February Newsletter 2019

President’s Message

This will be a reflective message of my 20-year learning curve. We have no meeting this month so let's have some fun. As I write, everyone is looking forward to temps hitting 50F again following these recent horrific wind and minus chills. Why can't it just remain a steady temperature? I keep bees in VT and NJ. Fluctuating temps is a bigger problem here in NJ.

Now through February is when you should peek under the telescoping lid to see if you see bees or not. If the bees are clustered near the inner cover opening, then it is a sure sign that they need to be fed on top*. The bees are either above their food stock or at the end of it. Ask any questions about this through our Newbee Liaisons. Every beekeeper has lost bees due to starvation at some time or other. It is an avoidable mistake. Late March into early April is when most bees die of starvation, my experience. Their population growth can outstrip their stores quickly. Nothing is more disappointing than to open a hive too late in spring only to find it full of healthy looking albeit dead, starved bees.

How about that message given by Grant Stiles a few weeks ago? I wish I heard this way back when. Allow me to recap what he said and did not say. He answered the one big dilemma every new beekeeper has and continues to have. Let's face it! We never stop being concerned with swarming. Our spring practice is hell bent on reversing hives, even multiple times, just to prevent swarming. How many hours did I spend carefully reversing and equaling out the hive or shuffling them back down ... only to lose out to nature later? I almost don't even bother now.

Oh? Grant's talk wasn't about swarming? But he did detail how he manages his bees in spring for the season. His method happens to minimize the swarming instinct. This idea is transferable to the backyarder. If you are lucky enough to have a hive that survives the winter into spring, then you will have a hive that WILL swarm late May or June. I don't care how many reversals or somersaults you do; a healthy hive will swarm.

The method is simply to make a split. Any backyarder has time for this. Did you notice he put the new queen on top of the frames of the split? It won't take the bees long to figure out that they either don't have a queen below or they still do. This can be recognized by their behavior toward this new queen. I give the bees an hour or more before I put the new caged queen on top. I have waited up to 3 days or more before opening the sugar plug side of the cage to the bees. Reason: I do examine the bees behavior toward the new queen. Yes, there can be anomalies. Too long of a tangent to go into here.

What did I just write? Make a split of your hive which will result in one half needing a queen. I winter with a medium and a deep. No problem... I will give (apply) a new deep to the medium half or vice versa. You can mix / match frames too in the appropriate box. When you do this, it will force you to buy a new queen in advance or you can let them make their own if late enough into spring. The key is not to be afraid. Embrace It! There are lots of ways to enjoy bees besides making honey. You will learn soon enough how difficult it is to make honey in NJ from year to year. Don't let honey be your only measuring stick. You will never forget the first time you dispatched your live queen to improve the hive. Bee aware that I am finding many queens to survive into spring only to be infertile well before any natural supersedure can occur.

At meetings I encourage all to ask questions even though it may not be pertinent to the exact topic discussed. Somebody will know the answer, and everybody is there to help. Every new beekeeper will come to grips with the need to have more bee boxes and frames for their one or two hives. There is no time to place an order when the emergent need arises. Yes, one can improvise in a pinch.

*feeding bees in winter. I use baker’s fondant. I get it from Grant (hint). I use a 2" homemade spacer, but you can use anything you have. I cut slices of fondant putting them next to the opening on top of the inner cover. The moisture from the bees will soften it. I only use it when they need it. Don't encourage your bees to go high otherwise. There are other methods. One box of fondant is enough for at least 4 or more hives. It does last for years or use it for baking a cake.

Don't have a 2" spacer? Improvise then! If you use an empty medium, as an example, you must keep an eye open, so the bees do not decide to move up into it, then build comb. Do you want to hear my story of using an empty deep in Fall as a spacer for a formic acid pad? The pads used to be larger back then. You are not a beekeeper until you have horror stories of your own to share! It happens! It's all in the learning curve.

-Mike Frey

January Newsletter 2019

During Our Last Meeting

Thank you to everyone who attended the holiday party! It was an absolute joy to celebrate the closing of another fantastic year of beekeeping in the company of such enthusiastic people! Landi’s talk on preparing for the honey show, as well as all previous presentations, are always available on the new ECBS website under “Document Archive”.

A new year of beekeeping means a new year of dues! As part of our shift to online renewal, I’ve created and attached a guide on how to renew your membership online. You may also use this guide to update your contact information, email, and primary chapter affiliation. Please check to make sure your membership is still valid. Anyone who has not renewed within 60 days will receive a notice before being removed from the mailing list.

Next week, mentors and apprentices will receive a notice detailing who they’ve been assigned to and accompanying contact information. All participants will also receive monthly emails to ensure the satisfaction of all active members. If, at any point, you are dissatisfied, would like a reassignment, desire to leave the program or simply provide input, feel free to reach out to Jean and Lisa. They are both responsive and helpful members who are committed to ensuring the success of mentors and apprentices!

There is no meeting for February as Essex will be holding its short course and NJBA will be holding the annual winter meeting. You may view all upcoming meetings, their locations, and time on the new ECBS website under “Calendar”. At our next meeting, Grant will be speaking on “Maximizing Honey Production”. I look forward to seeing you all there and hearing another informative presentation from Grant.

-Justin Luna


Mandatory Apiary Registration

Please be aware that, by law all overwintered colonies must be registered with the NJ Department of Agriculture. There are many reasons for doing this, but the primary one is disease control. If there is an outbreak of American Foulbrood, another contagious disease, or an entirely new pest, the State Apiarist will be able to track the disease and alert beekeepers who may be at risk. The information is only accessible to the State Apiarist and never shared. You may, elect to cross-register with the Department of Environmental Protection to be notified of pesticide spraying in your area that might impact your bees. This is strictly optional. Be aware that the DEP list of registered bee yards is available online to the general public. This list is used by licensed pesticide applicators, so they may notify beekeepers with apiaries within three miles of a scheduled chemical application. The link to register, renew, or edit is posted below as well as on the new ECBS website under “Apiary Registration”. Please make sure this information is current; it helps all of us NJ beekeepers maintain healthy, happy bees!

Link: https://www24.state.nj.us/AG_Apiary/ApiaryApp!!

-Landi Simone

December Newsletter 2018

President’s Message

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Let the bells of the season ring in everyone's ears! We have a special holiday meeting this month at the usual time. Although this meeting is not open for the general public, we do invite all members and their immediate family. Please bring a dessert or appetizer! Our usual pizza and beverages will be available as well.

This would be a great time to engage in informal discussion on bee matters. I am sure many of you have found out that if you ask 3 beekeepers a question you will come away with 5 answers to your situation. Coincidentally I expect the State President to have sent out the agenda for the State Board meeting which is scheduled to take place on the Friday after our meeting. Perhaps there may be some items of interest for all concerned.

Please congratulate our own Justin Luna for rolling out with an updated Website. Our ECBS Board overwhelmingly accepted his proposal recently and the results of his efforts can now be seen. This is the time to remember that this is your club. We are always accepting recommendations and future volunteers for service in any capacity. Do not hold back!

-Michael J Frey


ECBS Meeting Overview – 11/13/18

The ECBS Board of Directors met prior to the general meeting on November 13, 2018. We are truly fortunate that two members of our Society are eager to serve in the all-important position of Beekeepers Liaison, whose job is to coordinate and match experienced beekeepers who want to serve as mentors, with new beekeepers who need a helping hand in getting started and staying on top of things. We created a new Board position of Assistant Beekeeper Liaison, and Justin Luna, who sees to it that our newsletter goes out to the membership every month, is now our Director of Communications. Jean O’Day will serve as New Beekeeper Liaison, and Lisa Scordo will fill the position of Assistant New Beekeeper Liaison. Both Jean and Lisa will be actively involved in “filling the gap” between our excellent Short Course and the real-world of beekeeping, with all the many questions and issues that confront new beekeepers (and many seasoned ones too). For more information, please visit the updated website.

In order to become a mentor, you need a minimum of one year of experience. The new website has a form to be completed to apply either as a mentor or apprentice. It will be up to Jean and Lisa from there to coordinate members based on distance and needs.

Your name will be added to a list, and Lisa and Jean will assign mentors to apprentices living in the same area. We strongly recommend that if you’ve never taken a beginner’s course, you sign up for the ECBS course, which can now be accomplished through the updated ECBS website. It will give you a strong foundation and will help you become a better beekeeper, even if you have picked up some experience on your own.

We also discussed our annual holiday party, which will be held at the Garibaldi Hall on our regular meeting night of December 11, 2018. Landi Simone will be speaking on the preparation and participation in honey shows. The Society will be bringing in pizza and drinks for all to enjoy. Individual members are encouraged to bring a dish, pot-luck style, of anything they like, and/or a dessert. Festive drinks are welcome.

We had a full-house for Grant Stiles’s talk at our November meeting where he recounted his 40 years in beekeeping. We have some really great programs in the works for next year and look forward to seeing you.

-Charles M. Sporn, Secretary


Special Announcement!

Some months ago, I was given the responsibility of webmaster and faced a challenge in creating a website that was useful to ECBS members. I would like to take a minute to review its new features and how you can utilize them to become a better beekeeper and more active member within ECBS.

  • ECBS Information: Through the website you can now view the digitally scanned and enhanced historical documents, visit the NJBA site, become a member or renew membership, view current officers and their contact information, sign up for the short course, and view photos submitted by members. If you would like to submit a photo, visit the “Questions” page and click the “Upload Photos” button. These photos may be featured on the front page of the website or the public gallery.

  • Question: You may now submit questions of any nature through the website, to be addressed by our most experienced members. Once answered, both your question and response will be posted in the “Answers” section. If you’d like to enroll in our new mentorship program, simply complete the mentorship application and your information will be passed onto Jean O’Day and Lisa Scordo. To those currently enrolled, you will be assigned in the next few weeks as Jean and Lisa receive a complete list of interested mentors and apprentices. Have a suggestion? Unhappy with a program or interaction within ECBS? Complete the “Concerns” form to have those concerns and suggestions addressed by the board.

  • Newsletters: Past and future newsletters will be available through the website, in addition to all other documents utilized by ECBS, such as presentations.

  • Answers: In addition to member submitted questions, we will also be featuring articles written by our most experienced beekeepers. Currently, published is “What’s Going on with our Bees?”, “Flower Bloom Chart”, and “Rookie Mistakes”. You’ll notice there is a search bar on the “Answers” page, feel free to type what you’re looking for to see if it has already been addressed.

  • Calendar: All future meetings, with time, location, speaker, and date will be posted.

I hope you enjoy utilizing these new tools, as the board, and myself, have invested a considerable amount of time into ensuring our members all have a positive experience at ECBS. We will review the website and its features at the next meeting, just to make sure everyone understands its new functions and redesign. Until then, feel free to submit questions and poke around. I hope to see you all at our pot-luck!

-Justin Luna

November Newsletter 2018

President’s Message

As I write this on Nov 1 it is beautiful outdoors. The bucks are running around as if they are looking for something? The bees are actually flying! And, I am still feeding my bees. It may be late but better late than not enough. If you are ever in doubt, then let the bees guide you. They stop feeding when they have enough or when it is too cold consistently. By the way, everybody has their own take on things. I never use a thin syrup. Especially in Fall, if feeding bees, they do need the sugar, but they don't need to be dehydrating the water out of nectar. I use corn syrup now but if I were to use sugar then my recipe is: heat (not boil) 2.5-gals water then add 25 lbs of sugar, stir, and let sit. Wait until the syrup has cooled before pouring into a 5-gal bucket. I would add any additive at this time (not when hot).


All mouseguards are on and all treatments are complete. If you want to vent your hive, then use a twig or something natural on the inner cover at the front of the hive. I do not vent my hives anymore unless I have a strong Italian gene hive. It is obvious. There will be moisture in cool weather and too many bees eating their stores in nice weather like this. Be careful with what I say. All my hives have screen bottom boards - even the 40 or so I have in Vermont. Bees need air, but they do not need a wind tunnel racing through the hive during the winter. Venting may be called for if your bottom is wood and you choose a very limiting mouseguard. Too much or too little of anything is to be avoided. Is anybody confused yet? That's why we have meetings! See you all there!


Newbees often think about wrapping their hives for winter. I admit that I will wrap winter nucs (5 frames on top of 5 frames) after I have huddled about 4 or so together. I use a foam board. I have a dozen started since late July with Carniolan queens. I just get aggravated at those Italian bees during the dearth, so I make splits. Winter is a good time to research about bee genetics. Most of your bees are hybrids just like us.


-Michael J Frey


Looking Forward

Grant Stiles will be presenting his talk on: “Things I’ve learned in 40 years of beekeeping”. This is a wonderful opportunity for ECBS members to ask any and all questions. Grant is also offering to bring any Mann Lake orders for member (free delivery)!  Please email Grant at grant@stileshoney.com before 11/09. There will also be a $10 special on medium gloves.


We will be accepting donations to support the Honey Queen Program (for travel expenses, lodging, etc.) or if you prefer, you can write your own check payable to NJBA. The checks must be sent to Charles Ilsley, NJBA Treasurer.


Don’t forget the NJBA Fall Meeting is on 11/10 at the College of New Jersey. We look forward to seeing you there and hearing from the very knowledgeable Dr. Debbie Delaney, who is the featured speaker. Dr. Delaney is an Associate Professor of Entomology at the University of Delaware and is not only a respected scientist but also a very entertaining speaker.  She recently took on the role of Academic Advisor to the EAS Master Beekeeper program, expanding her participation at the annual EAS conference, where she has been a featured speaker for many years.


The registration for the ECBS short course is now digital! If you, or a newbee, are looking to sign up, you may use the link bit.ly/ECBS-Course-2018. We hope to see many new faces during the course!


-Lisa Skoglund


Important Message from Veto-Pharma (Makers of Apivar)

“Please, don’t leave the Apivar strips inside colonies over the winter. You can carefully remove them after 8 weeks of treatment. The reason we do not recommend prolonging the treatment duration is because continuous exposure of the mites to amitraz may contribute to a faster development of resistances. To keep the probability of resistance development as low as possible, we ask beekeepers to respect the label with regard to dosage and treatment duration.