Beekeeping Class Begins January 14th

Have you ever thought about keeping bees, but never knew where to begin? Are you a current beekeeper who wants to build general beekeeping skills? Do you have an interest in learning about this ancient and environmentally beneficial craft? If so, do we have an opportunity for you!

  • 9-week beekeeping course beginning Thursdays January 14th
  • See Course Outline above for lecture details
  • Knowledgeable instructors will cover the A BEE C’s of beekeeping
  • Hands-on demonstration field day upon conclusion of the course

The registration fee for the entire course is $50.00 for individuals and $75 for couples. The fee includes course materials, the 1st Lessons in Beekeeping book, a one year PCBA membership and a raffle ticket for a chance to win a complete 10-frame hive. Pre-registration is not required but is recommended, as space is limited. You may pre-register online here.

Where: Person County Office Building, Auditorium, 304 S. Morgan St, Roxboro NC 27573

Times: Thursday for 9 weeks beginning January 14, 2016, 7-9pm

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4H Fun Day

4H students look at an observation hive.

4H students search for the queen in the PCBA observation hive.

PCBA teamed with the Person County 4H to host a fun day to teach kids about bees and beekeeping. Eight students attended and participated in presentations on everything from equipment to communication to honey extraction.

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Honey Bee Health Coalition

Caydee Savinelli of Syngenta spoke at PCBA

Caydee Savinelli of SyngentaI like bugs and want to keep most of them. We (she and husband) are the kind of people that move turtles out of roads. Syngenta’s business is agriculture. We need to find better ways to feed the world and we need pollinators.

Agriculture is America’s top export and we lead the world. 97 percent of 2 million farms in America are owned by families or family businesses. US farmers provide 18 percent of the world’s food supply on 10 percent of the world’s farmland. US consumers spend about 10 percent of their income on food while consumers in other countries spend 13-35 percent. The global value of pollinators is estimated to be between 120 and 220 billion dollars while in the US, the value of honey bee pollination alone is estimated to be $15 billion dollars. Native bees and other pollinators provide $3 billion dollars of pollinator services. Of more than 200,000 US beekeepers, 5 percent are commercial and manage 70 percent of US hives. Another 15 percent are sideliners (attempting to make a profit with fewer than 300 colonies) and 80 percent are hobbyists. Most Person County beekeepers are hobbyists.

Are bees going extinct? Most present agreed with speaker that honey bees are not going extinct though lots of others are worried about it. It’s much harder to study the native bees. Keeping bees healthy IS getting harder pushing up beekeeper costs. Many interacting factors affect bee health: Parasites, diseases, poor bee nutrition (lack of variety in diet and lack of suitable habitat), changing weather patterns, pesticides (both those used in the hive and those used in agriculture), beekeeper management, lack of genetic diversity (weakening resistance to pest and disease), and queen failure. Crop protection products are produced in response to Americans’ need for perfect (not bug-eaten, not even bug-touched) food. Product development, including synthesis and biological screening, field screening and toxicology studies, government and scientific review, launch, marketing and continuing stewardship, takes 9 to 14 years and may cost 250 to 300 million dollars for ONE product.

Neonicotinoids are safer for the people who apply them than the alternatives and they are a good IPM tool, but they are highly toxic to bees so label directions … which are the LAW … prohibit their use during bloom periods when bees might be in the area. And soil-applied neonicotinoids are safer for bees than aerial sprays, for instance. Honey bee venom itself is pretty toxic … at high doses. Too much of anything, from nicotine to caffeine, aspirin, table salt and sugar, can kill you.

The dose makes the poison. Neonicotinoids are helping the Florida citrus growers who are battling the citrus greening diseases carried by introduced Asian Citrus Psyllid. The disease can kill a tree in 7 years that otherwise might be productive for 15 or more years. Canola is the most important crop in western Canada and there is no evidence that neonicotinoid treatments are putting bees at risk. Syngenta considers continuing education about their product an important part of their mission, encouraging users to follow label instructions (which must be approved by EPA) and to consider pollinator health … for instance by spraying late in the day after pollinators quit flying. Their Operation Pollinator tries to create habitat and forage for honeybees and other pollinators. As a result of this project to encourage people to plant more bee forage they have helped create pollinator gardens at AT&T, UNC-G, NC State, the Glencoe Mill Village near Burlington and on more than 100 golf courses in 26 states.

Syngenta is one of the founding members of the Honey Bee Health Coalition, with work groups on nutrition and forage, hive management, crop pest management and cross-industry collaboration. Syngenta is also helping to support the Bee Informed Partnership, working directly with beekeepers to identify best management practices.

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Dr. Mike Simone-Finstrom of NCSU Addresses Club

Dr. Mike Simone-Finstrom met with Person County Beekeepers to share his latest research.Dr. Mike Simone-FinstromThe beekeeping industry has reported that winter colony losses of about 15 percent annually are sustainable, though beekeepers expect that percentage to rise slightly if the winter is particularly harsh. However, since 2006 annual colony losses have been around 30 percent due to parasites, viruses, poor nutrition, agrochemicals, management, and queen health/genetics. He encouraged us to keep our focus on the bee and promoting bee health. His efforts focus on understanding how bees defend themselves and using that understanding as part of an Integrated Pest Management strategy.

He is especially interested in the interplay between individual immunity and the immunity of the colony, the superorganism. He is curious about how changes in the defense strategies of a dense population of close relatives might impact the genes devoted to individual immune defense strategies. Individual strategies include physical characteristics …like the “skin” and physiological … like the production of antimicrobial peptides that attack bacteria (like our white blood cells). Social strategies include traits like grooming behavior and the use of propolis. In one test, he found that a propolis-enriched environment reduced hive bacteria which in turn reduced the immune function in individual bees.

His continuing research explores ways that colonies invest in multiple defenses ….both social and individual immunity. He built on prior research in which four characteristics were shown to be effective against some maladies: Multiple mating of queens…queens may mate with 4 to 40 drones, but the average is 12. Grooming both alo-grooming (nest-mates) and self-grooming which knocks down Varroa. Hygienic behavior in which workers sense sick larva and remove them from the hive before their contagious Use of resin/propolis.

His goal for PCBA members? Be awed by the strength and resilience of the bees. To help beekeepers who breed queens for these characteristics, Michael wanted to show whether there were positive or negative associations among these defense strategies. A prior study showed that multiple matings of queen, resulting in higher genetic diversity in the colony, both (a) reduced the prevalence and intensity of infections AND (b) increased the overwintering survival rate. In his test, he weighted queens with a “top hat” amounting to about 15 percent of their body weight to increase the effort required on the mating flight and therefore (hopefully) reducing the number of matings. This resulted in two groups of hives: one with low genetic diversity (queen mated with 4-7 males) and one group with high genetic diversity (queens mated with 14-30 males). Queens were only permitted ONE mating flight.

The result? A significantly higher level of chalkbrood infection in the hives with LOW diversity. To test the impact on resin foraging (the number of bees returning to the hive with resin on hind legs), he counted resin-foragers before and after “the challenge”-infection with chalkbrood. To test the impact on hygienic behavior, a heritable trait, he freeze-killed brood, then checked in 24 hours to see how many larvae had been removed. In his colonies, the range was from 100 percent to 0 percent removal. (A beekeeper could cut out a section of comb, freeze it, and re-insert it in the “hole” to determine whether his queen carried the trait for significant hygienic behavior.) To test the impact on grooming behavior, instead of tediously collecting mites on sticky board and counting how many had been bee-bitten, he coated bees with flour and measured flour-removal in pixils as the bee bodies were digitally-scanned.

The result? He found that the colonies with higher genetic diversity did do more grooming, but he found no relationship with the other defense strategies. To measure individual immunity, he grafted 1st instar larvae, put them on an artificial diet and gave AFB to half of the test group, then analyzed immune response. He found no relationship between the individual response and social resin-gathering or grooming behaviors. In the colonies with higher genetic diversity, he found decreased variance in the individual immune response. He was intrigued that the colony response was driven by larval response because the olfactory function is the basis for hygienic behavior so… how did the larvae sense the maladies?

What’s a beekeeper to do? Use resistant, local stocks. Select for hygienic behavior in your own bees, encourage bees to enrich the hive with propolis by roughing up the interior walls, and continuously monitor colony health.

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Annual Club Honey Extraction

We had two club members extract honey from their own bees for the first time! Congrats to Tom Savage and Janet Marron.

Our honey extraction workshop started out with a great pot luck. We had between 80 to 90 frames of honey to uncap and we needed to fuel up. With seven uncapping stations and three 9-frame extractors going we made short work of those honey frames. Here are some photos from the day.

Honey extractions always start with good food

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Thanks again to Tom and Linda Savage for hosting the workshop. And a special thanks to President Mary Deitz and club member Lewis Cauble for letting us borrow their extractors.

Some Lessons Learned:

  • The fancy uncapping knives don’t always do the best job. A long serrated knife works just as well if not better.
  • Using a capping scratcher can be faster than a knife. You don’t have to be gentle with it but you have to make sure you get the cappings off.
  • Extracting honey from deep frames is much harder than extracting from super frames or shallows.
  • If pulling a frame in the honey super (ie going from 10 frames to 9) be sure to wait until all the comb is drawn out and that you space them evenly. Otherwise you will have a mess on your hands.
  • Extracting honey is sticky business a bucket of water with a dish towel makes intermittent clean ups easy. For example when going from uncapping to spinning the extractor.
  • A paint strainer that you can buy from the hardware store works great for filtering honey. When you are done you can string it up to allow the remaining honey to filter through the unavoidable wax and bee bits.
Posted in Events

Equipment Building Demo

We had a great turn out at the bee school equipment building demo. We held the event this year at the Hurdle Mills Volunteer Fire Department. What a great venue and many thanks for your hospitality!

We spent the morning together and demonstrated a 9 frame honey extractor, showed how a solar wax melter works and got down to business building frames, brood boxes and supers. Then we headed out across the street for lunch at the Flat River Cafe. Thanks to everyone who came.

Here are a few photos from the day.

Great Turn Out!

Picture 1 of 9

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2014 Bee School in Full Swing

We’ve had another great start to our bee school. This year we welcomed 43 students!

Amanda at Registration

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Honey Fundraiser Success

Person County Beekeepers sure do make pretty honey!

For three months club members have been selling raffle tickets for one lucky winner to receive 12 jars of honey from 6 different beekeepers in Person County. This is the first time the club has done a fundraiser like this and it was a huge success. The tickets were just a dollar and considered a great deal when most single one pound jars of local honey sell for $8 to $10.

The color and taste of honey is greatly influenced by the type of nectar the bees are able to forage from. This year the color range and taste varied widely even though all the honey was harvested in Person County. While most honey in our area is considered wildflower, one of the beekeepers harvested his honey from hives that were located on a blueberry farm. This honey as a result may have some blueberry influence in how it tastes. It is also a blue ribbon winner from the 2013 NC State Fair! Another club member harvested his honey from hives on a certified organic farm and the darkest honey comes from a beekeeper near the Virginia border where the honey was greatly influenced by tulip poplar trees. This honey will have a rich taste that some compare to molasses.

At the club’s November meeting the winning ticket was drawn from more than 800 entries. The winner (shown below) quickly came to pick up his honey. Looks like someone’s holiday shopping is already done!

The club will use the money raised from this effort to continue to enrich the beekeeping experience for its members. Thank you to everyone who sold and bought tickets, and a special thanks to those beekeepers who donated their honey for the cause.

Posted in Club News

Honey Bee Nutrition

State Apiary Inspector, Nancy Ruppert spoke at our monthly meeting about bee nutrition. The following details from her talk were submitted by Secretary Lynn Wilson.

For kids and bees, nutrition is critical. Beekeeping is more challenging than ever. Why settle for survival when you could strive for a thriving hive? If you haven’t neglected other good bee management practices, investment in nutrition will more than pay for itself. Some things to keep in mind are that timing is essential, delay costly, and recovery slow  (if at all).

While hungry bees are usually a winter problem, this summer’s rain kept bees in hives too long and some colonies starved. Good nutrition lengthens lifespan, improves queen’s performance, builds a healthier immune system, and makes beekeeping economically sustainable.

Both quality and quantity of carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, vitamins, minerals and water. The best sources of carbs are nectar and honey, though cane sugar syrup is acceptable. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is better than starvation, but varies in digestibility and may build up toxic Hydroxymethylfurfural if it gets too hot. Healthy colonies need about 700 pounds of nectar per year and at least 40-60 pounds of honey to get through winter. Italian bees are less conservative than other races and bees in warmer climates need more carbs because they fly more. First nectar flow in our calendar year is red maple, but it’s thin and bees use it quickly.


  • Feed carbs during nectar shortages
  • To help build winter stores (Sept-Oct also helps insulate hive)
  • When wax foundation needs to be drawn out
  • To stimulate egg-laying and support brood-rearing

Boardman entrance feeders are easy for beekeeper to see and access, but may be hard for bees to get to if it’s cold and promote robbing if it’s hot. Division board and top hive feeders are in the hive, but you may need to find a way to keep bees from drowning. Fondant or candy board is good in the winter. If fondant is too hard bees can’t take it up. Sprinkles of moistened sugar may help if nothing else can be done. Community feeders can create mob scenes where the stronger colonies get stronger and weaker colonies get left out. Pollen should be available if you’re feeding carbs because bees need it to digest the carbs.

Pollen helps bees fly farther, faster, produce healthier queens and workers, especially nurse bees who are the primary direct consumers of pollen. Adequate pollen stimulates healthy brood-rearing, stronger immune systems and better winter survival due to fat storage and vitellogenin.

Best pollens (like dandelion, canola, and apple) contain about 25% protein; the best substitutes are 15% (or more) protein.  Pine, sunflower and ragweed aren’t very good protein sources. The average colony collects 50-120 pounds of pollen per year and uses 40-110 pounds annually. In NC, pollen is available naturally from 9-12 months out of the year. In March and April you hope to see a rainbow of pollen in the hive reflecting a diversity of floral sources.


  • During shortages, especially late winter or when too much rain keeps bees in the hive
  • Prior to likely stressors such as brood-rearing, pollination, hive splits, raising queens
  • Rearing winter bees
  • Prior to nectar flow
  • When feeding carbs

Be careful though, feeding pollen can result in raising a robust crop of small hive beetles. A few adults is not too bad, but if you see larvae, your bees can’t cope.

Pollen patties need to be consumable, digestible and offer good nutrition value. Nancy has seen consistently good results from feeding Mega-Bee and Global brands. It’s important to note that bees need adequate microflora in their gut to digest pollen. If you are using antibiotics, etc., to treat other problems that may be destroying microflora. As a result your bees may not be able to digest the pollen.

There is some research support for use of Honey B Healthy or ProHealth, in sugar syrup, as feeding stimulants and preservatives that contain essential oils. If bees are not taking pollen, mix Amino-B Booster (amino acid supplement) with sugar syrup and Honey B Healthy. Nozevit or Nozevit Plus is a combination of plant polyphenols which help bee digestion and may help prevent nosema.

Q: Are powdered pollen substitutes okay?
A: Yes. Some people mix with sugar syrup and some hang pollen substitutes in dipper gourds near hives.

Q: When is it okay to open hives to feed?
A: Every NC county has at least one day per month of temperatures above 50 degrees when it’s okay to inspect the hive. Early January feeding will help the queen to start laying eggs. Too much egg-laying too early will result in more brood than workers can keep warm in a cold snap. Brood are much more sensitive to cold than adult bees.

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PCBA Named Chapter Of The Year!

The Person County Beekeepers Association is honored to have been named Chapter Of The Year by the North Carolina Beekeepers Association.

Each year the NCSBA Golden Achievement Program recognizes chapters that have made significant accomplishments in support of North Carolina beekeeping. Every one of the 92 chapters is eligible for recognition.

The program is based on a point system. To qualify as a Golden Achievement Program (GAP) chapter a club must meet the minimum thresholds in a number of categories such as community outreach and member services. The total minimum threshold is 775 points. The Person County Beekeepers Association was awarded more than 2600 points making them the North Carolina Beekeepers Association Chapter Of The Year!

“The PCBA chapter has really got it together with list serve communication, a calendar of speakers on their website, a cool logo, over 25 community presentations and even a facebook page. Their chapter is so deserving of this award”, said GAP Committee Chairperson, Janet Peterson.

Along with the recognition, PCBA received a cash award of $300 and are eligible for another $700 in grant monies toward a project that furthers beekeeping in Person County. The club also received $275 worth of gift certificates from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm, a popular supplier of beekeeping equipment and supplies in the state of North Carolina.

The club plans to use the award money and apply for the additional $700 grant to help continue their efforts of promoting beekeeping in Person County.

Posted in Club News