November 2022 - Volume 28 - Issue 5
Hello, Pierce County Beekeepers!
Wow! This year has just flown by. Hard to believe it’s almost Thanksgiving. We are really excited for what the next year will bring. The Holiday party is next with potluck and White Elephant Exchange and the membership drive continues. Make sure you are current and if not, renew your membership or join for a chance to win one of 2 prizes. We will also start selling raffle tickets for the silent auction coming in February or March. We have already booked a speaker, Mary Cline, to talk to us about native plants and beekeeping that will conclude with a plant sale fundraiser. There are other fun speakers planned as well. To all the new beekeepers, welcome! To all the returning members, welcome back! To all the people who are, “thinking about it”... stick around. We can’t wait to get to know you!!!
D.F. Allmendinger Center
2606 W Pioneer Ave, Puyallup, WA 98371
DECEMBER 5TH, 2022
PCBA Christmas Party
Potluck & White Elephant Party ($20 cap)
What the heck am I supposed to be doing now?
Updated by Larry Golden 2021
Winter for a first year beekeeper is tough. At least I know it was for me when I started beekeeping! I had taken the PCBA class, set up my hives and added boxes when I was supposed to. I Read a book or two and my first hives had done well at building out all of their frames and filling them with honey. I even was able to get a few pounds off of them without worrying too much if they had enough reserves for winter. And then, they hit their reserves pretty hard during an August dearth. So I fed them and they backfilled with 2:1 in the fall as long as the temps were above 55. Going into late October, they weighed closer to100lbs rather than the 70lbs (of honey) that is generally recommended as a minimum hive weight for overwintering, so I figured I was good to go. Since I was a first year Beek, I hadn’t really started paying attention to what bloomed when and what the overwintering cycle of my hives were. Worse, I couldn’t find a lot of information on what I needed to do for overwintering my hives. Most of the “how-to” books said to relax, melt wax, make candles, read about your new hobby and wait, repaint or build your next year's wooden ware and look for the first flowers of spring to peak out……good advice, but didn’t help me a bit! I thought I’d done everything I needed to, but it was late November and wet, cold and windy and there was no let-up in sight. When the winter sun did come out, the temperatures were only in the high 20’s at night and maybe hit somewhere in the 40’s during the day if we were lucky. The bees were in tight cluster, I was reading about them starving to death with honey only two inches away, and now I’m wondering how much good the 30lbs of reserves they had put up in the number 1&2 frames and the 9&10 frames was going to help them get through December and January if they couldn’t get to it. On the first decent day I could take a peek in-side and check the hives, I had an obvious moisture problem. Some kind of wet black mold was on the inside of the lids and the tops of the frames under the inner cover was pretty fuzzy in the corners. I also realized that I had made a mistake on one of my hives when I realized I’d left the top feeder on that wasn’t helping. When I pulled off the entrance reducer to have a look, the front entrance was packed, and I mean PACKED with dead bees. I freaked! After shoveling out pile after pile of dead, wet, black bees, I thought “Great, I’ve killed them!”…..but then my mentor said, “Oh, that’s ok, it’s normal, but you should sweep out the bottom board once in a while, so they won’t block your ventilation”. Now that I’ve been down the road a little, I’ve been through the cycle a few times, and some pretty wild winter cycles, I find that when it is November/December or January/February, my Winter Hive Management techniques have developed but need to be flexible. My main goal is to overwinter all my hives, but I can probably tell you in October which of my 10-12 hives are going to make it. Sometimes it’s a queen that I tried to get one more year out of, or a swarm that I got in late July (the saying is “a swarm in July, isn’t worth a fly”)…you can nurse them along, but it’s even money on a hive you get this late being able to make it without a ton of attention. Hive management decisions that you made months ago, come to home to roost eventually. Some are good ones and they go in the book, others are chalked up to learning, they go in the journal too. So, with all of that backstory, what are some of the things that we can be paying attention to as we approach spring preparations and the next 8 weeks or so until the first flow (Maple) starts around the end of February or early March?
1.) Check your hive's overall weight. My technique is to simply grab the bottom box in the back and lift with three fingers of one hand. You can do it however it works for you, but if you can’t lift the box at all, they are in pretty good shape. If you do this every couple of weeks (and have done it in the fall), you’ll get a pretty good sense of how fast the bees are using up stores. Watch the weather, if it warms up much, the bees will often break cluster and move around (at 40-45 degrees, I always find bees on the upper frames after my sugar blocks). With a little practice, you’ll get pretty good at estimating reserves.
2.) If the hive is heavy, and you also installed some emergency sugar block in the fall, you can check to see how much has been consumed and replace as necessary with whatever method you used. The cluster is usually in the middle by not always. Do your best to put the blocks directly over the cluster if possible.
3.) Sweep the entrance clear of dead bees. I use the skinny end of one of those wooden garden stakes for tomato plants, but anything that fits will do. Sweep it until you're satisfied that you got the majority of dead bees out and the entrance is clear. Your bees will also thank you on the warmer days that occur to take “cleansing” flights, since they don’t defecate in the hive during these months.
4.) Lift the outer covers and inspect for moisture build up or mold. If it is there, clean it up the best you can, but the real issue is airflow. If you just swept a lot of bees out of your entrance, you may have solved your problem, but keep an eye on it for a while and see if you need to do something to increase your airflow. In some of my hives, I have drilled additional holes in the front of the upper boxes to improve this. Some don’t like to do this, because they just don’t like putting holes in their boxes, others run hives with only top entrances and none on the bottom at all (snow build up). I have both and am willing to adjust to what the hive needs. This may be a more viable option if your hive has transport covers rather than the inner cover with a top outer cover set up.
5.) If you have them, make sure the bottom entrances are clear, but your reducers should be in place. It’s the yellow jackets in the fall, but in the winter you want to keep mice out. In the last few weeks for my hives however, I kept finding my wood entrance reducers in the dirt in front of the hives. At first I thought they were getting knocked off by my yard guy blowing leaves, but it turns out I had several rats coming in from the woods that were cleaning up the dead bees in front of the hive that were being dragged out by the morticians. They were pulling the entrance reducers off the hive and (apparently) reaching in for more bee booty. A couple of traps set with peanut butter took care of the problem, but I caught three of the little devils. I read somewhere that bees don’t starve to death in January, they starve the last week of February! So, keep an eye on the weather, your hive weights and be prepared to give them a little help to get through a few weeks if they need it until the Maple flow begins in early March. Then you can start planning your Spring Management apiary needs…. Swarm control? Splits? Replacement Nuc’s, maybe a go at Queen rearing. Or, are you going to manage your hives for honey this year, or splits to grow your apiary?
Member Suggested Resources & Articles
If you have suggestions for the newsletter, please send to Kathleen
Directed evolution of Metarhizium fungus improves its biocontrol efficacy against Varroa mites in honey bee colonies, 19 May, 2022, Article, Scientific Report [READ]
How fungi can help honey bees flourish, Katie White, 2022, Article, BestBees.com [READ]
How an innovative hive entrance could help save bees, Michelle Cohen, Article, CNN [READ]
New virus variant threatens the health of bees worldwide, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, 1 jUNE, 2022, Article, Science Daily [READ]
Note from our Vice President - Betty Robertson
Now is a good time to keep a check on your front entrance. You might need to scrape out the bottom since dead bees fall to the bottom (It is normal for some bees to die) and can occlude the entrance. They need to be able to leave the hive if the temps allow them to fly out and take a cleansing flight.
If all of your hives are taken care of for winter, it is time to consider what you need to do for the upcoming year. Consider what you need to get started in the spring such as feeding equipment. Being ready to feed your bees is very important in the spring since many bees can overwinter but later die due to lack of food come February. They are known to use up to half of the winter stores for brood rearing. Spring can be very wet here and resources are not immediately available for them to collect.
Ready extra equipment for winter by stacking boxes with frames where moths cannot enter them. I personally use a upside down lid on the bottom and a lid on the top sealing the boxes. I also leave them outside so if any moths are inside, they will die in the cold temps.
Study and read what you need to learn for the following year. Any questions you had the previous year you can now take the time to research and be a more knowledgeable beekeeper in the future.
Pierce County Beekeeping Association Meeting Minutes
Monday, November 6th, 2022
Elections were led by Betty Robertson, VP of PCBA.
Mary Dempsey was elected President, all in favor. Kathleen Clerc was elected for Vice President, all in favor. Natasha Balukoff was elected Secretary until she moves in June '23, all in favor. Sherri Thomas will remain as Treasurer, but is requesting to retire. PCBA is accepting volunteers for the Treasurer role. Newly elected PCBA positions are effective as of Jan 1st, 2023. Elections were closed.
PCBA is looking for volunteers to work on committees started by the PCBA to handle the various projects the club is involved in. Sign-up sheets were provided for volunteers, who are as follows:
Chair: Katie Marler
Members: Debra Boyer-Langley
Chair: Jeannie Archie
Members: Eileen Moebius, Bryce Landrud
Social Events Committee
Chair: Jeannie Archie
Members: Bryce Landrud, Kathleen Clerc
Fair Committee (Spring and State Fair)
Spring Fair is yet to be determined if we will participate
Chair: Mary Dempsey
Members: Andy Matlich, Dave Bowen, Tiffany Albright, Chris Nammour
Chair: Tina Tyler
Members: STILL NEEDED
Chair: STILL NEEDED
Members: Katie Marler, Lisa (last name not provided)
Thank you to all who volunteered to help run our committees, looking forward to a fun year working together!
PCBA will be holding 4 different fundraising events. A Silent Auction as well as a Membership Drive and plant sale. We will also be having a raffle at the State Fair.
Ticket sales for The Silent Auction will begin December 5th, 2022 and end March 6th, 2023. You can donate to the Auction as well as purchase your tickets at the membership meetings. The tickets will be $5.00 each. Suggested donations are, mead, soap, candles, hive tools, hive boxes, a queen bee (come season), wine basket, etc.
The membership drive drawing will be held on January 2nd, 2023
Everyone has until December 31st to start or renew their memberships in order to participate in the drive. All those that have renewed/joined will have their names entered into the drawing to win one of 2 prizes. The 1st prize is a $50 gift card to Robbins Honey Farm and the 2nd prize is next years membership fee for free.
The plant sale is TBD but will be in the spring.
We have a library that we would like to bring back into action with the help of Tina Tyler. If you would like to donate books or other resource materials, please bring them to a membership meeting or contact us firstname.lastname@example.org
What would you like to see happen with PCBA in the coming year? Members said:
- Regularly scheduled Apiary Days
- Workshops focused on bee biproducts (i.e. soap, candles, mead, baked goods, etc.)
- Workshops focused on creation (hive building, frame building, quilt boxes, candy boards, etc.)
- Tours of the Honey House
- Group members as speakers, presenting their specialties or current interests (i.e. horizontal hives, AZ hives, treatment styles, queen rearing, etc.)
- Speakers that are requested by members, not just provided
- Classes that are relevant to the time of season
- Presentation with different types of bee species, and what makes them so unique
- Presentation of different hive types, benefits and drawbacks
- Bring the PCBA Library back, members to contribute to the library by donation
- More community involvement, booth at local street markets?
- Barter sales
- Hive equipment trades or donations
- Paint the shed at the apiary
- Paint and clean up the boxes at the apiary
Mary thanked everyone for coming and reminded everyone about the December Holiday/White Elephant Potluck.
Meeting Adjourned (8:10pm)
*Jeannie Archie performed hospitality