Last month I remarked that we haven’t had too many bitterly cold days so far this winter, so no surprise we got a fair dose of them this month. Fortunately, we got the occasional break in the weather, too. Those breaks are critical for the bees, as it allows the cluster of bees to become more active in the hive and move to combs full of honey.

When it’s too cold for too long the cluster can find it impossible to move to the next combs while they use up the last honey on the combs they are huddled on. In those cases, they can starve to death within an inch or two of life saving food stores. When we get our next break in the weather I will be checking my hives to see that they still have plenty of food stores. Those that look a little light will get some extra rations in the form of a few pounds of candy.

The snow is playing havoc with my adult education schedule and the start of my Ellsworth class had to be postponed by a week. That gives a few folks time to get signed up who may otherwise have missed the start! My other classes have been booking up fast. Last night was the start of my beginners class at Bangor High School. I had been expecting 25 students only to find that I had 37. Fortunately, we are using their great lecture theater so all could be comfortably accommodated. In other locations we would need to turn folks away.

A couple of young people in the region will be able to take advantage of the generosity of the Swan Family who have just announced the establishment of the Harold Swan Bee Education Fund. The purpose of the fund is to encourage and foster education of younger Maine generations in Penobscot County on the art and science of beekeeping.

This will sponsor the training of one or two new beekeepers each year through beginner and intermediate adult education classes, including textbooks, and ultimately assist some students with advanced level training. Students should be of high school or college age and be committed to keeping bees and taking their beekeeping training onto a higher level. Successful candidates will be expected to write a report to the Harold Swan Bee Education Fund at the end of the year describing their experience and preparedness to be an advocate of beekeeping. They should submit their applications in writing to me by Feb. 13, 2015. Send them to Peter Cowin, 104 Town Farm Road, Hampden, ME 04444 or email

Over the last 18 months I have been working more and more closely with my friend and beekeeping mentor Harold Swan who runs Swan’s Bee Supplies in Brewer. As our partnership has developed, I have been handling more of the laborious side of the business. I have taken over the sales of bees and eventually more of the sales of beekeeping equipment.

In the future I want to run a beekeeping and honey store from my home with all kinds of honey and beekeeping products for sale, as well as a wide range of beekeeping equipment. Unfortunately, I can’t do this from my current house, which is in a subdivision. So, as our boys are now all grown up, we have put our house up for sale with a view to us moving to a nice old farmhouse in the Hampden or Bangor area.

I have been honored to be asked to be the speaker at the Natural History week at beautiful Star Island, New Hampshire, this summer. I will be there giving daily talks for the whole week. I plan to speak about many aspects of honey bees, beekeeping, other pollinators and what issues they face. We also hope to open up a few beehives on the Island. Of course, I will also be pointing out what we can do for bees — even those of us who don’t plan to keep them. Natural History week on Star Island is from June 27 to July 4. If you are interested in joining us there check out the Star Island website .

Peter Cowin, aka The Bee Whisperer, is President of the Penobscot County Beekeepers Association. His activities include honey production, pollination services, beekeeping lessons, sales of bees and bee equipment and the removal of feral bee hives from homes and other structures. Check out “The Bee Whisperer” on Facebook, cell 207 299 6948