RPBBA March 2023 newsletter

Hello beekeepers and honeybee enthusiasts,

Are you ready for spring yet? Some days it feels like spring already! It won’t be long before the nectar flow is on and swarm season begins. Many of you may be seeing bees bringing in pollen already! If you do not have your equipment ready for spring, it’s crunch time. Pull your boxes from storage, assemble extra frames, apply a fresh coat of paint to the outside of boxes as needed. You do not want to be in the middle of a hive inspection and realize you need equipment that’s not ready to go!


Huge thanks to Dr. Zac Lamas and the Huguenot Beekeepers Association for a great joint meeting. Dr. Lamas shared with us everything we wanted to know about Varroa mites and mite research that we were afraid to ask. We all left with tons of great information.

📢March Meeting

Speaking of spring. For our March meeting, we will discuss the preparations the bees are making for spring and what to look for to stay ahead of swarming. John Davis has a presentation prepared for us and if you have ever spent any time with John, you know that he is a wealth of experience and information. We know that there’s a lot of information and mis-information on social media as folks are noticing how busy their bees are, all the comb and brood that seems to increase overnight, and the impact of the weather on all of this. SO, get in your car, put on some good music and come on out to this meeting and get some valuable information that you can immediately use.

Click here for Rockwood Park Backyard Beekeepers Calendar of Events

Saturday, March 11th – Beginner Beekeeping class Day 4 at Dandelion Springs Apiary

Monday, March 13th – RPBBA Monthly Meeting at Rockwood Park Nature Center (topic: Swarming and spring management with John Davis).

Monday, March 20th – Study Group meeting at Rockwood Park Nature Center

Here are some other meetings that you may like to attend to support your beekeeping journey:

State Apiarist Keith Tignor is hosting a lecture and hands-on demo titled: Starting and Growing in Beekeeping on March 8th at VSU. Click on the link for details https://www.ext.vsu.edu/events/2023/3/8-starting-bees

Virginia State Beekeepers Association (VSBA)

Mark your calendar now for the VSBA Spring/Summer meeting on Saturday, June 10 & 11th @ Sweet Briar College.

Beautiful Sweet Briar College is the perfect campus for this convening of beekeepers! There are on-site dorm and hotel options, a large vendor area, multiple workshops including apiary workshops, tours of the pollinator meadows and greenhouses, honey show prep, honey bee microscopy, master beekeeper exams and practicals. There’s also a list of fantastic speakers who will engage beekeepers at all levels of knowledge and experience. Mark your calendar, registration opens April 1. More information about the conference can be found on the VSBA website: https://www.virginiabeekeepers.org/

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Bumblebee Jamboree

Join us the next weekend on Saturday, June 17th from 10:30am-2:30pm for Bumblebee Jamboree held at Maymont Children’s Farm. This is a great community event with activities such as planting stations, observation bee hives, storytimes, pollinator games & snacks, children’s crafts and more. This event is sponsored by the Chesterfield Master Gardeners of the Virginia Cooperative Extension and headed up by our own, Rick McCormick. Come on out to volunteer and encourage your friends, family and neighborhood to come on out as well.MrTvamTSJd_vrFCXA09BzA7TMhnbg6Rla3W-KULyAmOgeXP60ZJv5yIEmlTQ7umCi58SDKJAaJbn6Rp1ee0fVhBDqjIdUQBN6mPeUIVZqnq9an4_U_ENniXwpX8XkmScyqS1FLpZRqQB7EBhddzK7eU


2023 Honey Bee Festival Add to Google Calendar

To keep the excitement going, we are having our Honey Bee Festival on Saturday, June 24th from 10am-2pm at the Rockwood Nature Center and festival planning is well underway! Bill Crouch and Keith Ebbeskotte have volunteered to co-chair the 2023 Festival. Huge thanks to Bill and Keith.

We have a terrific team of volunteer committee leads: Emma Cummings, Robert Johnston, Will Wagoner, Holly Monger, Jacob Schwartz, Kyree Tanner, Sherry Giese, Don Osborne, Sherry Kelley, Hollee Freeman, Bill Kusnierz, Donna Eissler, Genelle Pollock, Mr. C, Pam Kimball, and Alice/Walt McIntyre. With such an experienced group leading the charge, this year’s festival is sure to be a success.

As many of you know, space was tight at last year’s festival. Luckily, our leadership teamed up with Chesterfield County for a solution. We’re swarming! Just kidding. More accurately, our hive is growing. The festival grounds will be expanded across Rockwood Park. A rough blueprint is available for those looking to catch a glimpse of the expanded festival grounds. This new Festival footprint provides great opportunities for us to get even more creative on how we use the Festival to support RPBBAs mission.

Sign-ups are open. Here’s an overview (which can also be found on our website)

🐝 Call for Volunteers Last year we were blessed to have about 125 volunteers lend a helping hand. With our new, expanded, festival footprint we will need that many and more. Volunteers do not have to be beekeepers or a member of our club or know anything about bees. Volunteers can be kids, family, friends, etc. The only requirement is a willingness to help. We can certainly find a way to use volunteers and are thankful for all the help we can get! Volunteers are provided a free Honey Bee Festival t-shirt. More details, including a signup form, can be found here: rockwoodbeekeepers.com/volunteer-sign-up/

🐝 Interested in Bee-ing a Vendor? We are looking for vendors to join us at our 2023 Honey Bee Festival. Space is available for single or double spaces and food trucks. We’re looking for vendors that sell items related to our mission- supporting bees, pollinators, plants and/or nature related– with at least a portion of items hand crafted. Sound like you or someone you know? More details, including fees, and an application form can be found here: rockwoodbeekeepers.com/bee-a-vendor/

🐝 ISO Educational Exhibitors Our expanded festival footprint allows us to expand our educational offering during the festival. We are now able to offer a FREE 15’x10 exhibitor space to non-profit organizations with complimentary objectives (e.g. educators, gardening clubs, environmental groups, bee clubs,etc) that support beekeeping and bees, pollinators, plants and/or nature related. More details including exhibitor requirements and an application form can be found here: rockwoodbeekeepers.com/bee-an-exhibitor/

📢 Calling All Swarm Chasers

We have a list of folks on our website (rockwoodbeekeepers.com) who are at the ready to remove swarms. Sometimes swarms can be easily removed; other times it requires an extensive cut-out. Emails are routed to active members in the club who have expressed interest in capturing swarms. These requests are immediate and you should have the flexibility to drop everything and help on short notice. If you are not already on the swarm list and would like to be, 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.

oso4fZIQauwUlCWmOVfmZxpCVVFXrAJILyOslL0pb6kYL4mro4RicW-nTm0VqKwrw3dDifOd5rnbb_SeuUaJut8yYexkM1PqH0tvTv5R50EgndMAa3Vdsr_6QlKiOBxTt7PdZNEnu_hH9E7o15kPcMsMeet Your Friendly Neighborhood Beekeeper: Jody Wienckowski Conway


Q: How long have you been a beekeeper and how many hives do you manage?

A: I have been a beekeeper since 2013 and I help manage about 35 hives.

Q: What inspired you to become a beekeeper?

A: I didn’t see bees on flowers as I walked to and from my job as a pharmacist.

Q: What is the best thing about beekeeping for you?

A: The best thing about beekeeping is there is ALWAYS more to learn!

Q: What’s challenging about beekeeping for you?

A: The weight of the boxes and being allergic to bee stings. The mites are challenging too.

Q: What fun, surprising story would you like to share?

A: I love that the bees have brought me back to plants, native and medicinal plants and being a better steward of our precious Earth.

Q: In what ways do you feel like you are making an impact on the environment?

A: I’m learning to be better for the bees, for us, and for the Earth – not using chemicals, being regenerative, making conscious choices to be better and to do better every day. The best thing is being able to share with others and help others be better stewards as well. The impact of my efforts and continued learning and all of the things that benefit. What a beautiful community that the bees inspire and bring together!

(the pic is Jody with her first swarm in the bucket)

📰Beekeepers in the News

Chestnut Ridge Garden (Carla & Stan) joined the Violet Bank Garden Club during their monthly meeting on Monday, February 20th which included an early showing of spring blooms, including jonquils, narcissus, Lenten roses and flowering quince. After a delicious luncheon with bee-themed decor, Chestnut Ridge Garden gave a presentation on honey bees and beekeeping which was jam-packed with photos of garden blooms and bees with lots of facts and anecdotes. It was a great day of fun and learning all around!


Hollee Freeman had a busy February. She spoke with 60+ 1st graders (who were all in one classroom!) at Carver ES in Richmond about honey bees and beekeeping. She also gave a presentation at Henderson MS in Richmond and was a participant on a podcast talking about the connection between honey bees and crop production.

If you do cool stuff in the community about bees, shoot and email to the Rockwood Club for a feature in the newsletter. rockwood.beekeepers

This Month in the Hive (March)

In March, the days become longer and the queen steadily increases her rate of egg laying. The brood nest will expand and migrate upward into areas where honey has been consumed. The brood nest is now 6-8 inches across, and may extend across several frames. As much as 75- 100 cells of drone brood may be seen at the end of the month. More brood means more honey, nectar and pollen are consumed. A few drones begin to appear toward the end of the month. The bees will continue to consume honey stores. They will also bring in a fair amount of nectar and pollen, but not as much as is consumed.

The hive may consume as much as 7 lbs per week (net of inflow) when cold, rain, snow, or icy conditions prevail. Make sure the hive does not tilt backward. It should slightly tilt forward to shed rain from the bottom board.

Prevent starvation by making certain that food supplies are sufficient. Maple nectar and pollen continue to be very important to population buildup. Willows may bloom in wet, sheltered valleys. In some parts of Virginia, ornamental and exotic shrubs supply small amounts of pollen. Crocus, daffodil, and other flowering bulbs will also supply some pollen. Boxwood, quince, hackberries, forsythia, and elms will supply variety in the pollen sources. Some early dandelions may bloom at the end of the month.

If using a screened bottom board, you should resist the urge to remove the insert. Leave it in until consistent warmer weather arrives in late April. In late March, you may consider reversing the deep brood supers, or the medium supers that some beekeepers use for brood. This will allow for a better distribution of the brood, and stimulate the growth of the colony. If the brood nest extends across the brood supers, do not reverse until there is a large enough population to keep both halves of the brood nest from death due to chilling.

On a sunny day early in the month, when there is little wind and the bees are flying, have a quick look inside the hive. A temperature above 54 degrees should do for this task. Remove frames for a quick inspection. Inspect for disease and see that the queen is laying. Eggs laid in January and February will all be hatched into new workers by mid-late March and the population will be much higher than in January. You may wan to add a pollen patty if you have not yet done so but be careful to add a small piece and watch carefully-you don’t want to entice mites.

Look for drone brood along the bottom edges of frames with brood. Remove some drone brood with a cappings scratcher and look for Varroa mites. If you find Varroa in 30% or more of the drone brood cells, perform a mite count, and decide whether to treat for mites. Be sure to chheck for remaining honey and pollen stores. Food stores can run dangerously low until a heavy nectar flow starts. It may be necessary to continue feeding the hive.

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

Bee in the Know with your Bee Vocabulary – “split”

If you have a large, healthy hive, it is possible to create a new colony from it by making what is called a split. The basic concept of making a split is that you take a portion of an established colony and transfer it to a separate hive thereby creating two colonies. There are many reasons for making a split. Some beekeepers make splits to increase their apiary or to sell to other beekeepers. Others use splits as a form of swarm control, mite control or to reduce the size of a large colony.

What’s in Bloom (according to Maymont)

2nd Week: Maple, Elm, Star Magnolia, Cornelean Cherry, Mahonia, Forsythia Pieris, Sweet-Breath-of-Spring, Crocus, Jonquil, Periwinkle, Pansy, Wildflowers

3rd Week: Maple, Elm, Star Magnolia, Cornelian Cherry, Mahonia, Forsythia, Flowering Quince, Sweet-Breath-of-Spring, Pieris, Crocus, Jonquil, Pansy, Periwinkle, Wildflowers

4th Week: Maple, Elm, Magnolia, Callery Pear, Cornelian Cherry, Sweet-Breath-of-Spring, Mahonia, Pieris, Forsythia, Boxwood, Flowering Quince, Crocus, Periwinkle, Narcissus, Pansy, Candytuft, Wildflowers


Final Word

If you are not a member of RPBBA, we encourage you to join and bee active. You can join on our website. Please participate in meetings and volunteer to help with the Bumblebee Jamboree and the Honey Bee Festival.

We are always looking for ways to improve communications in the club. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please let me know.

Hollee Freeman
Communications 🐝

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Keep up with what RPBBA is doing, see Calendar of Events!

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