October 2013 Minutes

Date:  October 17, 2013
Location: Person County Office Building, Room 165

PROGRAM.  Inge opened the meeting and introduced speaker Todd Warner, co-owner with wife Monica, of The Carolina Bee Company.  Todd is a Regional Director of NCSBA, responsible for outreach to clubs and feedback from clubs to NCSBA.    Speaking about gentler, more natural honeybee management guidelines developed by Certified Naturally Grown Beekeeping, Todd’s topic was:   “The Grassroots Alternative to Certified Organic.”

Todd has kept bees for nine years and his wife now works full-time as a chandler, maker of other wax products, and raising queens. She uses only wax from their own bees for cosmetics and soaps, but 90 percent of their candle wax comes from other beekeepers.  The CNG label only applies to their honey but increases customer interest in all of their products.

If you see “organic” on honey labels in the US, he said, the product is probably from Brazil since trade agreements allow international vendors to include labels as approved in the source country.   The US does not have a certified organic label for honey.

CNG was founded in 2002 by people frustrated with the organic certification process….too bureaucratic and difficult for small farmers to achieve.   Initially, national organic standards were copied, with different enforcement.   Apiary certification guidelines were published in 2010.

A team, including Ross Conrad, Kim Flottum, Dr. Dave Tarpy and others, led by NC surgeon and beekeeper and longtime NCSBA stalwart Dr. Bud Marterre developed science-based, best practice guidelines.   Practices may be required, recommended, permitted, or prohibited.   Transitional guides are also posted.   Enforcement is secured through a Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) approved by the International Federation of Organic Movements.   PGS means locally assured quality control because farms are inspected by peers annually, with results and signatures posted online after certification is approved by regional and national councils.   And consumers are invited to visit the farms.   Practices are continually updated as new approaches are validated.   Todd’s wife Monica is now serving on the CNG Apiary Advisory Council as is Diana Sammataro, author of Todd’s favorite introduction to beekeeping.

Why organic?   Industrial agriculture is devastating the environment and producing food that’s unsafe for humans and critters, and not cost-effective.   We need agriculture that is sustainable, but it takes more skill.   We’re awash in chemicals.  Why are we finding Teflon chemicals in whales?  The arrival of mites in the US ushered in a panic response.   Coumaphos and Fluvalinate were introduced and, worse, beekeepers began using them prophylactically.  Testing of chemicals was inadequate, for instance, testing effects on adult bees without considering effects on brood.  The emergency response mode is subsiding in favor of softer treatments such as formic acid because we’re discovering that all these chemicals have a cumulative, persistent effects.    The really nasty chemicals permeate wax, pollen and honey as the wax acts like the lungs of the hive.    Bees don’t have a strong immune system so it takes the social organism awhile to adapt to these new threats.   Now scientists are looking at a broader range of effects …like disoriented bees, reduced egg-laying, and changes in larval development.

CNG’s approach is to focus on bee health first, honey second.

Why certification?  The guidelines are a useful management tool, describing well-thought-out best practices.   Peer review and transparency lend credibility to this powerful marketing tool as customers receive the assurances they increasingly request, that we’re providing the cleanest product that we can offer.

Guidelines cover everything from hive location and construction, record keeping, supplemental feeding and frames/foundation.   The single best practice you can adopt, Todd says, is to rotate 20 percent of the brood frames OUT of the hive annually.   To get started, on a staggered schedule, begin rotating frames out after three years.   Put the year date on each frame (after it’s drawn out) so you’ll know when it needs to come out of the hive.

Guidelines are meant to be meaningful and practical (do-able) and you may find that you already meet most requirements.   Colony records are essential and can be mostly accomplished with a grease pencil on the hive cover; however, treatments need to be thoroughly described, including pre- and post-tests of mite loads.   He tests for mites intermittently in a sampling of hives.  The only treatments they use are brood cycle interruptions, such as splits and rotating a queen.  They lost 20% of hives last year which is 10% below the national average.   They are also trying to breed for Varroa resistance.

Todd uses foundationless frames with wires to support the wax … and a level to make sure the hive is situated exactly level.  This is not a CNG requirement, but their company’s preference.

“Grease pencil on the hive cover” is the Warners’ recordkeeping method.  Find a method that works for you.

To get started, review and follow the published guidelines (copies available from Todd for $6) or download free copy from www.naturallygrown.com.  Next, apply online and pay dues on a sliding scale ($50 to $200), complete your declaration, schedule an on-site inspection of your apiary, and complete an inspection of another beekeeper (not the same farmer who inspects your bees!).   There are only 50-100 CNG beekeepers across the nation and the two nearest Person County are  www.bullcityfarm.com and www.carolinabees.com, so you may be inspected by a non-certified beekeeper who understands the guidelines and stands behind his/her signature which will be published online with his/her report.   The sliding scale allows you to set the amount.  How much is it worth to you?   How much do you want to support the CNG apiary project?

QUESTIONS/RESPONSES.  How close is too close to a traditional ag operation?   Bees forage 2-3 miles from hive, but this is an ag state and the guideline is a recommendation not a requirement.   How large an area is required to support a colony?   This guideline needs more definition!   Will CNG guidelines be included in new bee school materials since NCSBA now responsible for the Master Beekeeper process?    To be discussed.!   Do sumac leaves in the smoker combat Varroa?   Review smoker fuel guidelines.   While standards don’t dismiss novel methods, recommendations  supported by scientific evidence are most likely to be supported by CNG.   How soon will new NCSBA website be up?   Good question.   Where can we find Monica at the State Fair?   Near Gate 11 in the Kerr Scott Building near police and religious folks.

BUSINESS SESSION was opened by Inge in Mary’s absence and MINUTES of the September meeting were approved.

VP REPORT.   PCBA STATE FAIR BOOTH “What It takes to Be a Beekeeper” was installed on Monday and thanks to Kim, Renee, Donna and Kate for contributing quotes about how their expectations met the reality of beekeeping.   Also thanks to Lewis, Todd and Carol for pivotal contributions.  Todd got a Blue Ribbon for his observation hive WITH bees.  Expect official report of other ribbons from Carol after tomorrow’s visit to the State Fair.

FUNDRAISERS.  HAT ORDER will be mailed this week so order now.  The group agreed to purchase 6 additional hats for later sale.    We’ve raised $468 from HONEY RAFFLE to date.  Tickets may be sold up until the November meeting when the drawing occurs.  Thanks to Michelle for the idea (and to Inge for beautiful raffle tickets, says Michelle).   Amanda suggested that we find a nice basket to hold the 12 jars and add info about PCBA and a map showing where honey came from.

YOUTH BEEKEEPER SPONSORSHIP.   No response yet to our GAP application for $700.

MEMBERSHIP.    Submit your PCBA/NCSBA membership fees and form to Amanda now to get all publications.   The PCBA form is available online, www.personcountybeekeepers.org/about/join/

BEE SCHOOL.  Yes, let’s do it, group agreed.  Two suggestions:   Send info about PCBA to the Orange County intro to Bee School and invite master beekeepers to do a Q&A after each lecture.

FINANCE.  Amanda reported a bank balance of  $1841.50 at the beginning of the month, with income of $687 from membership dues, T-shirt and raffle ticket sales, honey extractor sales, and raffle of plastic frames.   Expenses of $43.17 included two reimbursements, leaving a bank balance of $2485.33 and a petty cash balance of $2535.33.   Todd noted that State Fair prize money could offset some of the expenses.

FUNDRAISER IDEA-WORKSHOP.   Michelle noted that she and others had attended a “Pollinator Garden Workshop” last year that filled the Chatham Co. Ag Auditorium.  She suggested that we consider offering a similar workshop in Person County next year.

MEETING ADJOURNED.  Inge invited folks to refreshments provided by Mary Dietz with the help of the Savages and adjourned the meeting.

NEXT PCBA MEETING:    Thursday, November 21, 7 PM, in Room 165, Person Co. Office Bldg.    Nancy Rupert will talk about Bee Nutrition.

ACTION:  November refreshments by Lynn Wilson (unless someone else would like to volunteer!)

RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED by  Lynn S. Wilson

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