April Newsletter – RPBBA

Hello Beekeepers,

As we come into April, we are beginning to see the pollen in the air as well as the beauty of Virginia. The honeybees and us are happy to be coming out of Winter. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves; we can still lose our colonies to starvation as the weather starts to warm up but the occasional cold snap comes through. On warmer days, do a hive inspection to check on your girls food storage, have a look at the brood pattern, replace a few old frames, and watch for signs of swarming.


April Meeting

April’s meeting is one you won’t want to miss. John Davis will be giving a presentation on Swarming. What efforts can we make to prevent swarming? Supercedure cells v Queen cells v queen cups. What can be done once a hive is already exhibiting swarming behavior? My hive swarmed, now what? Join us Monday, April 12th at 7pm on Zoom. Add to Calendar The Zoom link to join will be emailed to all RPBBA members shortly following the newsletter.

🐝 Zoom Study Group

For members of all knowledge levels looking to learn, and those working on certification, the Study Group is back up and meeting on Zoom. The group will next meet Monday, April 5th at 7pm on Zoom. Add to Calendar As a group, we will read through the VSBA Apprentice Study Guide questions, provide answers, and discuss. Attendee’s are encouraged to download the guide in advance and start working through the questions on their own. Still not sure if it’s for you? Come sit in on a session; see what there is to learn about our favorite pollinators. The Zoom link to join will be sent following this newsletter to all RPBBA members with the monthly meeting link.

Bee Vocabulary – “Neonicotinoids”

Globally, neonicotinoids are the most used insecticides, despite their well-documented sub-lethal effects on beneficial insects. Neonicotinoids are a nicotine like pest control put on the soil or sprayed on plants. It gives colony insects, like our honeybees, effects similar to altzimers where the bees go out foraging and pollinating but cannot remember where the hive is to come back. You can help protect the bee population by using neonicotinoid free plants and seeds as well as planting native flowers. Avoid acetamiprid, clothianidin, imidacloprid, nitenpyram, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam.

Beekeepers in the News

Our very own, Theo Hartmann recently had the spotlight shone on him by Broodminder. Here’s what they had to say.

There are not enough words to articulate how grateful we are for Theo Hartmann, the People’s Drone here at BroodMinder. He is our #1 Quality Assurance tester running over 75 devices in his apiary, Dandelion Springs Apiary, in Virginia. With a background in mechanical engineering, he is always figuring out how to make things work better for the user. If you’ve been lucky enough to hear one of his many BroodMinder presentations, you know that he loves data and bees. When he joined up with us in our early days, he said it was “a dream come true”. The feeling is mutual, Theo!

If you’re interested in checking out a presentation by Theo here’s one on Swarm Monitoring: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtHOhzNy89o

Virginia State Beekeepers Association (VSBA)

This month VSBA will have Products of the Hive Part 1 with Jennifer Holmes. April 7th at 7pm on Zoom, she will be talking about Rendering Beeswax and Candles. Add to Calendar Jennifer Holmes and the Holmes Family run the Hani Honey Company, based in Stuart Florida. Jennifer is a speaker on many beekeeping topics and has traveled world-wide continuing to learn and contribute positively to the beekeeping industry. Products of the hive and honey shows are of particular interest to Jennifer. She is engaged with producing ferments from locally foraged, locally grown foods, and has a deep passion for food and farmers.

More information about the VSBA programs can be found on their website: https://www.virginiabeekeepers.org/

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. 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. A hive that is storing honey by April 20 is a hive to watch for swarming.

Henbit, wild mustard, dandelions, redbuds, pears, cherries, “Japanese” magnolias, plums, shadbush, chickweed, and many ornamental shrubs 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, apples, peaches, crab apples, American holly and autumn olive may begin to supply ample amounts of nectar and some very strong hives will begin to make and cap honey. At the end of the month, nectar flows will be strong from many


Pick up and install packages of bees or nucleus hives. Packages are delivered in Northern 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 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.

[From https://buzzwordhoney.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Northern-Virginia-Honeybee-Annual-Cycle.pdf]

What’s 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


Final Word

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, April 12th at 7pm on Zoom.

Michelle Clark


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