March 2014 Meeting Summary

March 2014 Club Meeting:

After several useful moments of informal discussion among attendees, club President Bill Hiss prompted members to introduce themselves to provide everyone an opportunity to get to know each other.  During the introductions, club member Dan Carrey shared an excellent treat of two year old cut comb honey.  Dan even provided spoons!  Thanks Dan!

Vice President Pete Schlax briefly described the changes made to the Androscoggin beekeepers club website as follow up to the agreed upon proposal to make these changes at the February 2014 meeting.  The site is now running as a WordPress site.

Pete noted that the website now contains a calendar that indicates days for club meetings, open hive meetings (not scheduled yet) and recommended hive management activities.  If you have things you’d like to see added to the calendar, please contact the website manager at:

Club treasurer Charlie Armstrong was unable to attend for professional reasons.  In Charlie’s stead, Club President Bill Hiss noted that club dues have been priced to allow us to provide our speakers with a small honorarium for presenting  along with a modest contribution to travel expenses.  [I’d also like to add that dues pay for domain registration and web hosting for the club site.  — Pete].

Attendance for March 2014:

Attendance was 12 people including our speaker.  Not bad for a meeting rescheduled on such short notice.  We’ve been slowly trending upwards and, given then new faces in attendance at this meeting and the fact that other members were not able to attend, are looking to enter the 15-20 range.  That would be terrific and would move us into a range with sufficient critical mass to sustain the club.

March 2014 Speaker Presentation:

The March 2014 ABC meeting presentation was given by EAS master beekeeper Chris Rogers of Backwoods Bee Farm in Windham, Maine.  Brian confidently provided an excellent and practical talk on what club members should be thinking about in terms of spring hive management in southern Maine.

For those unable to attend, here are some great tips Chris gave us.  Where appropriate, I’ve added some estimated dates [Brackets]:

  • Spring management starts in the preceding autumn:
  1. Getting ready for winter by making sure your bees have enough winter stores and are as mite-free as possible are both key to a successful overwintering and, therefore, a successful spring.
  2. You shouldn’t need to inspect properly winterized hives until February…usually Valentine’s Day.
  • Flying weather before forage:

Most years, conditions are warm and sunny enough for our bees to fly before there is anything available for forage.  Opportunities for cleansing flights are great.  But without proper forage our bees might get into trouble (e.g. collecting dust in the neighbor’s bird feeder).

To give your eager foragers something to do while the trees and flowers catch up, Chris suggests providing them with pollen supplement about 50 to 60 feet from the hive.

  1. Mix pollen supplement 1:1 with powdered sugar (not necessary, but it helps stretch the more expensive pollen supplement.
  2. Place ~ 1 cup of this pollen supplement:powdered sugar mix in a shallow container.
  3. To protect the pollen supplement mix from weather, place a 5 gallon bucket on its side and position the pollen supplement container inside.

Chris notes that this will probably not provide a lot of usable pollen back in the hive, but it does help keep the bees out of trouble and is fun to watch.

  • In Late April to Early May when daytime temperature routinely reaches 50°F.

Chris thought this might be around April 10 for 2014.  [In the past, I’ve used April 15.]  Chris also gave the following great tips:

Feed bees their first round of Spring syrup at evening time when it’s dark.  If you provide the syrup during the day, the bees might be stimulated to leave the hive to seek additional sources of forage.  This could cause them to travel too far from the hive on a cold day and they might not return!


Also, when you begin feeding the 1:1 syrup, rotate your feeder: each morning take a pail of warm syrup from the house and replace the cold pail of syrup on the hive.  Take the cold pail back to the house to warm during the day.  At night, swap out the (now) cold pail on the hive with the warm pail from the house.  This will encourage significantly faster uptake of the syrup.

  1. Begin feeding colonies 1:1 syrup.  [As for how much and whether or not to use medication, your mileage may vary…]
  2. Clean bottom board.
  3. Check bees and brood.
  4. Begin the process of weeding out frames of drawn comb that are old, poorly drawn out, contain holes or have excessive drone cells  Chris notes that by replacing 20% of your drawn comb each year, you will be on a 5 year cycle of total replacement.
  5. When you have a significant number of purple-eyed drones, use a toothpick draw to check for mites.  If levels are at or above 10% treat—preferably with something that can be used while supers are in place.
  • Early May:
  1. Reverse colonies, if necessary.
  2. Start thinking about swarm management.
  • Dandelion Bloom [~May 5]:
  1. Put out swarm traps in your apiary/bee yard.
  2. Put 1-2 supers on each hive.
  3. Now is a good time to show new, interested bee keepers the hive.
  • Swarm management:
  1. Follow through with your chosen method of swarm management  (see also Main State Apiarist Tony Jadczak):
    1. Equalize colonies with frames of capped brood—capped brood requires the least amount of colony resources and so will present the lowest burden on the weaker hive.
    2. Demarre—Chris gave a quick description of the modern take on this method.  There are several variations that are currently practiced and they are all time consuming.  Interestingly, although the basic rational for the various steps is consistent with G. W. Demaree’s original description  in the American Bee Journal (“Controlling Increase, etc.”, volume 20, 1884, pages 619-620) in practice most are pretty different than what Demaree described.  You can read Demaree’s original article below:
    3. Make splits.
    4. Create nucleus hives.
  2. Have a swarm management kit ready.
  3. Chris noted that whenever possible:
    1. captured swarms should be put on frames of foundation (i.e. don’t put them in boxes with drawn comb).  This is to force them to consume any honey they have taken from their previous hive.  Because this honey could contain American Foulbrood spores, it’s important to prevent the bees from storing that contaminated honey in your equipment.
    2. keep captured swarms in a temporary location away from your main bee yard and confirm that the bees are healthy before introducing them to your apiary.
  • June to July:
  1. Attend open hives.
  2. Continue to monitor for swarm conditions.
  3. Observe and learn floral patterns for your area [e.g. Dandelions bloom around May 5 in Androscoggin County].


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