May Newsletter – RPBBA

May Meeting

This month our meeting will be on Monday, May 10th at 7pm on Zoom. Add to Calendar

During our meeting we will share a Virginia State Beekeepers Association presentation from their Speaker Series. The presentation titled Honey Bee Defensive Behavior is provided thanks to Dr. Clare Rittschof. Does the behavior of a hive tell us anything about the health of the colony? Is aggression always bad? Join us to hear what researchers are learning about the connection between aggression and health.

Rockwood Park Observation Hive Update

The observation hive in the Nature Center is doing fantastic. The hive which has 8 frames, 5 in the bottom and 3 in the observation area.

During the first spring inspection, some queen cups were found and 6 of the 8 frames had brood including 2 frames in the observation area. The hive was overflowing with bees. Since this hive has a high tendency to swarm due to its limited space, the queen and 3 frames of bees were removed to make a split. If the hive is unsuccessful in raising a new viable queen the original queen will be returned to the hive.

An inspection was performed 13 days after the queen was removed to reduce queen cells if more than 2 existed. We discovered 2 empty queen cells, one with the cap open and one that appeared to be torn open from the side. No queen was found at the time of this inspection. However, a queen was spotted in the observation area a week later. Another hive inspection will be done in a few weeks to determine if the hive is queen right. If the queen is laying, a mite count will be taken and the hive treated for mites if necessary.

On another note, a feral colony has established a hive in a tree along the roadway between the 2 parking lots at the back of the park near the nature center. The bees were using a large hole at the base of the tree as their entrance. This poses a hazard to walkers as they pass by. Measures will be taken to get the bees to enter the tree at a higher entrance on the opposite side of the tree. The plan is to allow these bees to continue living in the tree.

Bee Vocabulary – “Proboscis”

The tongue of a bee, the proboscis can be extended like a straw to draw up water or nectar from flowers.

Beekeepers in the News

Video: Sting of Climate Change

By comparing bee data to satellite imagery, NASA research scientist Wayne Esaias uses honey bees as tiny data collectors to understand how climate change is affecting pollination and plants. To check out the video, go here:

Virginia State Beekeepers Association (VSBA)

The Virginia State Beekeepers Association is taking a break in May and will return June 16th with a presentation from Jennifer Homes titled Honey- Extracted, Creamed, and Comb – From Harvest to Preparation for the Honey Show. Mark your calendar now.

More information about the VSBA programs can be found on their website:

This Month in the Hive (May)

Now the hive is really buzzing. The nectar and pollen should begin to come into the hive thick and fast. This is the peak of the egg laying season for the queen. The hive should be bursting with bees. The brood nest will extend across 7-8 frames and may reach into 2 full brood boxes in the strongest hives by month end.

This month Tulip Poplar, Black Locust, Wild Blackberry, Privet, Persimmon, yellow rocket, and Sweet Clover will bloom. Alsike Clover, Crimson Clover, Ladino (White Clover), Black Gum, poison ivy, Vetch, Holly, and Raspberries will also bloom this month. At the end of the month, hawthorn hedges will add their nectar.

A strong hive may collect and store as much as 7 lbs of nectar per sunny, bright day. The bees will combine the nectar with enzymes they produce, and place the nectar in honeycomb cells to evaporate the nectar and age it into honey. Honey will be capped when it reaches 83-84% sugar. A strong hive working on a good nectar flow in May can cap as much as 80 pounds of mature honey during this month.

If the queen has over-wintered with the hive, then watch for signs of swarming. Look for queen cells. Make certain that the queen has enough room to lay 800-1000 eggs per day, and that she may do so for the entire 21 day cycle for production of a worker. This will mean that a queen in peak fertility will need at least 1 deep and 1 medium super for brood production. (Many beekeepers provide 2 deep brood boxes for this purpose.) If the brood production area has become honey-bound (more than ½ the brood frames are more than ½ full of honey), then provide a larger brood nest or remove honey frames and substitute foundation.

Watch for a failing or disappeared queen. If all the brood is drone brood, then the queen is failing, or has disappeared and been replaced by laying workers. If this occurs, you should combine the queenless hive with a queenright hive or take other steps to requeen the hive.

At the end of May, look out for wax moths. These 1/2 inch wide, gray moths sneak into the hive at night and lay eggs in corners and other places where the bees are unable to remove the eggs. The adult moths will be harassed and forced to leave a strong hive, and eggs will be covered with propolis if not removed. In a weak hive, the eggs will hatch and begin a path of destructive chewing and defecating through the brood combs. Combine weak hives, reduce the size of the brood box, or reduce the entrance to discourage moth entry to weak hives.

Inspect the hive weekly. If you reversed the brood boxes earlier in the year, you may need to do so a second time in May or June. Consider doing so if the lower brood box is nearly empty of brood and the upper brood box is crowded. Attend your bee club meetings and useful workshops you can find. Make certain that each hive has more than enough supers to store the honey harvest. Make notes of which flowers/trees/shrubs bloom at which times. Order labels, bottles and caps. Buy, reserve or borrow extracting equipment for late June or July. Order queens for July hive splits. Put out a wax moth trap; for directions, click here. Note however, that a MAAREC publication on wax moths states “so far a trap effective against the wax moth has not been developed”.

On strong hives, remove the mouse guard if you have not yet done so, unless you are using a mouse guard made of 1/2 inch hardware cloth, which does not obstruct air or bee movement.


What’s in Bloom (according to Maymont)

1st Week: Horse Chestnut, Empress Tree, Tulip Poplar, Amur Honeysuckle, Buckeye, Dogwood, Pearlbush, Azalea, Photinia, Viburnum, Cherry, Cotoneaster, Lilac, Iris, Peony, Candytuft, Violet, Tulip, Pansy, Daylily Wildflowers, Deutzia, Spirea

2nd Week: Tulip Poplar, Empress tree, Horse Chestnut, Amur Honeysuckle, Buckeye, Pearlbush, Cotoneeaster, Iris, Peony, Daylily, Perennials, Annuals, Wildflowers, Deutzia, Spirea, Azalea

3rd Week: Tulip Poplar, European Linden, magnolia, Azalea, Rhododendron, Cotoneaster, Weigelia, Water Iris, Peony, Honeysuckle, Rose, Daylily, Annuals, Perennials, Wildflowers

4th Week: Tulip Poplar, Magnolia, Tree Lilac, Rhododendron, Smoke Tree, Rose, Azalea, Honeysuckle, Yucca, Daylily, Annuals, Perennials, Wildflowers, European Linden, Mock Orange, Weigelia, Water Iris, Abelia, Laburnum, Mountain Laurel, Privet, Calycanthus


Final Word

If you are a member of RPBBA, the Zoom links or May will be emailed following this newsletter. 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, May 10th at 7pm on Zoom!

Michelle Clark

Communications 🐝

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