Beekeeping classes start soon in #RI

honey bee 1 new cropIt’s time to sign up for beekeeping classes in Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Beekeepers Association is offering four course options for convenience.

The classes are scheduled to meet at Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island. Betty Mencucci will lead classes at Rhode Island College on Friday mornings from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Feb. 7, 14, 21, 28, and Mar. 7. She will offer another set of classes on Saturday mornings Feb 8, 15, 22, March 1, 8.

Beekeeper Evelyn Vose will lead classes at URI’s East Farm on Thursday nights from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Feb. 6, 13, 20, 27, Mar. 13. She will offer another course at URI on Saturday mornings from 9 to 11 a.m. on Feb 8, 15, 22, March 1, 8.

The course will cover everything the beginning beekeeper needs to know. Subjects will include getting started, the honeybee life cycle, choosing an apiary site, buying bees and equipment, and more. A variety of beekeeping equipment will be displayed and demonstrated each week.

The cost for the five-week course is $65 per person. It includes all course materials, a textbook and membership dues in the Rhode Island Beekeepers Association through April 1, 2015. Additional family members at the same address may attend for $10 each. (The entire family will be a member of the organization but will receive only one textbook and one set of handouts). Advance registration is required. To enroll, print out the 2014 registration form and send with your check payable to: RI Beekeepers Association , PO Box 64, Greenville, RI 02828.

For more information, call Betty Mencucci at 401-568-8449 or email


Creating young forests to save the N.E. cottontail rabbit

Twenty four girls and boys hunted pheasants over some of the finest bird dogs in Connecticut Sunday when the Groton Sportsmen’s Club opened its land for the annual youth hunt.

Mike Marchand photo, N.H. Fish & Game

Mike Marchand photo, N.H. Fish & Game

Inside the club lodge, meanwhile, the conversation was about rabbits. Bill Salisbury and Ray Thiel, two of the club’s committee chairmen, were discussing how they have been working with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to manage club land for the threatened New England cottontail.

It’s being displaced by the eastern cottontail, a rabbit which is much more tolerant of humans and their suburban sprawl, Bill says.

Working with foresters and wildlife biologists — and supported by government grants — the club and other private landowners have been restoring woodlands to provide the native plants and the coverts New England cottontail need. Some areas required clear cutting.

When the old trees were felled, new brush appeared, and in other spots, state workers, biologists and club volunteers planted native shrubs that were grown in Connecticut nurseries.

It’s too early to tell how much the New England cottontails will benefit from the work, but Ray says that birders already are noticing that songbirds such as the eastern towhee, have moved in. The population of this beautiful sparrow has declined dramatically, due, in part, to forests maturing and the lack of new shrub growth.

Deer also love the new growth. They like it so much that the sportsmen’s club had to erect fences to keep the deer out of certain areas.

If you’re interested in learning more about Connecticut’s Young Forest Initiative, click here.

Save #CT and #RI forests to save birds, scientist says

For the first time in 300 years, residents of Rhode Island and Connecticut are seeing old-growth trees, says Robert Craig, executive director of Bird Conservation Research, Inc., a non-profit group tracking forest birds in southern New England. “Unless we set aside vast areas of forest now,” he says, the size and diversity of bird populations will be diminished.

Audubon Craig croppedCraig summarized his study, “The Forest Bird Survey of Southern New England,” at the 116th annual meeting of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island yesterday. Before he spoke, Candace Powell of Jamestown RI, Audubon’s president, reminded members that birds are indicators of health in the environment.

To save the size and diversity of bird population, it is critical to prevent the fragmentation of forests, Craig said.

His study of forest birds and their surroundings revealed the links between bird populations and habitat. “Extensive forests host the most diversity,” he said. Citing Rhode Island’s Arcadia Management Area and State Forest (which abuts Connecticut’s Pachaug State Forest) Craig said such vast tracts must be saved now, when they contain trees as old as 300 years as well as farm land.

To complete his study, Craig walked more than 1,000 miles and made 50,172 birds observation of 87 species. He examined 17,760 habitat sites.

Welcome to your new home, honey bees

honey bee 1 new cropHoney bee on a Chinese onion blossom

When all of my bee colonies died over the winter, I decided it was time to take a break from bee keeping for a year. Once, I cared for 15 colonies. As some of them died, I did not replace them. It had become too expensive.

Last summer, I was down to four colonies, three at home and one at some friends’ organic vegetable farm.

Living without bees this summer felt strange. The yard was too quiet, the air above it too empty.

The other day, when I pulled into the driveway, the air was alive with honey bees. A swarm had selected the empty hive near the wood pile as their new home.

What a gift!

Bees leave their homes in a swarm when a colony starts to create a new queen. The existing queen leaves with half of her daughters to establish a new home, leaving her others daughters an opportunity to create a more robust successor to ensure the vitality of the colony.

“Flying away from the safety and security of the hive towaed the unknown, the swarm leaves behind all the material possessions it can’t carry with it,” writes Vermont beekeeper Ross Conrad in Natural Beekeeping, Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture. “The selflessness and generosity exhibited by the honey bees’ act of swarming provides a level of inspiration unmatched in the world of insects.”

The newly arrived swarm arrived in time for the blossoming of our abundant Chinese onions (pictured), one of their favorite nectars, and some remaining sweet pepperbush. It’s going to be a banner year for goldenrod, and then the ever expanding Japanese knotweed will follow. We will start feeding the new bees in October.

What a gift it is to have the bees back.

Members of the Bailey Brook Farm family

Members of the Bailey Brook Farm family.

Bailey Brook Farm in East Greenwich, RI has been named state’s 2013 Outstanding Dairy Farm of the Year by the Rhode Island Green Pastures Committee. Winning dairy farmers from each New England state will be honored at an awards banquet on September 13 at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, MA.

The Rhode Island Green Pastures Committee chose Bailey Brook Farm because of its outstanding relationship with the community, use of good management practices, and commitment to ensuring a viable agricultural industry in the West Bay. The farm is owned by three siblings – Rodney Bailey of East Greenwich, Gladys Bailey of East Greenwich, and Priscilla Crofts of North Stonington, CT.

Since 1980, Bailey Brook Farm has been a member of Agri-Mark Cooperative, the regional dairy cooperative which owns the Cabot brand, which picks up their milk every day and markets it to customers in southern New England. Some of their milk is also sold locally under the Rhody Fresh brand in conjunction with seven other local farms.

Rodney and Judy Bailey have been members of Rocky Hill Grange for more than 50 years, and have been very active in their local community. Judy served on the East Greenwich Town Council from 1990-1994, on the RI Agricultural Lands Preservation Commission for 18 years, and was a member of the RI State Board of Elections for 10 years. The couple has four children.