An affiliate of the South Carolina Beekeepers Association

Notes from the SC Beekeepers Association Summer Meeting, 2011

 What follows are notes taken at the 2011 Annual Summer Meeting of the South Carolina Beekeepers Association at Clemson University 

How to Organize and Manage a Successful Local Beekeepers Association

1.       Officers

      • President (two year term)
      • Vice President or President Elect (Chair of Program Committee)
      • Secretary (Take Meeting Minutes, Publish Meeting Announcements)

(or Secretary/Treasurer)

2.       Board of Directors (Officers and 3 Elected Directors)

·         Separate Planning Meeting in November, Lay out 10 meeting programs/speakers

This works better than planning the meetings as you go.  It’s easier to line up speakers in advance.  It becomes the “roadmap” for the coming year.

3.       Identify Leaders/Leader Development

4.       Regional Representative on SCBA Executive Committee

·         Requires minimum of 25 members with 50% state members

·         Check out job description from Oconee County

5.       Meeting Place/Free if Possible

6.       Bylaws

7.       Meet monthly except for July and possibly a December social

8.       Social Committee

9.       Newsletter

10.   Website

11.   Monthly Meetings

·         Program

·         Door Prizes

·         Raffle

·         Refreshments/foods

12.   Projects

·         Host Master Beekeeper Certified Level Class Annually

·         County Fairs/State Fair                  Mentoring Program

 Monthly Program Topics Ideas

·         Preparing bee colonies for winter

·         Honey bee pests

·         Honey bee diseases (AFB,EFB, Nosema, Virus)

·         Swarm prevention and control

·         Feeding bees and providing a water source

·         Beekeeper good neighbor program

·         Honey harvesting

·         Honey show/competition

·         Bottling and selling honey

·         Beeswax products

·         Nectar/Pollen bearing plants in your area

·         Show and tell/favorite equipment

·         Small Scale Queen Rearing

·         Discussion session for next years meeting programs (October)

·         Preparing colonies for the nectar flow programs

·         Cooking with honey



SC Beekeepers Association Summer Meeting 2011 Intermediate Beekeeping Short Course


Textbook used for this course:  The Hive and the Honeybee

Primary Instructor:  Dr. Mike Hood, Clemson University Apicultural Specialist

Note:  This course is an abbreviated version of the Journeyman level Course and can help one to prepare for the Journeyman test.

History of Bees and Man

(pictures can be seen in The Hive and the Honeybee)

6000 BC –paintings depicting robbing of honey                   1960 – “log hives”  (also called “gum” hives)

1450 BC-egyptian depictions of beekeepers                        1682 –Greek beehive     (Wheeler)

300 BC –pottery hives in Greece

1535 –Switzerland, beekeeper using skeps

It took nearly two centuries after Wheelers painting to develop the movable frame hive in 1851!             

Took about 10 years for the idea to spread         

Langstroth did NOT discover “bee space”.  (a common misconception)

Langstroth is known as the “Father of Modern Beekeeping” because of the impact of his invention on beekeeping. 

Honeybees have been used as symbols throughout history.  Napoleon used them on his throne. The Seabees (U.S. Naval construction battalion WWII) used the bee as their motto.

Bees and Their Relatives

Bumblebee – is actually a better pollinator than the honeybee but they do NOT overwinter as a colony and their colonies are much smaller so there are fewer in any given area.  Nest underground, typically in an abandoned nest from another animal. There is NOT much honey in a nest. Queens overwinter and reestablish the new colonies the next year.

Carpenter Bees – do very little pollinating.  Bores holes in blueberries to steal nectar which does NOT pollinate. Carpenter bee has a very shiny black abdomen with very little hair.  They are similar in size to the bumblebee. Nest in wood.  Natural habitat is a dead tree but they will bore into soft woods like pine.  They rarely sting but the females CAN sting.  Typically a pesticide is sprayed around the entrance to their hole. A couple of days later the hole should be plugged to keep other bees from using the hole.  There ARE carpenter bee traps available. 

Yellowjackets- very beneficial in Spring and Summer.  They eat catapillars.  They do not overwinter and use an abandoned nest from another animal/insect.  Their comb is made of paper and can house thousands of insects.  In the late summer and fall  they become pests at picnics.  Yellowjacket traps are available and a good bait is raw bologna!  Nests should be dug up after they are destroyed to avoid them re-infesting the same nests. Yellowjackets CAN overwinter, especially in our coastal areas.

Hornets – very powerful sting

Paper wasps

Cicada Killer –live in the ground and are very docile. They are on the same cycle as the cicadas.  Particularly a problem around golf courses.  A fairly large bee.

European Hornet – lives in the hollow of a tree.  Meat eater.  In the Fall, they will capture a honeybee on its way back into the hive and take it back to the tree and eat it.  Relatively large compared to other bees.  They are attracted to houses, possibly to their own reflection in sliding glass doors and windows.

Leaf Cutter Bee –

Remember:  Bees have two sets of wings, Flys have only ONE. Some types of  flies LOOK like bees.

Finding Hidden Artisanal Honey Markets            Ann Harmon (from Flint Hill, Virginia) – co-instructor

Containers:  Appropriate to Market

Hex glass jars, Plastic, Bears, “Upside down” or inverted jar

Labels:  Distinctive, same format but different (unique), “available in other locations”

Additions:  Honey stix – with your honey, taste samples, Hang Tags, Brochures-professional (can sometimes use college students who will “work for honey”

Privately owned – more receptive, less restrictive, more creative

The Obvious Markets:  out your back door, roadside stand, Farmer’s Markets

Food Shops:  organice and health food stores, wine store, cheese shop, Wineries, (note:  We could take lessons from Wine labels…their descriptions and creative language.  Why not say your honey has “overtones of meadow blossoms”?

Ethnic shops:  Hispanic, middle-eastern, muslem

Shops: Hardware, Antiques and curio shops, Craft shops (again, design/customize your label to match the location where you are selling)

Sports shops:  Camping stores (plastic containers), golf pro shop, tack store,

Speciality Shops:  Near National Parks, highways and roads TO parks, parks with shops (local, privately run)

Speciality Services:  Hairdressers (repeat customers), dog groomers (frequently done in groomer’s home)

(a “honey rinse” can be used when grooming dogs and horses)

Motels:  privately owned rather than chains.

Bed and Breakfasts –Privately owned,  the B and B can serve your honey at meals AND have it for sale.

Gift Basket (Makers) – Regional or local, theme, repeat customers

Find a partner – one can market, the other producePotter, basket weaver, Baker, cupcake shop

Festivals – tend to be seasonal, such as Christmas.  (Change cap colors for bears to match the season), Children’s programs, craft fairs, ethnic (remember honey is universal)

Supermarkets – focus on locally owned markets that feature local produce.

The Internet – 89% of Americans shop on the internet.  Create a website with a story about your honey, clipart, etc.

Other tips:

  • Localharvest.org is a good website resource.
  • Be careful of selling your honey on consignment-better to get your money up-front. 
  • Pay attention to which businesses are advertising heavily and approach them about incorporating honey into their marketing plan.

Honey Bee Anatomy and Physiology

Worker Honey Bee

Three Regions:  Head,  Thorax (locomotion), Abdomen (reproductive organs, stinger, digestion)

Exoskeleton (outside the body) prevents water from escaping the body as quickly, outer layer is the cuticle and has three layers.  The cuticle continues to harden as the bee ages. 

Wax glands (eight) are activated day 14-18 in females. 

Honey bees can “festoon” to pass wax scales from one bee to another (a “chain” of bees)

 Hairs are branched.  Hair is dense and is present even on their eyes! 

Honeybee has five eyes.  Antenna have sensory organs for odor and taste.  The drone has more of the sensory organs than the worker in order to be able to find the queen.

Proboscis is operated with muscles which extend it when it is being used to pull nectar in.  When not being used it is stored beneath the bees head. 

Antenna cleaner is located on the first leg.  It is a notch through which the antenna is pulled to clean it. 

The hind leg has a pollen collecting brush.  Bee leg has five parts.  There is a pollen press that presses the pollen into a ball as it is being collected.

The pretarsis is also called the “foot” and allows the bee to actually walk.

Wings:  Two forewings and two rear wings.  The two sets of wings hook together during flight. 

Stinger:  Queen stinger has smaller barbs.  The two lancets continue to “saw” after the sting, embedding the stinger deeper and deeper into the skin.

“Pump” attached to the proboscis.  Digestive process does not take place in the honey stomach.  The bee does “regurgitate” the nectar but it does NOT involve any digestive juices.  (Best not to use the term “regurgitate” when speaking in public)

A valve keeps the nectar in the honey stomach separate from the regular stomach

Circulatory system – heart pumps blood into the aorta, the head and then back into the body.  The blood does not provide oxygen as our circulatory system does. 

Nervous system is located on the ventral side of the bee.  It includes the brain, ganglia, ventral nerve chord. 

The tracheal or breathing system is an OPEN system, unlike ours which is closed. 

Reproductive organs differ significantly between worker female bees and the queen.  Sperm is stored in the spermatheca.  Queen can lay 1500 eggs a day during spring and summer during her first year. 

Worker bee has a spermatheca but it is nonfunctional because they never mate.  The worker bee CAN lay eggs, but they will all be MALES.   Only about 1% of worker bees have ovaries that can develop so that they become “laying workers”

There is not much published about drone reproductive organs. 

During mating, each drone must pull the part of the male reproductive organ left behind from the last drone who mated with the queen out before he can mate with the queen.

 Swarm prevention and control (David McFawn, Master Craftsman Beekeeper)

It is natural for bees to swarm. 

Clipping a queens wings will NOT prevent swarming. 

Swarming is caused by congestion in the brood nest so anything that can be done to avoid overcrowding in the brood chamber will be helpful. 

Bees naturally store honey ABOVE the brood chamber. 

A “beard” of bees on the front of the box does not necessarily indicate an impending swarm, especially during a honey dearth or very hot weather. 

Splitting a hive is one way to avoid a swarm. 

Some frames of brood can be pulled in early Spring (April, early May)and used to make new colonies or “nucs”.  This will sometimes prevent swarming. 

The presence of a “Queen cup” does not necessarily mean there’s going to be a swarm.  You need to check to see if the queen cups have anything in them. 

Temper of a colony sometimes changes just before a swarm.  There may be more heat coming from the brood box. 

Rainy or cool spell in March or April can lead to overcrowding in the box because bees that are not foraging tend to live longer so the population increases. 

Colonies can be combined to prevent swarming – a weak colony combined with a strong colony.  You can also swap frames of brood between colonies. 

A younger queen (less than 1 year old) is less likely to swarm.  Requeening  annually is one method of reducing the risk of swarming. 

Laying Workers:  Now What? (Dr. Hood)

Laying worker is a “worker bee that an lay eggs that produce only drones.  Laying workers appear in colonies that are hopelessly queenless.

There is no way to tell the difference between a laying worker and one who is not laying by appearance. 

What prevents workers from laying?  Queens presence (“foot print” & pheromones), Brood presence:  open or capped brood.  The brood odor stimulates foraging and prevents workers from laying. 

Worker laid eggs tend to not be placed in the bottom of the cell and there are often multiple eggs in one cell. 

Loud roar usually noticed when opening hive, bees appear nervous on comb, drone brood is reared in a worker cell, spotty brood, capped brood are all drones.

Qualities of a workers eggs:  smaller in size than queen laid eggs, normally placed on side of cell rather than in center on bottom of cell, worker laid eggs will develop into drones only which means the colony is doomed, drones produced by workers are smaller than drones produced by queens

What is a False Queen?  Sometimes a laying worker in a queenless colony will develop a high level of queenliness, will have attendants.

What causes Queen Loss?  Beekeeper manipulation kills or injures queen, supersedure unsuccessful, colony swarmed and no replacement queen is produced, pesticide kill, drone layer queen(one who has run out of sperm)

What happens when a queen is lost?  In 12-18 hours queen cells are constructed, workers select larvae less than 2 days old; young larvae will produce better queens than older selected larvae.

Entire process from queen loss to egg laying by a new queen takes an average of 29 days. 

Beekeeper Options:

  1.  Haul hive away from the apiary and shake all the bees from the hive
  2. Introduce a queen-right nuc into the problem colony
  3. Add 3-4 frames of brood plus clinging bees from queen-right colonies and introduce a new queen
  4. Add a frame of brood every week until they start raising their own queen or introduce a queen
  5. Combination of A&C above.

 IPM:  The Future of Beekeeping (Dr. Mike Hood) (Evening Session 6:30pm-8:30pm)

IPM=Integrated Pest Management

Using any methods possible to control pests –preferably not using pesticides as the first resort.  Pesticides do have a role, but should be used as last resort. 



Hive Pests include:

Greater Wax Moth

Varroa Mites

Small Hive Beetles

In agriculture, IPM is a pest control strategy that uses a 3 stage approach, prevention, observation, intervention.  An ecological approach with a main goal of significantly reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides while at the same time managing pest populations at an acceptable level (source: Wikipedia)

IPM is a philosophy that promotes the collection of field-specific information to make rational pest management decisions.  Goal is to limit the use of chemical pesticides in situations where biological methods can be used.

How it works:

  • Acceptable pest levels
  • Preventive cultural and regulartory practices
  • Monitoring or Scouting
  • Genetic Control

Is Green Pest Management the same as Integrated Pest Management?  No, but it’s similar.  Green pest management does not use ANY pesticides.

  1. Acceptable Pest Level –bees can tolerate small hive beetles, varroa mites and wax moths at certain levels.
  2. Treatment Thresholds – pests are monitored and when they reach a certain level, a pesticide might be used

APD=average pest density

In August, varroa mite acceptable level is below 50.  If it goes to 60, it may be too late to treat.

Preventive Cultural and Regulatory Practices

Frank Benton (inventor of the Benton Queen Cage still used today) worked for the USDA and wanted to bring back Apis Drasata (sp?) back to the United States.  He was not successful.  Regulatory practices are aimed at keeping the pests out of the country.

 National Honey Bee Act of 1922 – addresses foul brood and prevents live bees being brought into the U.S. from other countries.

Small Hive Beetles –we now recommend putting bees in the sun rather than in damp areas.  We used to recommend the opposite before the SHB.

Genetic Control:  Russian Bees and VSH (Varroa Senstive Hygenic Bees)

Mechanical control – such as screen bottom board, vacuums, traps, etc.

Physical Control:  methods of storing drawn comb to prevent wax moths

Biological Control:  using fire ants to control wax moths

Chemical Control – Apilife Var (naturally occurring essential oils), pesticides


  • More sustainable
  • Decreased use of chemicals
  • Extends useful life of chemicals
  • More economical in long run
  • Less chance of hive product contamination
  • Less exposure of beekeeper to chemicals


  • Additional time and commitment required to implement
  • Often requires multiple strategies
  • Evaluation required


Information from Q&A Session

Some concerns about using powdered sugar include encouraging ants, frequently disrupting hives, possible impact on the queen.  Definitely doesn’t contaminate but no strong evidence that it helps. 

One technique is to use drone brood removal.  However,  it is imperative to remove the drone brood when it is two-thirds capped.  If you allow the drones to emerge, you just increased the varroa mite population. 

Honey Competition & Judging          (Steve Genta)

What is Honey?  Honey  is a FOOD – it is an agricultural commodity that is consumed by humans

There are two styles of honey competition in the U.S. :  The United States Style & The International Style.

The U.S. Style = each category is assigned a point value

The International Style – gives the judge a little more discretion.  The honeys are judged against one another or ranked . Only has three categories:  light, medium, dark.

At the heart of it all is CLEANLINESS

One of the tools of a honey judge is a flashlight.  The honey CONTAINER is very important.  The FILL is significant (underfill or overfill), aroma, (AVOID recycled pickle jars).  The judge will look at the underside of the lid – is it clean, free of rust. 

Avoid straining honey through cheese cloth – the fibers break loose and float to the top of the jar.

Honey will be tested with a refractometer – 18.6% moisture content is the maximum allowable.  Anything above that is automatically disqualified.  Higher content can cause fermentation.

Taste – this is somewhat subjective.  Mainly checking to make sure the honey doesn’t have a bad taste and that it is true to the nectar source. 

Extracted honey is the most commonly judged hive product.  There are MANY other categories for other hive products such as wax, mead, beeswax candles, etc. 

Don’t heat your honey before competition.  Judges can often tell by taste if the honey has been heated. 

Glass is always a better container than plastic, even if the contest allows plastic containers. 

Fill should be to the first ring on a typical mason jar so that no light passes through if shined from the side of the lid. 


AHB in the Southeastern United States  ( Dr. Mike Hood)

Spread of the AHB –

1957 –Imported into Brazil to be crossbred with the European honeybee

The AHB was released by a passerby who felt sorry for the “caged” bees.  They quickly spread throughout Brazil. 

They spread at an average rate of 200 miles per year.  They entered Texas in 1990.  The bees went WEST instead of EAST, following rivers.  They are in every Southwestern state between Texas and California. 

They are also in Florida, imported on oceangoing vessels.  From 2002 to 2007, the percentage of bees captured in swarm traps went from about 8% to nearly 70%.

The truth about AHB

·         AHB are the same SPECIES AS European honey bees (EHB)

·         The sting of the AHB is NOT more dangerous or toxic than EHB

·         You cannot tell the difference just by looking at them

AHB’s will not sting while foraging.

EHB – EHB only swarm once every one or two years

They select large voids that are dry, protected and usually above ground (hollow trees or structural voids)

They are selected to be mildly defensive of the colony

We don’t want the bees to be too gentle or they can’t protect their stores of honey

AHB - 3-4x as many bees respond to threat compared to EHB

10 x more stings per encounter with AHB

AHB Swarms are not more aggressive than EHB.  Sometimes beekeepers collect a AHB swarm not realizing until later that they are AHB’s.

Absconding is much more common with AHBs. 

Reproductive capacity – AHBs put all their resources into raising brood rather than producing more honey.

AHB are more aggressive, swarm more, produce more feral colonies, nest in smaller spaces.  They are more comparable to our native yellow jackets.

Those likely to come in contact with AHBs are agriculture workers, landscapers, surveyors, EMS personnel. 

Small children, the elderly and the handicapped are at higher risk.

Animals at risk:  horses, caged or corralled animals, dogs

A foam can be used to repel the bees during rescue operations.

African bees like water meters.

They need an opening of about 1/8th inch with a cavity behind it. 

If you disturb a colony:

RUN, RUN, then run some more.  Get inside a closed vehicle.  Do NOT go to water-they will wait you out!


Advantages of Managed Colonies in Mitigating AHBs taking over an area

  • Managed colonies dilute AHB populations
  • Pevents AHB takeover of European honey bee hives
  • AHB are less likely attracted to areas where other foragers exist

Beekeepers are valuable with regards to AHB

European honeybees are the best deterrent to AHB

Bottom line – we are almost CERTAIN to have AHB’s in South Carolina at some time in the near future.

(average human can sustain up to five hundred stings without lethality)

A likely infiltration point in SC is through the ports of Charleston, Savannah, Beaufort area. 

It typically takes three to four years after AHB’s arrive for bees to change.


How would you know if you captured a swarm in SC whether or not it is an AHB colony?  You can’t without having them tested (requires about 100 adult bees in alcohol).  Clemson will test a swarm for you by sending them to the Tuscon Bee Lab in Arizona.