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Piece of Honeycomb


Pierce County Beekeeping Association

Monthly Newsletter

May 2024 - Volume 30 - Issue 5


President's Corner

Hello from Michigan!! I've been here since May 2nd and won't get home until just before the Silent Auction. I was able to scope out a local apiary in Wacusta.  Where's Wacusta you ask? Right next to Pewamo!!! I'm really looking forward to seeing you all and eating some great desserts at the Auction. 






**** Silent Auction coming in June!****

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.

wacusta hives.jpg

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 750 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

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:

With love, to Gary and Becky Morris

Dear members,

We are sad to report that one of our long time members, Gary Morris, has passed away. 

Gary was always cheerful, full of ideas and ready for the next project. He was a creative sort, and will be dearly missed by all that knew him. I myself (Kathleen) knew Gary for a very short amount of time but in that time I admired him for his bright light, big smile, and ideas. I will miss having him with us, for sure.

 Gary's obituary

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 at the Allmendinger Center - 6pm. 

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 

Massive shout out to Mary Kline!!

Mary Kline did an absolutely fantastic job at the WSU Master Gardener Sale. She worked for months, growing native plants to sell for our club. We can't thank her enough for her dedication to the project. Big applause from all of us!

Update on the Committee itself:

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, June 3rd, 2024

Silent Auction @ 6pm


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

Upcoming Apiary Days
Friday, May 24th @1:30pm - Led by Kathleen Clerc & Greg Willging

Friday, June 7th @ 1:30pm - Led by Katie Marler

Saturday, June 22nd @ 1:30pm - Led by Kathleen Clerc & Guest

Friday, July 5th @ 1:30pm - Led by Katie Marler

Saturday, July 27th @ 1:30pm - Led by Kathleen Clerc & Guest

 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 

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? - Swarms!
A timely article about Beekeeping in the Pacific Northwest - Kathleen Clerc

 These bees have some serious intentions and one thing is for sure, not many of us expected things to get so swarmy, so soon! For the bees, it's a party! For the keeper - it's a nightmare.
Let's talk about it!


What are these bees thinking, triggering a swarm... they need to get it together!

I find the act of swarming to be one of the greatest mysteries to all non-beekeepers. I remember when I first heard of a swarm, it turned my understanding of bees on its head. What in the world are all those bees doing, swarming like that? Reproducing? Aren't they doing that... in the hive? Well, yes... and no. You see, the idea of the queen having thousands of bees in her hive is a concept that we are all familiar with. To the untrained eye, the Queen is just a laying machine and uhhh... that's it. That's her hive, she works within the parameters, right? WRONG! Honeybees reproduce in a couple of ways. The Queen lays her eggs and builds the hive, sure. But the TRUE goal of the Queen is to make as many hives as she can, NOT to have the biggest hive on the block. Pretty much the opposite of human goals. The Queen will lay until there is no more room to lay eggs and the population is booming. Once she hits that limit, in her mind, she's set that hive up for success and she has better things to do than to just walk around there, waiting for a cell to open - this Queen has plans, alright?! She's not waitin' for no one! She's got a short, hot season and a hell of a lot to do! Once the original hive is set, the Queen and 50 - 60% of the worker bees, will head out in the search of a new place to "call home".


The Democracy of a Swarm - those buggers VOTE!

Now this part, hands down, is one of the coolest parts in the story of making a swarm, in my opinion; which is saying a lot, because everything to do with a swarm is pretty dang magical and strange. When I first joined PCBA and the OSU program, both were being lead by former President, Jason Sanko. He recommended a few books to read and one of them was Honeybee Democracy by Thomas D. Seeley. Now, if you want an enthralling yet scientific read (not usually mutual), this is totally the book to get.

Thomas D. Seeley spent a lot of time, I mean, a lot of time, observing honey bees and presenting scientific research he discovered himself as well as those made through others. He studied this topic and combined information scattered among dozens of papers from the last 60 years to write his book, starting with research done by Martin Lindauer in Germany.

What Thomas Seeley presented was the following (summarized).

When the Queen has run out of space to lay, she releases a pheromone and scout bees take on the task of trying to find mama's next dream home.

"Before the swarming bees decide their future home, they practice the form of democracy known as direct democracy, in which the individuals within a community who choose to participate in its decision making do so personally rather than through representatives. The collective decision making of a bee swarm therefore resembles a New England town meeting in which the registered voters who are interested in local affairs meet in face-to-face assemblies, usually once a year, to debate issues of home rule and to vote on them, rendering binding decisions for their community."

"No fewer than six distinct properties of a potential homesite—including cavity volume, entrance height, entrance size, and presence of combs from an earlier colony—are assessed to produce an overall judgment of a site’s quality".


"A dissent-free decision. This is what normally arises from the democratic decision-making process used by house-hunting honeybees and, quite frankly, I find it amazing. The debate among a swarm’s scout bees starts with individuals proposing many potential nesting sites, vigorously advertising the competing proposals, and actively recruiting neutral individuals to the different camps. All this makes the surface of a swarm look at first like a riotous dance party. Yet out of this chaos, order gradually emerges. Ultimately the debate ends with all the dancing bees indicating support for just one."

There is so much more to this incredible behavior, but if I wrote all of it here, I might as well write my own book - so, check out Thomas Seeley, Honeybee Democracy, you wont regret it. But I'm moving on to the more technical side of the story.


What in the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks does a Beekeeper do?

Signs that a colony might swarm include: 

  • A very high population of bees in the hive.

  • The whole width of the entrance is used by forager bees.

  • All frames within the hive are fully drawn.

  • Queen cells along the bottom of brood frames, either practice, capped or "charged" (meaning an egg has been implanted into the cell and they have begun to feed it a white substance called Royal Jelly)

  • Brood frames are full of resources (nectar, pollen, honey, capped and uncapped brood).

  • High pollen flow in you area, but limited nectar availability. 

  • Bees are storing larger amounts of honey in and above the brood frames, and any other vacant space in the hive. This can lead to a colony becoming honey logged, which reduces the colony's brood rearing space.

  • High drone population, plus evidence of capped drone cells or larvae. Drones are made in preparation to mate with a new queen. This also shows the colony is resource rich; they can afford to expend time and resources for the care of drones. If a colony begins to decline, drone bees are usually the first to go.


Know your Queen Cells

If you find swarm cells in your hive, the colony has decided to swarm and there is little you can do about it, apart from splitting. 


Practice or Dummy Cells
Smaller, shorter, incomplete, dummy cells don’t necessarily mean that the colony is going to swarm, unless work is continued on them. They are often made as practice queen cups by worker bees. 












Queen Cup

Made with the intention of making a queen. As these grow they begin to resemble an unshelled peanut. If an egg or larva is in the cup, then the colony is preparing to make a queen. It takes approximately 16 days for a queen to emerge, from the day the egg laid. (Photo is of a "charged" Queen cup with larvae)













Queen Cell

Also known as a swarm cell, this is a queen cup but the bottom of it is sealed, meaning the larvae has been fed and is now in the pupating stage. Bees often make lots of swarm cells (average of 12) which are present throughout the whole hive, usually assembled at the bottom of brood frames.













Supersedure cell

Looks similar to a queen cell, it's a colony's natural way of replacing a queen because—in their eyes—she is ‘failing’ (e.g. poor laying pattern, pheromone is weak). Supersedure cells are usually situated around the middle of the brood frame, compared to swarm cells (usually along the bottom of the brood frames). Supersedure cells are usually close together, only a few are made (3 - 4) and are similar in size because the larvae are the same age.




Types of Swarms

There are three different types of swarms: primary swarms, secondary or after-swarms, and absconding swarms. 

Primary swarm

Usually the first swarm of the season. It involves the original queen leaving with about half of the colony and some drones. These are often larger in size. 

Secondary swarms

These occur after the primary swarm, meaning they’re usually quite a bit smaller, sometimes leaving with one or more virgin queens soon after the primary swarm has left. Colonies that frequently swarm are often re-queened, because this tendency can be influenced by genetics. Older queens have a tendency to swarm more frequently, which is why some beekeepers replace their queens every few seasons.


This is when the entire colony leaves the hive for a variety of reasons, including wrong climate, starvation due to a lack of resources, but most commonly due to being infested by pests and diseases which have made their space uninhabitable. 


Should we just let the bees... swarm?

While honeybees' urge to multiply is natural, letting your bees get to this point is not considered good practice because it poses a risk to the public, your bees, other beekeepers, and honey bee biosecurity in your country. 

  • When a colony swarms you don’t know where they’re going, meaning they could decide to reside in an inconvenient place (e.g. walls, public places), posing a risk to the public. 

  • Letting your bees swarm means that you're losing at least half your colony, and potentially missing honey flows in your area as your bees work to build up the colony again.

  • Swarms may pose a risk to honey bee biosecurity in your area, because they allow colonies which may be affected by pests and diseases to multiply. Some beekeepers replace the queen so they’re sure of the genetics of the colony. 

  • A large percentage of swarms don’t make it (particularly secondary and after-swarms because they’re smaller in size).


Is it possible to stop swarming without splitting?

Honestly, not really. You can do a temporary split, however, which is something I learned from Jason Sanko. This entails doing a split, then adding space to the original hive, and then reintroducing the original queen back to the original hive 14 days later - by recombining the hive with said split. I used this last year with the newspaper method successfully and am actually doing it again right now as we speak. This way I keep the number of hives I want, with the specific queens I want, and don't suffer much impact to productivity, or delayed laying.

Alternatively, the De-maree Swarm Control Method is used by lots of beekeepers in residential areas.


Both of these methods are labor intensive. Both entail ensuring that no queens are born into the original hive. So you have to be in your hives, a lot. Delaying, delaying, delaying by removing swarm cells.

Should you remove swarm cells?

It doesn't really work out the way you'd hope it to. It may delay them a bit, but when the decision is made... it's either with ya, or without ya. Sorry, bub! They'll just build another cell... and another... and another... and another...

Will a queen excluder prevent swarming?
A swarm leaves with the original queen often meaning that she has mated and her abdomen is too big to fit through a queen excluder. Even though bees starve the queen a couple of days before preparing to swarm so that she is lighter and can fly, she often still isn’t small enough to fit through the excluder.  

Like removing queen cells, placing a queen excluder at the bottom of the brood box or along the entrance won’t prevent, nor stop, a colony’s urge to swarm, but can similarly cause a delay and gives you some time to perform a split soon, not immediately. In this circumstance you will see the bees leaving the hive thinking they’re going to swarm, at some point realize the queen is absent and so fly back home. 
The reason this doesn't work forever is that eventually, the colony will learn to leave with a virgin queen (or sometimes numerous) because they’re still small enough to get through the excluder. Colonies also respond like this to queens whose beekeeper has clipped their wings. Don't do that...


I'm going to start leaning into other sites for the rest of the info - becuase there truly is a lot to discuss and consider. Too much for me to write when so many have written great articles already.


Dealing with the aftermath of a swarm from your hive
Betterbee [READ]


How to catch your swarm (or someone else's)

Beebuilt [READ]


When bees swarm, choose fascination - not fear

Mississippi State University [READ]

Done well, the beekeeper – and bees – can enjoy and extended and beautiful series of honey flows. 

Nectar Flows in the Western Pacific Northwest
By: GloryBee

You will be quite surprised at how many plants produce a surplus of nectar and pollen for the bees. For this section we will be focusing on the Pacific Northwest region. For your local region, it is best to research what types of nectar and pollen plants your bees will be visiting and if there is enough to sustain the hive. Remember a bee can travel up to 6 miles to find nectar but they can be more efficient if the plants are nearby.

There are great differences in honeys depending on what type of plants the bees visit. The color and flavors of the honey will vary tremendously from light amber to dark, and mild to strong flavors. Successful beekeepers learn to manage their bees so as to harvest only the best grades of honey. Some plants that bees visit will cause a lower grade of honey to be produced with inferior flavor.

There are many factors that determine the nectar flow of a plant. Soil types, irrigation practice, quantity of rainfall, elevation, temperature and wind all have huge impacts on how much nectar a plant will give off. The more nectar there is from a plant means more honey to the bee, so finding good plants that have a surplus of nectar is important.

* Indicates best surplus sources of nectar

Mustard - March, pollen

Oregon Grape - April, pollen and nectar

Cotton Wood - April, pollen

Willow - April, pollen and nectar is warm

Cherry Tree - April, nectar and mainly pollen

*Maple Large Leaf - April-May, pollen and surplus nectar

Deciduous Fruit Trees - April-May, mainly pollen

*Poison Oak - May, nectar surplus

Madrene - May, nectar

Manzanita - May, pollen and nectar

*Vine Maple - May, surplus

Cabbage - May, pollen and nectar

Crimson Clover - May, pollen and nectar

*Snowberry (Buckbrush) - May-June, surplus

*Cascara - May-June, nectar

Hairy Vetch - May-June, surplus nectar

Raspberry - June, surplus

Thistle - June, nectar and pollen

*Blackberry - June-July, nectar and pollen

White Clover - June-July, pollen and nectar

Dill (oil) - July, pollen and nectar

Fire Weed - July-August, no pollen and variable nectar


Dandelion - Spring, pollen and nectar

*Alfalfa - June-August, pollen and nectar

Red Clover - June-August, pollen and nectar

*White Clover - June-August, pollen and nectar

Mint - August-September, pollen and nectar

*Sage - September, pollen and nectar


Blackberry & Raspberry Pollination Information 

Rubus is a large genus of flowering plants from the Rosaceae family, subfamily Rosoideae, of which there are believed to be hundreds if not thousands of species as well as hybrid species created both in nature and artificially. Most of these plants have woody stems with prickles, spines, bristles and gland-tipped hairs which are often referred to as brambles. Bramble fruit are generally separated into two groups, raspberries (Rubus idaeus L), and cultivated blackberries (Rubus subgenus Eubatus).

Cultivated blackberries come in a number of different varieties which vary in growth characteristics, fruit size and shape and include but are not limited to varieties such as blackberries, boysenberries, youngberries and loganberries. On the other hand, most commercial raspberry varieties are of European origin but some have been developed from hybridisation with native North American varieties (Rubus strigosus).

Raspberry and blackberry cultivars range from completely self-fruitful to completely self-unfruitful with most erect blackberries being fruitful yet prostrate growing cultivars often requiring cross-pollination. Because rubus berries are made up of an aggregate of druplets (each druplet only forms after its pistal has received pollen) yield and fruit quality can be significantly improved from honey bee pollination. Nectar is secreted in large amounts from blackberries and raspberry flowers and both nectars have a high sugar content that attracts an abundance of pollinating insects, especially the honey bee. For both raspberry and blackberry fruit size, shape and number are good measures of the degree of pollination. Numerous studies have shown increases in yield and fruit quality when bees are brought into a berry crop during flowering.

Well pollinated blackberry fruit.


Blackberry (Rubus sp.) flowers are usually white with four petals. The stigma are surrounded by 50 to 100 anthers. Nectar is produced in a cup at the base of the petals. They start producing nectar as soon as the flowers open and continue until after the petals have fallen. There are a large number of varieties of blackberry with different degrees of self fertility. It has been suggested that several different cultivars should be planted to ensure cross pollination. Certainly, if planting blackberries, advice should be sought as to whether the variety being considered needs cross pollination. They probably all benefit from bee visits to spread pollen to the stigma. As an example of this, the cultivar Thornless Evergreen is self-fertile but honey bee pollination results in better yields. The stigma are receptive for the first three days the flowers are open. Honey bees visit blackberries to collect both pollen and nectar. The flowers are usually attractive to bees and beekeepers can at times collect a honey crop from wild and cultivated blackberries.

Because blackberries are very attractive, there may be sufficient insects visiting flowers without introducing beehives. However, for commercial production the low risk approach is to introduce beehives unless it has been shown that they are not needed. It has been suggested two hives per hectare are sufficient for pollination. Because the flowers are usually very attractive to bees, they can be introduced at the start of flowering.


Raspberry (Rubus sp.) flowers have five petals and a ring of anthers. The flowers have many ovules, each with its own stigma. The fertilised ovules are called drupelets. The flowers are partially self-fertile. They will produce some fruit when caged to exclude bees, but will produce more and much larger berries if bees have access to the flowers.

The stigmas are receptive before pollen is liberated by the anthers. Because of this, the first pollen to reach the stigma is likely to be from other flowers on the same or other plants. Once the anthers start to release pollen, it may be transferred directly to the stigma and thus self-pollination will occur. The flowers can still set seed 4 days after they open. When pollen was applied each day for 4 days after the flowers opened, the seed number increased after each pollen application. This suggests that not all the stigma may be receptive on the first day. The degree of pollination affects not only the number of fruit but also the fruit size and shape. There is usually an increase in berry size with increasing number of drupelets. Increasing pollination will also decrease the number of malformed fruit. It has been suggested that some crosses between different varieties may result in larger drupelet size.

The flowers produce relatively large amounts of nectar. They have been reported to produce an average of 17 microlitres per day, which is between two and 10 times the amount reported to be produced by apples. Because of this, raspberry flowers are usually very attractive to bees. Honey bees will also collect small loads of pollen from the flowers. Pollen is not particularly attractive to bees and they will discard it at times. The attractiveness of the crop will usually mean that fewer colonies will need to be introduced. It is suggested in the literature that between 0.5 and 2.5 hives should be introduced per hectare.  Because the flowers produce relatively large amounts of nectar, bees may need to visit fewer flowers to collect nectar and may not spread evenly through a field. If an uneven distribution of bees is noted, more hives should be introduced and spread around the crop.


Beekeeping Articles & Topics of Interest

Honeybees at risk for colony collapse from longer, warmer fall seasons - Sara Zaske - WSU News

Wait, does America suddenly have a record number of bees? - Andrew Van Dam, Washington Post

Reusing failed bee colony resources may curb rearing of queens - Scott Schrage, Institute of Agricultre & Natural Resources


Want to save bees? Focus on habitat, not honey bees - Rich Hatfield and Matthew Shepherd, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation

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!


Register here. Space is limited to 25 participants.

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