Beekeeping in Vermont

Beekeeping in Vermont

Thanks to These Generous Donors!

The Vermont Beekeepers Association would like to thank the following for their generous donations to the raffle held at the 2010 Summer Meeting in Dorset.summer2010-4

Doug Willette - Hive assembly and Buckfast Abbey Book

Claude & Janet Hoard - "Beekeeper Identification Kit" (Welcome sign, nightlight & birdhouse)

David & Susan Witger - Bucket feeder

Chris Hemenway, Gold Start Honey Bees - Top Bar Hive Kit

summer2010-3Dana LaRose - Top Feeder

Pat Imbimbo - $30 New England Farms Gift Certificate

Bill Mares - Croation honey & Croation Honey Wine

Mike Palmer - Nuc Colony

Gib Geiger - Maple syrup, comb honey, eggs & a Queen

Bill & Donna Pollard - Ring

Ross Conrad - Honey

Thank you very much!

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VBA 2010 Summer Meeting

Vermont Beekeepers Association
(Since 1886)

Summer Meeting Agenda

Long Trail School, Dorset – Saturday, July 24, 2010

Hosted by the Southern Vermont Northshire Beekeepers

8:30 - 9:15 Registration, Refreshments, & Information Tables

9:15 - 9:30 Opening by Bill Mares, VBA President

9:30 - 10:00 Bee Inspector's Report, Steve Parise, VT Dept. of Agriculture

10:00 – 10:30 Business Meeting – Committee Reports & Election of Officers

Secretary’s Report                   Jeff Hamelman

Treasurer’s Report                   John Tardie

Membership Report                Valarie Wilson

Committee Reports

Tunbridge Fair              Ingrid Boette
Web Committee           Greg Smela

10:30-10:45 Reports on Federal Grants, Kim Greenwood & Mike Palmer

10:45 – 12:00 Dr. Marla Spivak - “The Benefits of Propolis to Bee Health”

12:00 – 1:00 LUNCH

(Potluck -Last names from A-L bring an entrée and M-Z bring a side dish, bread, or dessert.
Please – NO HOT DISHES!

1:00 – 1:30 Certification Program—Ross Conrad & Bill Mares

1:30 – 2:30 Dr. Marla Spivak - “Long Term Plan for Stock Improvement in the US”

2:30 – 3:00 EAS 2012 –Bill Mares

3:00 – 3:15 Raffle

3:15 - 4:00 Hive Inspection (in the hives outside, bring a veil)

4:00 Meeting Adjourns

(NOTE: New England Farms will be bringing the Beekeeping Warehouse to the meeting on July 24th. 15% Discount on woodenware manufactured in-house. Ross Round 8 frame supers 20% discount. We are now manufacturing frames in-house. You can place an order by phone Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays 518 642 3270, or by email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or website www.newenglandfarms.com. Please place orders for FREE delivery to meeting by July 17th.)

Directions: Long Trail School, 1045 Kirby Hollow Road

TRAVELING NORTH ON VT ROUTE 30: One mile north of Dorset Village – turn right onto Paul’s Way (seven miles from Manchester Center)

TRAVELING SOUTH ON VT ROUTE 30: Less than a quarter mile south of Danby Mountain Road – turn left onto Paul’s Way

(Paul’s Way winds uphill a half mile to the School.)

For more information please contact VBA Vice President Maddie Sobel - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Curriculum

AN INTRODUCTION TO BEES AND BEEKEEPING

By Bill Mares & Russ Aceto

LESSON ONE: BEES AND EVERYONE

I. Welcome and Congratulations: You have chosen to study a creature which has given humans sweetness and light for thousands of years, and now pollinates a hefty chunk of your diet.

[ “What do YOU want to get out of this course?” –Go write this on the board ]

[Hand out packets,, with syllabus and book reviews. You should read through this material on your time. Catalogue is very good. Subscribe to one of journals, preferably both.

Buy Sammataro’s book, or Flottum’s or Delaplane, which will be available.

 

II. HISTORY: BEES AND HUMANS 

--Goes back over 8,000 years

--You are joining an extraordinary fraternity: Aristotle, Virgil, Lloyd George, Sherlock Holmes, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson wrote about them. QUOTES

FOUR ERAS:

A. The chase/hunt--

B. Early beekeeping Egyptians, Middle Ages, Honey trees- always had to destroy hives to get honey

C. Industrial Age—Langstroth’s bee space—was a combination of inventing the wheel and splitting the atom. Moveable Frame, lasts until

D. The era of Varroa and globalization of markets and pests. Your hobby is tied to the fate of the overall honey industry

III. WHY ARE BEES IMPORTANT: THE PAY-OFF

KINDS OF HONEY:

--Liquid

--Comb

--Crystallized, whipped, etc.

--Cut Comb

--Varietal

--Wax—for cosmetics, molds, models

--Propolis—health properties.

--Venom--Especially Pollination:

IV. WHY KEEP BEES?

---Endlessly fascinating

-- wonderful products

--help with pollination

--working on cusp between settled and wildV. WHAT IS INVOLVED IN KEEPING BEES?

--A place to put hives

--Boxes, frames, tools, foundation,

--Smoker, veil,

--Bees

--tolerant neighbors

VI Problems facing beekeeping—interweaving of threats—biologic, market, development

VII. Movie: “Why Honey Bees?” ( Notice the Mraz’s and other Vermont scenes.)

VIII. Questions and homework

Bottom Board

Books to Sell

Deep with frames

Cook books

Medium Brochures

Inner Cover

Outer Cover

Smoker Hive tool

Suit

GRANT FOR NEWBIES !!!!!

 

LESSON TWO: EQUIPMENT AND BEES

I. ANATOMY OF A HIVE: Posters and photos. Equipment

Demonstration:

A. Full hive:

Bottom board

Screened bottom board

One/two deeps

One/two mediums

Frames, wax and plastic

Queen Excluder

Hive escape

Inner Cover

Outer cover

Feeders

II. CLOTHING AND TOOLS

Full suit, half suit

Everything in tool box

Gloves

Water, candy bars

• Hive Tool- What is it used for

• Smoker

• Veil/ Pull-over veil

 

• Gloves – to glove or not to glove the alarm pheromones

HONEY EXTRACTION

--Process—cutting cappings, spinning honey knife and filter .

C. GO OVER THE “BLOGGED” EQUIPMENT [Make copies]

III. MEET THE BEES

20,000 species of bees, only four produce honey 

--Queen—center of hive, only one can live 3-4 years, hatches in 16 days

--Workers—do whole range of tasks, gestate in 21 days, live only 6 weeks in summer

--Drones—24 days to hatch. Do nothing but wait around to mate with queen. Expelled from hive in fall.

BIOLOGY OF BEES [Searching for poster of bee anatomy]

--Body parts—Head, thorax, abdomen, stinger

BEE COMMUNICATION

--Bee Dance –most famous, new/old theory on smell

--pheremones from queen, giving different directions.

--antennae—picking up messages

[ BM SHOWS SLIDES OF BEEKEEPING –MAYBE! ]LESSON 3: AN EVENING OF PATHOLOGY DISEASES, ETC AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT THEM.

This is where the rubber hits the road. You’re responsible for keeping your bees alive. Benign neglect won’t work anymore. The bees have been under a lot of stress and you need to know how sickness manifests itself.

NTM: GO OVER TEST QUESTIONS FOR GUIDANCE

 

BEE HEALTH –Benign neglect no longer possible

--Clean home.

--Diseases—AFB, Chalk brood, nosema—two kinds,

--Mites, esp. Varroa

--Predators, like bears, skunks, mice

--Wax Moths

Integrated Pest Management

Hygienic queens, screened bottom boards, drone combs,

LESSON 4: INFORMATION AND ASSEMBLING EQUIPMENT

I. [ Year in the Bee yard:] Pass out Steve’s sheet.

II. Assemble equipment –Divide into two groups showing wax and plastic differences.

III. Go over text books, make sure you start with Sammataro, OR Flottum (give out Ann Harman’s article.

Read lots of catalogues, --they are full of information.

Subscribe to one or other of beekeeping magazine. Join VBA.

Read BEE-L

IV. Get a mentor. OR SHADOW ---One of the problems with beekeeping is that so many people have their own systems, many of which work. So what are you the novice to do? Get a mentor you trust and nestle under their wings, Find someone who will let you ask lots of questions, Gradually, you will find you have to ask fewer questions, you will have answered some of them yourself, You will come to find where you differ from your techer-tutor-mentor, as Russ has differed from me.

V. Go over Steve Parise guide (possibly) and take them to the VBA test on the web. (for members only!)

VI. Take them on Internet and book tour of what’s available. but your first purchase should be Diane’s or Kim’s book.

VII. If there’s time, show pix of beekeeping in Vermont and Central America.

VIII. Questions … http://www.beekeeping.com/_menus_us/index.htm?menu.htm&0

Another great world site

Betterbee http://www.betterbee.com/

Brushy Mountain http://www.brushymountainbeefarm.com/

New England Farms http://newenglandfarms.com/

F.W. Jones http://www.fwjones.com/

Walter Kelly http://www.kelleybees.com/

Vermont Beekeepers Association http://www.vermonttbeekeepers.org/ 

http://www.beeculture.com/ Magazine’s homepage and a lot more!

http://www.beesource.com/ Online source for ideas, links and questions!

http://www.tianca.com/tianca29.html good introduction to beekeeping from a Long Island beekeeping association.

http://www.hoosierbuzz.com/ -Indiana state beekeepers association

http://pollinator.com/ THE page for those interested in using bees for pollination!!!!

http://www.biosci.ohio-state.edu/honeybee/breeding/Select.html New World Carniolan site

http://www.beehoo.com/ World beekeeping resources in English and French

http://www.beekeeping.com/_menus_us/index.htm?menu.htm&0 Another great world site

http://maarec.cas.psu.edu/infosale.htm Site for information

 

WHAT EQUIPMENT TO BUY? - Bill Mares & Russ Aceto (CVU)

1/10

Hives:

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The assumption here is that you're starting 2 hives, each with 2 deep hive bodies and 2 medium supers. For the sake of simplification, Bill advises sticking with the medium supers, which overwinter better and will produce more from the same amount of labor as a shallow super. When shopping for wood, be aware that sometimes more than one grade is offered (Better Bee = 'select' & 'commercial'); it's worth it to spend up for the premium wood. 'Hive kits'- the already assembled options, usually feature the plastic frames. Better Bee offers an unassembled kit with wood frames, but if you order 2 a la carte, you'll save $25. Of course, you'll probably make up that savings when you buy the necessary assembly tools, etc.., but you might be happy to have those around.

Deep Hive Bodies (4)

Deep Frames (40) the Better Bee has 3 types of wood frames. In Bill's opinion, the easiest to work with are the 'wedged split' frames, which you may also see listed as open bar/open bottoms in other catalogs.

Medium Supers (4) or more

Medium Frames (40) or more

Crimp-wired Foundation order these to match your frame order;

(40) deep, (40) medium or more

Your first season, 4 supers total is probably fine. Like all things bought, sold & assembled, there is a margin of error that you should allow for - so more frames/foundations than necessary may save you. If you're getting nucs this year (which are each 5 frames) you may still want to order 10 total for each deep, and consider the extras back ups.

(Plastic Foundation : comes in all sizes. Advantage is that you don't need supporting wire. Probably needs an extra layer of wax on it to draw bees. Avoid the one-piece plastic frames, which bend and crack.)

Bottom Boards (2) pine reversible

Screened Bottom Boards (2) varroa screens

Inner Covers (2)

Outer Covers (2) telescoping outer cover; Get them in parts and put together yourself.

Bee escape or fume board (1) triangle escape;

Entrance Reducers (2) also called Entrance Cleats

Feeders--there are three ways to do it. A reservoir the size of a frame inside the hive; a jar of syrup which attached to landing board; and feeding from a can or jar through the hole in the inner cover.

Tools:

Notebook/Hive Records, pencil

Smoker most beginner kits come with the 4 x 7" model; the 4 x

8

10" is a better bet (I suppose that because we're new at this, it's better not to run out of smoke...) the Better Bee Advanced Pro Smoker, is $4 extra and has some insulation/antiburn implementations

Hive Tool look for the 10" model, and consider getting 2!

Capping Scraper this was listed as an 'uncapping fork';

Bee Wire, Zinc Metal Eyelets, & Punch all for assembling wooden frames

Wiring board, nails, hammer

Glue wood glue or Gorilla™ glue

Bee Brush good to have, but in use, less is more or you'll annoy your bees

Protective Clothing:

Suit; full or half -

I noticed that the Better Bee pullover doesn't show which type of veil comes with, so I'm still looking...

Veil with suit or separate

Gloves, leather or rubber -

Bill says that beginners would be smarter to start with leather as they offer more protection (they reach farther up your arm) and better dexterity. However, as your skills progress, be aware that leather stiffens, and that as your gloves collect stings the alarm pheromones will remain present the next time you visit your hive - think about washing them sometimes.

Boot Bands

Bee Food:

Pollen Patties - BeePro or make your own; this is a powdered substance that you might want to have on hand, just in case 

Sugar Syrup - 1:1 ration in Spring, 2:1 in Fall

Medications:

here are some that you may want to keep on hand

Fumagillin - for nosema

Mite-away II

Apiguard

Api-life Var (try brushy mountain for this)

Bill's Optionals & Extras

9

Queen Excluders (2) metal, listed under tools****

knife or box-cutter

duct tape

carrying case for tools

uncapping electric knife

extractor (check with others in your community first, better

to share this when starting out)

frame grips - can be helpful if frames get stuck

text book - your choice

hive wrap-felt or tarpaper

MADDIE’S NOTES FOR QUICK “CLASSES”

BEES AND HUMANS –4 Eras

--Goes back over 8,000 years

--Never completely domesticated.,

10

--Put in Skeps, logs

--Big discovery of bee space and moveable frame

WHY ARE BEES IMPORTANT: PRODUCTS

--Honey

--Wax—for cosmetics, molds, models

--Propolis—health properties.

--Venom--Especially Pollination: CCD

WHY KEEP BEES? :

---Endlessly fascinating

-- wonderful products

--help with pollination

--working on cusp between settled and wild

WHAT IS INVOLVED IN KEEPING BEES?

--A place to put hives

--Boxes, frames, tools, foundation,

--Smoker, veil,

--Bees

--tolerant neighbors

ANATOMY OF THE HIVE

--Brood chambers,

--Supers

--frames

--Wax vs. Plastic

--Bee Space

MEET THE BEES

--Queen—center of hive, only one can live 3-4 years, hatches in 16 days

--Workers—do whole range of tasks, gestate in 21 days, live only 6 weeks in summer

--Drones—24 days to hatch. Do nothing but wait around to mate with queen. Expelled from hive in fall.

BIOLOGY OF BEES

--Body parts—Head, thorax, abdomen, stinger

11

BEE COMMUNICATION

--Bee Dance –most famous, new/old theory on smell

--pheremones from queen, giving different directions.

--antennae—picking up messages

BEE HEALTH

--Clean home.

--Diseases—AFB, Chalk brood, nosema—two kinds,

--Mites, esp. Varroa

--Predators, like bears, skunks, vols,

WHAT ELSE YOU CAN DO?

--FIND A NEIGHBORING BEEKEEPER TO HELP

--READ AT LEAST ONE TEXT

--SUBSCRIBE TO ONE MAGAZINE

--JOIN VBA AND OR LOCAL CLUBIII.

Diseases and Disorders

A. Varroa mites

*

bees. True/False

* All of following are negative effects of varroa mites on a bee colony EXCEPT:

a. They feed on 

Varroa mites become established in a colony in

all the following ways EXCEPT: a. piggy-back on

Varroa mites have all the following physical

characteristics except: a. Size of a pin-head, b.

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reddish-brown, c. have six legs d. flattened ovalshaped

crab-like body.

 

Varroa mites can commonly be seen in all the

following EXCEPT a. feeding on honey; b. in thesymptoms of a severe

drone brood, c. on adult bees; d. dead on the bottom

board.

All of the following are

varroa infestation EXCEPT: a. Spotty brood pattern;

a. Capping scratcher to open drone brood; b.

* In Vermont all the following legal treatments are

available for varroa mites EXCEPT: a. Check-Mite b.

B. Tracheal mites*Tracheal mites are microscopic mites which live in

* All the following are effects of tracheal mites,

EXCEPT: a. feeding on the bees’ hemolympth; b.

The following are all treatments for tracheal mites

EXCEPT : a. using resistant stock; b. menthol; c.

13

vegetable oil patties; d. Fumidil-B

* Vermont currently has high levels of tracheal

mites. True/FalseC. American foulbrood

American Foulbrood is a highly-contagious sporeforming

bacterial disease affecting honey bee brood.

True/False

AFB weakens a colony by killing young brood and eventually will kill the entire colony. True/False

The following are all symptoms of AFB EXCEPT

a. an irregular pattern of capped brood cells.
b. sunken, perforated cappings;
c. chocolate-colored dead larvae”;
d. Dead larvae easily removed from cell. 

When opened, an infected cell will contain dead larvae or pupae with light-brown color and melted appearance. True/False

Dead larvae or pupae infected with AFB will have a ropey or mucus-like consistency. True/False

In more advanced cases, the dead larvae or pupae will dry down to a white or gray mummy-like scale on bottom of the cell. True/False

Which of the following is NOT a treatment option for AFB?
A. Terramycin,
B. Tylan,
C. Burning.
D. Mite-Away II.

To control AFB, hives should be treated twice a year with anti-biotics. True/False

 

D. European foulbrood

* EFB is a spore-forming bacterial brood disease. True/False

EFB is very common in Vermont. True/False

EFB is considered a stress disease and is most prevalent in the spring and early summer.

True/False

All of the following are characteristics of EFB, EXCEPT:
a. EFB generally kills larvae 2-4 days old;
b. most larvae die before their cells are capped;
c. diseased larvae show a non-uniform color;
d. Dead larvae pull out in ropy strands.

* Treatments for EFB include all the following EXCEPT:
a. Terramycin;
b. Re-queening
c. warm weather and honey flow;
d. Menthol

D. Chalkbrood

*Chalkbrood is a fungal brood disease of honey bees. True/False

Worker, drone and queen larvae are all susceptible to chalkbrood. True/False

All of the following are symptoms of chalkbrood EXCEPT

a. scattered partially uncapped brood cells containing mummified larvae;
b. dead larvae that are chalky white and covered with fungus filaments;
c. Dead larvae “mummies” are often found on the landing board or ground;
d. dead larvae are twisted in bottom of the cell.

15

Chalkbrood is most prevalent in late spring when the brood nest is expanding rapidly. True/False

* There is presently no chemical treatment available for chalkbrood. True/FalseE.

result in severe losses. True/False

It is most common during the first half of the brood rearing season, and usually affects only a

small percentage of the brood. True/False

*All of the following are characteristics of sacbrood EXCEPT:
a. It affects both drone and worker larvae.
b. Larvae die in a stretched-out position with their heads raised like the keel of a boat.
c. Dead pupae will be found with tongues stuck top of cell;
d. Dead brood is often scattered among healthy brood.

The diseased larvae are easily removed from the cells, unlike those of AFB. True /False

When removed, the contents of the larvae are watery and the tough outer skin appears as a sack of fluid. True/False

Strong colonies and regular re-queening are most effective in combating this disease. True/False

F. Nosema, both Nosema apis and Nosema ceranae 

* Nosema disease is caused by a spore-forming protozoan, that invades the digestive tracks of honey bee workers, drones and queens. True/False

* All of the following are effects of Nosema EXCEPT:
a. Damage to the digestive track may produce symptoms of diarrhea.
b. Infected queens have lower egg production and shorter life spans, often leading toward supercedure.

16

c. sunken cappings on brood cells; d. shortened life span, reduced brood production and colony

development. 

The only treatment for nosema is fumagillin, administered in a syrup solution. True/Falsea.

Small hive beetle

Small Hive Beetles (SHB), originated in India and are a new pest in the U.S. since 1998.

True/False

Adult small hive beetles are about one-third the size of a bee, black and covered with fine

hair. True/False

SHB larvae are often found in silken galleries. True/False

* The best treatment for SHB in Vermont is cleanliness in the beeyard and honey house and

maintain strong colonies. True/Falseb.

Wax moth

All of the following are effects of wax moths EXCEPT:

a. Larvae can cause considerable damage to beeswax combs;
b. wax moth larvae damage or destroy the combs by chewing through the beeswax;
c.wax moth larvae feed on caste skins and pollen.
d. Wax moth larvae defecate in honey causing it to spoil.

Other effects of wax moths are all the following EXCEPT:
a. They spin silken galleries to protect themselves from bees
b. Combs are often reduced to a mass of webs and debris.
C. They damage wooden hive components in process of forming cocoons. d. They “ball” the queen.

Old dark brood combs are the most susceptible to wax moths. True/False

You can prevent damaging numbers of wax moths in active colonies by maintain strong colonies. True/False

All of the following are ways to prevent wax moth attacks on stored combs EXCEPT:
a. expose combs to light and air circulation;
b. subject combs to sub-freezing temperatures,
c. use approved wax moth controlled chemicals; and
d. spray combs with sucrocide. 

Links to Beekeeping Sites

Periodicals

Services & Information Sites:

Bee Plants:

Honey & Pollen:

Top Bar Hives (An Inexpensive Beekeeping Method):

Don't see what you need? If you have suggestions or additions please send them to the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Northeast Beekeeping Clubs

New Hampshire

Maine

  • The Western Maine Beekeepers Association
    For more information and a registration form contact: Carol Cottrill (207) 364-0917 or Nick Kelley (207) 364-4121 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Connecticut

  • Connecticut Beekeepers Association
    Contact information: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Southern New England Beekeepers Assembly
    Any questions, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 203-397-5091
  • The Backyard Beekeepers Association
  • Connecticut River Valley Beekeepers Association

    Grafton County Complex
      
    We meet the 3rd Thursday of each month, 7 PM, at the Grafton County Complex, Main Conference Room, Northend of Complex, in North Haverhill, NH.
     

    Contact     

    Bart Mann (802-478-0671)
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.                                                          

     Officers

    Chair Persons: Bart & Sandy Mann
    Secretary: Sue Ordinez
    Treasurer: Luise Graf

                    

     

     

Massachussets

  • Northern Berkshire Beekeepers Association
    Contact: Tom This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 413-743-2187
    Or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 413-663-9288

New York

  • Champlain Valley Beekeepers, Clinton County, NY
    Monthly meetings at Dick Crawford's house in Morrisonville, NY.

Submission Guidelines: We invite you to send your local club events for inclusion on this page or on the VBA calendar. Send your submission in an email to the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Vermont's Honey Story

European honeybees were brought to America in the 1600’s to provide honey and to pollinate a newly introduced animal forage called clover. Since then the honeybee has become an essential link in our food production chain, pollinating more than 80 commercial crops.

This process of cross-pollination is vital to many plants, enabling them to reproduce and produce seeds and fruit. Many commercial crops need pollination. This is especially true of Vermont's fine apple crop. Other Vermont crops that benefit from pollination include blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, pumpkins, squash and cucumbers.

As you drive the gravel of Vermont's country roads and enjoy the scenic beauty of the many lush pastures which dot our countryside, keep in mind that many of these fields that feed Vermont's dairy herds also provide a significant portion of the "bee pasture" so vital to the state's honey bee industry. Keep in mind too, that Vermont bees work within village and city limits to provide honey and pollination to Vermont's "urban" beekeepers.

Vermont's honey is produced from wildflowers and forage feeds for cattle where use of chemicals is rare. These floral sources from which this honey comes is more various than wine grapes. The honey is a pure product produced by small beekeepers taking pride in their product.

Vermont has long been known for its innovative beekeepers and sweet pastures. The 1868 U.S. agriculture survey showed Vermont as being, as it is now, the leading honey producing state in New England with 12,000 to 15,000 hives producing from 400,000 to 1,000,000 pounds of honey annually. Because of the types of plants that grow in Vermont's sweet soils, our honey is characteristically mild flavored and light colored. But beyond flavor and color, Vermont honey is a tradition worthy of great pride and praise.

Spring

It is interesting to notice how in Vermont the wants of the bee are met from early spring till late autumn. Field work for the honeybees begins in April when, if the weather cooperates, you will see them probing into the silky catkins on Pussy Willow bushes and Swamp Alders. Maple Syrup producers have only recently pulled their taps from the Sugar Maple trees, when the bees are beginning to visit the small flower of these trees and their soft maple cousins.

The first heavy nectar flow of the spring comes with the Dandelion bloom, which can be as high as 60 pounds. Most of these spring honeys are left in the hive to fuel the rebuilding of hive populations which have declined drastically during the winter months. The same is true of the flow from Vermont's Apple trees, though pure Apple Honey, in the rare year when the beekeeper can extract a little, is exquisite; it has the delicate taste and scent of the Apple flowers themselves.

Summer

The early summer flow starts with Black Locust trees. Their drooping clusters of white flowers don't produce every year, but when they do they hum with bees, and yield a water white honey of heavy body and mild flavor. Beehives in some locales can also put in a sizable crop of honey at this time from both Wild Blackberry and Raspberry bushes. It is a superior honey and, like locust, very light-colored.

The main event for many beekeepers begins in mid-June with the onset of the clover flow. For about two weeks various species of clover grown as feed for dairy cows flower and, especially in hot, humid days of early summer, produce tremendous quantities of nectar. Hives on platform scales have shown 12 pound gains in a single day as the bee yard roars with activity. It is the clovers and their close relatives in the legume family of plants that have turned Vermont into a land of milk and honey, and clover honey, so rich and smooth, is a special favorite.

Probably the most identifiable clover is White Dutch. Most people have seen bees working in its small, low growing flowers on their lawns or in pastures. Alsike, the queen of clovers, is a major component of good hay. Tallish, with large white heads tinged with pink, it thrives in sweet clay soils like those found in the Champlain Valley. Some beekeepers have estimated that an acre of Alsike will produce 500 pounds of honey in a good season. The nectar of red clover, the state flower, is ironically not available to honeybees. Their tongues are too short to reach the nectar at the base of the flowers. Bee breeders have actually been trying for years to develop a long tongued honeybee that can work red clover, as bumblebees can. The frenzy of the clover flow has usually subsided in the bee yard by the Fourth of July, when the first cut of hay is down and in the barns, and by this time the better part of a hive's surplus may have been made.

Honey from the beautiful Basswood tree is next. A six-to-ten day flow in early July (again, not to be depended upon every year) produces a fine honey, light colored and slightly minty. The purple flowers of Alfalfa, the world's most widespread forage crop, grown on farms everywhere in Vermont, can attract bees in July if conditions are right, and if farmers don't cut and bail it before it blooms. Many Wild flowers, Vetch, Milkweed, Sumac, and several Mint varieties, round out the summer crop and lend a bit of piquancy to it.

Autumn & Winter

As summer winds down, thick stands of goldenrod and aster appear in just about every corner of the state to signal an end to the summer. This is one of a typical year's biggest flows, but because fall honey is often a bit darker and stronger flavored than earlier honeys, most beekeepers leave it in the hive. It's going to be about six months before the bees will be able to dine out in field and forest again, and each hive will need from 60 to 90 pounds of honey stores to make it through the winter.

So ends a chronicle of one honey season. The average honey crop in Vermont is about 50 to 60 pounds (five gallons per hive). Many small beekeepers prefer to remove and extract parts of the crop periodically, as various specialty honeys appear in the hive. The larger commercial operators, who keep their bees in the heavily farmed valleys where the clovers predominate, generally remove the crop all at once and call it "clover honey". Beekeepers in higher elevations often blend their honey in the same way and refer to it as "wildflower honey". It is characteristically a darker amber color and more robust tasting than the clover. We, the members of the Vermont Beekeepers Association, one of the oldest agricultural groups in Vermont, take a great deal of pride in the honey we harvest. It has rightfully come to be known as a gourmet product.

Often overlooked by the public is the honey bee's greatest contribution to agriculture, namely their pollination service. The body of the bee is covered with very small branched hairs, that readily accumulate pollen grains as the bee flies from flower to flower gathering nectar. With each new flower visited, some pollen is inadvertently dropped off, and some is picked up. The bees then carry the nectar and pollen back to the hives to feed their young. Pollen is the bees' source of protein as nectar supplies their carbohydrates.

Many people, honey lovers among them, are unclear as to what honey is and how it is made. Simply stated, honey is a concentrated solution of simple sugars, mostly fructose and glucose manufactured by honeybees from the nectar of flowers. The foraging honeybee draws nectar up from the host flower's nectar glands and stores it temporarily in her honey crop. During the return flight to the hive, she adds enzymes to the nectar that begin to break down the nectar's sucrose into simpler sugars.
 
Customarily, once bees in a hive have been alerted to a new honey source through several different and distinct dances, the foraging bees will "work" that source until it's exhausted. Then they will move on to another flower.
 
Once home, the field bee gives these contents to the hive bees, who store them in the cells of the colony's wax combs. At this point the un-ripened honey has a water content of between 50 and 75 percent, and would spoil if left as is. The honey must be protected from deterioration to be of use to a hive of bees, which may store it for months or even years before it needs to use the honey. So the bees quickly reduce the moisture to less than 18 percent by fanning their wings to circulate air throughout the hive.
 
When the proper honey density has been reached by this process of evaporation, the bees seal the finished product in cells with a wax capping and the job is done. Honey supplies the carbohydrate (energy) portion of the bees diet. Pollen, also collected from the flower, and stored like honey, provides the bees with protein.

State Apiculturist & Vermont Law

Are you legal? Did you know that Vermont State Law says that you must register your hives? Please become familiar with the laws applicable to beekeeping in Vermont. The Vermont Apiary Program website includes useful information and necessary registration forms.

"As required by Vermont Statute, Title 6, Chapter 172, 

"§ 3022 & 3023. A person who is the owner of any bees, apiary, colony, or hive in the State shall register with the Secretary in writing on a form provided by the Secretary...and shall pay a $10.00 annual registration fee for each apiary location.

"Registration for new Apiaries is due upon ownership of bees. Renewal period is open from June 1st through June 30th each year."

Apiary Registration Form

Importing Honey Bees and used beekeeping equipment into Vermont

"Beekeepers bringing honey bees and/ or used beekeeping equipment into Vermont from out-of-state are required to first fill out the  Hive Import Form, a minimum of 14 days prior to intended import into Vermont. Beekeepers will be provided with an Import Permit, after the application has been reviewed and a valid Health certificate from the state of origin is provided."

Relevant statutes may be found online. Read more about the State of Vermont Apiary Inspection Program and be sure to register your hives.

You'll be helping to fight the spread of disease in the Vermont beekeeping community.

Questions for the State Apiculturist?

Contact:

Brooke Decker
Pollinator Health Specialist/ State Apiculturist 
Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets
116 State Street | Montpelier, Vermont | 05620
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | 802-272-6688 

Vermont Apiary Program

REQUEST AN INSPECTION

REGISTER YOUR APIARY