News for SC Beekeepers: February 2010

South Carolina Beekeepers Spring Meeting

The South Carolina Beekeepers will hold their spring meeting Saturday, March 6, at the Farm Bureau Building, 724 Knox Abbott Drive, Cayce, (West Columbia) SC. The meeting site can be reached easily from I-26 by taking the Airport Exit; go north toward Columbia which will run into Knox Abbott Drive. The building is on the left approximately 3 miles from I-26.  Registration will begin at 8:00 AM and the meeting program will get underway at 8:30.  Registration cost is $5 per person, $8 per family, or $10 for non-SCBA members. 

Our President, Wes Bommer, will be the first speaker and welcome us and deliver his “President’s Comments.”  South Carolina Department of Agriculture Commissioner Hugh E. Weathers will bring us up to date on agricultural news in the state.  David Tompkins, SCDA Director of State Farmers Markets, will discuss the new South Carolina Farmers Market which will be opening in Lexington in June.  Mike Hood will give an update on the “State of Beekeeping in South Carolina” and report on honey bee research at Clemson University. Steve Genta will give an update on the South Carolina Master Beekeeper Program and will give a news report on the Eastern Apicultural Society and cover the annual conference which will be held in Boone, NC in August. Bob Cole from Todd, NC will give a presentation on some of his travels around the world promoting beekeeping and give us a report on “Apimondia” which was held in France in 2009. Bill Powers from Waxhaw, NC will tell us how he removes feral bee colonies from structures. Earl Cooler from Jasper County will give a presentation on the Cooler’s commercial beekeeping operation in Jasper County.  Eric Mills, Timmonsville commercial beekeeper, will give a presentation on his operation’s pollination services. You may refer to the program which is included in this newsletter for other meeting details.  All beekeepers or anyone interested in honey bees and beekeeping are invited to attend this very informative meeting. For further meeting information, contact  Mike Hood, Extension Apiculturist, Department of Entomology, Soils, and Plant Sciences, Clemson University (ph. 864-656-0346 or email <>).

Other Local News 

Eleven local beekeeper associations will offer Master Beekeeper Program certified level short courses this winter and spring. These courses are being hosted by the Aiken County Beekeepers, the Lakeland Beekeepers, the Mid-State Beekeepers, the Pickens County Beekeepers, the Kershaw County Beekeepers, the Edisto County Beekeepers, the Low Country Beekeepers, the Piedmont Beekeepers, the Cherokee County Beekeepers, the Charleston Area Beekeepers, and the York County Beekeepers. The certified level courses normally run for 5-6 weeks and conclude with written and practical tests. Thanks to all beekeepers who have been involved in organizing and serving as instructors for these short courses. And, thanks to David MacFawn, Steve Genta, and Wes Bommer who currently serve on the SC Master Beekeeper Program Committee.

Two new local beekeeper groups are organizing in our state. The Charleston Area Beekeepers have already met twice in 2010 and plan to host an introductory beekeeping short course this winter. The group had 16 members present at their first gathering and it sounds like they are off to a strong start. If anyone is interesting in meeting with this group, contact Rob Holmes who lives in Mt. Pleasant – Ph. 843-708-1877 (cell). The new Spartanburg County Beekeepers met in Startex in January and had about 30 present for their first meeting.  

Small Hive Beetles

This newsletter editor (MH) recently authored a couple of articles on “Small Hive Beetle Integrated Pest Management (IPM)” which will be published in the February and March issues of the beekeeping magazine “Bee Culture.” You will find below a summary of these two articles, so check out the next couple issues of Bee Culture magazine for more details on how to control small hive beetles.

Summary.  Sometimes when conditions are favorable for small hive beetle immigration and beetle reproduction is high, the beekeeper is in for a real challenge to control this hive pest. Large numbers of beetles have been known to enter single bee colonies which can overcome the natural defenses of even a strong bee colony. There are a few reports in the literature of migrating swarms of beetles entering a single hive. Fortunately, this occurs very infrequently, so it is up to the beekeeper to help the bees in maintaining low beetle populations by using a combination of safe and effective IPM tools and recommendations. In most cases, the integrated management of small hive beetles will serve well to control this hive pest. 

Winter is a good time for you to sit back and evaluate how well your beetle management efforts worked last year. Maybe the beetle levels increased to the point of negatively impacting your colonies or perhaps colonies seemed to be overrun in some apiaries. On the other hand, beetles may have been present but in very low numbers. Regardless, it is well worth your time to make some decisions now for the coming year. There are many IPM tools available for you to consider and maybe it is time to try a combination of control options and not depend on a single method. Good luck in your beetle management for this year. For a quick review, here are a few recommendations on how to control small hive beetles: 


  • maintain healthy, strong colonies to promote high bee-to-comb ratio    
  • monitor colonies for beetle infestation levels
  • trap beetles using one or more of the trapping devices presently marketed
  • physically kill or remove beetles when inspecting a colony, but do not leave equipment exposed for long periods of time which may lead to robbing
  • remove weak colonies from an apiary when infested with beetle larvae and treat the soil
  • extract honey from supers within 2 days of hive removal
  • maintain good sanitary conditions inside and outside the honey house
  • treat soil with Gard Star, if beetle larvae are present in the hive
  • use Check Mite + in the hive as a last resort


  • do not place colonies in shady, damp locations
  • do not over-manipulate colonies when beetles are present
  • do not leave colonies exposed during extended hive inspections
  • do not over-super colonies when beetles are present
  • do not hesitate to move colonies to a new location away from an old apiary which has a history of beetle problems  
  • do not use pesticides that are not registered for SHB control.

Calendar for 2010

  • Feb. 12-13 – Georgia Beekeepers meet in Moultrie, GA
  • Mar. 6, - South Carolina Beekeepers meet in Columbia
  • Mar. 6, - NCSB meet in Lumberton, NC
  • July 8-10 – NCSB meet in China Grove, NC
  • July 15-17 - South Carolina Beekeepers meet in Clemson, <>
  • August 2-6, - Eastern Apicultural Society Annual Conference in Boone, NC. For more details see <>. 
  • Jan. 4-8, 2011, North American Beekeeping Conference (ABF and AHPA), Galveston, Texas

Honey Bees Selected By Ars Toss Out Varroa Mites

By Alfredo Flores, ARS Information Staff

Honey bees are now fighting back aggressively against Varroa mites, thanks to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) efforts to develop bees with a genetic trait that allows them to more easily find the mites and toss them out of the broodnest.

The parasitic Varroa mite attacks the honey bee, Apis mellifera L., by feeding on its hemolymph, which is the combination of blood and fluid inside a bee. Colonies can be weakened or killed, depending on the severity of the infestation. Most colonies eventually die from varroa infestation if left untreated.

Varroa-sensitive hygiene (VSH) is a genetic trait of the honey bee that allows it to remove mite-infested pupae from the capped brood—developing bees that are sealed inside cells of the comb with a protective layer of wax. The mites are sometimes difficult for the bees to locate, since they attack the bee brood while these developing bees are inside the capped cells.

ARS scientists at the agency’s Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics and Physiology Research Unit in Baton Rouge, La., have developed honey bees with high expression of the VSH trait. Honey bees are naturally hygienic, and they often remove diseased brood from their nests. VSH is a specific form of nest cleaning focused on removing varroa-infested pupae. The VSH honey bees are quite aggressive in their pursuit of the mites. The bees gang up, chew and cut through the cap, lift out the infected brood and their mites, and discard them from the broodnest. 

See this activity in the attached video link here: 

This hygiene kills the frail mite offspring, which greatly reduces the lifetime reproductive output of the mother mite. The mother mite may survive the ordeal and try to reproduce in brood again, only to undergo similar treatment by the bees.

To test the varroa resistance of VSH bees, the Baton Rouge team conducted field trials using 40 colonies with varying levels of VSH. Mite population growth was significantly lower in VSH and hybrid colonies than in bee colonies without VSH. Hybrid colonies had half the VSH genes normally found in pure VSH bees, but they still retained significant varroa resistance. Simpler ways for bee breeders to measure VSH behavior in colonies were also developed in this study. 

This research was published in the Journal of Apicultural Research and Bee World.

SOURCE: USDA ARS News Service, September 10, 2009

Good Story From Ethiopia

By Andrew Hoskins, Project Director, Lalmba--Ethiopia

I am a former member of SCBA. I took the class headed by Frank Blanchard just two years ago in early 2008. I am now working in Ethiopia for a small organization called Lalmba. One of the projects I oversee involves teaching young men who have no family or support to start up small businesses. I have been teaching beekeeping as part of this project since I got here earlier this year. I am using many of the materials and lessons I learned during the beginner beekeeping class through SCBA. I wanted to share a quick story with all of you. I am not sure if you would put anything like this in your next newsletter, but you are more than welcome to use all or part of it. I hope all is well...

All the way to the swarm location, I kept going over the plan in my head.  I would climb up the tree, get the catcher box situated, and then pull up the machete by a rope. After carefully placing the box under the swarm, I would scrape them off the tree with the machete and close the box as smoothly and quickly as possible. I was nervous!  I had read so much about how this was done, but all the accounts and advice were no replacement for experience. One rather unnerving quote that I had recently read kept coming back to me, "It is best to catch a wild, African bee swarm with the help of an experienced friend." The trouble was that I was the most experienced person around.  I did in fact bring a local beekeeper with me, but he had never tried to move a wild swarm. Local beekeepers place traditional, hollowed-out log hives in trees to attract swarms. In fact, all throughout Ethiopia, these log hives are used to produce nearly 90% of the honey in the country. After the bees fill the hive with honey, they split, swarm, and the honey is harvested. The log has to be cut in half and gutted of its contents. There is no way to retain a colony after the honey is harvested. The process starts all over from the beginning.

We stopped the car just past the tree. I had just started getting on my protective gear when I heard the local beekeeper yell out in Amharic, the national language, "These aren't bees!" I stepped closer to look at the black, moving mass of which only seconds ago I was sure were bees. He was right. I had been fooled by a huge clump of termites who had built their nest on the side of a tree. More than slightly embarrassed, I put my catcher box back in the car and apologized. We laughed about it on the long drive home.

I was introduced to beekeeping by the South Carolina Beekeepers when I joined their beginner beekeeping class. I and a friend purchased a package of bees, the necessary equipment, and dove into what would soon become our favorite hobby. Now just three years later, I find myself working for a small development organization called Lalmba ( in the highlands of Ethiopia. As a side project, I have been teaching local farmers how to build and use a Kenyan-style modern bee hive (KTBH).  I even started my very own beginners class modeled after the class which I took through SCBA. So far I have graduated six from the class and supervised the construction of three hives. I often wish I could just pass around a Dadant catalog or better yet, order a nuc of Italian bees! Instead, we are forced to work with what we have.

Ethiopia is one of the richest places on earth for natural nectar flow year round. The species of bees here is rather tame and manageable compared to other African breeds. I am relishing the opportunity to learn all over again what it means to be a beekeeper. I just wanted to officially thank SCBA for introducing me to the world of beekeeping. I send my hardiest greetings from Chiri, Ethiopia.

SOURCE: Email to webmaster of the SC State Beekeepers on October 25, 2009

2009 Has The Worst Honey Crop On Record: If You Like Honey, You Should Buy It Now ... And Buy A Lot

By Kim Flottum, thebeekeeper, October 28, 2009

Each October Bee Culture magazine surveys our 100 or so regular honey producer/reporters from all parts of the U.S. By October 10 or so much of the U.S. crop has been harvested, and beekeepers have a pretty good feel for what they will be making, even if some is still in the field. These reporters also subjectively (but with years of experience behind them) rank their crop with values ranging from 1 – very good, to 5 – very bad. (What is very good for a beekeeper in Ohio may be nearly a crop failure for a beekeeper in Florida – it depends on how each runs their business.)

They also tell us how good their spring crop was and if they harvested any then, and the same for their summer and the fall crops. And they give us the average production of each of their colonies over the whole season ... not just those that produced honey, but all of them, which is different than the only other survey of this sort that tackle the subject. 

Then, beginning with the latest USDA U.S. colony count (which came out in February this year) we adjust that number up or down based on information from our reporters, and then multiply the average colony production our reporters give us, and come up with an estimate of how much honey was produced this season. We’ve been doing this for several years now, and we’re pretty good ... maybe even better than the USDA’s figures because, although we have a smaller sample of beekeepers, we have a more finely tuned sample that reflects each honey producing region. The 10 largest honey producing states have more reporters, and more influence in the final figures than, say Rhode Island, which has hardly any honey production.

So what we have is a pretty good picture of U. S. honey production this past season ... which is a good part of the overall picture of what honey costs, but certainly not all of it. Imports from honey producing countries around the world certainly have an impact on the honey market in the U. S. but imports are a function of production in those countries, too, as is demand in the U. S. market. So we need to start at home.

And the key player this year ... the weather! No surprise there if you ventured outside more than once this summer, no matter where you live ... it was one weird weather event, all summer long. Most of the east and mid-west was cool and wet, the south was hot and dry or way too wet and much of the northwest and west was dry and hot, too. Florida and the gulf states, particularly Texas and Louisiana did fairly well this summer, as did the mountain states and California. 

The consistent top 10 honey producing states are the 2 Dakotas, California, Florida, Montana, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Texas and bringing up tenth, depending on the year ... Idaho, Georgia or New York. These 10 states produce right about 75% of all the honey in the U.S. each year ... meaning the rest of us pretty much produce squat every year. 

But how much honey? Twenty four years ago, before Varroa mites came to live here and before honey production was a major industry in several countries as an export market, the U.S. was producing something like 220 million pounds a year, with hardly any honey imports at all. Of course back then, even a minor producing state like Ohio had 9,000 beekeepers. Last year, the U. S. produced only 160 million pounds, and Ohio had about 3,200 beekeepers. You can see the problem.

Last year the U.S. produced, by our estimate, about 61 pounds of honey for each of the 2.564 million colonies we figured were honey producers for a total of 156.4 million pounds of honey. USDA measured 161.1 million pounds. We’ve been that close since we started. I like our numbers better, but why quibble over a 3% difference.

So, this year our predictions are that 2.223 million colonies (down from last year because of colony losses to colony collapse disorder and last year’s poor honey crop) will produce 53.7 pounds of honey each, for a total of 119.37 million pounds of U. S. produced honey ... this is, friends, the worst honey crop ever. EVER!

But, interestingly, demand hasn’t dropped an ounce since those pre-Varroa days. Per capita, we consume right about 1.25 pounds of honey every year, and every year there are more people in this country. When you actually ask folks however, it turns out that right about 50% of the population actually goes out and buys honey. About 35% never buy, or eat honey, while the rest only consume it in foods that have it as an ingredient, like teas, breads, salad dressings and BBQ sauces. Which means, then, that the rest of us actually are consuming far more that that 1.25 pounds each ... probably closer to 2–2.5 pounds each. In my house, the two of us consume over 10 pounds a year ... nearly a pound a month ... but I suspect we are somewhat above average. 

So, since the U.S. consumes almost 375 million pounds of honey a year (300 million people x 1.25 pounds/year), and produces, this year, only 120,000,000 pounds, where will the rest come from? Well, this year that’s a good question. Generally, we can count on Canada, Argentina, China, Brazil and a few other countries to make up the bulk of this shortfall. But mostly, those countries, too, have had less than stellar production seasons. Argentina has turned into the soybean capital of the world, and Canada had weather similar to ours, so their production isn’t as great this year as it could be.

China sells almost everything they produce to Europe now, because Europe can’t get what they were getting from Argentina. Plus, for several years China has been playing fast and loose with tariffs imposed by our country to offset the imbalance in their prices. They were, for a time, charging something in the neighborhood of $0.25/pound for their honey ... while U.S. beekeepers need something like $1.50/pound just to break even.

And then there are the circumvention issues ... to avoid paying the tariffs Chinese exporters were sending honey to the U.S. through secondary countries at almost those same ridiculous prices. Some were caught red-handed and punished, and that seems to have slowed the rush of that honey into the U.S. from anywhere. Too, there have been concerns with Chinese honey containing what are here considered illegal chemical residues ... bacterial control agents applied to their bees to keep them healthy. They are illegal in Europe, too, and right now Europe is buying a lot -- well, almost all of China’s honey. That Chinese beekeepers have changed their practices seems odd, but perhaps....

So, honey in the U.S. is scarce. And scarce seems to cause prices to rise ... the old supply and demand thing. But then there’s the exchange rate -- the U.S. dollar is weak. U. S. honey packers might actually have a better market overseas than at home, so that just might limit further any available product ... demand stays the same, supply becomes even shorter. Prices ... ?

So ... in the short run, the price of honey this winter is probably going to go up some. Maybe a lot. And you may not be able to find local honey later this winter. 

My advice ... buy lots now. It might not be there later, and it will cost more later. And now you know why.

SOURCE:  The Daily Green, November 3, 2009, as seen on Apitrak

Bayer ‘Disappointed’ In Ruling On Chemical That May Harm Bees

By Alan Bjerga, Reporter for Bloomberg in Washington at

A Bayer AG unit is “disappointed” by a U.S. judge’s ruling that may prevent distribution of its spirotetramat insecticide, a spokesman said. Environmental groups say the chemical causes harm to honeybees. 

U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote on Dec. 23 ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to rescind approval for spirotetramat, which inhibits cell reproduction in insects. Cote said the EPA didn’t properly seek comments or publicize the review process. The judge in New York ordered the ruling stayed until Jan. 15 and sent the matter back to the EPA. 

Spirotetramat, sold under various names including Movento, was approved for use in the U.S. last year, even though the agency was aware of its potential harm to bees, Cote said. The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental organization in New York, and the Xerces Society, a Portland, Oregon, a wildlife conservation group, challenged the EPA’s actions. 

The insecticide is fit for use and the ruling is based on EPA processes rather than product safety, Jack Boyne, a spokesman for Bayer CropScience LP, a unit of the Leverkusen, Germany-based company, said in a statement. The chemical “has shown excellent performance with regard to bee safety,” he said. Bayer is “evaluating our options” on how to respond to Cote’s ruling, he said. 

Pest killers have been linked to honeybee colony collapse disorder, or mass deaths of the insects, which have been reported since 2006. Bees pollinate $15 billion of U.S. plants each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

Viruses, mites, pesticides and poor bee treatment have been suggested as primary causes of the disorder, which has been reported in at least 35 states, as well as in Europe and Asia. The Bayer insecticide was approved in Australia in August, and the company said at the time that it also had been cleared for use in Canada and Austria. 

SOURCE:, December 29, 2009.

Valentine Treats

Chocolate Walnut Fudge

(Courtesy of the National Honey Board)


1/2 cup pure honey
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup (4 oz.) coarsely chopped walnuts

Line an 8 x 8-inch pan with foil; butter and set aside. In medium saucepan, combine honey, sweetened condensed milk, and salt; mix well. Bring mixture just to a boil, stirring frequently. Lower heat to a simmer. Add chocolate chips and bittersweet chocolate, stirring constantly, until chocolate melts completely and mixture is smooth. Stir in walnuts. Pour immediately into pan and smooth top. Let cool, then refrigerate until cold. Cut into 25 pieces.

Honey Valentine Cookies

(Courtesy of the National Honey Board)


3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
Powdered sugar

With an electric mixer, beat butter, honey and almond extract until mixture is light and fluffy. Add flour, a cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in almonds. Shape 1/2-cup portions of dough into heart shapes, no thicker than 1/2-inch, on ungreased baking sheet. Decorate as desired. Bake at 300°F for 25 to 30 minutes or until edges brown. Cool 5 minutes and remove from pan. - Makes 4 cookies -

Double Chocolate Honey Ring

(Courtesy of the National Honey Board)


1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup honey
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup dairy sour cream
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts
White Chocolate Glaze, optional

Cream butter in large bowl with electric mixer; gradually add honey, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. (Mixture may appear slightly curdled.) Beat in vanilla. Combine flour, 1/2 cup cocoa, baking powder, salt and baking soda in small bowl. Add dry ingredients alternately with sour cream to butter mixture. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Pour batter into greased 12-cup fluted tube pan. Bake in preheated 325°F oven 50 to 55 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack. Glaze with White Chocolate Glaze, sprinkle with additional cocoa and garnish with flowers, if desired. White Chocolate Glaze: Melt 2 oz. white chocolate in top of double boiler. Stir in 2 teaspoons milk. Drizzle glaze over cake with spoon. 

Comments or Questions, Contact:

Mike Hood,  Extension Apiculturist, 864-656-0346,

Clemson University, Dept. of Entomology, Soils, & Plant Sciences
Attn: "News for SC Beekeepers", Editor
Box 340110, 116 Long Hall, Clemson, SC 29634-0110
Phone: 864-656-3111, Fax: 864-656-0274

download the PDF file of this newsletter

Download the printable version of this newsletter in PDF format