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


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.

Enjoy the scent of sweet pepperbush

clethra crop

Sweet pepperbush is beginning to blossom along the back roads of Rhode Island’s “South County.”

Also known as Clethra anifolia, pepperbush’s flowers are among the most fragrant of summer. Beekeepers treasure honey from pepperbush nectar because it is so unusual and delicious.

Pepperbush is especially abundant near Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge in South Kingstown, RI, a perfect place for a walk now.