RPBBA – January Newsletter

Subj: January Newsletter – RPBBA

Happy New Year beekeepers!

Top of mind for beekeepers is–how did the bees do with the sudden cold snap we had a couple of weeks ago? Hopefully everyone’s bees are hanging in there! In the event that some hives didn’t make it, don’t fret, there will be plenty of opportunities to begin again. Several club members will be selling nucs and queens as the spring approaches. There are also quite a few conferences, classes and other events on tap to get us ready for spring. Bring it on!

Jan. RPBBA Calendar of Events

📅 Monday, Jan 9th – RPBBA Monthly mtg @ 6pm. Topic: Pheromones with Dr. James Wilson at LaPrade Library. (note the change in time for this month. Meet & Greet from 6-6:30 pm. Meeting officially starts at 6:30).

📅 Friday, Jan 14th – Last day to sign up for the Beginner Beekeeping class for the low cost of $100. Price increases to $115 after 01/14. This is an important step for new beeks and veteran beeks who would like to brush up.

📅 Tuesday, Jan 17th RPBBA Study Group. 7-8pm @North Courthouse Road Library (note the change in date for this month). Open to all members.

📅Saturday, Jan 28th – 1st day of the Beginner Beekeeping class. 

2023 Beginner Beekeeping Course

The Rockwood Park Backyard Beekeepers Association (RPBBA) is holding their annual Beginning Beekeeping Course over 4 Saturdays from end of January to beginning of March.

Attendees will receive instruction on the

🐝History, Hive organization & location, 🐝Woodenware and equipment,

🐝Dynamics of the Colony, 🐝Diseases, Pests and Predators,

🐝Getting Started, 🐝The Beekeeping Year, 🐝Floral Sources, and 🐝Bee Field Day (hands-on apiary day)

Class dates will be Jan 28, Feb 11, Feb 25, & Mar 11 alternating Saturday’s with the Huguenot Beekeepers Association (HBA). Participants who are unable to make a class at RPBBA, may attend and receive the same instruction at HBA. The course is $100 through Jan 21st and $115 thereafter. We are limited to 40 registrations; enrollment includes a 1-year membership to RPBBA. For more information, including a signup form, please see our website rockwoodbeekeepers.com/beginner-beekeeping.

Club News – 2023 Officers Announcement (in case you missed it in Dec. 🙂

The Board of Directors’ has installed the following slate of Officers for the 2023. 

Stan Houk, President

Sherry Kelley, Vice President

Theo Hartmann, Treasurer

Don Osborne, Secretary

Hollee Freeman, Communications

John Davis, Membership

Jody Conway, Registered Agent

The Membership role is new. This position was created with the intention of having a club member as a go-to for prospective RPBBA members and new members as well as a familiar face for our more experienced beekeepers to keep in touch. We know there are a lot of questions when you’re new to the club and/or new to beekeeping. Seasoned beekeepers know the learning never ends. Filling in a Membership role will also be a help for our Communications director who is often the first point of contact for many.

The Board of Directors is still on the hunt for a Honey Bee Festival Chair. If you have an interest, or questions, reach out and let us know. The club could use a helping hand to lead the charge. I realize the role is intimidating. Help is available; we promise, we will not let you fail.

Have You Reserved Your Bees For 2023?

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 source live bees locally.


For those looking to purchase Nucs, Packages or Queen’s check out our 2023 Resources for Nucs, Packages & Queens*. 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. The Virginia Bee Law requires that honey bees on combs, hives and equipment with combs must be accompanied by a certificate of health issued by the Office of Plant Industry Services prior to being sold in Virginia. For information on this, please visit the VDACS website.

ISO RPBBA Members Willing to Bee a Mentor

A Mentor’s purpose is to help other members with things like installing packages/nucs, in-hive help, capturing swarms or general questions.

With the 2023 Beginner Beekeeping course kicking off in January,we will soon have new-bee’s looking for assistance. If you are a RPBBA member and willing to bee a Mentor, please sign up here. You must be willing to have your contact information shared with other RPBBA members.

The goal is to create a current list of willing mentors, with their general location, to share with those ISO a Mentor near them.

Bee Vocabulary – “torpor” as in: I’m not dead (yet), I’m just in torpor.

Friends, please resist the temptation to knock on the outside of your hives to see if they are alive. Torpor is a natural state of decreased physiological activity. By knocking on your hives, you will disrupt their torpor state and you may just kill them off without even knowing it. Here are some interesting nuggets to keep in mind: 

  • Honeybees keep the hive temp in the cluster btw 54-57 degrees F.
  • When you knock on the hive, the temp rises to about 80 degrees for about 5+ hours. 
  • Approx ½ cup of food stores are needed to maintain this temp.

We want our ladies to waste their valuable energy during these cold months. So…buy an inexpensive stethoscope if you feel the overwhelming urge to listen for activity OR just be patient. Spring is coming. 

Beekeepers in the News (This info. was in the Dec. newsletter but we will give it another run since Drs. Wilson and Lamas are coming to speak with us.)

Could Carbon Dioxide Be a New Tool Against Varroa Mites?

If you missed the story, you can read it at:


Citizen Science: Predicting Varroa Infestation in Virginia

Dr. Zac Lamas and Dr. James Wilson are working together along with Virginia beekeepers in 2023 to see if a new sampling methodology can predict mite infestations months before they actually occur. The project is simple, easily adoptable, and can be done by beekeepers of all skill levels. They need hobbyist beekeepers across Virginia to join in.

More information and a signup form below👇👇👇

Varroa is the leading cause of death of honey bee colonies. Despite years of research there is much we still don’t know about mites. New findings from the University of Maryland and USDA-ARS suggest an alternative sampling method may allow beekeepers to detect Varroa earlier than current sampling methods, nor does the new method require beekeepers to sacrifice handfuls of worker bees in the process. But we need your help!

Here is your chance to be a scientist! Beekeepers across Virginia are invited to join a citizen science project in 2023. Your participation will provide valuable data. We want to know if our new method works in Virginia, and if it in fact, can predict fall mite infestations months beforehand.

You do not need to provide much to participate. All you need is to sample a few of your own colonies each month, and then submit the results on a monthly questionnaire. Our team at Virginia Tech will provide instruction material, monthly zoom sessions, and Q&A support via e-mail.

𝐒𝐢𝐠𝐧𝐮𝐩 𝐭𝐨 𝐛𝐞𝐞 𝐢𝐧𝐯𝐨𝐥𝐯𝐞𝐝: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScW3ZUau6kO6G1EQfYhrbBBWtSsTmGKfSx6z5tgIq5y_1Y5Pw/viewform?vc=0&c=0&w=1&flr=0&fbclid=IwAR3hDc800XbRhR6Ud40jlieGrgJ_dTcDhV4sAN-W-efAwNlMEgP72BT5I5w 🐝🐝🐝

Heart of Virginia Beekeepers 1st Annual Conference

The Heart of Virginia Beekeepers are hosting their FIRST annual beekeeping conference for the central region! The conference will feature two seminars from keynote speaker, Dr. David Tarpy, professor and extension specialist of honey bee biology and beekeeping at NC State University. His seminars will delve into diagnosing queen problems and coming out of winter. There will also be a selection of breakout sessions from which to choose, including integrated pest management, varroa treatments, reading the frame, commercial beekeeping, Slovenian style beekeeping, a forum on swarm prevention, and the indispensable nuc.

Sat, January 14th, 8:30am – 4:00pm

@Longwood University 201 High Street Farmville, VA 23909

For more information, including registration, visit


There are early admission tickets available though Dec 15th.

Virginia State Beekeepers Association (VSBA)

Save the Date: Spring Meeting

June 10th 8:30am – 5pm &

June 11th 8:30am – 2pm

@Sweet Briar College 134 Chapel Dr Sweet Briar, VA24595

This Month in the Hive (January)

The Hive

This month the queen is surrounded by thousands of workers. She is in the midst of the winter cluster, where the temperature at the center is about 88 degrees F. At the periphery of the cluster, the temperature will drop to 42 degrees on the coldest nights. The worker bees continuously move in and out of the center of the cluster. The bees in the cluster flex their wing and thorax muscles to generate heat, and they consume honey that was stored in the previous year. 

The cluster will continuously move upward into new honey if it is available. On a day that reaches 45 degrees or more in the hive, the bees may be able to move the cluster upward or horizontally into new honey, or they may be able to move honey toward the cluster from other parts of the hive. On a warm day (50 degrees or more) the worker bees will leave the hive to take a cleansing flight, during which they defecate away from the hive. The workers will wait weeks for a warm day if necessary before flying. 

The queen will usually begin laying a small number of worker eggs in the 3rd full week of January (about 28 days after the winter solstice), and some worker brood will begin to appear at the center of the cluster at that time. 

Food Consumption & Storage 

A strong hive may consume 15-20 lbs of honey in January if the weather is consistently cold or wet. Stored pollen will be in demand in the hive after brood rearing commences in the third full week. On a warm day, a few bees may fly out and collect small amounts of pollen from witch hazel and winter aconite. Bees may visit a gardenia in bloom in a garden. These pollen sources are miniscule compared to the bounty waiting later in the year. 

Events to Watch For in the Hive 

If there is heavy snow, make certain the entrance to the hive is cleared to allow for proper ventilation. Check the weight of the hive by placing one hand under the back of the bottom board and lifting it up. If it feels as if most of the honey is gone, you may need to start feeding the hive this month. Once you start feeding, you must continue feeding until the bees are gathering pollen and nectar on their own. Unless you are confident that a hive is starving, do not open a hive at less than 55 degrees Fahrenheit (without wind chill.) 

Tasks to Be Performed 

This is a great time to catch up on reading those bee books you received as holiday gifts, or that you requested on inter-library loan. Don’t forget to attend your next club meeting and start ordering, assembling, and repairing the equipment you might need for this coming season. If you have not done so, go ahead and order that package of bees or a nucleus hive, if needed, from a reputable supplier.

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

What’s in Bloom (according to Maymont)

Wintersweet, Witch Hazel, Conifers, Holly in Fruit

[From: maymont.org/explore/gardens/whats-in-bloom/]

Final Word

If you are a member of RPBBA, don’t forget to pay your dues. The amount is miniscule compared to the vast array of knowledge from mentors, study groups and meetings. If you are not a member of RPBBA, we encourage you to join and bee active. You can join on our website. If you are a honeybee enthusiast looking to get started, check out the Beginner Beekeeping course. It’s worth its’ weight in gold. 

We are always looking for ways to improve communications in the club. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please let me know.  I am planning do feature a member each month starting in Feb. Stay tuned.

I hope to see you at the meeting on Jan 9th at 6pm. Bring your bee stories!

Hollee Freeman
Communications 🐝

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