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

What a festival!

Wow – we had over 3,000 people attend our festival this year! Amazing! A HUGE thanks goes out to each of you that volunteered or ran a booth at this year’s event.

In case you missed it – here is our very own Bruce Hammond on TV, talking about the festival:

Thank you Gene for heading up the festival again this year! You are INSPIRING! (Bee Inspired)

Check out all the pictures posted on Instagram by following our account @RockwoodBeekeepers or by searching for the tag #rockwoodbeekeepers

David Brown

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