one part sugar to one part water). Remember, once you start feeding, you need to continue feeding until the bees no longer consume the syrup, or until the end of April.
Consider whether to sign up for that “Advanced Beekeeper Course.” Attend bee club meetings and get equipment ready for spring. At this time of year, you may be advised to “reverse” the brood boxes on a hive with two brood boxes. It is too early in the year to perform this task with safety, so delay this task until you are confident that warmer weather has arrived. The first week of February may be a good time to add a pollen patty or candy board to a hive that is raising brood. If you enter the hive, you may consider moving a frame of honey from the outside of the hive to an area much closer to the brood nest. Do not place a frame of frozen honey immediately adjacent to the brood nest, however.
Decide now how you are going to deal with the issue of swarms in April, May and June. Read and study the options, and seek advice. Prepare a bait hive now if you are going to use it later in the spring. If you are going to use more equipment to hold queen cells and deal with swarms, then take steps to obtain that equipment.
What’s in Bloom (according to Maymont) – January & February
Wintersweet, Witch Hazel, Conifers, Holly in Fruit
If you are a member of RPBBA, you will receive a Zoom invitation closer to the meeting date. Please bee on the lookout for it! If you are not a member of RPBBA, we encourage you to join and be active. You can join on our website.
We are always looking for ways to improve communications in the club. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please let me know.
I hope to see you at the meeting on Monday, February 8, 2021 at 7pm.
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