November meeting

Join us on Sunday, November 15 for our November meeting. We will have Cornell researcher Michael Smith as our guest speaker, talking about the oft-maligned drones. This looks to be an entertaining (and informative) session!

From Michael:

I will be talking about drone comb, and how colonies “know” that it’s time to build drone comb. You might think the answer to this question is always, because those bees seem to fill every available space with pesky drone comb!  We’ll talk about drone comb, when and why they build it, how they use it, and some cool new results from his research.  This is not going to be a dry academic talk.  There will be at least one water pun.

As usual, 2-4pm at the Cooperative Extension Center at 615 Willow Ave. in Ithaca. See you there!

Queen Rearing Workshop Closed

The queen rearing workshop is at capacity!

A queen rearing project is now forming for FLBC members who have successfully wintered honeybees. Participants are being accepted to join a collective hands-on learning experience organized by Linda Mizer, Christina Wahl, David Hopkins and Shelley Stuart.

The goal of the workshop is for participants to learn how to raise a few queen cells for your own apiary, or for those considering nuc production or selling northern queens. You don’t need to have any professional goals in mind; as you’ve seen in discussions recently on the list, having a few queens on hand for your hives (or to help out others) can be a handy tool for your beekeeping toolkit! Looking into the future we see potential to continue learning, improve queen production process, as well as improving the genetics of bees in the area.

A queen yard is being set up near Groton with breeder queens and cell-builder colonies. The group will meet on two Sundays beginning on July 5 at 2pm. At the first session, we will:

  • graft larvae into queen cups
  • prepare a cell builder hive to nurse the grafts

On July 12 the group will examine the cell-builder hives and take home the successful queen cells, to install in their own nucs or hives.


Beginning Beekeeping Workshop

Beginning Beekeeping Workshop
Presented by the Finger Lakes Beekeepers Club

with generous support from the Cayuga Nature Center

Learn about honey bees and the joys of beekeeping, and network with beekeepers of all experience levels. Our speakers each have decades of personal experience with bees and beekeeping, and all enjoy sharing their love of the hobby!

The Beginner’s Workshop has reached maximum capacity.

If you would like to be placed on the wait list, please email

Workshop raffle update!

We will once again offer a raffle table at the workshop. Tickets will sell for $5 each or three for $10 (cash only for the raffle). This year we have:

  • One package of bees ($110 value, arrives in May)
  • An observation hive from Dadant ($100 value)
  • Gift bag from Avital’s Apiaries, and skep-shaped sandwich cutter
  • Smoker from Dadant
  • A one year subscription to the American Bee Journal
  • Bee brush, and several bee books
  • a $20 gift certificate to Edible Acres


2014 STBA Beginner Beekeeping Class

CLASS is scheduled for DECEMBER 13, 2014 9 AM to 1 PM (registration begins at 8:30 AM) at the Chenango Town Hall, 1525 NY RT 12, aka Upper Front Street, in the Town of Chenango (~0.3 miles North of the new Price Chopper.)

This class will prepare you for getting your own honeybees this spring with an overview of equipment, hive products, honeybee management and of course honeybees themselves.

Presented by the Southern Tier Beekeepers Association, the class will be held on December 13, 2014 at the Chenango Town Hall. Bring a drink and snack. Registered participants will receive a CD of the presentations, informative beekeeping documents, and links.

Cost is: $25 for all participants.

We will be hosting a “hands-on” session in early spring to give everyone a chance to work a beehive before their purchased bees arrive.

For questions and REGISTRATION contact:

Bob Talkiewicz


Gizmos, gadgets, gewgaws, and weird looking hive tools!

GaringJoin us on Sunday, November 16, for the next Club meeting! Beekeeper and Empire State Honey Producers Association Treasurer Sue Garing will start a conversation about home grown gizmos we’ve created to improve beekeeping task efficiency. Sue will bring a few of her own gizmos and some photographs of ones too large for table top for show and tell.

Please bring and share your novel feeders, tools, varroa traps, tool caddies, and other thingamabobs that make keeping bees easier.

Immediately following Sue’s presentation, we’ll have a short business meeting that will include a treasurer’s report, update on the Club hives, a reminder about January officer elections, and updates on the Beginner’s Workshop and Geneva Conference. If you have any additional club business you would like to discuss, please email Shelley at


If you’re interested in bringing a dish to pass, bring a honey-based snack! We’ve all had time to harvest; show off something you make with your honey!

October Club Meeting

Greetings! Our first indoor meeting of the winter happens this month on October 19 from 2-4pm. We are returning to the Cooperative Extension building in downtown Ithaca.

We will be treated to a presentation by Duane Waid about the iconic (and FLBC founder) Richard Taylor. Duane and Richard were good friends, and it’s due to their jawing one night on a porch that FLBC exists. In addition, an ESHPA representative will come talk about the fall meeting, and be able to answer questions about the meeting and ESHPA.

We’d like to resurrect the pot luck snacks that we have had in the past. I’ll have the hot water service up and running (bring your own cups/mugs). We’re going to try a thematic approach: if you care to bring a munchie, go with a fall-themed one! Savory or sweet, the menu is wide open. Apple, pumpkin, beets, potatoes… whatever strikes your fancy.

See you at the meeting!

Meeting Minutes, April 20,2014


FLBC April meeting: Janet Allen, pollinator gardens

April 20, 2014

Notes by Ellie Andrews


Pollination basics, why are pollinators important

One out of every three bites of food we owe to pollinators.

There are different degrees of pollination: bees must visit multiple times (it’s not simply that a plant is pollinated or not).  Even self-pollinating crops (e.g., tomatoes) need to be shaken by the wind or bees.  A midge pollinates chocolate!

Key for fiber plants as well as food.

Bees are a keystone species (the survival of lots of other species depends on them) and an indicator species (e.g., a canary in a coalmine).

LOTS of pollinators: bats, other mammals, etc.  Bees are the most important, however.

Flower constancy — focus on one kind of flower at a time, providing cross-pollination.

Over 2 million hives needed for almond pollination in the US – requires about half the hives in the US.  Can’t stay after the bloom.  Managed agricultural situation.

Not always known that bees were pollinators.  Growers thought they were stealing pollen.

In Utah, they outlawed bees in the early 1900s!

Honey bees not the most efficient pollinators.  Blue orchard bees better, for example.

200,000 other pollinating insects

Bumblebees: special ‘buzz’ pollination, shaking pollen out — 47 different types in the US

Some bumblebees are endangered, nearly gone.  Much worse off than honey bees.

Domesticated bees compete with native bees.

Bumblebees – among the first active in the spring and last in the fall.   Active early in the morning, too – so spraying in early in the day will still affect them, even though morning spraying is recommended for protecting honey bees.

A thick coat of paint should protect wood from carpenter bees. Aluminum to protect fascia.

Orchard mason bees – fast and effective, visit lots of flowers a day.  250 of them equal to the work of over 20,000 honey bees.  Can buy orchard mason bee houses.

Squash bees – great pollinators

Some native bees are small, can’t carry much pollen – but there so many of them that they have a big impact, e.g., sweat bees, flower flies.


What’s the problem?

CCD in the headlines, but it’s more than just honey bees that are having problems

Biggest general threat to our food supply

We’ve put all our pollination eggs in one honey bee basket.  We need more baskets.

Not just one single factor, but lots: habitat loss, fragmentation, degradation, pesticides, parasites, climate change, light pollution, etc. etc.

Habitat degradation: we lose 2 million acres a year.  LAWNS… We’ve “neatened” our environment based on some compulsion to be neat, raking and bagging leaf litter, etc.  We rake everything up and then buy mulch!!  Lack of borders, hedgerows in crops. Even roadsides, parks are neatened.  Fragmentation into little patches.

Pesticides: 50,000 bumblebees sprayed in a parking lot last summer with a pesticide.

Chemicals absorbed into plant tissue, long-lasting, can be present in the nectar and pollen. Sub-lethal effects, too.  Field-level doses reduce the amount of pollen bumblebees are able to collect, the size they can grow.

Exotic diseases: Bumblebees used in greenhouses.  Xerxes wants to ban/regulate their transportation.  Could be competing with other bee populations, bringing new non-native ones to new places.

Climate change: we used to be a Zone 4B, now we’re 6 (warmer).  Ecological mismatch between flowers blooming and emergence of bees.  Especially with the nocturnal pollinators – may be affected by light pollution.

Bee paranoia: people kill them, afraid of them!  Most solitary bees don’t defend their hives.


How can communities help?

Provide bee real estate as a community!  Roadside sites are great.

Ask local maintenance crews to delay mowing.

Plant areas between sidewalk and the road.

Bee City USA (Asheville NC the first) – making cities bee-friendly.

Bee-friendly projects in Guelph, Canada.   Large-scale pollinator parks, small-scale gardens.


What about us, as gardeners?

Suburban/urban gardens a crucial link – we’re in a great position to help!

Providing flowers, nesting places/shelter in a pesticide-free yard.  It’s not hard…

Native plants really important; I once watched a butterfly go from native to native to native.

Often people will plant lots of plants – begonias, impatiens, salvia, etc. – that’s not what they need.  Even commonly recommended plants

Recent study compared so-called “bee friendly plants,” e.g. alyssum from catalogs — not any better than just grasses or anything.  Native plants 4x more attractive to native bees.

Bees see things differently (UV) – as we breed/choose cultivars, those cultivars’ qualities might change visually and we wouldn’t even know! What we select for (prettiness) has consequences.

People seem to want new, spectacular cultivars: “nativars” – but they may or may not have any of the important habitat properties.

Heirlooms can be useful if they’re not too doubled.

Herbs, too – not native, but bees like them.

Bottom line: strive for at least 75% native plants.  Hard to get all natives, since you’ve probably started with something else.  In masses – lots of flowers in one area.  The shorter the distance between them, the more efficiently pollinators can forage.  Different colors.

Plant diversity and pollinator diversity (different tongue sizes, etc.) go hand in hand.

Plants (different shapes, colors, sizes) for different pollinators (with different tongues, etc.)

Mountain mint for intense mint odor: pycnanthemums like pycnanthemum muticum.

Anise hyssop – smells like minty licorice.  They love it.

Sunflowers (although they make pollen-less sunflowers, an abomination), tomatoes – yellow flowers, winterberry, pagoda dogwood, Canadian burnet, native iris, flowering raspberry – they love it, sisyrinchium, liatris, native roses, impatiens (if you have one, you’ll have a lot) – hummingbirds love it, New England aster, elderberry

A minimum of three kinds of flower for each season:

Spring: redbuds, pussywillows

Summer: milkweed for monarchs and pollinators, Joe Pye weeds, echinaceas, New Jersey tea

Fall: woodland sunflower, goldenrods (different kinds) – they don’t cause allergies (intuitively, only wind-pollinated plants need to produce lots of windborne pollen).  Fall most important for their winter survival.


Provide habitat

For ground-nesting bees: leave snags/dead trees, buy commercial varieties, make them.

Log piles, hedgerows

Pesticide free yard – not good for kids either!

Some of the ground-nesting ones prefer North-facing slopes


Camera, lenses for Jan Allen’s presentation

Canon Powershot; Nikon D40 with kit lens, macro lens; Nikon D5100 and D5200

Lenses: 7300 lens, 105mm macro lens, 18-200 middle lens



Best way to learn is to observe…

Citizen science easier with a smartphone!

Bee Smart app at – download for free

Xerxes project – Bumble Bee Watch – guide you to identification.  Attempt to get a census.

Great Sunflower Project (Xerxes) “Learn and Resources” section for a pdf – bumblebee plants suitable for the Northeast, chapter of a national organization called Wild Ones.  Sign up for newsletter.

Pollinator week, June 16 – be an advocate!

Monarch watch – register your monarch waystation

Attracting Native Pollinators (Xerxes book) (Patricia Allen’s website) (her husband’s website)

Finger Lakes Native Plant Society



How to find a balance between deer and pollinators?

Don Leopold, Native Plants of the Northeast: has a list of deer-resistant plants.


Minutes from the 2014 Geneva Bee Conference

Ellie Andrews (Secretary) attended the Geneva Bee Conference at took copious notes. Here is a link to the document online, or you can scroll through the information below.

Geneva bee conference

March 22, 2014


Dick Rogers (Bayer Bee Care Center): “Healthy bees and healthy crops”

Katie Lee (Bee Informed): “Tech-Transfer teams”

Chris Harp: Why Natural Beekeeping Matters

Dick Rogers, Bayer Bee Care Center: “Healthy bees and healthy crops”

Keeping bees since ‘73

Diversity of climates in North America, extremes that bees are able to live in

Over 4 years of inspections, 50-60% of the hives he saw (’05-08) were dead/dying or had serious issues.  Good management prevents many of those hives from dying.

Main factors in hives that were less than healthy: management-related, environment-related, in-hive related.

  • Inspections
  • Apiary suitability?  Beekeepers need to assess the bee yard – its air drainage, etc.
  • During inspections, estimate area of brood (capped, open), pollen, and honey in the comb.
  • Use tools, e.g., dead bee trap.  Dead bee count over 24h or 1 week.  Look for what stage they’re in, are they drones, do they have deformed wings, etc.  12 categories of dead bees.
  • Deformed wing virus (DWV) – spread by Varroa.  Affects queens.
  • Queen issues in general can result from viruses.
  • Sampling bees (pollen, honey, wax, too) for pesticides, etc.  Can check for 200 diff products all in the same analysis – but very expensive.
  • Highest residues from stuff beekeepers use in their hives.  Neonics are at the lowest levels or don’t show up at all.
  • Levels of concern (with different thresholds): dead/dying, very sick, not well, excellent
  • To evaluate a hive’s health, look for: percentage of the frame covered by bees, honey, pollen, etc.; whether the queen is present/absent; diseases like AFB, EFB, Varroa, HBTM, nosema, deformed wing, CPV, K-W, SHB, snotty brood, etc.
  • Health usually gets worse as season progresses.
  • Hobby, sideliners hives usually better condition – they’re not moving around; they’re getting more attention.
  • Multiple stressors – parasites, etc. (long list)
  • 6 P’s: parasites, predators, pesticides…
  • Enemy #1, vampire of the bee world: Varroa.  There are no ‘healthy’ colonies since it’s in nearly every one.  It’ll get into ones that are mite-free.

Continue reading “Minutes from the 2014 Geneva Bee Conference”

Meeting Minutes, February 16, 2014

Shelley is drafting a pilot mentoring plan.  She will be in further touch with those of you who expressed an interest in being a mentor or a student by signing up at the meeting.  If you’d like to sign up and haven’t yet, please let one of the officers know.

In short, the club is starting a pilot program, in which first-year beekeepers are partnered with members who have more experience and who can help them install their bees and make a few follow-up visits.  We will match people who can get acquainted and talk about equipment, etc. before the bees arrive. Feel free share your comments and ideas on the listserv, so that we can collectively build the program.

*Mentors* – we hope to provide a checklist for you as a resource.  Please keep track of what works and how much time you spend doing this, so we can continue to improve the program in the years to come.

*Students/newbees* – think about how you can acknowledge the work of your mentor.  Consider helping out with your mentor’s hives or making other kinds of fair trade arrangements.

The club’s mentoring program is intended to keep just a few experts from fielding all the calls, and to reveal our own wealth of expertise on a range of topics – so, for example, if you want to ask someone about rearing queens, you can find a list of people to call about it.  In the discussion that followed Monika’s presentation, members discussed how we might match mentors and students/newbees based on skill/experience levels and geographic proximity.  The sense of the group seemed to crystallize around the idea of having a password-protected (members only) page on the website with little profiles that include members’ names, contact info, and relevant expertise (what they do, what they can provide advice on, what they might want advice on.  This would create a library of both ‘expertise’ and ‘help wanted’.  This information could be linked to a (Google?) map, so
that members can find mentors who are based nearby (the little pins on the map could have these profiles linked to them).  Geographic proximity is important.  Some folks suggested that the club could help organize smaller groups than usually attend the meetings at the club hives, drawn from a smaller area.  This might look like the hive tour that was organized a few years back.

Monika suggested that we seemed to be discussing three different ‘tracks’ of mentoring: 1) helping first-year beekeepers get set up, 2) helping less (and more!) experienced beekeepers manage crises, and 3) sharing information about particular interests, e.g., rearing queens.  Her presentation focused on how to institutionalize a mentoring program: formal applications, possible fees for students/newbees, and formal agreements that plan for scheduled check-ins and site visits (with time limits) and clear statements about how mentors and students/newbees are going to communicate.

Other ideas and comments:

– We need to distinguish between what the mailing list does and what a mentor can do.

– The officers could scour YouTube and put together a list of recommended videos.

– Mentoring in whatever form should start well ahead of time – before the bees arrive!


Bryan Danforth is looking for citizen scientists in May to collect data.

Honey Rock Farm will be selling nucs for $130, with Italian queens.