Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ring in the New Year With BCBC

Mark your calendars now
for our first
Buncombe County Beekeepers
meeting of 2011!

Eric Brown will be our speaker,
discussing "Natural Comb and Making and Using Nucs."

January 3, 2011
at Groce United Methodist Church
in Asheville.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

BEGINNER BEE SCHOOL in Buncombe County this Spring!!

BEGINNER BEE SCHOOL in Buncombe County this Spring. It will take place Saturday and Sunday, March 12 &13 at the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway - details to be announced as they become available.

There are plans to offer paid "hands-on workshops" as a follow-up for those interested. This weekend follows the Organic Growers School and the NCSBA convention in Dallas NC by one week.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


As I think back on my life, during this Thanksgiving season, I am thankful and blessed to have been a part of a wonderful group. That group is the Buncombe County beekeepers specifically, but the world of beekeepers generally. Had I not been a part of this group I would not have met some of my dearest friends. I know you each know who you are, and I am not going to try to name you all because I would not want to slight anyone by forgetting to name anyone on this rather large list. Just know you have each blessed my life.

I am thankful to have been a small part of the amazing bee schools we have carried out and the huge success they have been. I am thankful to have been a member of a chapter that was honored with the title of chapter of the year. I am thankful to have been your vice-president and president(thank you Janet for believing in me). I am thankful to have been in leadership while we welcomed the implementation of possibly the best beekeeping web site in the world (thank you DeForrest). I am thankful to have had a hand in the morphing of our bee school into the WNC Center for Honeybee Research (thank you Carl) I am thankful to have been asked to serve as a director for WNC with the NCSBA. I am thankful to have been asked to serve on the NC Honey Board (thank you Jeanne and Charles). I am thankful for the wonderful place we have to meet (thank you Steve). I am thankful to have been able to listen to all the wisdom and knowledge of our many experienced beekeepers in the area. (thanks to Edd, Greg, Dave, Carl, Jack, Mike and many more too numerous to name.) I am thankful to know such a talented bunch of people. Last but not least, I am thankful to have such fantastic people in extension and at NCSU. How could I not be thankful for Jack Hanel, Dr. David Tarpy and our own (new mother) Amanda Stone.

Sometimes it seemed I was a hindrance to the progress each of you were trying to make and sometimes I must have annoyed you by harping on things I wanted to see done. In spite of us all, with our own busy schedules, we have done some really great things. Thank you each for your support, efforts and expertise in the wonderful accomplishments made by the Buncombe County Beekeepers Chapter. I look forward to the new season with fresh new leaders and I must admit, I am very positive in what I see. We all have so much to be thankful for, especially from our bees. Please reflect on all of this and go forth in the new year to work together and do your part in making a real and continued difference in the world of beekeeping.

Happy Thanksgiving

Past President BCBC

Calvin Robinson

Sunday, October 31, 2010

New Movie: "Queen of the Sun"

From the director of The Real Dirt on Farmer John comes a profound, alternative look at the tragic global bee crisis. Juxtaposing the catastrophic disappearance of bees with the mysterious world of the beehive, Queen of the Sun weaves an unusual and dramatic story of the heart-felt struggles of beekeepers, scientists and philosophers from around the world. Featuring Michael Pollan, Gunther Hauk and Vandana Shiva, Queen of the Sun reveals both the problems and the solutions in renewing a culture in balance with nature.

Queen of the Sun is not yet available on DVD for personal use. We are however taking requests for community screenings and theatrical screenings. Please sign-up for our newsletter and we will notify you when the DVD Is available next summer. If you have thoughts about an event or theatrical screening, please contact us.

See for details of reviews, awards, screenings elsewhere.

Colony Collapse in the news

"Is the Reason for Bees Dying in Colony Collapse Disorder Finally Solved?"Posted By Dr. Mercola | October 29 2010
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a disease which causes honeybees to become disoriented and die far from their hives, has kept scientists desperately seeking for the cause.

And no wonder, since honeybees contribute $15 billion in annual agriculture revenue to the U.S. economy alone.

One suggested culprit has been pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids, which kill insects by attacking their nervous systems. Their leading manufacturer, Bayer Crop Science, has been fending off lawsuits from angry beekeepers for years now. But recently, a front-page New York Times article pointed to another solution.

Running under the headline "Scientists and Soldiers Solve a Bee Mystery," the article reports that a new study claims the cause is actually "a fungus tag-teaming with a virus."

However, one fact that the Times article did not mention is the relationship between the study's lead author, Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk, and Bayer Crop Science. Bromenshenk has received a significant research grant from Bayer -- and failed to disclose the conflict of interest to the Times.

Fortune reports:

"The Times reporter who authored the recent article, Kirk Johnson, responded in an e-mail that Dr. Bromenshenk 'did not volunteer his funding sources.' ... Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist with the health group at the Natural Resources Defense Council, says that while the Bromenshenk/Army study is interesting, it fails to ask the underlying question 'Why are colonies dying?'"

Dr. Mercola comments:
In the last four years, up to 40 percent of U.S. bee colonies have been destroyed at the hands of "colony collapse disorder," (CCD) a mysterious malady that causes bees to become disoriented, not return to their hives, and ultimately die.

There is currently a grueling debate over what may be causing CCD, and there are more theories than there are answers. Genetically modified foods, pesticides, corn syrup used for feeding, cell phones, viruses, and fungus have all been pinpointed as potential causes.

One of these, neonicotinoids pesticides manufactured by Bayer, has received particular heat because the agents are known neurotoxins that kill insects by attacking their nervous systems, and lawsuits against Bayer from beekeepers are ongoing.

But in a new study reported by the New York Times, it's suggested that military scientists and entomologists have come up with another potential answer, one that has nothing to do with Bayer's pesticides: a combination of fungus and virus, found in all collapsed colonies, may be the culprit, they say.

The new theory provides some interesting fodder to an already complex problem … especially since Fortune Magazine revealed a massive conflict of interest by the study's lead author.

Lead Author Received Money from Bayer
Bayer was undoubtedly breathing a sigh of relief when the New York Times blasted the news across its headline that the bee mystery had been solved … and the culprit had nothing to do with pesticides.

But the findings took on a new light when Fortune Magazine revealed that Montana bee researcher Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk, the study's lead author, has "received a significant research grant from Bayer to study bee pollination."

Even more suspicious, Bromenshenk was reportedly all set to serve as an expert witness in 2003 for beekeepers involved in a class-action lawsuit against Bayer. He dropped out without explanation, however, and subsequently received the grant from Bayer.

Bromenshenk also owns a company, Bee Alert Technology, that is developing hand-held scanners designed to detect bee ailments. His company would therefore profit nicely if a disease, such as a virus, was found to be causing CCD rather than a pesticide.

So the latest study that suggests a virus/fungus combination is killing off bees is by no means the final word on the subject.

Dr. Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist with the health group at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), pointed out in Fortune Magazine that the study has not addressed why colonies are dying, such as if they're dying because they're getting weak.

She likened the issue to people who die of HIV not from the actual virus but because their immune defenses are down. It could be, then, that pesticides or another factor are weakening the bees and making them susceptible to viruses, fungus or a combination of factors that ultimately kills them.

Bayer Pesticides Long Implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder
Two of Bayer's best-selling pesticides, Imidacloprid and Clothianidin, are known to get into pollen and nectar, and can damage beneficial insects such as bees. The marketing of these drugs also coincided with the occurrence of large-scale bee deaths in many European countries and the United States.

The non-profit group NRDC filed a lawsuit in August 2008 to force the U.S. government to release the studies it ordered on the effect of clothianidin on honeybees.

NRDC attorneys believed the EPA already had evidence of a link between pesticides and the mass honeybee die-offs, yet was not making the information public. NRDC is now being allowed to look through the studies.

There is some information already publicly available, though, and that's the EPA's fact sheet on clothianidin. It says right there in black and white that:

"Clothianidin has the potential for toxic chronic exposure to honey bees, as well as other nontarget pollinators, through the translocation of clothianidin residues in nectar and pollen … In honey bees, the effects of this toxic chronic exposure may include lethal and/or sub-lethal effects in the larvae and reproductive effects on the queen."

Unfortunately, the EPA approved neonicotinoid pesticides on the basis that the amounts found in pollen and nectar are not enough to kill bees. This says nothing of their potential to impact the bees on a non-lethal level, and, in fact, studies have shown that the substances can impair bees' learning and memory even at low doses.

France, meanwhile, after reporting large losses of bees after exposure to Imidacloprid, banned it for use on corn and sunflowers, despite protests by Bayer. In another smart move, France also rejected Bayer´s application for Clothianidin, and other countries, such as Italy, have banned certain neonicotinoids as well.

The Cell Phone Connection: Are EMFs Killing Bees?
Despite the research pointing to a virus, a fungus or a pesticide as the most likely suspects in CCD, it's hard to ignore the research from at least two studies that point to cell phones and electromagnetic fields (EMF) as major threats.

When cellular phones were placed near hives, the radiation generated by them (900-1,800 MHz) was enough to prevent bees from returning to them, according to a study conducted at Landau University.

Scientists believe the radiation produced by cellular phones may be enough to interfere with the way bees communicate with their hives. Cellular phones may create a resonance effect that interferes with the movement patterns bees use as a kind of language.

Most recently, experiments by Sainuddeen Pattazhy, a researcher and dean in the department of zoology at SN College, Punalur, Kerala, also found that microwaves from mobile phones appear to interfere with worker bees' navigation skills.

When Pattazhy placed mobile phones near beehives, the hives collapsed completely in five to 10 days. The worker bees failed to return home and vanished, never to be found. Adding to the mystery, parasites, wildlife and other bees, which would normally raid the abandoned hives, would not go near the collapsed colonies. Pattazhy said in The Pioneer:

"The navigation skill of the worker bees is dependent on the earth's magnetic properties. The electro-magnetic waves emitted by the mobile phones and relay towers interfere with the earth's magnetism, resulting in the loss of the navigation capacity of the bee. Then it fails to come back.

Also, the radiation causes damage to the nervous system of the bee and it becomes unable to fly."

So cell phones appear to be another likely threat to bees around the globe, and there may be a cumulative effect going on that is making it more and more difficult for bees to survive, let alone thrive.

Disappearing Honeybees an Ecological Emergency
When most people think of honeybees, they think honey. But honey is only a sliver of what bees are used for in the United States. Honeybees are critical components of U.S. agriculture, used to pollinate nuts, fruits and vegetables. The California almond crop alone requires 1.3 million colonies of bees, and bees actually add an estimated $15 billion in value to crops like these.

A full one-third of the U.S. food supply depends on pollination from bees. Apple orchards, for instance, require one colony of bees per acre to be adequately pollinated. So if bee colonies continue to be devastated by colony collapse disorder -- or whatever is causing them to die -- major food shortages could result.

It is therefore of crucial importance that studies looking into the true causes of CCD are unbiased and conducted with only the strictest of scientific integrity. Unfortunately, it does not appear that this is happening.

As for whether or not Bayer's pesticides will ultimately be named as the primary cause remains to be seen … but this is a company that has a history of giving children HIV-infected drugs, putting their workers' lives in danger by exposing them to toxic chemicals that cause organ damage, and continuing to produce unsafe products.

So I don't think they will be given the all clear anytime soon. There are other
compelling potential causes, too.

Most likely it is a combination of man-made factors that are causing honeybees to die, and this should serve as a major warning sign that society as a whole had better start respecting the laws of nature, or major environmental and health catastrophes could result.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

North Carolina Bee-Breeding Clinic in Waynesville, NC

Buncombe County Beekeepers Chapter members Debra Roberts, Carl Chesick and Lee Banks were fortunate selectees to attend the Born and Bred in North Carolina: Bee-Breeding Clinic held in Waynesville, NC on October 8 - 9, 2010! They were among the 15 participants who were selected out of 80 applicants to attend this advanced training.

Topics covered in the clinic included a review of the History of Commercial Queen Production, Honey Bee Genetics, Selective Breeding, Controlled Mating and Stocks of Honey Bees. The clinic also included a demonstration of Instrumental Insemination and featured a hands-on exercise demonstrating Selection for Desirable Traits in Honey Bees.

The students received valuable information from David Tarpy and Juliana Rangel from North Carolina State University. The information provided was advanced in nature but was presented in a clear and understandable format. Thanks David and Juliana for all you do to educate us in how to better care for our bees!

A very special thanks to Haywood County Extension Agent Bill Skelton and the Haywood County Beekeepers Chapter for their warm hospitality!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

NC Honey Standards Committee

The NC Honey Standards Committee of the NC State Beekeepers Association was invited to the governor's mansion in Raleigh NC on Wednesday September 8th 2010. During this visit, the committee met at the NC Farmer's Market restaurant for lunch and a brief meeting. Then we all headed to the governor's mansion for a meeting with Commissioner of Agriculture Troxler and Governor Purdue. We had opportunity to explore the grounds of the governor's mansion grounds as well as take photos of the governor's beehives, the beautiful grounds and the house.

The governor came out to meet us all and we had a photo with her before she pronounced September as Honey Month in NC. This whole event was also to recognize and announce the existence of the new honey standard in NC. This new standard has been adopted by the agriculture department and press releases have gone out. It allows for regulation within the existing NC agriculture laws and will allow enforcement to stop selling of adulterated honey in NC as well as honey sold as sourwood when it is actually some other type of honey. More will be forth coming on the regulation of this standard.

Personally, I took advantage of this opportunity to take my daughter, Mackenzie, to NC State University for a tour. I am proud to announce she is VERY interested in attending there like her dad did. Mackenzie was very excited to meet the governor and also to take in the NC Museum of Natural History. WHEW! What a day! The photo shows Commissioner Troxler, Governor Purdue and Mackenzie as well as others at the event.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Did you know that September is National Honey Month?

Celebrate by buying honey from your local beekeepers. Here in Buncombe County you can find local honey at our farmers’ markets ( and at Earthfare and Greenlife.

You can become a beekeeper yourself and produce your own honey!
Check out these beekeeping resources on Buncombe County Beekeeper’s website: and also on Cooperative Extension’s Growing Small Farms website:

Visit the NC State Beekeepers’ Association website to find a local beekeepers’ chapter:

Here’s the web page for our Buncombe County Beekeepers’ Chapter:
Also, plant a pollinator garden to help provide nectar (and pollen) for our honey bees! Learn more at and

Hug your local beekeeper!

2010 Terra Madre

One of our very own beekeepers, Lady Cerelli was one of the eight people in our region chosen to attend the 2010 Terra Madre in Italy this October. The five-day meeting will bring together food communities, cooks, academics, youth and musicians from all over the world, who are united in a desire to promote sustainable local food production in harmony with the environment while respecting knowledge handed down over the generations. While attending the conference, Lady will have the opportunity to tour bee yards in Italy with a 30 year beekeeper. She will also be visiting with the Entomology Department's Apiary Program. Terra Madre will be paying for Lady's conference registration, but not her travel to the event. Lady needs our help! On Septmeber 18, Slow Food Asheville will be hosting a Terra Madre fundraiser entitled "Mountain Fire" dinner. This fundraiser will be held at Sunswept Farm Conservancy in Spring Creek, Madison County and will include a scratch-made, home-grown, gourmet feast as well as a silent auction of fine, local products and services. Event collaborator, Chef Mark Rosenstein, who founded The Market Place restaurant and has been dedicated to local, seasonal ingredients for the entirety of his 40-year professional cooking career, has designed the menu to be a medieval fantasy of fire-kissed offerings including Slow Roasted Porcetta,Chargrilled Chicken, Woodfired Breads, Riot of Fall Salad, Woodfire baked Ratatouille, Sicilian Cannoli, and Rustic Apple Tarts. The cost for this event is $45

More details of the event can be found here:

Buy tickets in advance here

To donate for the auction or to volunteer event help, please email

We will need volunteers on the 17th, 18th, and 19th. Please inquire about free or reduced ticket prices in exchange for volunteering.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Hands on Beginner Beekeeping Workshop, September 12th, Call Jon Christie @ 828-689-4095 or visit for details

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Flowering Seasons for Western North Carolina Honey and Pollen Sources

The Flowering Chart for WNC plants put together by Edd, Chris, and John has been added to our website's Reference page at . This excellent guide shows typical blooming dates for honey nectar plants and seasons of special consideration by beekeepers. Many thanks to these dedicated beekeepers for assembling this great resource!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Don Hopkins in wax

One of the wax entries at the NCSBA was a wax figure of a mans head. No one seemed to notice the striking resemblance to Don Hopkins, until I made mention of it. Then Jack Hanel took the wax figure over next to Don and well, we all got a big laugh. I just had to pass it along.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

NCSDA meeting

I had a great bee week during the week of the 4th of July. I started the week off by speaking at the monthly meeting of the Watauga County Beekeepers Chapter. I spoke to the group about non-chemical beekeeping and using natural comb. The talk was well received and I am pleased at the response I am getting about this program across the state. I have presented the program at Forsyth Co, Madison Co, Haywood Co, Burke Co, the NCSBA 2009 summer meeting and am scheduled to speak on it at the August Henderson Co and September Davie Co meetings. I am proud that Buncombe County has sort of taken a lead in going this direction in beekeeping.

After leaving Boone, I ended up in Asheboro NC, where I visited the NC Zoo. The reason for this visit was to see the Honeybee Garden that the NCSBA so strongly supports. My first impression was that the exhibit is nice, but not worth 1 million dollars. I actually stated, "this is a nice exhibit for about $100,000.00". I later learned the planned 1 million dollar exhibit was scaled down to $180,000.00. This made me feel much better about it. The exhibit is a very well done work that will draw the attention of the public and educate them about honeybees. Maybe it will spur them to find out more at our meetings.

I then headed to Salisbury for the 2010 summer NCSBA meeting. The meeting was actually in China Grove. I am proud to announce that I received the Master Beekeeper Medallion for Deb Roberts there. I also took the long put off written test to become a Master Beekeeper myself. The meeting produced one really great item. We voted to adopt a honey standard in NC and passed that on to the NC department of agriculture for tweaking prior to implementation. I am on the committee to oversee this process. Soon we will have legal recourse for those people that sell honey as sourwood honey when it is not and for those that do such things as mix corn syrup with their honey. I was also elected as a director for NCSBA and will join Steve in representing Western NC.

Hope to see you all at the meeting Monday August 2nd where I will hopefully be presenting Deb with her Master Beekeeper Medallion. At any rate, those of you who have never seen one of these medallions can see one first hand.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Buncombe County Beekeepers Meeting- Monday Night

You are invited!! Monday, August 2 the Buncombe County Beekeepers will be having their monthly club meeting. The meeting begins at 7:00pm and goes until about 9:00pm. Come at 6:30pm and have the opportunity to talk with experienced beekeepers. Monday night's topics include: Preparing your honey for entry in the Mountain State Fair, Report from the State Meeting and What you should be doing in your hive. For directions to the meeting visit Buncombe County Beekeepers Chapter.

NC Mountain State Fair