Five County Beekeepers Share Knowledge with Field Days, Bee School

A 5CBA queen bee with newly affixed ID number. Second bee next to her in the container used to isolate her for numbering. Photo: Kay Whatley
A 5CBA queen bee with newly affixed ID number. Second bee next to her in the container used to isolate her for numbering. Photo: Kay Whatley

By Kay Whatley, Editor

The Five County Beekeepers Association (5CBA), based in Zebulon, North Carolina, held a field day for members and beginning beekeepers on January 11, 2020. This field day served as a time for routine bee care, hands-on learning, and wisdom-sharing. It was attended by beekeepers of all levels.

The mission of 5CBA is:

to support and encourage other bee clubs, to train & educate current and future beekeepers and to help preserve and protect our honeybees.

Bees and beehives require regular care and feeding. The 5CBA members work with the Association’s private beehives (apiary). Experienced beekeepers and novices work together:  feeding the bees, checking the honey supply via hive-weight, adding sections to hives when bees need more space, treating bees against Varroa mites (one of the dangerous bee pests, alongside moths and beetles), and ensuring each queen bee is producing a brood.

On the January 11 field day, close to a dozen people took part, sharing the hands-on work and discussing the particulars of each hive.

5CBA members check the bee brood in club hives. Brown hives at left set up for members to eventually take home. Photo: Kay Whatley
5CBA members check the bee brood in club hives. Brown hives at left are set up to eventually move to other beekeeping locations. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

Now is prime time for the bee broods (reproduction), according to Tim Huffman of 5CBA. Broods are starting as the days get longer — after December 21-22. During the January 11 field day shown in the photos, the beekeepers opened each of the club hives and examined the brood.

A little terminology:

  • Each of the wooden boxes/sections that makes up the hives are referred to as a super or a “nuc” (nucleus) depending on their width.
  • The thin, rectangular wooden frames within which is suspended wax/comb, where bees place honey or young bees.

Hands-on experience is important, and the beekeepers took turns opening each of the hives.

Before opening each hive, smoke was blown over the hive to calm the bees.

Guv of 5CBA packs more pine straw into the already lit smoker. Photo: Kay Whatley
Guv of 5CBA packs more pine straw into the already lit smoker. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

Bees entering a 5CBA beehive with pollen on their legs. Photo: Kay Whatley
Bees entering a 5CBA beehive with pollen on their legs. Photo: Kay Whatley

The upper wooden boxes that makes up the hives — referred to as a super or a “nuc” (nucleus) depending on the size — are removed to reach the brood level (brood super).

Tim Huffman smokes the hive before honey "super" (wooden section) is removed to get to the brood super. Photo: Kay Whatley
Tim Huffman smokes the hive before honey “super” (wooden section) is removed to get to the brood super. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

 

5CBA beehive open with bees between the frames. Photo: Kay Whatley
5CBA beehive open with bees between the frames. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

Tim Huffman talks about hive disassembly while other beekeepers look on. Photo: Kay Whatley
Tim Huffman talks about hive disassembly while other beekeepers look on. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

Pulling a frame from the hive. Photo: Kay Whatley
Pulling a frame from the hive. Photo: Kay Whatley

The 5CBA group then checked the stage of the brood’s development, and noted how many of the frames within the hive contained eggs or have sealed larva or pupa inside.

Tim Huffman and Bill Mars putting the hive back together after checking brood. Photo: Kay Whatley
Tim Huffman and Bill Mars putting the hive back together after checking brood. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

5 County Beekeeper Bill Mars removes a frame to check the bee brood inside. Photo: Kay Whatley
5 County Beekeeper Bill Mars removes a frame to check the bee brood inside. Photo: Kay Whatley

Each person at the field day looked over the frames as they were removed, discussed the frames containing brood, and if any frames were empty.

Checking the brood at 5 County Beekeepers Association Field Day. Photo: Kay Whatley
Checking the brood at 5 County Beekeepers Association Field Day. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

As each beehive was reassembled, sugar water was poured into special compartments to ensure the bees will have food until North Carolina trees and plants bloom this Spring. According to one of the 5CBA members, beehives are not fed during the times of “nectar flow” when bees have access to sufficient, natural food sources.

Open 5CBA beehive with 5 active brood frames, 3 frames unused (lighter), and funnel for feeding bees sugar water. Photo: Kay Whatley
Open 5CBA beehive with 5 active brood frames, 3 frames unused (lighter), and funnel for feeding bees sugar water. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

Bee smoker. Photo: Kay Whatley
Bee smoker. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

Tim Huffman provided background on the interest in beekeeping in North Carolina. Back in 2005, he said that the Golden Leaf Program gave away free hives in return for data collection. That program boosted interest and made it possible for more people to keep bees.

Recently, there has been another increase in interest, with more people wanting to keep bees in response to Colony Collapse — as more people recognize bees’ importance and the need for humans to replenish the lost wild bee population (as much as 95% of feral bees are already gone).

Members of 5CBA are also working on a project to produce “home grown” NC queen bees. Not only may they help to raise valuable local queens for use across the state, members can help to create new hive from these queens. (Remember the brown hives shown in the first field day photo above? These honeybee hives are being created, managed, and then are destined to be taken home by beekeepers who’ve invested in their creation.)

Brood frame with bees, fat queen in the center. Photo: Kay Whatley
Brood frame with bees, fat queen in the center. Photo: Kay Whatley

As part of the project to produce the local queen bees, each queen is numbered so they may be easily identified. (Not dissimilar to how livestock are given ear tags.)

The photo below shows a queen wearing her new ID number (9), affixed by 5CBA beekeeper Jennifer during the field day work.

A 5CBA queen bee with newly affixed ID number. Second bee next to her in the container used to isolate her for numbering. Photo: Kay Whatley
A 5CBA queen bee with newly affixed ID number. Second bee next to her in the container used to isolate her for numbering. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

5CBA member Jennifer showing the queen bee numbers. Photo: Kay Whatley
5CBA member Jennifer showing the queen bee numbers. Photo: Kay Whatley

 

I enjoyed listening to the beekeepers’ discussions at the field day, including:

  • comments about red maples blooming in other parts of the state (“first pollen of the year” for the bees)
  • a new mite treatment to be used at their apiary this year (switching from gel to aerosol)
  • how one member is seeking a hops grower to get “hops oil” to test as a natural treatment for Varroa mites

The field day was educational for me, and as one of the members told me, “One of the best places to be is right here” for hands-on hive experience.

For those interested in joining the Five County Beekeepers Association, members holds meetings and field days throughout the year. Visit 5cba.org. (Also, see the bee school information below.)

Statewide, check out the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association at www.ncbeekeepers.org.

 

Learn Beekeeping with “Bee School” on February 22, 2020

To provide a good start for those interested in beekeeping, the 5-County Beekeepers Association (5CBA) will hold a Bee School class, Beekeeping Basics for Beginners, on Saturday, February 22, 2020, 8:45am-4:30pm. This “crash course” in beginning beekeeping includes lectures on honey bee biology, beekeeping equipment, pests and diseases, getting started with your own hives, and more.

The beekeeping class will be held in the historic Bennett Bunn Plantation’s Lodge, 1915 Old Bunn Road, Zebulon, NC (Wake County).

In addition to the day-long class, Bee School students are encouraged to participate in hands-on “field days” in the months following the class. On field days, beginning beekeepers may work at the 5CBA apiary, visit local apiaries with the instructor, gain hands-on experience, and have further opportunities to ask questions.

The cost for “Beekeeping Basics for Beginners” ranges from $40-$55 per person, depending on 5CBA membership status. Students will need to purchase and read the book “First Lessons in Beekeeping” (by Keith Delaplane, publ. 2007) before attending the February 22 class.

As the class name implies, beginners who don’t yet have hives are welcome. Whatever the knowledge or experience level, or reason for wanting to learn beekeeping — to keep bees, to hire bees for a farm, to generally understand hives, etc. — all are welcome to register.

Seats are limited and will be reserved once payment and registrations forms are received.  Payment may be made online or by bank checks made payable to 5CBA.  See details and registration links for Bee School online at 5cba.org/bee-school.

 

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About Kay Whatley 2177 Articles
Kay Whatley serves as Editor and Reporter with The Grey Area News. Kay is a published author with over 20 years of experience in the publishing industry. Kay Whatley is wife to Frank Whatley, founder of The Grey Area™ newspaper and The Grey Area News online news website.