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


January around RPBBA….

Happy New Year Beekeepers! We hope you are having a wonderful holiday season and that your bees are doing well through this off and on warm weather. 

January Meeting

Have you ever wondered why we are required by state law to have a warning label on raw honey that we sell?  Please mark your calendar for Monday, January 13, 2020 for our first meeting of the New Year.  Our speaker will be Joshua Jakum and he will be speaking on Botulism and Honey.  Even if you do not plan on selling honey, this will be an informative program.  I hope to see you there. 

Meetings start at 7:00 PM, with doors opening at 6:30 PM. 

In February, the Virginia State Apiarist, Keith Tignor will be talking to us about the Spring nectar flow.  Our bees may be dealing with the cold Winter temperatures, but as beekeepers we need to be prepared for when things warm up. 

Welcome Newly Elected Board of Directors

The election has ended, and the votes have all been counted.  The following are your new Board of Directors in alphabetical order:  Jody Conway, John Davis, Bruce Hammond, Stan Hauk, Adam Holland, Rick McCormick, Carla Park, Sam Rorabaugh and Steve Syrett. 

Thank you for voting and a big thank you to the new Board for volunteering to serve.  During their first meeting, our new Board of Directors will be electing officers.  Remember, we are under new bylaws which can be found on the RPBBA website.  We will make an announcement once the new Board has selected officers with the February communications. 

Master Beekeeper Study Groups

Becoming a Master Beekeeper is a worthy and challenging goal for some members in our club.  For others, we just want to continue to learn and progress in this fascinating endeavor.  Regardless of why you want to learn, one of the best places to continue your education is by attending the RPBBA Master Beekeeper Study Groups.  There are two levels, the Apprentice and Journeyman.  The study groups meet on the first (Apprentice) and third (Journeyman) Mondays of the month.  All members are welcome and there is no cost for attendance.  Please be sure to print off a copy of the study guides at and come with all of your questions.  Who knows, you might want to become a Master Beekeeper after taking a deeper study into beekeeping.  These study groups are designed to help you study for the exams on the way to becoming a Master Beekeeper. 

Beginners Beekeepers Classes

Are you a beginner beekeeper?  Don’t yet have bees?  Tried in the past but just couldn’t get your colonies to survive?  We are here to help.  There are still a few spots available in the RPBBA Beginner Beekeepers Class.  The classes are held beginning February 22, 2020 and continue through April 4, 2020.  The course is a tremendous value at $100 (price increases to $115 after February 1st).  Details can be found on the club’s website.  Or, you can register using this form:

This Month (January):

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 a 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.


What’s in Bloom?

According to Maymont, in January and February Wintersweet, Witch Hazel and Holly is in fruit. 

Happy New Year! Also, be on the lookout for volunteer opportunities.  The Honey Bee Festival committee will be gearing up and we need lots of help to make this event a success.  In addition, the Education Committee will be looking for new volunteers.  Please consider giving back to the community with your skills and enthusiasm. 

That is it for January!  I hope to see you at the meetings, study groups or beginner classes. 

Don Osborne


501(c)3 Application update

Beek Members:

An application has been filed with the Virginia State Corporate Commission to make the Rockwood Park Backyard Beekeepers Association a no Stock Non-profit entity. Review and approval is expected to take between one and three weeks. An announcement when the application has been approved will be forthcoming.

This is the first step in becoming a 501(c)(3) entity. Obtaining that status was approved by the membership in the past month or so. Once the state has granted No stock, Non-profit status to the Association, we will file for 501(c)(3) status with the IRS.

David Brown

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