Rockwood Park Backyard Beekeepers August Newsletter

August, 2020

I think we are all starting to get COVID fatigue! But, as beekeepers, we rely on science and research to do the best we can, so we continue to social distance. Even though our regular social experiences are disrupted, the bees continue to do their thing.

Zoom Meetings and Tutorial

We have experienced just the opposite of what we are observing in the corporate world. When conferences and lessons are offered online, instead of having an increase in attendance, we have had a slump in attendance. If it is because you are not familiar with Zoom, let’s fix that.

Zoom can be used on any device with an Internet connection. It helps to have a camera, but that isn’t essential. So, you can attend a Zoom meeting with us on your cell phone, tablet, computer or other device that connects to the Internet.

Here is a helpful link that has some very good videos and tutorials on Zoom meetings. Please look through how to attend and participate. If all else fails, you should be able to just click on the link we provide in the Zoom invitation to join the meeting.

Here is the link to the tutorials:

Note: If you do not click the link, but login manually, you will need the password that is in the invitation. Our meetings require a password.

August’s Meeting

The club will hold a Zoom video conference meeting at 7:00 PM on Monday, August 10, 2020 at the regular scheduled time. Our speaker will be John Davis who is a Master Beekeeper, member of the Board of Directors and Chair of the club’s Education Committee. He will be talking to us about Checking for and Controlling Varroa Mites. This is the time of year when you need to know your mite count and what to do about it!

Beekeepers in the News

In the July 15, 2020 copy of the Chester Village News, our own Sherry Kelly and Joe Oertel were featured in the article UN-BEE-LIEVABLE. Kudos to Sherry and Joe for a great interview and their service in educating the public on honey bees and cutouts. If you are interested in the article it can be found at: A subscription may be required to read the article.

Bee Vocabulary

Corbicula – Also known as the Pollen Basket. This is a flattened depression on the outside of the bee’s back legs. It is used to carry collected pollen from flowers back to the hive. As the bee returns to the hive the beekeeper can often see full pollen baskets in a variety of vibrant colors.

This Month in the Hive (August)

The colony’s brood growth rate is slowing down. Drones are still around, but the workers will soon lose interest in feeding them. Outside activity slows down as the nectar flow decreases and stops. Much of the flight activity is water-gathering, pollen collection, and orientation of new bees. On hot evenings and nights, the bees may drape the front of the hive, making them especially vulnerable to skunks.

Watch for a failing queen, especially a queen that is more than one year of age. Egg laying should continue at the rate of 400-500 eggs per day, and the brood nest should be at least fourteen inches across. Watch for wasps and hornets attacking the hives to steal away live bees for the purpose of feeding their brood.

Tasks to be Performed

There is not much chance of swarming this month. Do not expend much energy catching a swarm that escapes in August, as it will not build up enough to survive the winter. Watch out for robbing. Re-queening of all hives with queens from the prior year is done in this month or in early September. Queens may be a little less expensive this time of year, especially if they were reserved in April or May. Watch for wax moths and small hive beetles; ruthlessly combine hives that are too weak to defend against them now. Take losses now, rather than in the winter. The bees that are born in August will have to carry the hive through the early winter. Make certain that the hive has enough pollen and honey to generously feed new brood. Skinny August bees will not make it to February.

[Adapted from:]

What’s in Bloom (According to Maymont)

Crepe Myrtle, Rose, Hibiscus, Rose of Sharon, Abelia, Annuals, Perennials

Final Word

If you are a member of RPBBA, you will receive a Zoom invitation closer to the meeting date. 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.

As I’ve said before, I am 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, August 10, 2020 which is the normal date and time for our meeting.

Don Osborne


RPBBA – July 2020 Newsletter

July 2020

We are still unable to hold in-person meetings because of COVID-19. Rockwood Park’s Nature Center is still closed and until we can relax social distancing, it looks like we will continue to hold video meetings. Because of our speaker’s schedule, our July meeting will be held on July 16, 2020. Please note the change of date.

July’s Meeting

The club will hold a Zoom video conference meeting at 7:00 PM on Thursday, July 16, 2020. This month Dr. Jay Evans will be our guest speaker. Dr. Evans is the Research Leader of the Bee Research Laboratory in the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. Dr. Evans has published more than 120 research papers and was an early proponent of the Honey Bee Genome Project. Dr. Evans holds an AB in Biology from Princeton University and a PhD in Biology from the University of Utah.

Dr. Evans will be talking to us about Honey Bee Diseases and I’ve asked him to cover what happens when you send a sample to the Beltsville Laboratory. It will be a very interesting conversation and is one you don’t want to miss!

We want to be sure that the meeting is secure without outside hackers and other issues that some Zoom conferences have been experiencing. While our meetings have always been open to the public, we will be holding this meeting with members only. A separate email with an invitation and password will be sent to members. Please do not share the invitation with non-members, we will be screening entry into the meeting.

The meeting’s waiting room will open at 6:45 PM on the meeting date. The meeting will start at 7:00 PM. Please login early so we can move you to the conference before it starts.

Also, just a reminder that the Master Beekeeping study groups are still on hold. The testing for the various levels of the program are conducted at the Spring and Fall meetings of the Virginia State Beekeepers Association, which are on hiatus. In addition, Eastern Apicultural Societies Annual Conference has been cancelled this year.

Board of Directors Meeting

The Board held a zoom conference meeting on June 15, 2020 at 7:00 PM.

There has been no further action by the IRS since the club filed for 501c3 status.

Rockwood Park has not made any announcements yet about the nature center reopening.

The Board discussed restarting a mentoring program. Don volunteered to review other club’s documents and tools to assign mentors and mentees.

Virginia State Beekeepers Association

Even though the Summer and Fall meetings have been cancelled, it is important that we continue to support the Virginia State Beekeepers Association. This organization provides us with educational materials, standards for the Master Beekeeper Programs, club listings, events and has a wealth of information on beekeeping. Please remember to renew your dues to support our passion at the state level. If you are not a member, I highly recommend it. Dues are only $10 per year. VSBA membership information can be found at

Bee Vocabulary

This month let’s talk about propolis. Most propolis comes from the sap on needle-leaved trees or evergreens. When bees combine the sap with their own discharges and beeswax, it makes a sticky greenish-brown product used as a coating to build their hives. Propolis has been used for thousands of years by ancient civilizations for its medical properties. Greeks used it to treat abscesses. Assyrians put it on wounds and tumors to fight infections. Egyptians used it to embalm mummies.

There are not a lot of published studies on propolis, but we do know that it provides some protection from some bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Propolis has pinocembrin, a flavonoid that acts as an antifungal. The anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties make it useful in healing wounds. There is some research and lots of anecdotal evidence and historical use that propolis can help with many illnesses from cold sores to cancer.

Be careful though, some people develop allergies to propolis. The most common cited allergic reaction is an eczema-like skin rash.

Looking to the Future

Well, maybe not a future event but a past event for this month. An excellent video being circulated around beekeeping clubs is Randy Oliver’s latest YouTube on his work concerning varroa mites. It is worth a watch and can be found at The description of the video on YouTube:

June 17, 2020; Lots of new research. A more user-friendly version of Randy’s Varroa Model, the most current mite monitoring and testing of various solutions for mite wash (some surprising findings!), and an update on his selective breeding for varroa resistance, among many other items of interest!

Finding the Queen

I was listening to a podcast recently describe how to find the queen in a colony. One of the suggested methods was to look at a picture of a queen on a crowded frame before going to your hives. The theory is that when you look at the picture you help your mind zero in on what to look for during your inspection. Then, I came across the book "Queen Spotting" by Hilary Kearney. The book includes 48 queen spotting exercises rated from easy to difficult. The book is well written and geared towards those who are interested in beekeeping or in their first few years of beekeeping. Here is a short excerpt from a sidebar:

A pale yellow Volkswagen Squareback pulls up alongside me as we drive down the highway in a rural part of San Diego. The occupants gesture wildly to me as their car paces mine for speed. I roll down my window to better hear them shouting, "Do you want a queen?"

The lack of context for this question throws me off. "What?" I yell back in confusion.

"A queen bee! We saw your plate holder," they explain. I had just recently bought a license plate holder that read: MY HEART BELONGS TO A HONEY BEE.

I smiled at the absurdity of the situation.

"Where did you get her?" I ask.

The bearded man in the passenger seat answers, "A guy at a beekeeping meeting gave her to us. We don’t know where he got her."

For one ludicrous moment, I am tempted to accept, but then I reconsider. Two men, in the middle of nowhere, their old car filled to the brim with junk.

"No, thanks," I tell them and drive off, pondering how close I just came to what must be the beekeeper equivalent of accepting candy from strangers.

If you have difficulty finding queens or want some light reading during the pandemic, I recommend the book. It can be found on Amazon or at her site

This Month in the Hive (July)

On hot and humid nights, you may see a curtain of bees cooling themselves on the exterior of the hive. Swarming is still possible, but it becomes less likely as the month advances. The Varroa parasitic mite continues to increase its population at the expense of the bees, and it will require some type of treatment or management, soon. The bees continue to raise 3000-5000 replacement bees per week in July and may consume a larger amount of honey and pollen than is collected if the month is dry. The stronger hive populations will peak at 50,000-60,000 worker bees.

The bees may manage to store 5 pounds or more of honey during July, but they will eat more than they collect if the month is dry. Continue inspections of the hive to make sure the hive is healthy.

Watch for bees fanning droplets of water to cool the hive. Especially around the harvest, watch for robbing activity near the entrance. Look for a falloff in egg production, as the brood nest shrinks gradually down to about 60-75% of its peak size.

[Full calendar can be found at:]

Tasks to be Performed

Make sure the water source for the bees is clean and accessible. Harvest honey. Return wet supers to the hives. After the supers are cleaned of honey by the bees, remove excess supers and stack them with moth-repellent PDB crystals. [See the RPBBA May 2020's newsletter for storing
drawn comb with para-dichlorobenzene (Para-moth) crystals.]

Watch for signs of robbing and take steps to discourage robbing if it starts. There was a recent post on the club’s FaceBook page on how to make robber screens (see YouTube video at:–pJsee30 from the North West New Jersey Beekeepers Association). Decide if, when and how you are going to treat for Varroa. Order any supplies or equipment that you need for mite treatments.

If you are going to make splits to overwinter, the first half of July is the last time to do it. You will need to be prepared to feed any split during the dry months of July and August. About half the time, you will need to feed splits in September and October as well.

What’s in Bloom (According to Maymont)

Crepe Myrtle, Rose, Daylily, Annuals, Perennials, Buddleia, Rose of Sharon, Abelia

Final Word

If you are a member of RPBBA, you will receive a Zoom invitation closer to the meeting date. 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 the club on our website.

As I’ve said before, I am always looking for ways to improve communications in the club. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please let me know. Or, if you are really interested in helping, you can do so by guest writing something of value for the club to include in this newsletter.

That is it for July. Stay safe, wear a mask and don’t overheat when working your colonies!

Don Osborne


Newsletter – June 2020

June, 2020

Another month passes and we are still social distanced and trying to figure out what the heck our bees are up to! Don’t fear, we are putting together plans to answer your questions. Rockwood park has not yet opened the Nature Center and we are still unable to have in-person meetings. However, the Board has decided to crank up the education by having a virtual meeting this month.

As for my bees, I’m running out of equipment and starting to pull down and put away my swarm traps. I am finally getting to the point where I have too many bees. It has been a great year to grow by catching swarms and splitting strong hives. I hope your colonies are doing as well.

June’s Meeting

Yes! There will be a June meeting! It will be a Zoom video conferencing meeting geared towards our beginner beekeepers. These beekeepers were rudely and abruptly kicked out of class by COVID-19. Many of them have been posting in club’s Facebook page and contacting us offline. So, we believe there are more out there who may not know where to turn for answers. We will have experienced beekeepers on the conference to help you.

We want to be sure that the meeting is secure without outside hackers and other issues that some Zoom conferences have been experiencing. While our meetings have always been open to the public, we will be holding this meeting with members only. A separate email with an invitation and password will be sent to members. Please do not share the invitation with non-members, we will be screening entry into the meeting.

The meeting’s waiting room will open at 6:40 PM on Monday, June 8, 2020. The meeting will start at 7:00 PM. Please login early so we can move you to the conference before it starts.

Also, just a reminder that the Master Beekeeping study groups are still on hold. The testing for the various levels of the program are conducted at the Spring and Fall meetings of the Virginia State Beekeepers Association, which are on hiatus. In addition, Eastern Apicultural Societies Annual Conference has been cancelled this year.

Looking Towards the Future

Penn State is offering a Pollinator Webinar Series starting on June 3, 2020 at 3:00 PM. Registration is required. There are no fees or cost. To register, go to:


June 3, 2020 – Pollinator Health Challenges: A bee perspective

June 10,2020 – The three most important steps to ensuring honey bee colony survival over the long term

June 17,2020 – Queen rearing basics  
June 24,2020 – Bee nutritional ecology: from flowers to landscapes
July 1, 2020 – Mason bee management for backyard and orchard pollination
July 8,2020 – Bumble bee biology and management for pollination  
July 15,2020 – Bee Biodiversity in Pennsylvania

Beehive Distribution Program

There have been some changes to the State’s Beehive Distribution Program. You will no longer have to be up at midnight frantically pushing enter or refresh at the stroke of midnight. The new system opens the application process for fifteen days and individuals will be selected at random from eligible applications. For more information, go to:

Bee Vocabulary

I know, every month I keep changing up the newsletter. Last month, I started using the "Looking Towards the Future" for things to think about in the upcoming months, but this month there were events to report. So, instead of that, we will add a new section to ensure we are all on the same page with our bee language. This month, I reached down into the beekeeping dictionary and came up with Nasonov (also known as Nasanov).

Have you ever looked at your landing board and witnessed bees with their rear ends up in the air fanning their wings? They are doing this to release the Nasonov pheromone. This pheromone helps to orient returning forager bees back to the colony. Bees raise their abdomens, which contain the Nasonov glands and fan their wings to spread the pheromone.

From Wikipedia: Nasonov includes a number of different terpenoids including geraniol, nerolic acid, citral and geranic acid. Bees use these to find the entrance to their colony or hive, and they release them on flowers so other bees know which flowers have nectar. Once the foraging bee leaves the nest it uses its sense from special sensing cells on the antennae to locate and distinguish forage plants, which each give off a unique blend of odor chemicals. When a beekeeper lifts out frames from a hive they disturb the balance of smells within the hive. It can take up to 48 hours for the colony to re-establish its scent equilibrium.

And, if you are looking for things to do to prepare for later in the year, you might want to start to make your candy board frames (not the actual candy yet) and quilt boards to prepare for Fall. Don’t know what candy boards and quilt boards are? You just got some homework! [Hint: if you do a google search, use the term Honeybees in the query to
get to the right things.]

This Month in the Hive (June)

Hives that haven’t swarmed will be boiling with bees. The brood nest will extend across two supers. The population of the strongest hives exceeds 50,000 workers. The queen’s rate of egg laying may drop a little this month. The queen is moving around the brood nest, laying eggs in cells that have been cleaned from prior use. A strong hive may cap as much as 30-40 pounds of honey in June, if good nectar flows are nearby and moisture is sustained in the soil. If soil moisture persists into July, you may want to plan on a small second harvest later in the summer.

Heat can be a serious challenge for the hive at this time. Look for bees bringing in water and placing it around the hive to evaporate for the cooling effect. Watch for swarm cells. Watch for wax moths, ants, mice and small hive beetles attacking the combs. If a hive is so weak in June that it cannot defend itself against beetles, ants or moths, then you should consider combining it with a much stronger hive.

Watch for supers above the queen excluder (if you use one) where all the center frames in the super are full of capped honey. Move the full center frames to the outside edges of the super, and move less full frames to the center. This will assist the bees to fill and cap all the frames completely.

Tasks to Be Performed

Inspect the hives weekly to make certain the hives are healthy and the queen is doing her job. You do not need to see a queen if you see a good pattern of eggs, wet larvae (or “worms”) and capped brood. Supers full of honey may be removed at any time you are prepared to begin extraction or keep them in the freezer. (You do not want to store supers of honey for more than a day or two at room temperature, due to ants, spiders, wax moths, and dust.)

Make sure your bees have a source of water within 200 feet of the hive. You may increase your hives by splitting strong colonies after the harvest. There is a slight chance of a need to add more honey supers this month. Keep watching for swarming which may still occur.

[full document can be found at:]

What’s in Bloom (According to Maymont)

1st Week: Magnolia, Tree Lilac, Rhododendron, Azalea, Nandina, Smoke Tree, Rose, Waterlily, Daylily, Yucca, Annuals, Perennials, European Linden, Mock Orange, Weigelia, Laburnum, Calycanthus, Abelia

2nd Week: Magnolia, Golden Raintree, Mimose, Rose, Azalea, Nandina, Hydrangea, Sourwood, Waerlily, Daylily, Annuals, Perennials, Catalpa, Tree Lilac, Abelia, Calycanthus

3rd Week: Magnolia, Golden Raintree, Mimosa, Sourwood, Rose, Azalea, Daylily, Annuals, Perennials, Catalpa

4th Week: Magnolia, Golden Raintree, Mimosa, Sourwood, Rose, Azalea, Daylily, Annuals, Perennials, Catalpa

Be on the lookout for the Zoom invitation for members. I hope to have it out very soon after this newsletter is distributed. If you have any comments or suggestions, please let me know. We are always looking for ways to improve communications.

Don Osborne


May, 2020 Newsletter from RPBBA

May, 2020

It is hard to believe that it is already time for another Newsletter from Rockwood Park Backyard Beekeepers. I’m hoping your Spring is going well and that you have been better at swarm management than I have been. Even though there is very little happening because of social distancing, the bees continue to do their thing, so we need to stay on top of them.

May’s Meeting

Still no meetings this month (including the study groups) because Rockwood Park Nature Center is still closed to the public. Before we begin meeting again, the Board of Directors will have to discuss the best way to proceed and still comply with the Centers for Disease Control Guidelines. It is terribly frustrating for all of us to feel like unwanted drones being kicked to the curb! But, do not lament, we are still here to help. The FaceBook page for the club has been very active lately and if you have not yet liked the page, be sure to do so. It is a good source for information from our experienced beekeepers.

Swarm Chasers

The club has a swarm hotline that occasionally gets requests to remove a swarm. Sometimes these swarms are easily removed, other times it requires an extensive cut-out. When these calls come in, I usually route them to a group of experienced beekeepers who are active in the club. If you would like to be added to the distribution list for swarm calls, please let me know. Even if you do not have the experience to go get the swarm yourself, you might want to tag along with an experienced keeper to see how it is done. But, please do not volunteer to do a job alone that would require more experienced beekeepers.

Looking Towards the Future

I usually use this space for listing events that should be calendared if one is interested in honey bees. Since we can’t meet or attend events, I’m going to use this space for something completely different. Beekeeping is more than just what to do right now. Sometimes it is what you do to prepare for the coming changes in seasons. Until we get back to calendaring events, I’m going to talk about things that we should be thinking of in the months coming up. This month let’s talk about how to store drawn comb.

First, what is drawn comb and why is it hard to keep? Drawn comb is simply built out comb that is ready for pollen, honey, or brood. It is very valuable for beekeepers and bees because it saves the bees labor and gives them a jump start when Spring comes. The problem with storage is wax moths (and other creatures) are attracted to it and can get into comb in just about any place you try to hide it from them. As the weather gets warmer, the more we will need to be concerned with wax moths.

The wax moths are particularly attracted to the protein left behind from larva’s molted skins in the comb where eggs, larvae and brood are raised. In addition to the wax moths, if comb is left in a dying or weak hive, small hive beetles and mice can be a problem. So, empty drawn comb should be removed and properly stored for the coming season.

First step is to know your enemy. The wax moth (both greater and lesser wax moths) damage comb by crawling, tunneling, and chewing through combs. Greater wax moths are usually found in larger groups and their smaller relatives, the lesser wax moth is a solitary insect. If your colonies are strong, they will usually be able to repel the moths. However, in weakened hives moths and small hive beetles can be a problem. An adult moth will lay between 300 and 600 eggs.

When you are ready to store your comb, place it in the freezer for three to four days. This freezing will kill any eggs or larvae left on the comb. Do not leave the comb in the freezer for more than four days or it can become brittle and crumble.

Once you remove the frames from the freezer, you have some options. One is to store the comb in a well lit space with the light on 24/7. Wax moths do not like light and will avoid the area. Another method is to seal the frames tightly in plastic bags. However, if you do not have a very tight seal, wax moths will enter the bag and you can have a big mess inside the bag come Spring. Some beekeepers store them in a protected shed outside. Hardware cloth that will keep out mice, rats and other small animals will be needed along with a good roof to keep the weather off the wax. As the weather gets colder, the wax moths become less of a problem.

Finally, what about mothballs? Yes, some beekeepers use crystals of para-dichlorobenzene (Para-Moth) in their storage area to keep moths out. If you use this method, be sure that you get the correct type of moth balls. Do NOT use naphthalene, which will permeate your wax and make it smell nasty for months. If you do use Para-Moth, be sure to thoroughly air the frames before using with your bees.

However you decide to store your frames, you want to have a good supply of drawn comb for your bees come Spring.

This Month in the Hive (May)

Now the hive is really buzzing. In a normal May, nectar and pollen should be coming 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.

A strong hive may collect and store as much as 7 pounds 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.

Tasks to Be Performed

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. Make certain that each hive has more than enough supers to store the honey harvest. Order queens for July hive splits. 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.

[original unedited publication:]

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

Other Interesting Things

Speaking of the greater wax moth, did you know that the greater wax moth has ultrasonic hearing? Scientist have proven that the greater wax moth has the best hearing of any creature on the planet.

That is it for this month. I was worried that I would not have enough substance to issue a newsletter this month, but it seems that I tend to ramble when it comes to bees. I hope that you and your family are safe and healthy. I hope to see you soon so we can talk bees in person!

Until next month,

Don Osborne


April Newsletter

April, 2020

Hello Beekeepers! Welcome to the April issue of the Rockwood Park Backyard Beekeepers Association Monthly Newsletter. Of course, we are not meeting this month, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about bees. In case you haven’t noticed, the nectar flow is going full force and the bees are pulling in the nectar and pollen. Also, I have not heard any official report, but it sure seems like this season the bees are swarming like crazy.

Before we get into this month’s Newsletter, please note at the bottom, I’ve asked a few questions/survey and would appreciate a response.

April’s Meeting

There is no meeting this month, but do you still want some good live lectures about honey bees? We got you covered. Auburn University has some free courses that they are conducting with some pretty interesting topics. You can watch them on Zoom (if they have enough space in their room), on their FaceBook live broadcast or you can watch the recording after the presentations. Below are the upcoming talks:

April 16: Learning from Pandemics, Dr. J. Tsuruda (U. of Tennessee)
April 30: Queen Management Essentials, Dr. J. Rangel (Texas A&M)
May 14: Bee and Parasite Biogeography, Dr. K. Delaplane (U. of Georgia)
May 28: What’s Killing Honeybees, Dr. J. Ellis (U. of Florida)

The Zoom room for this meeting may be at capacity. Please join in using the Facebook Live stream at the Lawrence County Alabama Extension Office Facebook Page:
Live streaming will begin at exactly 6:30 CST. If the stream hasn’t started when you reach the page, refresh the page every few minutes to bring up the stream when it begins.

Each session will be recorded and will be available on in the videos section of the Facebook Page for two weeks. Be aware if you want to watch live that the time zones for Auburn are Central, not Eastern. The direct link is

March’s Meeting Recap

If you missed the last meeting, you missed a great one. Dr. Caron gave two very good talks and the room was packed. Dr. Caron was engaging, entertaining and it was nice to see the good folks from Huguenot Beekeepers Association who joined us for this meeting. It seems like so long ago that we could sit next to each other and talk about beekeeping and discussing what is happening in each other’s lives. Don’t despair, this will pass and we will all be together again soon.

Master Beekeeper Study Groups

Unfortunately, the Master Beekeeper Study Groups are on hold for now. The Spring Meeting of the Virginia Beekeeping Association in Smithfield has also been cancelled. That means there will be no testing for Apprentice, Journeyman or Master Beekeepers until possibly the fall meeting. If you are studying, be sure to ask questions on our FaceBook page or reach out to Stan or Carla, who have been chairing these groups. Just because we can’t gather doesn’t mean we stop learning.

From the Board of Directors

The Board of Directors met on March 23, 2020 via a Zoom conference. During the call, the Board approved purchasing one account that can host Zoom conferences for more than 40 minutes for up to 100 participants. The account has now been purchased and is usable. As the Board works through how to present materials, we will update you.

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, or this year may even be earlier. 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 – see that bee math you learned in class is important. A hive that is storing honey by April 20 is a hive to watch for swarming.

Food Consumption and Storage/Nectar and Pollen Sources 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 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.

Tasks to Be Performed

Pick up and install packages of bees or nucleus hives. Packages are delivered in 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, if you use them 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.

The above is mostly taken from (with some modifications for local differences and clarification):

What is 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.

Keep in mind, this is what blooms in a normal April. It looks like we may be running a little ahead of this schedule.

Other Interesting Things

I just placed an article on the club’s website about overwintering bees in colder climates. John Davis supplied the article and said it is not Virginia specific, but has lots of good information. It can be found on the website.

A Personal Note

My friends, it is a stressful and difficult time for all of us. Besides the support of my family, my bees are one of the few things that is helping with my stress loads right now. They don’t care about the virus, social distancing, or seem to care what we humans are up to. They continue their jobs, protect their colonies and carry on. May we bee like them. I hope and pray that if you don’t find that kind of solace in your bees, that you find it somewhere. Until next month,

Don Osborne


SURVEY: We are exploring various ways to help you with your bees during our lockdown. Please respond to Rockwood.Beekeepers:

1. Would you be interested in attending an online course on beekeeping?

2. What topics would you like to explore?

3. What times would you be available for a class? Morning, afternoon or evening? Any particular day of the week?

4. Is there anything we can do to improve communications and education while social distancing?

5. Is there any beekeeping information or club information that I am not covering in the newsletter that you would like to see?

PBBA All Activities Cancelled through 4/15/2020

We have received word from Rockwood Park that Chesterfield County has closed the park to all activities until at least April 15, 2020. That means there will be no meeting in April, no Beekeeping Classes or study groups until the park reopens. Sorry folks, we will let you know what is going on as soon as we figure it out.

Don Osborne

Meetings and Events

The Board of Directors take your health and safety seriously and have carefully considered the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for prevention and treatment of coronavirus. Many of our members are classified as at greater risk for contracting the virus because of underlying health conditions or being over the age of 60. The Board has discussed the various meetings, classes and events and at the current time has elected to follow the Chesterfield County closing schedule for Rockwood Park.

If the park closes, there will be no events, classes or meetings. If the park is open, we will make the call for each event before the event is held. For now, the Board of Directors has decided the April meeting is cancelled. We feel this will allow more social distance and keep those at risk from the possibility of infection at a club meeting.

The Beginners Beekeeping Class will be held as scheduled, as long as Rockwood Park Nature Center is open. However, if you are at greater risk (underlying health condition, over the age of 60, pregnant, exposure to someone with COVID-19 or are sick) please do not attend. We will have future opportunities to help you learn what you need to keep bees. The Board is discussing various ways to do this. They are concerned if we cancel the class there will not be enough make up time before the season begins and that could put your beekeeping plans back another year. We are doing what we can to prevent that and practice good prevention.

The Study Groups for the Master Beekeeper program are smaller meetings. Stan and Carla feel comfortable continuing these meetings on the first and third Monday of the month, for now. The same restrictions apply – if you are sick or at risk, please do not attend.

The Board of Directors will be meeting via video conferencing. These meetings are held on the fourth Monday of the month.

We all hope this situation clears soon as Spring comes into full bloom and we get to work our bees. Until then, the Board of Directors is committed to continuing the mission of the association. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

Don Osborne


March RPBBA Update

March, 2020

I’m feeling Spring! Hello, Beekeepers – it is time for the March 2020 Rockwood Park Backyard Beekeepers Association Newsletter. We have something special planned for this month, but it will require time and location changes to our regular March Meeting.


Meeting date and time: March 9, 2020 @ 6:30 PM

Meeting location: LaPrade Library, 9000 Hull Street Road, N. Chesterfield, VA 23236

Why the change in time and place? Because we have Dr. Dewey Caron speaking on two topics. The first, What is Your Plan? will be about what to do with your colonies from now through the next few months. The second, Bee Necropsy (All Things Autopsy) should also present an interesting topic for us. This will be a joint monthly meeting with our friends at Huguenot Beekeeping Association in Powhatan.

Dr. Dewey M. Caron is Emeritus Professor of Entomology & Wildlife Ecology, Univ of Delaware, & Affiliate Professor, Dept Horticulture, Oregon State University. He spent 40+ years teaching, doing bee extension and bee research at Cornell (1967-70), University of MD, College Park (1970-1981) and University of DE, Newark DE (1981-2009).
Since retirement in 2009, he spends 4-6 months each year in Bolivia, where he keeps Africanized bees and teaches beekeeping (in Spanish). The rest of the year he is in the northern hemisphere; his 5 backyard colonies in Tigard OR are docile European bees. He moved from Newark to Portland, Oregon following retirement to be closer to 5 grandkids. He manages to return to East coast several times each year to give Bee Short Courses and lectures to various bee clubs and state organizations.

Master Beekeeper Study Groups & Program

We continue to have study groups that are free to our members. These study groups are for the apprentice level (first level of the Master Beekeeper program) and the journeyman level (mid-level of the Master Beekeeper program). Apprentice class is on the first Monday of the month and journeyman is on the third Monday of the month. You are welcome to attend, even if you are not interested in taking the exams. We do tend to get off track and just talk bees occasionally, well maybe we do that with some frequency. Please bring your study guides which are found at

If you are an Apprentice or Journeyman Beekeeper, don’t forget your Public Service Credit (PSC) requirements. Apprentice Beekeepers should have five hours per year in volunteer activities and Journeyman Beekeepers should have ten hours per year. Working at the Honey Bee Festival, serving on the Board or public speaking are all approved types of credit. PSCs should be reported to the Virginia State Beekeepers Association by December 15th. Please talk with a Master Beekeeper or a member of the Board of Directors for more information about the Master Beekeeper program.

Looking Towards the Future

June 13, 2020 – the 11th Annual Honey Bee Festival will be held at Rockwood Park. This is our signature event for the year. Committee Chairs are being recruited and volunteers will be sought to help with the festival. It is a ton of fun to work the festival. You really get the opportunity to show the public how amazing bees and pollinators are. I hope you can be there as a volunteer. Keep an ear out for the call for help.

June 26 – 27, 2020 – the Virginia State Beekeepers Spring Meeting will be held in Smithfield, Virginia. The featured speakers are Jennifer Berry from UGA, Jerry Hayes, Editor of Bee Culture and Petra Ahnert, Author of Beeswax Alchemy. These state meetings are worthwhile and have interesting speakers and a large vendor area. Be sure to mark your calendar. More information is at

August 3 – 7, 2020 – Eastern Apicultural Society (EAS) presents EAS 2020 at Orono Maine. This is one of the largest beekeeping conferences in the US. More information is at:

Our Deepest Sympathies

Our hearts go out to the family of Wilhilm Gollub following his death. Wilhelm was a long-term active member in RPBBA who delighted in sharing his knowledge of bees. He will be missed.

Also, we extend our sympathies to Carla Adkins Park and Stan Houk following the loss of Carla’s father. Stan and Carla serve on the Board of Directors, host the Master Beekeeper study groups, teach classes and help other beekeepers through out the area. They consider RPBBA as family and asked that we share the news.

Welcome New Members!

On February 22nd, we held the first day of our Beginning Beekeepers Class. It was a full house with 44 people, who are now new members of RPBBA. Please make our new member beekeepers feel welcome. I’m sure some of them may be looking for mentors as we go into Spring.

From the Board of Directors

The Board of Directors met this month and discussed researching a formal mentoring program. In addition, they talked about the status of recruiting the various chairpersons for the Honey Bee Festival. Steve Syrett gave an update on the status of the application to the IRS for 501(c)(3) non-profit status (which is still waiting). Adam Holland gave the Board an update on the association’s finances. The next meeting will be held via zoom video conferencing on Monday, March 23, 2020.

This Month in the Hive (March)

The days become longer and the queen steadily increases her rate of egg laying. The brood nest will expand and very slowly migrate upward into areas where honey has been consumed. More brood means more honey, nectar and pollen are consumed. A few drones begin to appear at 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.

Wet, cold, ice, snow, wind and blowing rain describe those parts of March that are not sunny and over 50 degrees. Make sure the hive tilts slightly forward. This month, the hive may consume as much as 7 lbs per week when cold, rain, snow or icy conditions prevail. Prevent starvation by making certain that food supplies are sufficient.

The brood nest is now six to eight inches across and may extend across several frames. As much as 75-100 cells of drone brood may be seen near the end of the month or sooner. If you have been feeding, you should continue to feed. On a warm day, take a quick look inside the hive. Temperatures near sixty degrees with little wind and when the bees are out would be a good day. Add a pollen patty or feed if needed. Also, it may be a good time to consider reversing the deep brood boxes, if that is your practice. 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.

Volunteer for the Honey Bee Festival. Volunteer to serve as a mentor for a new beekeeper. Attend the RPBBA meeting to learn what to do with your colonies over the next few months. Deploy those swarm traps you built last month.

What’s in Bloom

You may have noticed, that I did not include this section in my last newsletter. With the crazy warm to cold weather we have been having, this year is not typical. I believe we are well ahead of this schedule. Anyway, here is what Maymont says should be in bloom in March:

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

Other Interesting Things

Have you registered your hives with FieldWatch? FieldWatch is founded to develop and provide easy-to-use, reliable, accurate and secure on-line mapping tools intended to enhance communications that promote awareness and stewardship activities between crop producers, beekeepers and pesticide applicators. You can register your hives at:

That is all for this month, I look forward to seeing you at Dr. Caron’s presentation. Please do not forget the change in place and time.

Don Osborne


Rockwood Park Backyard Beekeepers – February

Hello Beekeepers, it is time for the February 2020 Rockwood Park Backyard Beekeepers update. I hope you have been able to get outside in the seventy-degree weather and check on your bees! We may be getting warm weather now, but Winter isn’t done with us yet.

While it is February one can taste the full joys of anticipation. Spring stands at the gate with her finger on the latch.

Patience Strong

February’s Meeting

As the poet Patience Strong (real name Winifred Emma May) said, we are now waiting on Spring. So, it is a great time for you to attend the RPBBA February meeting where the Virginia State Apiarist, Keith Tignor will talk with us about the Spring Nectar Flow.

Keith Tignor is the State Apiarist for Virginia and whose love of honey bees is evident to anyone who knows him. Through his association with Virginia Tech and Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services over the past 25 years, Keith has worked closely with the agriculture community to promote beekeeping and the health of honey bees. His VDACS responsibilities include supervision of apiculture initiatives to promote the science of beekeeping, prevent the spread of diseases, and encourage the pollination of crops. Keith regularly speaks to local, state, and national organizations and groups. He is also active in several apiculture organizations such as the Apiary Inspectors of America, Virginia State Beekeepers’ Association and beekeeping groups in central Virginia region.

Meetings start at 7:00 PM on Monday, February 10, 2020, with doors opening at 6:30 PM.

Newly Installed Officers

The newly elected Board of Directors met on January 27, 2020 and elected officers from the Board of Directors. Below is the Board of Directors and Officers of RPBBA for 2020:

Steve Syrett, President and Chair of the Board of Directors

Bruce Hamon, Vice President and Chair Honey Bee Festival

Adam Holland, Treasurer (assisted and backed up by Theo Hartmann as non-Board member)

Rick McCormick, Secretary (assisted and backed up by Don Osborne as non-Board member)

John Davis, Chair Education Committee

Carla Park, Member at Large

Sam Rorabaugh, Member at Large

Stan Houk, Member at Large

Non-Board Member Positions Appointed:

Don Osborne, Communications Director

Thank you to the Board of Directors and Officers who have volunteered their service towards our Association. There is a lot of work that happens in the background and these folks are the ones who are pulling on the oars. Be sure to thank them next time you see them.

Master Beekeeper Study Groups

Remember, we have study groups for Apprentice Beekeepers on the first Monday of the month and Journeyman Beekeepers on the third Monday. The study groups are free for all members and even if you are not studying for one of the exams, this is an excellent way to learn more about beekeeping. Be sure to bring a copy of the study guide for the group, which can be found at

Looking Towards the Future or Things to Calendar

The 11thAnnual Honey Bee Festival will be on June 13, 2020. This is the signature event for our Association, and we need lots of volunteers to make it happen. When you get a call or are asked to help, please consider lending your many talents, skills and abilities to the cause. We can use everyone. There are jobs setting up, breaking down, manning tables, etc. We will also be making a call for tent canopies and folding tables. There are a thousand little details and we need your assistance to attend to them. Let’s act like worker bees and grab a task and get it done!

Mark your calendars for the Virginia State Beekeepers Spring Meeting in Smithfield, Virginia. The meeting is from June 26, 2020 through June 27, 2020. These meetings are not very far away and usually have some very impressive presentations and vendor areas. More information can be found at

The Eastern Apicultural Society (EAS) will present "The Art and Science of Beekeeping" in Orono, Maine from August 3, 2020 – August 7, 2020. This is one of the biggest honey bee events on the East coast. Be sure to start planning now by visiting their website at

New Beekeepers Classes

Our Beginning Beekeeping Class this year is a big success. We will have forty-four students who will be joining us on February 22nd to begin their journey into beekeeping. Books have been ordered, materials prepared, instructors are working on preparing and all students have been added to the club’s membership rolls. Be sure to give them a great welcome into RPBBA. I’m sure many of them will be looking for mentors.

This Month in the Hive (February):

The cluster is still tight on most days. The cluster will break and move on those days where the temperature exceeds 57 degrees in the hive. The queen remains in the cluster, and as the days lengthen, she will begin to lay a few more eggs each day. There are still no drones in the hive. Workers will take cleansing flights on mild days.

Events to Watch for in the Hive

More colonies are probably lost during this time of year than during all other winter months. A colony that is rearing brood will consume about 7 pounds of honey and nectar per week, and if the weather turns bad, a colony with small food reserves can quickly starve to death. Never allow the food stores to drop below 15 pounds. If they have less than 15 pounds of honey, start feeding. Remember, once you start feeding, you need to continue feeding until the bees no longer consume the food, or until the end of April.

Tasks to Be Performed

Consider whether to sign up for that “Advanced Beekeeper Course.” Attend bee club meetings and get equipment ready for spring. At this time of year, you may be advised to “reverse” the brood boxes on a hive. It is too early in the year to perform this task with safety, so delay this task until you are confident that warmer weather has arrived. The first week of February may be a good time to add a pollen patty or candy board to a hive that is raising brood. If you enter the hive, you may consider moving a frame of honey from the outside of the hive to an area much closer to the brood nest. Do not place a frame of frozen honey immediately adjacent to the brood nest, however. Decide now how you are going to deal with the issue of swarms in April, May and June. Read and study the options and seek advice. Prepare a bait hive now if you are going to use it later in the spring. If you are going to use more equipment to hold queen cells and deal with swarms, then take steps to obtain or build that equipment.

How About Some Trivia: One Word or Two?

Finally, is it honey bees or honeybees? One word or two? It depends. Here is what Rowan Jacobsen said in his 2008 book Fruitless Fall:

"Copyeditors of the world beware. The spelling of insect names in this book follows the rules of the Entomological Society of America, not Merriam-Webster’s. When a species is a true example of a particular taxon, that taxon is written separately. Honey bees and bumble bees are true bees, and black flies are true flies. A yellowjacket, however, is not a true jacket. Entomologists, who have to read the names of bugs a lot more than the rest of us do, would appreciate it if we all followed these rules."

I still make the error occasionally of using one word because Microsoft’s grammar and spelling dictionaries follow Merriam-Webster. But beekeepers use two words!

That is all for now,

Don Osborne