May Newsletter – RPBBA

Hello beekeepers and honey bee enthusiasts!

It’s been quite busy in the apiary. My hive inspections lately are watching for signs of swarming, finding eggs, making sure the queen has space to lay, and adding boxes for honey production. We’re in the thick of it now! I just love getting out in the apiary and smelling sweet honey in the air. It’s so pleasant. There is so much in bloom; our bees are happy happy happy.

May Upcoming Calendar of Events

Monday, May 9th – RPBBA Monthly Meeting, 7pm at Molly’s Blind Dog Brewery
Tuesday, May 10th – Honey Bee Festival Planning Committee, 7pm on Zoom
Monday, May 16th – Master Beekeeping Study Group, 7pm on Zoom
Wednesday, May 25th – Honey Bee Festival Planning Committee, 7pm on Zoom

May Meeting

If swarming has been an issue for your hives, then our May club meeting is for you because we’re talking about making splits! We will be meeting at 7pm on Monday, May 9th at Molly’s Blind Dog Brewery.

4515 W Hundred Rd
Chester, VA 23231

During the meeting our club President and longtime beekeeper, Stan Houk, will be giving a presentation on splits. What is a split? Why do beekeepers make splits? When should I make a split? How do I make splits? Come learn the ins and outs. We’ll have plenty of Q&A time so everyone can leave the meeting feeling comfortable using their new skill in the apiary. Add to Google Calendar

Honey Bee Festival – Saturday, June 25th Add to Google Calendar

The Honey Bee Festival (HBF) is fast approaching. Leading up to the festival, I ask you to consider:

  1. Volunteering Day of the festival we need about 50 volunteers to lend a helpful hand. Volunteers do not have to be beekeepers or a member of our club. Volunteers can be kids, family, friends, etc. The only requirement is a willingness to help. All volunteers receive a free HBF t-shirt. Those interested can let us know by completing the webform on our website:

  2. Spread the Buzz What fun is a festival without attendees? Word of mouth and social media are helpful tools to invite others. We have information about the festival on our website, a flyer, and an event setup on Facebook. All can be shared. Please help to spread the buzz so we can make this year’s festival a success.

VSBA Master Beekeeping Study Group

For those who have never checked it out, the study group is a great way for RPBBA members to further their beekeeping knowledge. Several members are studying for the annual VSBA Apprentice and Journeyman exams. However there is no requirement for attendees to be pursuing certification. The study group is open to all members who want to learn. During the study group sessions, questions from the VSBA Apprentice Study Guide are posed for the group to discuss and answer together. There is much to learn during open discussion with our peers!

The study group meets monthly on the 3rd Monday of each month. They’ll next be meeting Monday, May 16th at 7pm on Zoom. RPBBA members, look for the Zoom link in email following this newsletter. The group will continue to go through the VSBA Apprentice Study Guide questions, provide answers, and discuss. Those interested to attend are encouraged to download the guide in advance and start working through the questions on their own. Add to Google Calendar

RPBBA Observation Hive Update

The club’s observation hive is bursting at the seams. The queen was pulled April 30th to make a split. 2 queen cells were found in the hive so they are well on their way to raising a new queen. If they should fail to successfully raise a new queen, the original queen will be returned.


Looking To Expand Your Pollinator Garden?

Regional native plant guides are available that highlight the beautiful variety of Virginia’s native plants. PDF versions are free. Virginia Capital Region native plants provide visual beauty year round. Local native plants support more wildlife species than non-native plants. Native trees, shrubs, and vines that feed the insects, birds, and animals are essential for maintaining biodiversity. Local native plants are adapted to local temperature and rainfall fluctuations. Spraying pesticides for insects or diseases is generally not necessary for native Plants. The guide for RVA area natives can be viewed here:

Bee Vocabulary – “Wax Scales”

The wax glands are located in the lower part of the young worker’s abdomen, and release wax when the worker is about 12 days old. About six days later, the gland degenerates and the worker stops comb-building. The wax is discharged as a liquid and hardens to small flakes or scales and sits in wax pockets.


Beekeepers in the News

Virginia Living Museum Expert Gives Tips About Choosing Plants To Attract Pollinators Ahead Of Native Plant Sale

Master beekeeper Andy Westrich, the volunteer beekeeper at the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News, discusses pollinator friendly planting and warns of harmful pesticides. If you missed the story, you can read it at:

Virginia State Beekeepers Association (VSBA)

Save the Date for the VSBA Spring/Summer meeting.

8:30 AM – 5:30 PM
Saturday, June 11th
@ Blue Ridge Community College
1 College Lane
Weyers Cave, VA 24486

Speakers will include Dr. Dewey Caron, Monica Schmitt, and Dr. James Wilson. VSBA will be having their Spring Business meeting, updates from our State Apiarist and EAS Representative as well as Testing for the Virginia State Master Beekeeper Program. Participants are encouraged to register here:

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: 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, this month’s Zoom links 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. Meetings are open to non-members also. Come meet some other beekeepers and find out what RPBBA is all about.

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 everyone at the meeting on Monday, May 9th at Molly’s Blind Dog Brewery!

Michelle Clark
Communications 🐝

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