Summer bee health

ChalkbroodIf you see white and/or black “mummies” in front of hive entrances, your bees might be battling chalkbrood.  Conditions this summer are conducive to chalkbrood, a common bee brood disorder.  It is a fungus that seems to thrive in cool, wet summers like this one is becoming.  The disease will weaken your hive.

Learn more online: there are multiple guides to brood diseases such as the Penn State one that is on our club website and also on the NYBeeWellness website.

Prevention involves plenty of good hive ventilation, and minimizing other hive stresses.  So keep on top of it and make sure your bees have a good location and plenty of honey!

– by Christina Wahl

Photo by Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs

Preparing for a honey judging contest

Provided by Sue Garing 4/2/2015

Resources for Honey Contest Entrants

“How To”

Search YouTube for Virginia Webb’s “preparing honey show entries” videos.

USDA Honey Color Standards page 6 table. Yes you will need a meter that reads in Pfund mm units to make sense of this table.  See below.

Rules of the Game

New York State Fair Honey Show Department 21 Division F

Empire State Honey Producers Association Honey Show Calendar/Fall Meeting/Honey Show

Eastern Apiculture Society Honey Show (2014, 2015 not posted yet)

Judging equipment

  • Moisture meters are available in most beekeeping catalogs. Yes, you can learn to judge by eye but viscosity is very temperature dependent.
  • Color category gauges

“Professional”  Readout is in Pfund mm units.

“Get you close” Jack’s Scale – available in beekeeping catalogs.   Has a table to map to USDA categories.

A few folks around the state own an original “Pfund” grader which compares a sample to a standard glass plate.  The plate gets darker from one end the other. Thus the “Pfund millimeter” unit concept  (see USDA honey color chart). Color is very subjective and dependent on the jar, the light, and how clear the honey is.  That’s why we ask for comparable Queenline jars.

  • Polarometer

I don’t know of an affordable commercial instrument.   Most are homemade from polarizing film and a bit of woodworking. Using synthetic filter cloth and long sit time will get you a long way toward clear honey. $29

Beginning beekeeping: a short course

The Finger Lakes Beekeepers Club is pleased to offer a short (3-hour) course on Sunday, March 22 from 1-4pm, at the Cornell Cooperative Extension building in downtown Ithaca.The cost of the program is $5. We have a few more spots available.

This abbreviated course will cover the very basics of what you need to consider when getting started with bees: equipment, a year in the bee yard, very basic bee biology, and further resources. The facilitators are David Hopkins and Peter Borst, veteran beekeepers.

If you would like a hard copy of the Penn State Extension Beekeeping Handbook, it will be available for an additional $7 (you must order in advance). You are most welcome to download the book, and/or print it on your own; the $7 simply covers our cost to print and bind the books.

To register and pay for the short course online, click here. If you would like to pay with a check instead, please email Ellie Andrews for a registration form ( If you have any questions, please let us know!

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!

Winter is coming!

ChecklistHey folks! We’re approaching winter, so here are a few tips on getting your hives ready!

First and foremost, food. We recommend overwintering in two deeps, with about 100+ pounds of honey in them. If they don’t have enough weight, feed them 2:1 syrup (2 pounds of sugar for 1 pound of water; a gallon of water weighs 8 pounds).

Put on an entrance reducer to keep out the mice (pesky, greedy, freeloaders). It helps with robbers as well; if we get a warm snap in November, the girls might come out and try to steal each others’ stores, since there’s no forage.

Do you have mites? Treat. This is the time of year when varroa can really explode in population and wreak havoc with your bees. I think nearly all treatments need warm weather, so get on this one quickly before the weather turns. With any mite treatment you risk losing your queen, so you have to consider mite loads versus that risk. If the mite loads are high, might as well treat; you’ll likely lose the hive anyway.

Weatherize. If you live in a snowy area, consider an upper entrance. That can be as simple as pushing the top deep back to expose a bee’s width of the frames in the lower deep. This keeps a large snowfall from burying the lower one, and suffocating the hive.

If you’re in a windy area, consider a wind break, like wrapping the hives in tyvec or tar paper. Or a physical barrier like hay bales or a fence. I’m on a windy hill, so I’ll actually move my hives into an old horse run-in that faces east, but blocks the westerly winds. I had good luck with that last year. Out at the club hives, we are pretty sheltered, and wrapping or not doesn’t seem to matter as much.

A block of foam insulation under the outer cover can help with keeping the top of the hive (the inner cover) from icing over, which can melt and potentially rain down on your bees. Wet bees are dead bees in the wintertime.

Then all you can do is let them be, and hope for the best. Don’t muck about with them in the winter, be very, very frugal mucking about with them in the spring (another hazardous time of year).

Have questions? Send a message to the list! Not on the list? You can add yourself here.

That’s a Wrap!

Thank you to all who have attended the meetings for 2013. I personally am repeatedly inspired by the enthusiasm of those new to keeping bees, and heartened by our members who support each other no matter what the question and how experienced the authors.

As a reminder, we have NO MONTHLY MEETING in December — it’s just too busy! Our next meeting will be at the Extension building on January 19. At that time we will either talk about observation hives, or have Lesli’s postponed talk on lotions, soaps and balms from hive products.

At January’s meeting we will also hold elections for 2014 officers, as well as collect club dues. If you are interested in running for an office, feel free to raise your hand in January. You are also welcome to contact me to see what is involved.

Happy holidays!


Geneva Bee Conference

beelogoThere will be no March meeting in Ithaca. Instead, join us for the Geneva Bee Conference, presented by FLBC and the Ontario-Fingerlakes Beekeepers Association.  Many conference vendors will take orders and you can pick up your orders at the meeting, to save on shipping costs.

The 2013 Geneva Bee Conference (GBC) has two great speakers lined up: Dr. Deborah Delaney and Dr. Tammy Horn.  For information on the speakers and the talks they are giving, click on the Speakers link.

The GBC will be held on the campus of Hobart and William Smith Colleges located in Geneva, New York, in the Vandervoort Room of the Scandling Campus Center.  The date is Saturday, March 16th, 2013.  For information on how to get to the college, click on Directions.  For a PDF flyer of the event, click on Flyer.

The GBC is a free event.  However, if you can donate $20 to help defray costs, it will be appreciated!

For the lunch break, people bring a dish to share (or cups/napkins/plates/utensils, or bottles of water, or…) and we’ll have coffee available.  We’ve always had a good variety of savory and sweet dishes that folks have brought.  If you prefer, you can brown bag it or there are places near the campus where you can go to get lunch.


Honey, beer, and honey!

Beer glassFor the first Club meeting of the year, we invited Glenn Bucine to share his experiences with brewing beer with honey.  Glenn has brewed for many years, and describes himself as a “brewer, garlic grower, and humble gardner”.  Glenn will cover the basics of brewing beer, and then expand on to how to flavor your brew with honey.

After Glenn’s talk, we will dive into our honey sampling party!  The club will provide crackers as a palate cleanser, and if you want to share your honey please bring some in a squeeze bottle.  It could be a bear, or any other bottle that lets us share honey without sharing germs.  Bring a water bottle or other mug to have a supply of water or tea at hand.

Finally, for the first meeting of the year we will hold club elections.  Anyone interested in serving as an officer should feel free to contact me or the group.

I hope to see you at the Cooperative Extension Building at 2pm on Sunday (January 20).  Officers meeting will start at 1pm.