February 2018
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A new Master Beekeeper Program is being initiated in Virginia. Beekeepers will receive training to improve the management and productivity of their beehives. The Master Beekeepers in turn will provide an enlarged pool of experts to recruit and train beekeepers. Education is a key element of the Master Beekeeper program. Improving a beekeeper's knowledge of apiculture improves successful management of honey bees. The Virginia plan proposes a 3 level program, Qualified/Certified/Master Beekeeper. Guidelines to the requirements for the Qualified Beekeeper level are provided in the information below or available for downloading with this link. The Master Level would be equivalent to the EAS Master Beekeeper with an added emphasis on practical beekeeping experience and service.

Virginia Master Beekeeper Program1

Study Outline / Qualified Beekeeper Level

The following outline provides a list of topics with which one should be familiar beforetaking the written and practical exams for the Qualified level. Most of the topics will becovered in a basic beekeeping course and are reviewed in most basic beekeeping texts. 
Honey Bee Biology:

A. Occupants of the hive
What three types of individuals are found in the honey bee colony?   How can they be distinguished?    How many of each type might you expect to find in a colony?    Do the numbers change during the year?   What are the two castes found in the colony?   What are their major roles (functions)?   What is the development cycle of each (stages and times)?   How do the conditions under which they are reared differ?   What is the function of males and what are their development stages and times.   How is sex determined in honey bees?  

B. Anatomy and PhysiologyWorkers:What are the three main body sections of the adult bee?   How are they specialized in terms of function?   What are the major sensory structures of the adult bee and where are they found?    What organs are used for smell, taste, and touch?   What visual organs do honey bees have?    Are they all capable of seeing images?    Can honey bees hear sound?   What do bees eat and what food do they collect?   How do honey bees carry nectar and water?   How are honey bees specialized for the collection and transport of pollen?   How do they carry propolis?   Where are the wax glands located? 
How do honey bees produce brood food?   What is the basic structure and function of the sting?    What happens when abee stings?   How long does a bee live?   
Queens:Why are queens larger than workers and why does queen size change during the year?   Where are the ovaries located and how do queens store sperm from mating?   When does a queen mate and with how many drones?   Where do queens mate?   How many eggs does a queen lay in a day?   Does the number vary?  How does a queen know whether to lay a fertilized or an unfertilized egg?   What are the main functions of a queen, other than egg laying?   Does a queen ever leave the colony after mating?   Can there be more than one queen in a colony?   Under what conditions are new queens reared?   
Drones:How does a drone differ from a worker in appearance?   Why don’t drones have a sting?   How many days after emergence does a drone reach sexual maturity and initiate mating flights?   How many times does a drone mate? Why?   What two senses do drones use to locate queens for mating?   When are drones reared?  
C. Colony OrganizationSocial System:What are the basic labor activities performed by workers (ie. nurse activities and brood care, attending queen, nest construction, cleaning, guarding, etc.)   How is the labor system organized and how do tasks change as a function of age?   When (age) do workers forage and what four things to bees collect?    What is the function of each?   What is a pheromone and why are they important to colony functioning?   Which bee produces the pheromones most important to normal colony functioning?   What are the basic functions of the bee dances?   
Natural Nest:Where do honey bees naturally nest?   What does a natural nest look like?   What materials are used to construct the nest?   What is the basic structure of the comb (cell shape and structure)?  
Is there a natural pattern to comb utilization in the nest? For example, where is brood reared and pollen stored?  Where do they store honey?  How do we take advantage of this natural organization in our management?   
Colony Life Cycle:What does a honey bee colony do in the winter?  Spring?  Summer?  Fall?  How doe a colony population change during the year?   When do colonies reproduce? How?  
Beekeeping Equipment and Assembly
A. Hive TypesWhat is the most widely used type of hive?   What are the main features of a Langstroth hive?   What is a nuc, or nucleus colony?   
B. Components of the Langstroth hiveBasic components:What is bee space and why is it important in the design of a modern hive?   What is the purpose of a hive stand?   What is a landing board?   Describe the advantages and disadvantages of a solid and screen bottom board.   What are the dimensions of a deep, medium, and shallow hive box?   Which hive box(es) may be used as a brood chamber?   Honey supers?   Describe the parts and proper method for nailing a frame together.  
What are the dimensions of a frame for a deep and medium hive box?   When should crimped wire foundation be used?  Thin surplus foundation?,   Duragilt foundation?   Pierco foundation?   Describe how to wire a frame, include any specialized equipment for this procedure.   Why is an inner cover used in a beehive?   What are the basic types of outer covers?   What materials are used to construct a hive?  frame?   
Additional hive parts:What is a queen excluder and how is it used?   Describe three (3) types of sugar syrup feeders and list advantages and disadvantages of each.  
What is a fume board?   What are the reasons for using an entrance reducer?   When would a ventilated inner cover be used?   What is the function of a frame spacer?   What is a drone trap?   beetle trap?   
C. Safety equipmentWhat color clothing is best for working in and around an apiary?  Name three (3) types of veils.   Why are most veils dark color?  What is a hive tool?   List the advantages and disadvantages of canvas, leather, and plastic coated gloves.   What is the function of a smoker?  What materials may be used for fuel in a smoker?
Yearly Management Cycle
A. SpringDescribe the general annual growth cycle of a bee colony.   What are the main objectives in spring management?   Describe a good brood pattern.   What are the characteristics of a good apiary site?   What are signs that a queen is present in a hive?   What are indications in the hive of a failing queen?   
SwarmingWhat is swarming and why is it a concern?   Describe two management techniques that can be used to prevent swarming.   What are signs that a hive is ready to swarm?    Has swarmed?   
B. SummerWhat is the difference in top and bottom supering and when would each be appropriate?   Why is it important to keep the queen separated from honey supers?   Describe the configuration of a hive for production of extracted honey.   List two (2) indications that a honey flow is in progress.   What characteristics of the hive are used to evaluate queen quality?   When should a queen be replaced?   
Honey removalWhat is a bee escape?   List two (2) bee repellants.   Describe how bee repellants are used to remove honey supers.   What are other methods for removing bees from honey supers?   
ExtractionWhat are the two (2) main types of extractors?   How are cappings removed?   How is a capping scratcher used?   Be able to describe the general steps you would use to clean and bottle honey   How should honey be properly stored to prevent crystallization?   What is the appropriate range of water concentration in honey?   
C. FallList the main hive preparations for winter.   What colony population (bee numbers) is recommend for good winter survival?   What is Fumidil-B and how is it applied in a bee hive?   Describe the proper configuration for preparing a hive for winter.   How much honey should a colony have going into winter?   What concentration of sugar water is used to increase honey stores?
D. WinterWhat adaptations do honey bees have that allow them to survive winter?   What is/are the primary cause/s for winter losses?   When should a hive be checked in winter and why?   
Major Bee Pests
A. DiseasesWhat is the disease of major concern for beekeepers?   What stage in the life cycle does it attack   How is it spread?   Who should you contact if you think your colony might be diseased?   Name two other common brood diseases of honey bees   What is Nosema and why is it important?   
B. Honey bee pestsWhat is the major mite pest of the honey bee?   How does one determine if they have a mite problem?  
What is done in the way of treatment for these mites?   What is a wax moth and what damage does it cause?   How can one avoid problems with wax moths?   What is the Africanized honey bee?   Why is it a concern?   If someone discovers a very aggressive hive, what should be done?   
Practical Hive Inspection – What is involved?A knowledge of how to light and use a smoker.  Be properly dressed and have proper equipment for a hive inspection.  Be able to show how to open a hive.  Demonstrate proper techniques for hive inspection.  Be able to recognize different stages of brood (eggs, larvae, pupae) and the cells for workers, drone and queens (including queen cups).  Be able to differentiate emergency, swarming and supersedure queen cells.  Be able to recognize cells with pollen, honey and discuss the normal arrangement of brood, pollen and honey on a comb and in the hive. 
Be able to give an overall evaluation of colony condition (is the hive, strong or weak, does it need feeding, does the colony appear healthy).   Is the queen present and is she doing an acceptable job?   How much brood and honey is in the hive?   Is there any management needed?   Be able to discuss and demonstrate two methods for feeding a colony   How would you evaluate the site where the hives are located?    What factors should be considered in locating an apiary site?   In an urban area? 
References:There are many beekeeping books and manuals that cover basic information thatbeekeepers should know. A list of references is provided, however, this is only a partiallist and is not meant to be inclusive. There are literally thousands of references onbeekeeping, some very good and some less useful. The annotated list given belowprovides references for the new or less experienced beekeeper. Most of the referencesare available from the bee supply companies or they can be ordered from most bookdealers. The Beekeeping Basic manual from MAAREC is available on-line.Avitabile, A., D. Sammataro, and R. A. Morse. 2006. The Beekeeper’s Handbook, 3rdEdition, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY. 190 pp. (Good basic introductionto beekeeping and management practices, easy to read)Caron, Dewey M. 1999. Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping, Wicwas Press, CheshireCT, 355 pp. (Good overview of biology and beekeeping, written as anintroductory college text)Flottum, Kim. 2005. The Backyard Beekeeper, An Absolute Beginner’s Guide toKeeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden, Quarry Books, 168 pp. (Very basic anddesigned for the beginner, lots of pictures)Morse, Roger A. 1994. The New Complete Guide to Beekeeping, The CountrymanPress, Woodstock, VT. 207 pp. (A basic beekeeping text, easy to read)Tew, James E. Beekeeping Principles, A Manual for the Beginner, A Guide for theGardener, Great River Printing Co., Hamilton, IL. 245 pp. (A good overview ofbasic beekeeping practices, written for a general audience)Winston, Mark L. 1987. The Biology of the Honey Bee, Haravard University Press,Cambridge, MA, 281 pp. (Excellent summary of honey bee biology, althoughsomewhat dated. Well written but at a somewhat more advanced level)_______ 2006. ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture, 41st Edition, Ed. by H. Shimanuki, and K.Flottum, A.I Root Company, Medina, OH._______ 1992. The Hive and the Honey Bee, Ed by J. M. Graham. Dadant & Sons,Hamilton, IL, 1324 pp. (Comprehensive reference on all aspects of beekeeping,not a beginner’s guide, but a good reference for any serious beekeeper)________ Beekeeping Basics, manual put out by Mid Atlantic Apiculture Research andExtension Consortium and Penn State College of Agriculture, CooperativeExtension, 98 pp. (Can be order from the Penn State Publication DistributionCenter or down-loaded as a PDF at no cost. MAAREC website is




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February Meetings
and Events

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February 3rd
Queen Rearing Class


February 20th
Monthly Meeting


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March Meetings
and Events

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March 3rd
Horticultural Extravaganza


March 8th
HR Horticultural Society


March 20th
Monthly Meeting


March 24th
CNU Gardening Symposium




Follow the "Upcoming Events" or "Latest News" link under the Main Menu for more information.




NewBees Corner


Information listed here is for the new beekeepers looking for new information and guidance on beekeeping and beekeeping chores:




Now is the time to be watching the 10 day weather forecasts! Plan on making up some fresh, warm, syrup to feed to your survivors this next week. You need to feed in winter but winter feeding is different. Mix your syrup 2:1 (2 sugars to 1 water). Best to feed liquid on the warm days and then have sugar feed on for the colder days. You can put sugar feed on and then feed liquid when the weatherman calls for a warm spell. Take the liquid off once the temperature drops again as the bees might not take it and a leaking container would be the end of the colony.

Did you know an inner cover has two sides? A shallow summer side that mainatins bee space and a deeper winter side that allows for fondant or sugar candy to be placed on the top bars available to the cluster. Here are some links to follow for making winter feed for your colonies. This first method requires cooking and I have used it with great success. To use it, follow this link. Something I've read is that the vinegar is essential to add in the heating process as it aids in breaking down the cane sugar into the sugars that are in honey, fructose and glucose as well as raising the acidity level closer to natural honey.

A second method requires no cooking. I have not used this recipe as yet but plan to this winter. To use it, follow this link. There is also information on this site for using the "Mountain Camp" method of feeding dry sugar. I prefer to make my feed in advance and then apply it to the hive but that's beekeeping, each of us has our own preference.




So you were able to harvest some honey but now what do you do with those frames? There are three things that can be done. 1-you could just leave the frames as they are and store them in a freezer or refrigerator. Not very practical for most folks and storing them wet in the garage or house is an invitation to disaster, don't do it! 2-you can let the bees dry them out outside of the hive. This works very well but you must take precautions to prevent a robbing frenzy in your apiary. Put the frames some distance from the hives, the farther the better, and additionally have some objects between, like trees or a building. This also pertains to letting the bees clean up your extracting equipment. There will be some damage to the comb but nothing too drastic. 3-lastly you can put the frames back into the hive they were harvested from or on another colony that may need the stores. If you just want the bees to dry the frames and move the residual honey down into the colony you can place the frames in a super above the inner cover. To keep the bees from moving up add a spacer or an empty super between the inner cover and the frames. Adding the frames back into or on top of a colony may also create a robbing situation if there are any gaps, cracks or openings. Take precautions!

Once dry these frames are a valuable resource and you HAVE to protect them until freezing weather arrives and wax moth activity ceases for the year. There are some choices that can be made here as well. Hanging under a eave allowing plenty of air and light can usually prevent wax moth damage if the combs never held brood or pollen. Follow this link to see some examples. Another way is to protect your frames with Para Dichlorobenzene, Moth crystals. Supers are stacked and sealed with a spacer at the top. Place the moth crystals on a paper plate on top in the space as the fumes will go down. Follow this link to read an article about wax moths and their control. Lastly combs can be protected with a natural microbial bacteria Bacillus thuringenisis (Certan®). It was once available for sale by bee supply companies but is no longer manufactured in the US but is available from Canada. Some beeks use alternative products that contain the same bacteria but are sold under a different name for the similar purpose of larva control. Here is a lnk to a video about the use of Certan.

Have you done your check for varroa mites? Now is a great time to do a sugar roll or alcohol wash to determine the percentage of mites within your colonies. Doesn't matter if you treat or not but to know your colonies health, it is important to monitor the varroa mite infestation level. Follow this link to learn how to do a sugar roll or this link to learn how to do an alcohol wash. Once you have your numbers then you can follow this link to determine a course of action. Just looking at your bees is not enough to know how they are coping with varroa. I just recently, with the help of a club member, did an alcohol wash on a colony that appeared to be in good shape. Weren't we both surprised when there were so many mites we had to dump them out on a rag to make an accurate count. 158 mites in 1/2 cup (300) of bees! Do I have a colony that is surviving with varroa or a colony that is on the brink of collapse? Without monitoring I wouldn't know why they perished or the importance of breeding this queen.




The summer dirth has started and foraging bees are all looking for stores to bring back to their home hive. Don't let your hive become a source of stores for a neighboring colony! Use a robbing screen if you have a small colony or are feeding to grow your colony. Products like Honey B Healthy or added essential oils can drive foraging bees wild. They want that stuff! Know that a honey bee colony's worst enemy is a stronger honey bee colony, fact.

For information on Robbing Screens check out these links:
1. Robbing Screen article on the CBA website
2. Images for different varieties of robbing screens
A few video links on making robbing screens. (Something to remember is if you use an entrance reducer the width doesn't need to exactly match the bottom board, example: an 8 frame robbing screen will work on a ten frame hive with an entrance reducer!).
1. Northwest New Jersey Beekeepers(NWNJBA)
2. Country Rubes Beekeeping Supplies
3. Another Country Rubes Video
A Google search brings up plenty more videos!
Robbing Screen Videos