Beekeepers would love to get rid of propolis, a sticky substance made of resins that bees use to line their hives, because it makes it hard to pry hives open. But propolis isn’t just gluing the hive together, according to a new study published in PLoS ONE—honeybees use it to fight off fungal infections and seek it out when their hives are infected.

Bees invest a lot of effort in hunting down the resins that make up propolis, which they forage from plants, just as they do nectar. That means that every minute a bee is looking for resin is a minute it’s not looking for food. The trade-off is worth it, apparently, because propolis kills bacteria and fungi lurking in the colony.

In this new study, the authors looked at whether propolis helped stop a fungal infection called chalkbrood, which kills larvae. When experimenters painted propolis extract on hives, these propolis-enriched hives had lower rates of chalkbrood infection. And when colonies got infected with chalkbrood, bees went looking for resins more often. That’s where things get interesting because the adult bees doing the foraging are not directly affected by chalkbrood—it only lurks in larvae—so the “self”-medication happens at the level of colony instead of the individual bee. Honey bees, which are eusocial insects, really act together to benefit the entire colony rather than just themselves.


Join the Carroll County Beekeepers Association for our Fall Course on Beekeeping Basics.

Classes are $60 per family – appropriate for children 10 and up accompanied by an adult. Cost includes textbook and 1-year membership to the Carroll County Beekeepers Association.

Wednesdays February 29 – March 28, 7:30 – 9:30 (5 sessions)

Carroll Community College Washington Road Campus, Room K100A. Course #SBA-622-A3

Saturday, March 10, 9 am – 12 pm Hashawa Apiary (Class Field Day)

To Register call 410-386-8100 or go to http://carrollcc.edu/instantenrollment/

I know we don’t live in a region as cold as Wisconsin, however this method for helping the bees stay warm in the winter intrigued me and I wanted to share it with you.

From the Washington Times Online:

FREDERIC, Wis., November 19, 2011 — When old man winter comes visiting for months on end and lays a white blanket upon the earth, sensible people go inside their comfy homes and turn on the heat.

So do honeybees.

Unlike their other neighbors the bear, bees do not hibernate during winter. While the bears are snoring, the bees are shimmying.

In late fall, when Mother Nature turns things cold, the bees start to dance and turn up the heat. This dance is not like the Jitter Bug, which entails a lot of hip throwing of your partner over, under and around. The bee dance is more akin to the Funky Chicken, which entails quick flapping of the arms and vibrating the wing muscles.

It’s this bio movement that generates body heat, both for people and bees. Vibrating and gyrating can put out serious BTUs. Think how hot it gets grooving in a dance hall. So when the outside temperature gets cool, the bees cluster in the hive and start to rock n’ roll.

During the cold, the colony gathers and forms an elongated ball around the most important person in their society, the queen. The queen is king, so to speak, in the bee colony. For without her, the bees are doomed. She is the one who lays hundreds of thousands of eggs during her reign and thus keeps the society going generation after generation.

As the temperature dips to the mid 50s above zero, the bees huddle up and stick her in the middle and start their rendition of Good Vibrations. They keep the queen warm and happy all winter by shimmying their little thorax flight muscles, as morphology will tell you. The vibrating cluster generates sufficient heat to keep her majesty and her attendees alive and comfortable in the middle of things.

But what about those bees on the outside of the cluster, where the cold is nipping at their six little legs and tarsal claws? Well, these outsiders are in peril.

The bees exposed on the outside of the cluster are likely dealing with some frost issues. So to prevent total freezer burn, the warm bees inside the cluster graciously trade places with their half-frozen counterparts on the outside.

The cluster literally rotates in and out, round and round, around the clock. The cold ones outside come in, or are pushed in if they’re too stiff to move, and then thaw out. And the warm ones inside then head out and chill out. The orbit goes on throughout the entire cold season.

This winter game plan is quite effective. Honeybees can keep their immediate surroundings in the mid-50s range—even if it’s minus 50 degrees outside! With 20,000 strong bees jamming, they can turn on the heat.At peak season, a hive can bump up to 80,000 bees. But during the cooler months, they shrink the population to preserve their food supply.

In mid-January when the queen starts laying brood again, they will bump up the core temperature into the 90s. The kids like it hot. The tiny bees can perform this humongous feat of temperature control under two conditions. If the colony is healthy and their food supply is plenty, then they can keep the heater going. If they are weak or the fuel runs out, nature’s bitter cold freezes their fate.

But fate can be artfully modified by the beekeeper. Just as people have learned to live from winter to spring in modest comfort, beekeepers have experimented with heating devises to bring a little manufactured warmth to our friends.

Old-time beekeepers recall many different heating devises. They tell of wrapping their hives with tar paper, which is dark and draws heat from the sun. Then there was the move of moving their colonies into the root cellar or basement during winter. But if it got too warm, the bees would think it was springtime and start jetting out of the hives. Things get complicated with a million bees flying around in the basement.

Another warming technique was to install a low-watt light bulb under the hive. The heat rises and warms the shimmying cluster. But Thomas Edison’s invention burns out too fast running day and night.

Keeping the bees toasty. Image: Wayne Anderson

Lots of great inventions are born in inspiration in a home workshop or garage. And a semi-proven heating devise for bees may be in this illustrious category, with a little help from modern plumbing science.

Johnny Park, who owns the greatest, and only hardware store in Frederic, Wis., and yours truly, may have invented the answer. All beekeepers are welcome to try this idea inside their hives, placed under the bottom frames.

We embedded a common plumbing heating tape, which is used to warm water pipes into a baking pan full of sand. The commercial heat tape comes with a regulator, which turns on at 32 degrees and off at 38 degrees. The tape heats the sand, which radiates dry heat around the inside of the hive. This dry heat also helps keep the bees dry as they produce a good amount of sweat in all that shimmying.

The tape can withstand extreme cold and will not burn out. Plus, it’s cost effective. It costs about $25 to put together and about $3 a month to run.

I heated two hives last year. Both cruised through winter averaging 65 degrees. I’m doing an encore performance this year, with the first snow fall today.

And with that, stay warm all this winter—even if you have to do the Funky Chicken!


Already stung by unchecked phony honey imports and limited funding for research into a phantom hive killer, the Obama administration has decided to end the publication of two key reports beekeepers rely on to plan their business and chart trends. [Read about the fresh honey at the White House.]

“It’s the only unbiased report that exists that measures number of colonies and honey production,” says Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture, a magazine for hobbyists and industrial beekeepers. “Without it, there’s no way to measure colony losses, reduced honey production,” he says.

Officials say that the Annual Honey and Bees Report and National Honey Market Report are among nearly a dozen being killed due to budgetary cuts. Spokeswoman Sue duPont says eliminating the publications will save some $11 million. “It’s totally a budget issue,” she says.[See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]

The industry, however, is fighting back with a letter writing campaign in hopes of getting Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to reconsider canceling the honey publications. Flottum says that some are even going so far as to consider raising the $402,000 needed to research and publish the reports. “They said, “Sure, pay us that much and they’d do it.’ We’re not going down without a fuss.”

The Annual Honey and Bees Report gives the number of hives for each state, how much honey they produced, the honey left over from the previous season, the prices of the honey produced and sold, and the total value of the honey produced and sold. Flottum calls it “an indispensable report to the beekeeping industry because it is an unbiased report on these metrics and as a result, is used countless times by the media (including Bee Culture magazine), when reporting the number of colonies in each state and the nation, by the scientific community when documenting changes in colony numbers and colony health, by the honey marketing arm of our industry when making plans for honey sales, pricing and availability.”

Exporters and importers also use it to plan future sales and the insurance industry uses it to chart hive losses. [Read about why the world’s biggest economies are headed for a slowdown.]

Flottum says that without it there is no way to chart the destruction of Colony Collapse Disorder, which is wreaking havoc on the industry and is the subject of millions of federal research dollars.

The monthly National Honey Market Report shows prices paid for honey and is critical for marketing U.S. honey. “This information is critical on the international market as well, as it is an indicator of the health of, and the status of the beekeeping industries of the many countries that export to the U.S., the largest honey buyer on the planet,” Flottum says.

The cuts come at already difficult time for beekeepers, especially commercial operators, who are seeking more funding into CCD and who are fighting a flood of imports of phony and contaminated honey.

From CNN, something we all already knew now receives a national, dare I say international audience. Our local honey is the real thing with all the goodness still intact.

Most of the honey sold in chain stores across the country doesn’t meet international quality standards for the sweet stuff, according to a Food Safety News analysis released this week. One of the nation’s leading melissopalynologists analyzed more than 60 jugs, jars and plastic bears of honey in 10 states and the District of Columbia for pollen content, Food Safety News said. He found that pollen was frequently filtered out of products labeled “honey.” “The removal of these microscopic particles from deep within a flower would make the nectar flunk the quality standards set by most of the world’s food safety agencies,” the report says. “Without pollen there is no way to determine whether the honey came from legitimate and safe sources.”

Among the findings:

• No pollen was found in 76 percent of samples from grocery stores including TOP Food, Safeway, Giant Eagle, QFC, Kroger, Metro Market, Harris Teeter, A&P, Stop & Shop and King Soopers.

• No pollen was found in 100 percent of samples from drugstores including Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS Pharmacy.

• The anticipated amount of pollen was found in samples bought at farmers markets, co-ops and stores like PCC and Trader Joe’s.

Why does it matter where your honey comes from? An earlier Food Safety News investigation found that at least a third of all the honey consumed in the United States was likely smuggled from China and could be tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals.

Foreign honey also puts a squeeze on American beekeepers, who have been lobbying for years for an enforceable national standard to prevent foreign honey from flooding the market.The Food and Drug Administration does not have a standard of identity for honey like it does for milk or other products, a spokesman said.The lack of regulation is what enables potentially unsafe honey is able to make its way into the country, Andrew Schneider, author of the Food and Safety News report.”Where there’s no pollen, there’s no way for authorities to confirm where the honey came from, so it’s easy to smuggle illicit honey into the country,” he said.

Date: November 12, 2011 8:30 AM – 4 PM

Location: Maryland Department of Agriculture, 50 Harry S Truman Parkway, Annapolis.
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Zachary Huang, impact of pests and diseases on honeybee behavior.
75th Annual Fall Honey Show: Bart Smith, Honey Show Chair. [Honey Show Rules][Honey Show Entry Form]
MSBA Elections

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Zachary Huang – The Effects of Nosema on Honey Bees, Varroa Mite Reproductive Biology

Dr. Zachary Huang is an associate professor of entomology at the Michigan State University. Growing up on China and attending agricultural college there soon after the cultural revolution, he won a national scholarship to study honey bees in Canada. After obtaining his Ph.D from the University of Guelph, he went to the University of Missouri at Columbia to work with plant mites. Soon after he moved to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and returned to honey bees. In 1998, he joined Michigan State University and became an associate professor in 2004.

At MSU, his main responsibilities include extension, research and teaching. He is known for developing the social inhibition model (at UIUC), the mitezapper (MSU), his cyberbee.net site and award winning photographs. He was awarded the J.I. Hambleton Award for Outstanding Research by the Eastern Apicultural Society of North America in August 2008.

Dr. Huang is joining us between a research trip to China and a beekeeping project in Haiti with the Farmer to Farmer Program of the Partnership of the Americas.

Speaker: Ms. Heidi Wolff – Urban vs. Rural Apiculture: An Observation Study of Pollen Quality and Content

Ms. Heidi Wolff is a graduate student in the Entomology Department of the George Washington University in Washington, DC.  This summer she embarked on a cooperative project with Dr. Pettis’ team at the Beltsville Bee Lab to explore the nutritional resources available to urban, rural, and suburban bee stocks through comparisons of pollen collected. She has recently completed collections from the pilot phase of the project and will discuss the underlying questions, tools, and methodologies for this study.

Speaker: Dr. Frank Linton – Five Reasons You Should Become an EAS Master Beekeeper

Dr. Frank Linton is the most recently certified EAS Master Beekeeper in the state of Virginia, and a long term contributor to the beekeeping communities on both sides of the Potomac. He has maintained and measured with extraordinary accuracy the activities of an observation colony he maintains permanently within his home, and will discuss the reasons and the resources for pursuing higher education and accreditation in the field of beekeeping.


Honey Show Judge: Mr. David Morris is a Master Beekeeper, past-President of the Maryland State Beekeepers Association (with many other previous board positions), certified Maryland Honey Judge (and many-time chair of the November Honey Show), as well as newsletter editor and short course organizer for the Bowie-Upper Marlborough Beekeepers Association (BUMBA).


Take Rt. 50 towards Annapolis.

In Annapolis, take Exit 22, Rt. 665 to Riva Rd.

Follow the Riva Rd. exit onto Riva Road South.

Go 4/10 miles to Harry S Truman Pkwy and turn right, at the light.

Go 1.2, miles to 50 Harry S Truman Hwy; the MDA building is on the right. Look for the yellow “BEE MTG” signs and the cows at the entrance to the drive.

November is around the corner which means it is time to VOTE  for CCBA Board of Directors.

If you are interested in and placing your name on the ballot for any of these volunteer positions you must provide that information prior to the November meeting via e-mail or in person at the October meeting. The business affairs of CCBA are managed under the direction of this Board of Directors who are elected for a one year term. Note self-succession of Board members is permitted by the CCBA Constitution and ByLaws (1998).


Key Responsibilities:

  1. Preside at all CCBA meetings at which he is present.
  2. Provide an agenda for each meeting to the webmaster 2 weeks prior to the meeting date.
  3. Secure a meeting location and all necessary equipment for the meeting.
  4. Perform such duties as may be assigned by the general membership or directors.
  5. Call meetings of the Board of Directors.
  6. Appoint committee chairmen and committee members with consent from the Board of Directors.
  7. Be the signatory on all financial accounts.

Vice President

In the absence of the President, the Vice-President has all the powers and duties of the President, including being signatory on financial accounts.


Key Responsibilities:

  1. Keep minutes of all CCBA general meetings and Board of Directors meetings.
  2. Provide minutes to webmaster within 1 week of meeting for posting on website.
  3. Keep Records of attendance of Directors at Board meetings and Officers at all meetings.
  4. File and Preserve all CCBA documents.


Key Responsibilities:

  1. Receive all funds due and deposit monies in accounts approved by the Board of Directors.
  2. Maintain and revise, at least semi-annually, the list of members. Note whose dues are current or overdue.
  3. Be a signatory on all financial accounts.
  4. Pay all CCBA bills in a timely manner avoiding late fees were applicable.
  5. Prepare and Deliver financial reports to all general and Board of Directors meetings as well as any special meetings called by the Chairman of such meeting.
  6. Prepare all financial reports, statements and tax returns as required by law.

Bee lovers and beekeepers are headed to the Oregon Ridge Nature Center for the celebration of the Honey Harvest Festival. Members of the Central Maryland Beekeepers Association will kick off the festivities on Saturday with hive demonstrations, beeswax candle dipping, and mead (honey wine) making. Children will enjoy homemade baked delights. Other children’s activities include face painting, puppet shows, and a petting zoo with chickens and sheep. Food and drink will be sold.

Special features this year include American crafts such as wool spinning and blacksmithing. The Peter Goff Archaeological Museum will be open for tours each day. A Honey of a Basket filled with honey gift items will be raffled off, Sunday afternoon. Tickets will be sold at the Nature Center for $1, six for $5. In addition, the Nature Center Gift Shop will be selling a variety of nature items.

Bring family and friends and enjoy the festivities on Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm both days.

You can view some photos from past Honey Harvest Festivals.

Join the Carroll County Beekeepers Association for our Fall Course on Beekeeping Basics.

Classes are $60 per family – appropriate for children 10 and up accompanied by an adult. Cost includes textbook and 1-year membership to the Carroll County Beekeepers Association.

Wednesdays Oct 12 – Nov 2 7:30 – 9:30 (4 sessions)

Carroll Community College Washington Road Campus, Room K100A. Course #SBA-563-A2

Saturday, Oct 15 10 am – 2 pm Hashawa Apiary (Class Field Day)

To Register call 410-386-8100 or go to http://carrollcc.edu/instantenrollment/

Westminster Fallfest, Carroll County’s largest community charity event held each September, draws over 40,000 people to historic downtown Westminster.  Families enjoy the festival midway and rides, while others come for the great food, unique shopping, and heart-stopping entertainment.

Come see the  Carroll County Beekeepers Association on Saturday and Sunday for honey, hive products and bees!

2011 Fallfest
9/22, 6pm – 10pm
9/23, 6pm – 10pm
9/24, 10am – 10pm
9/25, 12pm – 6pm