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Piece of Honeycomb


Pierce County Beekeeping Association

Monthly Newsletter

April 2024 - Volume 30 - Issue 4


President's Corner

Wow!! April came and went in a flash!!!

**** No Silent Auction in May!****

I apologize for the late notice. It has been a crazy month for PCBA and me personally.

The Silent Auction has been moved to June 3, 2024 and will start at 6pm. We will not have classes that night but we will have a Dessert Social. Bring a dessert to share. It promises to be a fun night.

Some cool stuff we have had in this month!


2024 Spring Fair


You really had to be there!!


Honey House clean up


Thank you to all the volunteers who worked tirelessly. Apologies to those who I forgot to get pictures of.


Become a Member of PCBA!

It has been an amazing year and we have so much more to come! Over the year we have gathered over 550 members of our Facebook Group and over 650 Newsletter Subscribers! We are elated and honored to have had such a successful reach. Now, please be reminded that we are a Non-Profit 501c3. Membership makes a massive impact to our ability to continue full steam ahead and offer classes and programs that you all value, in fact it's the only way... We are asking all of you that are participating on our social platforms and subscribing to please sign up for membership in 2024 and help us continue to grow our resources and programs.

*** When we changed website hosts last year, everyone who became a member was considered a "New" member as far as the computer was concerned. The New Member choice does not automatically renew every year. We have just learned that anyone who signed up last year will need to join again on your expiration date. 


  Many people have expired memberships.  If you got an email that told you to renew and then on the website it said that you had already purchased the membership and then wouldn't let you renew, that was a computer glitch that is now fixed. 

Please check your records to find the date you joined or renewed last year and rejoin if your membership is expired by date. The automatic renewal is working for some.

If you are unsure of your status you can email

Thank you

Become a Member


Members, we need you! Pierce County Beekeepers Association couldn’t happen without you, our volunteers! Please sign up to help with the upcoming events. It is a great time to get to know other members and educate the community about the bees and what our organization is all about. Some of these events are fundraisers where we will be selling honey.

From brand new beekeeper to experienced beekeeper, you have a place at our table! You pick your comfort level, from selling the honey/ raffle tickets to just talking about bees. Come and join the fun!!


Important dates in 2024

WSU Master Gardener Sale in late April - Official Date TBD
Silent auction - June 3rd, 2024 - Allmendinger Center

Picnic in July - July 20th - Allmendinger Center

Pierce County Fair - Aug 8th - Aug 11th - Puyallup Fair Grounds

Washington State Fair - August 30th - Sept 22nd - Will need Volunteers - Puyallup Fair Grounds

Elections in November on Nov 4th - Allmendinger Center

Holiday Party on December 2nd - Allmendinger Center 

Hive Host & Beekeeper List

We have many hosts, but we need more BEEKEEPERS! We have been building a list of those who have properties in which they are aiming to host hives on, as well as beekeepers who would like to service hives on host properties. With Spring coming, it is time to sign up! To join this list and be matched with a potential host or beekeeper, please sign up here:

It's time again for the
 Annual Silent Auction

The Silent Auction happens every year at the General Meeting. This year it will be June 3rd, 2024

We will also have a Dessert Social. Please bring a dessert to share. We are not planning on having other foods.

This is a fundraiser and a really fun evening! So start saving your cash and be prepared to use it.

We are also asking for donations of lightly used items to auction off. They do not need to be bee related and

as with everything we do for PCBA, we can't be successful without volunteers. Please consider volunteering to canvas local businesses for donations. Please contact Mary Dempsey at 253-640-1615 if you can help in this area. 


Pictures from last years auction.

News for the Garden Committee 

The Garden Committee will have a booth at the Pierce County Master Gardener Foundation Sale April 27th and 28th, selling Native Plants for Pollinators.  Set up is Friday, April 26th, and tear down is Sunday April 28 afternoon.  Please volunteer for a time slot on Sign Up Genius to help us out. The sale is a fund raiser only, we will not have public outreach or education on honeybees.


We have the use of a pop-up tent, weights, and one table.  I still need up to (3) 8' banquet tables which can get wet, and shelving under the tables.


Kathleen and Mary met with the WSU Campus Director to discuss the Pollinator Garden Project. The number of volunteer hours needed per month (about 30-40) can not be sustained by PCBA with all of the bee oriented programs that also need volunteer help. It would also potentially change the focus of the association away from bees and towards gardening. It was suggested that we could work with the Master Gardner Program as volunteers to support the project while they run it. After much discussion and looking at alternative solutions regarding the Pollinator Garden Project, it was decided to put it on hold for now. We will revisit this after looking into all of the obstacles and options in more detail and contacting the Master Gardner Association to see if they are interested in taking over the project. Thank you all for your interest and patience.


Monthly Meeting Information

Monday, May 6th, 2024

Beginner, Intermediate & Sustainable Classes @ 6pm
General Meeting @ 7pm

We will be doing community clusters. 

Bring all of  your questions!!

WSU Puyallup Research & Extension Center

D.F. Allmendinger Center

2606 W Pioneer Ave, Puyallup, WA 98371

Apiary Day & Workshop Information

Apiary Days are weather dependent will begin in May and run through October

1st Apiary Day of the Season on May 4th, 2024 at about 1pm

 WSU Puyallup Research & Extension Center

D.F. Allmendinger Center

2606 W Pioneer Ave, Puyallup, WA 98371


Please keep an eye on our Facebook Group to keep up with any updates on what is planned for the next upcoming, including estimated times and lesson plan. Contact Kathleen Clerc with any questions. 

Beekeeping Class Information

Classes are available to PCBA Members only - Become a Member
Sign up for Classes on our Website

 WSU Puyallup Research & Extension Center

D.F. Allmendinger Center

2606 W Pioneer Ave, Puyallup, WA 98371

Classes are January - November (no class in July, September, December)


Our next Beekeeper in a Day class will be on Saturday, May 4th. Bring your bee suit to work in the hives.

Please keep an eye on our Facebook Group & your email to keep up with any updates on what is planned for the next upcoming, including estimated times and lesson plan. 
Contact Katie Marler with any questions. 

What the heck should I be doing now?
A timely article about Beekeeping in the Pacific Northwest - Kathleen Clerc

Congratulations to all that are receiving their Nucs and Packages! The fun has begun!

Let's Start with Syrup!

No Sugar in the raw, brown sugar, coconut sugar, just pure cane sugar!


The 1:1 spring syrup recipe and ratio is a real easy calculation, and it does not need to be precise. Add one pint of water for every pound of sugar. 1.25 gallons of water to a 10# bag of pure cane sugar, makes 2 gallons of syrup.


For a 1:1 syrup, you can mix it with "hot as can be" water and stir. However many heat it in a pot. Do not let it boil, or the syrup will start to candy. Don't be intimidated! You got this!


Evaluating A NUC

It might seem obvious but not all NUCs are raised equally. A NUC may look pretty or it may not look like much. The initial appearance doesn’t always reveal future progress. How that NUC was prepared and how your new queen was raised is a better predictor. Your supplier is working with hundreds of hives and moving resources from one to another to give each NUC what it needs for success. Understanding the habits and motivations of your supplier is beneficial for understanding future advantages of your colony.


You are paying a lot of money for your NUC and you should have a quality NUC in return! 

Let’s start with what a quality NUC looks like. First, the NUC has matured for 4 weeks plus.  This allows the hive to accept the queen and the queen has three stages of brood (egg, larva, and capped brood).  All three of these will be evident on inspection.  If you have all capped brood that is NOT a good sign.  What has happened is the seller has just taken brood from several hives and inserted a queen recently. The queen should be at least 9 weeks old and mated!  A properly mated queen will produce an abundance of brood in the hive. There should be brood, larvae, and eggs in the frames, covered in nurse bees. The NUC should have 5,000 to 8,000 bees in it, and should be full of bees on the frames. Although not in normal fashion, this year we recommend that you inspect your NUC. This is a great time to look at frames, foundation, and brood count. Also be wary of an abundance of dead bees.  A few dead bees are acceptable but not over 25 dead bees. Lastly, the NUC box should be clean! This means the plastic or wax cover box is not wet or with holes! 

If you do not like what you are seeing ask for another NUC!

Guide to Feeding New Packages or NUCs

Feeding honey bees sugar syrup seems like a strange idea, but it’s the most effective way to get them to draw out new combs on foundation. And that’s important for two reasons.

First, for a new colony to really take off, it needs to rapidly increase its population. It takes three weeks to raise a bee to working adulthood. But that process can’t begin until the queen lays eggs in the cells. And she can’t do her job until she has cells to lay the eggs in. But the workers bees won’t create a lot of comb until the young wax-making bees’ bodies are so richly supplied with calories that their wax glands are pushing out wax scales like crazy. When you drill down to the start of this chain of events, it mostly depends on having an abundance of available calories. If you provide sugar syrup, you jump-start the wax-making process by providing an early, constant source of calories. Feeding also evens out the sometimes on-again, off-again natural spring nectar flow which helps keep wax production continuing at full speed.

And that’s important for the second reason. A honey bee colony has one overriding goal in its first summer: create all the comb necessary to store the 70 to 80 pounds of honey it will need to have in the hive before the end of the season. Failure to do that successfully may doom the colony to winter starvation. By giving them a hive to live in, you have only provided your bees with a house. They still have to furnish it with drawn combs, and then fill the combs up with honey while the flowers are still in bloom. Making wax for the combs will “use up” a large portion of the calories the bees bring in as nectar. Feeding sugar syrup adds to the total available calorie supply, making it more likely that the bees will meet their need for comb and stored nectar before it is too late. Of course, you can help them out again at the end of season with more feeding to fill any empty cells. But bees are most eager to draw comb – adding storage capacity – in the spring and summer. Seize the opportunity at the start of the season when the bees are keen on making comb to get the job done.

The bees will need to draw out a minimum of all the frames in all the boxes that you intend them to winter on. Keep offering them syrup until this has been accomplished, even if that takes a couple of months.

This high need for calories only happens when you’re getting a hive established on bare foundation. If you’re installing bees on already-drawn comb (from a deadout hive, as an example) a brief period of feeding to get them off to a good start may be useful, but they don’t need syrup for the long term.

But, starting from scratch on bare foundation is a unique period in a new colony’s life. With good management, next year both you and your bees will reap the rewards of having already-drawn comb at the beginning of the season. All the incoming nectar next year can then be turned into more bees and more surplus honey, instead of being turned into calorie-demanding wax. That’s why clean drawn comb is often described as beekeepers’ gold.

Tips for feeding a new colony in the spring

  1. Don’t stop feeding until the bees have met the goal of having a fully drawn out set of frames in each brood box. From time to time, they may slow down in their uptake of syrup when there is a strong flow going on. It’s fine to pause for a week, or so, but try offering it again after that. If they go back to taking it again, continue to feed.

  2. Keep a close eye on the area surrounding any style of internal feeder where the bees have access to space within the empty box surrounding it. You don’t want them to start building comb inside the box around the feeder. Check at least once or twice a week and immediately interrupt this by adding another box with frames for them to draw out (if needed) or stopping feeding. You want them to build comb on the frames but not get creative inside the open space.

  3. Don’t feed bees sugar syrup if you also have added honey supers on the hive – it will get mixed in together, spoiling the purity of your honey crop. The goal for this sustained feeding is only to get them to draw out combs for the brood nest area (which are also the wintering boxes). Once they’ve got that done, only then should you add honey supers.

What do you feed honey bees in the spring?

You can use home-made sugar syrup or feed a commercial product such as Pro-Sweet.

Making home-made 1:1 syrup is easy, though it can be messy. You mix equal parts (by either volume or weight) of hot water and white granulated sugar, and stir well. If making a quantity of syrup in a large container such as a 5-gallon bucket, put the water in first, otherwise you’ll have a hard time stirring the heavy, damp sugar.

Don’t make more than you need at one time, unless you can refrigerate it, as syrup this thin may spoil (turn vinegary), in which case it must be discarded as it isn’t healthy for the bees to eat. You may also find that adding a few drops of chlorine bleach per gallon helps keep the syrup from getting moldy in warmer weather.

Don’t use anything other than plain white granulated sugar. Organic sugar, and other alternative sugars are not healthier for bees. And never feed your bees any honey other than in clean frames from your own hives. Honey from other sources carries the risk of introducing serious diseases.

If you use Pro-Sweet, you pour it straight from the jug. It provides a good source of calories and unopened jugs are shelf-stable, keeping without spoiling or crystallizing. It is also very convenient, without the work and mess of mixing sugar syrup. It avoids the need to carry heavy bags of sugar home from the store. Although it is thicker than the 1:1 syrup which is normally recommended for spring feeding, it’s fine to use in all seasons. (Calories are calories, as every dieter knows!)

Both home-made syrup and Pro-Sweet can be fed in any type of feeder.

What kind of feeder is best?

The ideal feeder offers direct, in-hive access for the bees, while protecting them from drowning and deterring robbing. If it’s also easy to check and refill, it will save you a lot of time and effort.

We offer many models; the ones below are the most popular.

Division board or frame feeder

Pros Inexpensive; syrup close to the cluster

Cons Need to open the hive to check on or refill feeder. Some bees may drown, even with the climbing ladder in place.

Pail feeder

Pros Inexpensive; syrup right over the cluster for easy access in all weather

Cons Pail must be very tightly sealed to create a vacuum or there is a risk of leaking. Need to open hive to refill feeder. Need additional box to surround the feeder.

Ultimate In-Hive feeder

Pros Easier to open and refill than a pail-type feeder, with the same 24/7 access to the syrup that the pail feeder provides

Cons More expensive than a pail feeder; need to open hive to refill feeder. Needs a box to surround and protect the feeder. May result in wild comb in the surrounding box if not installed flush to hole in inner cover.

Hive top feeder

Pros Can be checked and refilled without opening the hive, even at night.

Cons More expensive than other feeders.

Other kinds of feeders

Entrance feeders (aka Boardman-style feeders) present some problems in the spring. Because the syrup is outside the hive, it may cool off and be less attractive to the bees. These feeders are smaller, so you’ll need to refill them more frequently. And they are often associated with robbing. If you already have one of these feeders, you can consider setting it up inside the hive on the inner cover and surround it with an empty box. Be sure to tape over the notch in the inner cover’s rim with duct tape if feeding this way, in order to prevent robbing.

Home-made feeders are another option, too. A short-term possibility is using a plastic baggie feeder. These will work well in a pinch, but are not ideal for the sustained, high volume feeding you’ll need to do when establishing a colony.

You can also use large canning jars with a few tiny holes punched into their lids, set directly on the frames. Surround the jars with an empty box.
Instructions for making the home-made feeders are here

Should I feed them with pollen patties in the spring?

Pollen provides the essential nutrition for raising baby bees. It contains the fats and protein needed for a bee to grow from a larva to a pupa, and finally, to metamorphose into a fully-formed adult bee. This amount of cell change and differentiation, in such a short period, requires more than just the carbohydrates in honey or syrup.

In the spring and summer, many flowers provide pollen to bees. But sometimes, early in the season, the pollen production comes in stops and starts. And as any parent knows, you have to feed the kids every day, no matter what. Bees will adjust (downward) the amount of brood they are raising to match the current availability of pollen. You want them to raise as much brood as possible, because more bees means more workers to help get the hive fully established and squared away before winter. To even out, and even slightly boost, the amount of pollen available for the brood, some beekeepers add a small amount of pollen patty to a new colony.

This comes with a little risk, however. More brood raised today means more bees in just a few weeks. And too many bees inside a hive, without enough comb already drawn, can equal an overcrowded hive. This is particularly true if you are starting with a nuc which is arriving with five to eight thousand baby bees already “in process.” Overcrowding can lead to swarming. If you are confident you would recognize the early signs of an overcrowded hive in time to take action, then it may be worth the risk. But if you are just starting out, it may be better to just “go with the flow” of natural pollen, literally. While you might still have such a natural excess of pollen that the hive becomes overcrowded, at least you won’t be the cause of the problem. You will have other opportunities in future years to experiment with super-charging a hive.

If you have pollen patty that you decide not to use, or a surplus, it can be carefully overwrapped and stored in the freezer until next spring. Your bees will be eager to feast on it then.

Spring Mistakes to Avoid in Beekeeping

Dadant - Author not listed


Mother Nature Keeps Spring Interesting for Beekeepers

It happens, even to those of us who think we have beekeeping all figured out. No matter how well prepared you are, there are those days when Mother Nature just decides to throw you a curveball. That’s what happened to me that spring morning: I was flat-out stuck, buried up to the wheel wells in mud.

After half an hour of sweating, pulling, lifting and pushing, I looked like I had just finished a summertime mud volleyball tournament — but finally I got myself dug out. I headed off to the next set of stands and, thankfully, was finished and back to the garage before the storms came rolling in.

Beekeepers, like any other professional or hobbyist, have to overcome many obstacles each year. For me, the first one this season was getting dug out of the mud. However, it could have been any number of issues. In this article, I’ll cover some of the more common spring mistakes I’ve made in the past and what beekeepers can do to avoid them.

Common Spring Errors

I’ve made my share of spring mistakes since I started with a few hives 22 years ago. Thankfully, I’ve learned how to avoid making most of them over the years.

Not Feeding Enough in Early Spring

The first of the spring mistakes I learned to avoid is starvation, caused by not feeding enough early in the season. As a new beekeeper, I figured the bees had plenty of resources to make it through until the first black locust trees came into bloom. Boy, was I wrong. Instead of catching my limit of largemouth up the creek on the backwaters of the old Mississippi, I should have spent my time feeding a mixture of 1:1 syrup and pollen substitute.

Not Testing for or Treating Varroa

The second mistake that comes to mind is not testing or treating early enough in the season for Varroa mites. Black locust is our first flow here in the midwestern part of the state and one of my favorite honeys. In the past, trying to catch this flow while properly timing mite treatments proved difficult. When I started keeping bees, Apistan and Checkmite were the two new kids on the block. While effective, the duration of these treatments made supering for the flow almost impossible. Most beekeepers opted to cut treatments in half or skipped them all together to avoid contaminated honey.

Modern Varroa Treatment Options

Fortunately, two springtime treatments are now available that can be used in conjunction with the nectar flow. Mite Away Quick Strips and the newer Formic Pro are formic acid treatments manufactured by NOD Apiaries out of Canada. While both can be used once daytime highs are steadily in the 50’s, Mite Away Quick Strips are a 7-day treatment and Formic Pro takes 14 days. Simply place two pads between the brood boxes. After treatment, if the bees haven’t carried the delivery pads out the front entrance, you can remove them by hand.

If you still have a few weeks until the first flow in your area, another option is using a half dose of Apiguard. By cutting the full 50-gram dose down to 25 grams, you can treat two or three times before the flow gets going. Apiguard works best when temps are in the low 60’s up to 100 degrees.

Another treatment beekeepers report works well is oxalic acid, using either the vaporization or dribble methodTreatments with oxalic acid are applied when temperatures are above 50 degrees and the bees are active. For those who want to really hammer the mites Apivar, an amitraz treatment, works very well. However, the downside to using this method in the spring is the duration: treatment takes 42 days with no supers in place.

Not Having Extra Hives Ready for Swarms, Nucs, Splits or Package Bees

When I first started out, I worked hard to increase my numbers any way possible. Some years, I found myself with more bees than I had room for. These days, I paint four or five additional complete hives so they’re ready to go for those unexpected swarm calls. Every spring it seems we get four or five calls a week from folks who need help getting a swarm of bees down from an unexpected place. Make sure you have your boxes ready ahead of these calls so you can quickly transfer them into their new home. Same goes for package bees, nucs, or splits. Take the time to prepare extra hive equipment now before you need it — you’ll be happy you did.

Not Rotating Boxes in Spring

Last but certainly not least is the rotation of your boxes. I’ve made the mistake of not reversing brood boxes in the spring when I should have. This left the queen up above while the box below remained empty. A good rule of thumb to follow is to reverse in the spring and late summer if needed. This helps provide additional room for the queen to lay, thereby increasing the colony’s population for the first nectar flow.

Have a Great Spring!

Beekeeping Articles & Topics of Interest
EPA Issues Advisory on Pesticides Used to Control Varroa Mites in Beehives - 1/8/2024 - Environmental Protection Agency
Honeybee Cluster - Not Insulation but Stressful Heat Sink - 11/20/2023 - Derek Mitchell

Ask a Washington Beekeeper - WASBA
WASBA’s ongoing project “Ask a Washington Beekeeper” has two episodes in the books. The first, in October, featured Jeff Ott and Bri Price, whose presentation about preparing for winter reached about two dozen interested beekeepers via both Facebook Live and Zoom. WASBA board member Dawn Beck graciously shared her presentation about the honeybees’ fat bodies and how these relate to honeybee health. In both cases, the presenters fielded questions from the audience with questions ranging from combining hives to winter survival rates. “Ask a Washington Beekeeper” is a collaboration between WASBA and GRuB and is designed to reach beekeepers who may be in outlying areas without access to a mentor or a beekeeping club. Our goal is to provide information, education and mentoring to as many people as possible, including veterans who are interested in beekeeping. An educated beekeeper is a better beekeeper and is better for the beekeeping community.
After a break for the holiday, “Ask a Washington Beekeeper” will resume on January 18th with WASBA president Alan Woods sharing his knowledge about integrated pest management. Future programs include information about packaged bees vs. nucs, a panel discussion, and information about the nectar flow. Programs are each month on the third Thursday starting at 6:30pm. Check it out and tell your friends – here’s the link: We’ll see you there!


PCBA Wax Workshop.png

Register here. Space is limited to 25 participants.

Now is the time of year to get your bees ordered. Some of the suppliers have a deadline of April 1, 2024. Pick up is 
usually in April. 
Follow the link to our resources page.


Buy Local

Advertisers - place your ad here for just $25 per year

Contact for details and sign up

Robbins Honey Farm

Harvard Robbins

Brick and Mortar Store

7910 148th St. SW, Lakewood, WA

253-588-7033, 253-370-0842

Beekeeping supplies, bees, honey

5 frame nucs


Dolce Bella Bees

Alisa Shorey 



253-683-0789/ 253-380-2327

Bee packages and queens


The Woodland Hearth 

Mary Dempsey

Hyperlocal and Creamed Honey

Soap and other home and body products


 Dr. D’s bees

Dennis Carlson

Local Honey


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