RPBBA April newsletter

Hello beekeepers and honey bee enthusiasts! 🐝

This is an exciting & challenging time in the lives of beekeepers! The blossoms are showing their beauty and sharing their sweet scents. This means that your honey bee population is probably increasing and possibly preparing to swarm. You may have even experienced a swarm or two or four already!

Swarming occurs when the population of bees is too large for the volume of space in the hive. In order to (try to) mitigate a swarm, increase the frequency of your hive inspections and be on the lookout for signs of swarming. This is a good time to make splits if you have a crowded hive or add another box on top (as needed) to increase the volume inside the hive.

Keep the RPBBA Swarm Line handy to share with friends, neighbors, anyone who may need help with a swarm. Encourage people that you meet to call the swarm line instead of using pesticides or calling an exterminator.

RPBBA Swarm Line

(804) 404-BEE1 or (804) 404-2331

April Calendar of Events (all meetings take place at Rockwood Park Nature Center)

Monday, April 10th @7pm – Monthly Club meeting

Monday, April 17th @7pm – Study group

Monday, April 24th @ 7pm – Honey Bee Festival Planning Committee meeting

April Meeting

During our April meeting Stan will present a workshop on making splits and preparing for honey production. This workshop will be tailored to all experience levels. If you’re a new beek don’t be afraid to jump right in! Add to Google Calendar

2023 Honey Bee Festival will be held on Saturday, June 24th from 10am-2pm Add to Google Calendar


Huge thanks to our HBF co-chairs and volunteer committee leads who are well underway with festival planning.

We are at capacity with vendors and the vendor sign-up has been removed from our website. If you missed out on becoming a vendor, keep your eyes open in the months ahead. If something falls through and a spot becomes available, we may reopen the sign-up.

There are many opportunities to participate in this year’s festival. Committees include: operations, guest experiences (plantings & club table), education, children’s area, bake sale, and publicity. In addition to day-of volunteers, we are also looking for help on Friday evening with setup and Saturday with take down. 🐝

Volunteers can be anyone, not just RPBBA members. Beekeeping experience or knowledge is NOT required. The only requirement is a willingness to help. If you need service credit just know that RPBBA is a non-profit organization. Volunteers are provided a free Honey Bee Festival t-shirt and we promise to provide an enjoyable experience with good company. More details, including a signup form, can be found here: rockwoodbeekeepers.com/volunteer-sign-up/

In particular, the festival needs a cadre of volunteers for the operations/logistics committee. This committee is the ‘bones’ of the festival and needs volunteers to help direct traffic (vehicular and human), picking up supplies, repairing equipment, making sure other committees have what they need, etc. Operations help is needed in advance to prepare for the big day. Many helping hands makes for less work.

The RPBBA Bake Sale tent is a major source of funds that allows our club to conduct the festival each year. We are on the lookout for anyone who can bake and/or donate items to the club for sale at the festival. Cookies, cakes, pies, anything goes (with proper labeling). Can’t bake? How about donating a case of water? More details including the signup form, can be found here: https://rockwoodbeekeepers.com/bake-sale-sign-up/

Virginia State Beekeepers Association

Registration is open for the spring meeting of the Virginia State Beekeepers Association. Register at https://www.virginiabeekeepers.org/


2023 Bumblebee Jamboree


Contact Rick McCormick is heading up this fun family event sponsored by the Chesterfield Master Gardeners of the Virginia Cooperative Extension Come on out to volunteer and encourage your friends, family and neighborhood to volunteer as well.

U0fb4K1jAEGVyqiR1kg5i8EqqrJNp1ggi3f5Su2cSmUL9NWeX4Z7dRUasSkNPp2SADRNLqzSVct8EDDLkj6JChsTGlWvAhyNwZqIa1PqXh6U_j0nUJZT-q4TQM_bjP2ei_Ch2_XU0sfBlaOCaLny1cs Meet Your Friendly Neighborhood Beekeepers: Carla & Stan


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

Carla & Stan: Chestnut Ridge Garden has been in existence since 1988, but the first bees were placed into hives here in the Spring of 2015. We currently run twenty production hives and an ever-changing quantity of nucs.

Q: What inspired you to become a beekeeper?

Carla: Stan’s father had been a beekeeper for a brief time when he was young and the sight of beekeeping equipment brought back some great memories. We became friends with local beekeepers Kristi and Harlan, who helped us get connected with Rockwood Park Backyard Beekeepers.

Stan: My dad was a beekeeper. I had severe allergies as a kid, which honey cured. Carla bought me a hive for Xmas

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

Carla: We really enjoy the enhanced connection to the natural world, and appreciate the wide range of amazing people we’ve had the pleasure to meet through beekeeping.

Stan: Getting so many great friends who are beekeepers.

Q: What’s challenging about beekeeping for you?

Carla: It seems we can always make more bees, but the one thing we can’t make more of is time, but maybe that’s more of a “life-in-general” challenge. There NEVER seems to be enough time…

Stan: Finding enough time to properly take care of our bees.

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

Carla: In the Fall of 2014, we went to our local farmer’s co-op to buy cracked corn and sunflower seeds. Upon entering, we saw a shiny new display of beekeeping equipment! After watching him reminisce, I went back alone the next day to buy a full hive set-up as a Christmas gift for Stan. To say that this impulse purchase changed the trajectory of our lives would be an understatement!

Stan: Getting a call about a swarm, going and capturing it and coming home to a swarm in our backyard.

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

Carla: In addition to helping with the Rockwood study group, we share bee knowledge at every possible opportunity… from customers at the farmers market to the unsuspecting stranger that comments on a bee-themed hat, T-shirt or jewelry. No one is safe from receiving the gospel of the bee. We are regularly contacted by friends of friends, family or customers when spring swarm season hits, and this is another incredible educational opportunity in a most unexpected situation!


By teaching the public about the importance of bees and being environmentally conscious. Helping fellow beekeepers become better beekeepers and for them to tell the others about bees.

Bee Vocabulary – “Brood Nest”

Bees will use the available cells across frames for various purposes. They will use some cells to store pollen or honey. Other cells will be created for worker, drone or queen cells, which are collectively called the brood nest.

LIST: Common Beekeeping Terms You Should Know – Backyard Beekeeping

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 sources.

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, WildflowersUlb25U4jwjPSTpYHJX03OXh_JSQhwL5e31QjXZkQVBVrtPD5pVVmLKC_VzdKE9zzNvGPfD1EqFgu4Lg3eldFrCMaXa6L9mLb9r-r3NHa6Bp2J7ZG71btHAY6irgkQnSURnkNHfwp1cfuEycHu0O3DgM

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


Happy Beekeeping!

-Hope to see you all at the meeting on April 10th at 7pm at Rockwood Park Nature Center.

Hollee Freeman
Communications 🐝

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One thought on “RPBBA April newsletter”

  1. This is an informative and engaging blog post, filled with really useful information for beekeepers and honey bee enthusiasts like myself! I found the section on swarming especially interesting, Thanks for sharing this post!


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