Wednesday, April 30, 2014

May 2014 Newsletter - The Swarm Issue

Editors:  Gina Gallucci and Linda Tillman

   Swarm captured by Vince West, secretary of Cherokee Bee Club
The President's Message

       Let’s appreciate what we have!

       When I say “let’s appreciate what we have,” I’m referring to the freedom of beekeeping the way we think it should be. We, in Georgia, enjoy setting up a bee hive, purchasing a nuc, or catching a swarm and reaping the benefits of a having little extra honey for ourselves or selling honey if there is an over abundance. Isn’t it wonderful?
       That is not necessarily true in every state in America. Since I’m on the Education Committee for the American Bee Federation, I have learned that some states, like Washington, require you to be a certified beekeeper in many of their cities, just to be able to have beehives in your own back yard.
       It’s great to be certified, but really not necessary. I will wager that more than ½ of the commercial beekeepers in America are not certified in any way other than experience and the education passed down from generation to generation. Georgia has a wonderful bee institute at Young Harris every year that produces certified and master beekeepers; but the program is not mandatory.  Florida and many other states, as we know, require one to register one’s beehives to be legal beekeepers. It seems to me that since the bees are free to forage and roam about, we as beekeepers should be allowed to let them without fear of Big Brother coming down hard on us for not painting the boxes the right color or something. I’m not trying to get all political here and cause problems. I’m just thinking that there have been many GBA leaders before us doing the right thing to keep our little freedom intact.
       I asked the Florida State Bee Inspector a couple of years ago why they required registration of hives. His response was so that “we can help.” Well isn’t that the responsibility of the state association? We as an organization can solve more problems up and down the ladder than any agency sent to “help” us.
       Sure, it’s good to have high tech bee labs at our universities and large corporations helping us look into high tech problems, but the day to day problems can be solved here in house and discussed without going to committee.
       My point is this: We attend bee clubs at the local level; we work together there and help each other with local problems; we help new folks get started and teach each other about labeling, extracting, bottling, etc. At the state level, we work with some state government agencies, the Farm Bureua, the 4-H and the University Bee Lab. We represent some 2000 + beekeepers at the state and national gatherings and work hard to disseminate the important information to the individual beekeeper. We can do this as an association without another government agency collecting fees and such from us.
       We should keep the Georgia Beekeepers Association strong.  Numbers and education are what make us strong.  As I visit local clubs, I’m impressed with the number of active members each club has. The number of state clubs is growing every year. Since last year, we have had 7 new start-up clubs. It isn’t the money we need at the state level, it’s the numbers. That is why our dues are only $15 per year.
       So club presidents get the word out that we need the same strength at the state level that you enjoy at your local level. Together we can continue to be, educational, helpful and strong.

Bear Kelley,                                                     
President, Georgia Beekeepers Association

Swarm captured in Virginia Highlands in Atlanta by Linda Tillman, MABA member

Swarm caught by Joshua Lachmann, new member of MABA

What happened when the bee phoned home? 
She got a buzzy signal.

Swarm captured by Mike Schaaphok, MABA member.  Photo contributed by Jackie Egland

Getting the Facts on the GBA's Organizational Options 

       As many of you know, the Board of Directors has been exploring whether or not the GBA would be better served if we were organized under a different corporate (business) structure.  The GBA is currently organized a standard corporation, but there has been an ongoing debate as to whether we could have more flexibility and/or security under one of several non-profit structures, or perhaps under some other organizational structure recognized by the Internal Revenue Service. 

There are many questions and concerns our members have over the consequences of any potential change, or moreover, the potential consequences of doing nothing.  We need sound answers to questions involving past and future tax liability, possible restrictions on the right to lobby, and the potential to accept donations and to give charitably as an organization.  At the Spring meeting it was decided we needed to seek the advice of one or more professionals on these matters.  

To that end I am in the process of lining up an accountant and/or an attorney who specializes in this field to come speak to the Board of Directors at our Fall meeting in Milledgeville.  Hopefully they will be able to address our questions and concerns, and give us some sound advice as to our options as an organization.  I have already spoken with several firms, and I hope to have the speaker(s) committed by our next newsletter.  This Fall meeting is going to be one of the GBA's most important in many years.  Please come be a part of this very important event.  I hope to see you all there!

Brutz English
Northern District Director for GBA


Jerry Hayes Speaks in Atlanta!
by Gina Gallucci

photo by cindy hodges

Jerry Hayes was the special guest speaker for Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association in April.  Jerry now works for Monsanto-owned Beelogics as Commercial Lead.  He talked about the newly convened Honey Bee Advisory Council, Honey Bee Health Summit (hosted by Monsanto),  the Clinton Global Initiative, and Monsanto’s commitment of money to PAm.  

His talk was primarily about what his employer, Monsanto Company is doing with regards to honey bee research.  Much of his explanation focused on RNA interference (RNAi) – a naturally occurring gene silencing phenomenon to develop products that would improve honey bee health without GMO or pesticides.  He was asked about Monsanto's commitment of money and personnel.  Jerry said that the budget is currently 5 million dollars, with 6 direct employees and as much equipment as they need.

Jerry took a few beekeeping questions from our members:

What do you think about using nematodes for Small Hive Beetle control?  "I don't think much of it.  Small Hive Beetle larvae can crawl 100 yards or more away if soil moisture and temperatures are not to their liking under the hive. You are potentially just wasting your money.  It's important to know that the Small Hive Beetle is drawn to the stress hormone produced by a declining colony and they are attracted to the brood to use as food to raise their babies on. It's really not worth it.  In Florida we could trap 500 beetles nightly."

Have you heard of using lime in the soil around the hive to control Small Hive Beetle?
"No, but you would have to get the pH very low or very high and as a hobbyist it's just too expensive and would take up too much area without confidence of control. Remember if they do not perceive conditions under or around the hive to be conducive to burrowing to pupate they can crawl a great distance to find the right location."

What you do think about using powdered sugar to control the Varroa Mite?         
"The best time to use powdered sugar is in the phoretic stage.  However, when you get some control they actually ramp up their reproduction and you get behind where you were and there are more mites than before you treated."  "Varroa has eliminated about 90% of the feral colonies in the U.S. "  "We can get about 50% control with RNAi, but I want to see it get to 80% control."

Are using mosquito control dunks in the bee water OK to use?  "Yes, that doesn't hurt the honey bee." "Spraying for mosquitos is very harmful during the daylight when bees are flying."

From Gina by email:   What do you think about Neonicotinoids and honey bee health?  

Gina, I have attached two papers that don’t come from “Big Ag” which question the validity that neo-nics are the primary cause of honey bee health issues. Neonicotinoids are used as seed treatments on primarily corn and soybeans to allow the farmer to plant the seed and have it germinate successfully before a bad bug eats it.  It adds value for the farmer and they like it.  If they didn’t they can order untreated seed.   Not that you have to read them cover to cover but the first is from Australia which says that neo-nics, which are widely used in agriculture and for home and garden use in Australia don’t appear to have negative health effects on honey bees.  Remember that Australia does not have Varroa.   As a result Beekeepers are not dumping all sorts of chemical pesticides into honey bee colonies to control Varroa. Varroa and Varroa controls seem to be the culprit here in the US.   The next paper is from the UK.   It says that neo-nics are used widely because they have low, low mammalian toxicity i.e. they don’t hurt us or our food crops, livestock and pets but are used to keep them healthy.   But, if used improperly by the farmer they can kill all sorts of beneficials but this rarely happens.
Of the 94 million acres of corn planted last year and 83 million acres of soybeans there were 3 or 4 reports of the farmer planting seed in dry dusty conditions and honey bees for some reason were sited right next to the fields and there were impacts.  I wonder what the negative impacts were for pesticide use on golf courses, home termite use or for the lawn treatment folks were?

For more reading about the organizations and papers to which Jerry refers:  


Roy Blackwell of Dawsonville, using a swarm trap of two fiber flower pots, has caught two swarms so far.  He found the plans for the swarm trap on Linda's Bees.  He baited the trap with old comb and some lemon grass essential oil

There is still time for you to take the Certified Test:

The Certified test is the first level of the Georgia Master Beekeeper program.  To take it, you need to have opened a hive, have some familiarity with the world of bees, and be able to light a smoker.  The text for the test is Delaplane's First Lessons in Beekeeping.

You can take the test without going to Young Harris. 

Forsyth County Beekeepers Association is offering the Georgia Master Beekeeper Certified testing on Saturday, May 3, 2014.  For more information call  Sue Conlyn, at 770-888-9652, or 770-316-8300, or 770-713-1807,  or Hoyte Rogers  @ 770-479-1731

Other offerings:

Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association is offering the Jr. Beekeeping Program

Sunday, June 22, 2014 in Alpharetta, GA   
10am-4pm (approx.)  Cost: $25     Rain or Shine!  Open to children of all ages  
For more details: 

Forsyth County Beekeepers Association is offering a Queen Rearing class.  For information, contact Sue Conlyn:   770-888-9652, or 770-316-8300, or 770-713-1807.


Panna Cotta with Candied Kumquats
from The Fresh Honey Cookbook by Laurey Masterton


for Panna Cotta
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon unflavored powdered gelatin
3 cups whipping cream
1/3 cup honey
pinch of salt

for candied kumquats
1/2 cup honey
4 cups slice & seeded kumquats in halves

Here is how:
1. To make the panna cotta, pour the milk into a small bowl & sprinkle the gelatin on it, stirring just until blended.  Allow to stand for 5 minutes to soften the gelatin.

2. Pour the mixture into a small heavy saucepan & warm over medium heat, allowing the gelatin to dissolve about 5 minutes.  Be careful not to let the milk boil.

3. All the cream, honey, salt and stir, remove from heat.  Pour into six serving glasses, cups or small bowls.  Allow to cool, then refrigerate for 6 hours.

4. To make the kumquats, combine 1/2cup water and the honey in a small non reactive saucepan. Stir well & bring to boil stirring regularly.  Add the kumquats & return to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer & cook until the kumquats are tender- about 15 to 20 minutes.  Continue to cook until the liquid cooks down to thick syrup, about 5 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

5. To serve, spoon kumquats over the panna cotta.

Laurey Masterton, talented honey cookbook author and beekeeper, died in her Asheville, NC home on Feb 18, 2014.

Look Ma, It's Adam!  Adam Lusk, member of MABA, up 36 feet in a tree to capture a swarm near Peachtree Dekalb Airport Airport in Atlanta.

Ask 10 Beekeepers a Question…..

Do you use a Queen Excluder? When, why or why not?  

Philip Quinn, Master Beekeeper:  I find the queen excluder to be a very useful tool when, after a couple of search passes through a multi-storied brood chamber, I still haven't found the queen. I just separate the boxes using one or more excluders and return after 3 days. When I come back, I first find the box with eggs. Then, I can often reduce (focus) my next search for the queen to just 10 frames (instead of the original 20 or 30 frames).

Sophia Price, Chattooga County Beekeeper:  Yes, I use an excluder and  I prefer a metal one with wooden trim.    I do not use one year round though.  I prefer to pull them off after the last honey is removed for the year to allow total access to the winter food stores.  The excluders are returned to the hive in the Spring when supers are added.  If I have a good strong colony and I need some spare frames of drawn comb, I will leave one on that particular hive until the extra frames are ready and pull it and the frames before it gets too cold to open the hive. 

Dear Aunt Bee,

I am leaving for a late spring two week vacation.  How do I know if I should I put a super on my hives before I go?

Georgia Peach Headed for Hiawaiian Pineapple

Dear Georgia Peach,

It’s important to know what flower informs the nectar flow where you live.  In much of Georgia, the tulip poplar is the flower whose bloom designates the significant nectar flow.  

In late spring, the tulip poplar is probably blooming where you are in Georgia.  In that case, leave your hives well-supered before you go so that you don’t miss the opportunity to allow your bees to collect a lot of nectar for tulip poplar honey.

Your envious,

Aunt Bee    

(question contributed by Gina Gallucci)

I Caught a Swarm!  
by Chris Pahl, MABA Member

I caught a swarm!  For the first time it wasn’t my own bees trying to escape!  I felt fairly confident that I retrieved the queen bee, but a week after installing the bees into a new hive, there was no sign of egg laying.  The colony appears strong and very active, and I observe the worker bees bringing in loads of pollen.  But why no eggs?  This question spurred me to do a little research and understand more of what happens when honeybees swarm.

According to my trusted source, Honey in the Comb by Killion, “[w]hen the old queen is involved in [the] swarming process, it is called a ‘prime’ swarm.  “Afterswarms” are the swarms involving unmated queens that occur after a prime swarm.  When catching a swarm, it is possible to get a mated queen, virgin queen or no queen at all." 

It is always important and helpful to be able to identify the queen bee, but not always possible to locate her.  I was not able to locate a queen in the frenzied activity of gingerly installing a fairly large swarm into a Langstroth hive.  I did observe the straggler bees orderly marching into the hive entrance, hopefully following the scent of the queen.  

In subsequent inspections I tried to not to disturb the bees too much.  But, a week later I had no sign of egg laying and couldn’t find the queen.  According to Dr. Delaplane, a virgin queen will take mating flights for up to the first two weeks of her life.  Maybe she was on a mating flight during my hive inspection?  The changeable weather has not been any help, but I am optimistic that I hived a virgin queen, hopefully mated by now.
Swarm captured by Tom and Jean Rearick on April 21 in Metro Atlanta.  Photo by Tom Rearick

Street Cred - two current articles of relevance to beekeepers:

1.  Research from Friends of the Earth found that bee friendly plants sold in big box stores may be contaminated by neonicotinoids.

2.  FDA: Honey with any added sweeteners isn't honey
By Mary Clare Jalonick
Associated Press – published Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Food and Drug Administration is taking steps to ensure that shoppers who buy honey are getting the real deal.
New guidance issued Tuesday would prevent food companies from adding sugar or other sweeteners to pure honey and still calling it "honey."
The agency said enforcement action is possible against U.S. food businesses or importers if companies try to cut those sweeteners into real honey and do not label the product correctly. If those sweeteners are added, the label should read "blend of sugar and honey" or "blend of honey and corn syrup."
The FDA regularly detains honey imports and tests them after finding drug residues and unlabeled added sweeteners.


Swarm photo  contributed by Jackie Egland


Letters to the Editors:

Expand the importance and influence of GBA
from Bob Grant, 4/14/2014

I am glad to see Bear Kelley has picked up the challenge I posed in the March newsletter.  Further, to be fair, Bear and I have had several calls to discuss some of these ideas. Having developed a number of strategic plans for my clients over the last 30 years, I think what I am seeing is a window into GBA planning -- setting the objective which is to increase membership.  I think increasing membership will help GBA influence state legislation on policy impacting our bees.  Beyond that, I am concerned that there is not an objective addressing apiary management, yet the two could be linked, meaning that the lack of membership growth over the last few years could be due to former members not getting the value that they expected. Beekeepers, like farmers, are always looking for answers to problems and winter die-off is a big one in parts of Georgia.  
The membership issue as Bear points out has been around for some time.  This has been a continuing issue over recent years and Bear should be praised for taking it head on.
To be fair, I have not seen all of Bear's strategies or objectives, but I do think helping beekeepers keep their bees alive is a paramount effort and likely to drive membership up. After all, people flock to those who have the knowledge and answers they seek.
Currently, Georgia beekeepers have been facing significant annual losses, especially at the end of winter.  While we can buy more bees and queens, this model is not sustainable for the hobbyist, sideliner, or commercial beekeeper.  There is nothing worse than losing colonies, depending on your reason for practicing beekeeping, it can go from heart breaking to financially devastating and everywhere in between.
There is a lot of long-term research underway across the country and around the world; by prestigious universities, private labs, and big chemical companies. All with great intentions, but much of this research is years away from practices and tools we can use in our bee yards.  Beekeepers need solutions that can be applied to our apiaries today! My belief, is that the GBA needs a formal strategy to gather this practical information and present it to beekeepers in a timely fashion.  In doing so, GBA will attract both members and former members.
It would be nice to hear from other members on the topic -- as I'm sure there are other factors of equal importance that should be considered in strategy development. I believe member views are critical to guiding the GBA leadership in charting a successful growth course.  Further, I am convinced that the newsletter editors would welcome everyone's opinion.
And another letter to the editors:

Hi Linda and Gina,

I clicked a link in last month's newsletter, 

["Click here to learn about grocery store honey vs. our own local production. (Thanks, Evelyn Williams)"

and was quite confused and shocked.  It seemed filled with bogus, outrageous and false information.  I was so concerned that I wrote to Sue Bee Honey, which was maligned in the article along with many good honey packagers.

Here is the response that I receive by Sue Bee.  They were also aghast at the many falsehoods.  I hope we can clear up this issue, and use extreme care with what blogs are linked in the newsletter.  In the linking, there is a measure of credibility.

Thanks for looking at this letter from Mr. Bill Huser of Sue Bee Honey.

Kerry Britt

{Note from the EditorsWe check all the links we publish, but because there are many opinions out there, we are not suggesting a link that we publish is a fact.  After all, ask ten beekeepers a question, and you'll get at least 11 answers!  If you, the readers, would like to read the response from Sue Bee Honey, you can find it at this link to our blog for Spilling the Honey.}

Flowers for Bees
by Linda Tillman

Spring has arrived and many of us pull out our garden trowels to ready our gardens for beauty for ourselves and nectar for our bees.  What plants will enhance the nectar collecting efforts of our bees?

Many resources and lists exist to help us make these gardening decisions.  Good flowering plants for the Southeast and for our bees are readily available at your local garden center.  

Perennial plants are better choices for the bees than annuals because they are typically a richer nectar source and bloom year after year.

Many plants in the milkweed family such as butterfly weed are great for bees.  When I planted butterfly weed by my mailbox, the bees tripped over each other in their efforts to get to the flowers.  The butterfly weed has a deep root but if you know where a plant is, it is easy to gather seeds when the bloom is over.

Another plant that the bees love is hyssop.  Anise hyssop, while not a lovely flower is a delight to the bees who bombard the blossoms with nectar seekers.

Anise has a licorice flavor and my daughters swear that they can taste it slightly in the honey!  Although the plant smells like licorice, it is actually a member of the mint family and has a square stem.

Often found in backyard gardens, common native plants which draw bees are echinacea or coneflowers.  Almost every beekeeper with a camera has a photo of a bee on an echinacea bloom.

In the vegetable garden plantings, bees serve an essential purpose as pollinators.  Bees in cucumbers look as if they are standing on their heads to get their goodies from the flowers.

And if you've had bees in your cucumbers, your crop will be straight and beautiful due to even pollination.

Many herbs are good for bees.  Bees are drawn to basil, lavendar, marjoram, rosemary - basic herbs that most gardeners grow.

To get specific lists of bee-friendly flowers and plants, here are some helpful links:

Have fun planting for your bees!


Swarm captured in Garden Hills neighborhood in Atlanta by Linda Tillman on March 30

Upcoming Events

Tara Beekeepers Association is having a Children's Short Course, May 31, 2014 at Reynolds Plantation in Morrow.  If you have anyone that is interested please check our website and give us a shout!

Tara Beekeepers Association is having its annual short course September 6, 2014.   Cost is $65 per person, and there is a family rate.  The course will be held at the Kiwanis Building in Forest Park.  If you would like to attend or know someone who would like to attend please check our website or give us a shout!

Coweta Beekeepers will offer the Certified test in September if you missed the May 3 opportunities and didn't get to Young Harris.


Swarm collected by Jay Parsons, MABA member,  in Adairsville, GA. He brought it back to his Atlanta bee yard.

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Swarm above and below captured by Mike Schaaphok, MABA member, in Atlanta.  The photo below shows what was on the branch after capturing the swarm!

The Final Buzz

We LOVE your contributions to the newsletter - that's what makes it so much fun for us, the editors.  Have you had a hive that swarmed right in front of you?  Did you drop a frame of bees and brood and get stung from stem to stern?  Have you had a bee in your veil and not been able to get her to leave you sting free?  For our June edition, send us your funny/not so funny stories/experiences with the bees.  We'd love to share them with our readers.

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