April, 2017

Volume 14, Number 04




Montgomery County, Maryland

In this month's newsletter:
* President's Letter by Leon Vandenberg
* How Honey Bees Differ From Other Bees


PRESIDENT'S LETTER by Leon Vandenberg

We just finished our short course. We had approximately 100 new beekeepers signed up to take the class and most of the original attendees finished the class. I want to thank Tracey Waterman for once again doing a super job in organizing the class and the speakers. I will have to admit, even though I have been keeping bees for a few years, I still learn from the speakers of these classes. Since the class, we have continued with mentoring at our apiary at Brookside Nature Center, demonstrating how to install packages. Quite a number of new beekeepers were in attendance, many who went right from Brookside to their own yard to install their own packages. It was really good to see the enthusiasm and the questions these beekeepers had.

On another front, it looks as if Brookside Nature Center still will not be available for our April meeting. Unless you hear otherwise, we will once again hold our meeting at the Holiday Senior Center. We did not want to cancel this meeting as we just graduated our new class of beekeepers and by that time we all will have been working our hives. I am expecting that all of us will be facing both good and bad circumstances with our hives and will lead to a lot of discussion on what we did or could have done.

Over the last couple of months; Maureen, Dara, Phil and myself have been working on improvements with our website. In the very near future you will start seeing some of the changes. We now can accept credit card payments via the website for things such as membership or class registration.

We will be setting a date for a spring barbecue at our next board meeting and I will get that date out to everybody as soon as it is set. We are also going to be working with the Sentinel Hive Project as we did last year. The data they collect across the nation helps each of us who are keeping bees. In this region, beekeepers have loss approximately 40% of their hives each of the last couple of years. I am hoping that, with the information they are collecting, we can reduce this number down.

Pam Hepp has been getting a lot of requests for beekeepers to speak to school groups, scout groups, senior groups, church groups and the list goes on.   If anyone is interested in speaking please let her or I know. In the past, I have done a few of these and will be speaking to a cub scout group this month. You know much more than the attendees of the group you will speaking to and Pam has all kinds of information that you can take along. In the past, I’ve even borrowed a demonstration box from Jim Fraser and installed a frame of my bees for a show and tell.   This works very well when you are speaking to children as it is probably the most attention-getting thing you could bring with you.

Until next month




How Do Honey Bees Differ from Other Bees?

Presented to MCBA at the March 8, 2017 meeting by Timothy M. McMahon, EAS Master Beekeeper, Georgia Master Beekeeper

Curated for the MCBA website by Maureen Jais-Mick

Tim McMahon
Tim McMahon, Certified Master Beekeeper and lifetime member of Maryland's Montgomery County Beekeeper Association

As MCBA members, while we have a primary interest in the honeybee, the environment in which apis mellifera lives and makes honey for us is the same one in which thousands of other species of native bees pollinate and perpetuate a diverse variety of plants.


A few bee facts:

  • There are 20,000 bee species
  • There are 4,000 bee species in the U.S.
  • There are 430 bee species in Maryland
  • 90% of all bee species are solitary
  • 10% are colonial (like the honeybees)
  • 70% of species nest in the ground


So how are honeybees different from the other thousands of bee species? While they have much in common, apis mellifera has the following combination of factors that sets it apart:

  • They have barbed stingers
  • They have hair on the eye
  • The males look different from female
  • They progressively feed their larva (instead of sealing food in with the larva and leaving)
  • They are cavity nesters (about 30% of bees nest in a cavity)
  • They make honey (only bees that over winter make honey)
  • They make and use comb
  • They swarm
  • They are polyandrous (queens mate with many different drones)
  • They are colonial (live in groups)
  • They have a corbicula (pollen basket)
  • They do not hibernate or go into a period of dormancy
  • They do the waggle dance to share information with hive mates


As Tim talked about each item on the list of differences, attendees were able to ask questions and better understand why each attribute is used by honeybees and how each species of bees uses its unique physical attributes to pollinate or derive benefit from the plants in which it specializes. It was a fascinating talk, illustrated with amazing photographs from the work Tim has done with bees in South America and as a volunteer in entomologist Dr. Sam Droege’s lab.