August 2015 Minutes

August 20, 2015
County Office-Auditorium

WELCOME.  Carol Carter welcomed the group and introduced the speaker, Todd Walker.

PROGRAM/ PREPARING FOR WINTER:   Todd’s previous preparation checklist included:  Check queen, check hives, check resources.   Now he checks queen, looks for disease, honey, and Varroa, and strives for the strongest possible winter bees.  (Todd strongly recommends using Google Scholar to search for peer-reviewed research results.)

If you find a spotty brood pattern, but the larva are pearly white, re-queening may solve the problem.   If the larva are yellowish, resolve the disease issue before going any further.   (Remember:  if you see sunken, perforated caps and pupal tongues, suspect  American Foulbrood and call the NC Apiary Inspector for further ID and disposition of hive.)

Re-queening in late summer has it’s advantages:  less chance of spring swarm, go into winter with strong population and young queen, more eggs in late winter and early spring, and brood cycle is broken  SO the colony emerges in spring with a high population ready for honey flow.  Also it may be easier to find a queen for sale than in spring.

Difficulties may include:  finding the queen, bees may be difficult to work in the absence of honey flow, you’ll have less chance to assess the new queen’s performance, and if the new queen is not accepted, your hive will be queenless.

Each colony needs about 40 pounds of honey (about one full super) for winter food.  It will take about 32 pounds of sugar in 1:1 mix for bees to make 40 pounds if the colony is starting from zero.  If they don’t have 40 pounds, you may be feeding them sugar water all winter.  If you feed too early, you’ll end up with swarms.

The adult  Varroa’s most harmful impact is not on the adult bee but on the pupal stage.  18-20 bee viruses have now been identified and most are vectored by the Varroa.  And Varroa feeding on the pupa prevents it from becoming a winter bee.

So the treatment time is critical.  One Ontario study found that if you delay Varroa treatment until October, the damage is already done.   Todd says you need to treat in August.   You can sample first with a sugar shake, but you’re almost certainly going to have to treat.  (Randall Austin and Tim Gentry concurred.)  He used to use Formic Acid but since it can’t be applied unless you have at least three consecutive days with temps below 85 degrees (coinciding with first three days of treatment), he’s now using thymol-based Apiguard because it can be used with daytime temps as high as 105 degrees.    He strongly recommends reviewing Tools for Varroa Management which can be downloaded free AND read the label before you use ANY pesticides.  Todd also plans to try the newly-approved oxalic acid (only for use when no brood present) on one or two colonies around December 21 when he expects no brood in the hive.   

Sugar shakes before and after treatment will help you understand what treatment regimen is effective.   Some authors suggest collecting sample of nurse bees from open brood, but others say it doesn’t matter.  If you have 10 or fewer hives sample all of them.  If you have more than 10 hives, randomly select 8 hives for testing. 

So what’s different about WINTER BEES?   They have a longer life span (up to 230 days); they have larger nutrient reserves; higher dry mass,; high level of proteins, fats triglycerides and sugars; enlarged and protein-enriched hypopharyngeal glands; and LOW juvenile hormone level (which controls when they step up to the next hive job).   Dwindling pollen resources cause bees to shift into winter bee mode … so do NOT feed pollen. 

Bees on the outside of the winter cluster provide insulation and a larger cluster can be more efficiently kept warm than a small cluster.  In a 5-inch cluster the Surface Area/Volume ratio is 1.2 while in a 7-inch cluster the Surface Area/Volume ration is .8.

Todd heard Dr. Larry Connor at a previous NCSBA meeting say:  “Feed the bees that feed the (winter) bees.”   Reviewing the bee’s development (egg-3 days, larva-6 days, capped pupae-12 days, with adult worker emergence at 21 days), Todd plans his winter preparation schedule backing up from the average first frost date (October 21 in our area).   Nurse bees begin feeding brood when they are 4 or 5 days old.  So Todd begins feeding bees around September 18 provided that the bees have removed all the crystals from the second thymol treatment.

Since you aren’t supposed to feed bees during the thymol treatment (two applications required), he applied the first treatment on August 6 and the second treatment was applied two weeks later (today).  The 2nd treatment period is 2-4 weeks but bees usually remove all the crystals within about 2 weeks.

It’s too late to do a split now he says.   Deformed wing virus in the fall is a predictor of Colony Collapse Disorder … so treat bees!

UPCOMING PROGRAMS-WAX WORKSHOP. The wax workshop previously scheduled for August has been rescheduled for September 13 due to a misunderstanding about the cost.   The instructor will charge $50 per person plus a $15 materials fee and a minimum of 10 persons must pre-register.   Whitney Barnes will send out details soon.   Alternatively, if a PCBA member would like to instruct a wax workshop, please contact Whitney at

UPCOMING PROGRAMS-SEPTEMBER MEETING.   Ben Brodfuehrer will share tips for hive photos.

COMMUNITY OUTREACH-HONEY BEE DAY AT FARMER’S MARKET. FROM 8-12NOON.-ACTION:   Jim Hayward will represent PCBA and says please come and bring your honey to sell.

COMMUNITY OUTREACH-PERSONALITY-ACTION.  Whitney Barnes is coordinating our Saturday,  August 29 booth and needs help!  E-mail her at to sign up.

COMMUNITY OUTREACH-4H SUMMER FUN.   8 youngsters and PCBA representatives headed by Whitney Barnes enjoyed themselves and learned a lot.   One family is very interested in becoming beekeepers.  Carol Carter says thanks to Todd and 4-H’ers for extracting her honey.    

MINUTES of the July meeting were approved as distributed by e-mail.

FINANCIAL REPORT.   Amanda Blanks reported that to a beginning bank balance of $4593.62, income of $502 was added from extractor rental, t-shirt, hat and raffle sales, and member dues. Expenses paid included raffle ticket printing cost and Apimondia USA bid support donation.  The ending bank balance is $4766.46 plus a $50 petty cash balance for a total of $4816.46.

FUNDRAISER-HONEY RAFFLE Lynn Wilson, Jim Grant,  Alan Justice, Larry/Whitney Barnes, and Todd Walker have already donated 2 one-pound jars.  Jim Hayward and John Harrell each offered 2 pounds each.  Lelia Gentry also agreed to donate 2 one-pound jars.

ACTION.   Amanda challenged each member to buy or sell at least $10 worth of raffle tickets. 

MARKET INSURANCE.   Carol reported that PCBA was recently asked about bringing honey to the South Durham Farmers’ Market on Saturday,  August 22, but they require market insurance.  Cost estimates ranged from $275 to $400 per year.  One PCBA member carries this insurance but sells more than honey at Farmer’s Market.  Right now no PCBA member is selling enough honey to warrant further investigation.

HIVE TALK-HORNET’S NEST.   Tim Gentry shared a hornet’s nest that he found on a reported honey bee swarm collection mission!   Carol will store it for future reference.

Lelia Gentry caught a small swarm earlier this year and it’s doing well in 8-frame deep but they stopped drawing out comb after the 7th frame and honey super on top is full.  Do they need more brood space?   Todd suggests adding a frame of drawn comb in the center … no foundation-only frames at this time of year.   What to do about small ants?   Todd suggests “nothing”.  If you have too much sugar water honey, what to do?   Todd says consider replacing a couple of frames of sugar water honey with drawn comb if you want the bees to have a place to store some goldenrod/aster honey.

REFRESHMENTS.   Thanks to Mary Florence for bringing refreshments tonight. 

ACTION. For Oct.15, Lynn Wilson signed up.    E-mail if you want to offer refreshments on Sept. 17 or Nov. 19.  Dec. 18 is the Holiday Potluck.

ATTENDANCE.   34 members signed in plus 1 guest.  76 current members includes 4 life members and 35 members who also joined NCSBA through PCBA. 


Lynn S. Wilson

APPROVED 10-15-15

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