Pierce County Beekeeping Association
October 2023 - Volume 29 - Issue 10
Well, My girls have given me a run for my money this month!!! It started with finding a few of my hives have absolutely zero honey stored, and I mean ZERO!! So, I had to quickly learn how to (thanks YouTube!) make fondant and purchase winter pollen patties. I was able to get that on all of my hives, even the ones that were fine on resources in between the rain. Then, as I was cleaning up my back yard, I found a swarm had moved into the old Langstroth equipment I had stacked up in the back, behind the shed. Crazy!!! I have no idea when they got there. You can check out the pictures on our Facebook page. That was my drama!!!
On to more fun things!!! I was able to go to the Washington State Beekeepers Conference. It was held in Olympia and so convenient!! I learned lots, met new friends and got to visit with old. The food at the dinner on Saturday was really, really good!! The highlight of the weekend for me was when one of our own, Greg Willging, won Beekeeper of the Year!!! How cool is that and so well deserved!!
Also, our Vice President Kathleen Clerc was nominated and elected to the WASBA Board this month!! Congratulations Kathleen on your new seat as WASBA Board Member, we are proud of you!!!
It has been a crazy, fun year as your president. It's really hard to believe that it has been a year since you placed your trust in both Kathleen and I and the rest of the board. I have learned lots, been awed at how you, the members, have jumped in and turned all of our ideas into reality as well as offering your ideas. Together we have worked hard to build up and then reach out to promote beekeeping in our association and our community! Your belief in us and all of your support and encouragement have made our efforts successful and worth the effort. Thank you.
ADMINISTRATIVE BOARD NEWS
Our next Board meeting will be Wednesday, October 25th at 6pm. All are welcome to join. If you would like to come, please contact me for location details 253-640-1615
We have four elected board positions: President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary.
Board elections will happen at the November 6th meeting. We do not have nominations for the Secretary and Treasurer positions. We meet as a board once a month. The secretary position involves taking minutes of general meetings and board meetings and other jobs as assigned...lol. The treasurer position requires managing the bank account, filing state papers (once a year), bill payment, keeping records and receipts. Both of these positions are voting seats on the Board. These positions need to be filled. Be forewarned... If these positions do not get filled, it will be wise to attend every meeting to avoid being nominated and voted in!!
If you are interested in being more involved with our Association and want to run for any of these positions, let us know (Mary: 253-640-1615)
Beekeeper of theYear!!
Volunteer for our Projects!
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!!
Apiary Feeding Rotation
September 22nd - November 25th
We need help keeping the bees fed at the PCBA Apiary on the WSU Campus. They are working through their resources pretty quickly, so we need to be refreshing their 2:1 syrup at least once a week. We have supplies on site, but need commitment and help to keep up!
Honey House Scrub Down
Our Honey House is ready for a facelift! Come help us give the Honey House a Deep Scrub inside and outside, sand down the counters & repaint them, hang instructions and photos on the walls, etc. o join this list, please provide your Full Name, Address, Contact Information (email and phone number) & Notes/Information to Kathleen Clerc firstname.lastname@example.org
Join our newly formed Garden Committee and be a part of the development of the Pollinator Garden led by Mary Kline and in partnership with WSU. To join this list, please provide your Full Name, Address, Contact Information (email and phone number) & Notes/Information to Kathleen Clerc email@example.com First meeting will be on Monday, October 2nd at 5:30pm, Allmendinger Center.
Hive Host & Beekeeper List
We would like to build 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. To join this list, please provide your Full Name, Address, Contact Information (email and phone number) & Notes/Information to Kathleen Clerc firstname.lastname@example.org
Donation & Fundraising Committee
Help us to be involved in our community in a big way! To join this list, please provide your Full Name, Address, Contact Information (email and phone number) & Notes/Information to Kathleen Clerc email@example.com
Monthly Meeting Information
Monday, November 6 2023
***General Meeting - 6 pm***
This is an important meeting. Please plan on attending.
Mary Dempsey and Kathleen Clerc will be presenting
"Where Do We Go From Here?"
The Future of PCBA
Followed by General Elections and review of our bylaws
WSU Puyallup Research & Extension Center
D.F. Allmendinger Center
Apiary Day Information
We have 1 Apiary Day left until we wrap up classes for Winter. In off-season, we will be hosting workshops instead.
Saturday, October 21st - Contact Kathleen Clerc - firstname.lastname@example.org
WE WILL BE DOING OXALIC ACID TREATMENTS, COME WITH A VENTILATOR MASK, GOGGLES AND GLOVES
Apiary Day is weather dependent. 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 email@example.com with any questions.
WSU Puyallup Research & Extension Center
D.F. Allmendinger Center
Please come prepared with full bee gear - suit and/or jacket with long baggy pants, closed toed shoes, a smoker and/or sugar spray, as well as water for yourself. You will be asked to sign a waiver and verify if you have bee allergies. If you have a bee allergy, please come prepared, suited "to the 9's" and have appropriate medications on hand in case of an emergency. We cannot guarantee to have said medications nor appropriate dosages for you, on site.
WINTER IS COMING
A timely section on a Beekeeper's cycle in the Pacific Northwest
by Kathleen Clerc
WAYS TO FEED DURING WINTER
Hopefully your bees created enough honey to withstand winter without your help. However, it is really important to provide them some sort of assistance, regardless, in case they eat through their stores before you reach spring. If you had the same luck that a lot of us did in '23 - there wasn't much resource to go around. I personally, fed my hives (S Tacoma) and the club's hives (Puyallup), 2:1 sugar syrup through Fall. I was really focused on trying to get the hives the food that they needed. Without that help, our club wouldn't have hives to talk about right now. Puyallup (at least near WSU), did not have enough resources for the amount of hives in the area. There was a lot of competition by neighboring garden stores, farms, as well as commercial and hobbyist keepers.
It's very wet outside, and those of us in the Pacific Northwest, know that moisture is a challenge. Remember - wet bees are dead bees. Once the rain started to return, I pulled the 2:1 gravity feeding buckets that I use, and switched to Fondant [RECIPE] for my hives at home, and then for the club we are using the Dry Mountain Camp Method and Fondant. I thought I'd try both, for educational purposes. The Dry Mountain Camp Method has additional benefits for hives because it absorbs excess moisture.
Fondant - This is fairly easy to do. Here’s a great how-to. You can make fondant easily at home and harden it in any size mold or container you want. This is the method my husband and I usually use, assuming the bees have a normal amount of honey in the fall. We make fondant “cakes” (I harden them in a silicone muffin pan) and then in those first few weeks of spring when the snow has melted, but the dandelions aren’t up yet, we throw a few in each hive. We generally make ours out of one or two five pound bags of sugar and then make more as needed (depends how many hives you are feeding, of course).
Photo credit: https://meyerbees.com/product/fondant-cube/
Candyboard - This is similar to fondant, but a better option if you need to feed long-term (like all winter, ahem). Here’s a nice tutorial. You basically make a giant fondant board and place it at the top of the hive, so the bees can eat all winter. Making one of these requires about 12-16 lbs of sugar. Beverlybees.com did an excellent job of explaining how to make and install a candyboard. [RECIPE]
Dry Mountain Camp Method - The Mountain Camp Method, simply put, is feeding with dry sugar. It differs from the methods listed above because you use no water or heat to prepare the sugar.
The name came from a beekeeping message board on BeeSource.com. A user, named Mountain Camp, introduced it. It plays on the idea that when you are camping, you often have to rely on simplified methods of doing things and so he offered this simplified feeding method.
It’s pretty simple. In fact, so simple that when my husband and I finished our first hive I said, “There’s no way this will work. It’s too easy!”
What we did was take the hive cover off and placed a rim feeder that my husband built. It was maybe two-three inches deep. You could probably use an empty box, but we didn’t want to run the risk that the bees would build comb in there. Not to mention, in the winter we want as little air space as possible to keep the hive warm. You can buy rim feeders, but we built ours out of scrap wood.
We then put down a layer of newspaper, just one or two sheets thick. Lay this right on the tops of the frames. It doesn’t need to fit edge-to-edge, in fact a piece that lays in the middle and leaves about an inch around the edges works great. Most importantly, you don’t want any of the newspaper to hang outside of the hive. If this happens, the paper will get wet and the moisture will move right down the paper into your sugar and into your hive.
Then, we poured in sugar, direct from the bag. You’ll just pour as much sugar over the newspaper as you can fit without spilling into the hive.
The bees keep the interior of the hive quite warm during the winter months and this heat and condensation works to kind of melt the newspaper as well as turn the exposed sugar into candy. When you make a fondant cake or a candyboard, you are basically adding water and heat to solidify the sugar. When you use this method of feeding, you are using the heat and moisture from the hive to do the work for you. Here’s what it looks like after the bees have started eating
Oxalic Acid Vaporization
Oxalic Acid Vaporization (OAV) is an ideal Fall/Winter treatment for honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies infested with the Varroa destructor (VD) mite. Varroa destructor decimates apiaries and threatens the food supply worldwide. OAV is most effective in a broodless colony when phoretic mites otherwise shelter in the capped cells of developing worker bees (Van der Steen & Vejsnæs, 2021). Beekeepers employ different homespun regimens to resolve a VD infestation and treat their colonies a few times for a few weeks and hope for the best. OAV is proven to kill mites with minimal impact to a colony’s bee population, but many beekeepers have no systematic application schedule or definitive treatment endpoint.
My technique consists of counting dead mites that drop onto a sticky board 48 hours after an oxalic acid vaporization treatment and recording the results in Excel. Line graphs from the data show the number of dead mites over time. The graphs show how long beekeepers should continue to treat and monitor until the curve(s) approach zero – the treatment endpoint.
The timing for the Fall/Winter treatment is determined by seasonal temperatures, amount of brood remaining in each hive and the perceived urgency to treat based on a bell-weather alcohol wash in September after the last Summer mite treatment, such as Apivar. Each bee colony has a unique character which adds another variable in the hive’s population dynamics and varroal footprint. There is a risk-reward trade off with the timing of the Fall/Winter treatment versus the increasing viral load as you are waiting for the ideal broodless state.
The efficacy of treatment is dependent on the presence of sealed brood. Bee brood is the reservoir for varroa and when there is brood present in the hive, the mite drop remains elevated and treatments are prolonged. Brood levels taper off in Northern Virginia by mid-November. The amount of brood in different regions in the world varies from year to year based on colony dynamics and temperatures affected by climate change. Our mid-December is as broodless as one can expect and is typically when the queen stops laying eggs. It is a certainty that a portion of the mite population can escape treatment because they are protected from OAV in the sealed brood cells. The unknown amount of sealed brood not affected during treatment reduces the overall effectiveness of the OAV by just a small percentage (Toufailia & Ratnieks, 2018).
The Fall/Winter OAV treatment catches mites in the open before they can shelter in brood cells. Once those brood cells are capped with varroa inside, they parasitize the larval hosts through all remaining stages of brood development and affect the health of emergent bees. When oxalic acid was first approved in 2015, the seven day, three-week treatment interval was based on the life cycle of the drone because the varroa mite prefers drone brood, but drones are not present in the Fall. [READ MORE]
MAKE A PLAN FOR OVER-WINTERING
- I'm keeping this part up from last month, as it is still relevant at this time.
Smarter, not harder - I feel that Portland, OR based, Beeandbloom, did a great job in their article.
Remove unnecessary space
Overwintering your bees in the smallest space possible by pulling off empty boxes (or top bars) will prevent heat diffusion, keeping the bees from expending unnecessary energy warming their cluster. This will also limit the space available to mice and other small critters looking for a warm place to crash.
Make sure the honey is in the right spot
We don’t recommend interfering with comb arrangement often, because the bees usually organize their brood nest and food stores exactly the way they need them. That said, sometimes things go sideways and might need some rearranging. In Langstroth and Warré hives, honey frames should be on either side and on top of the cluster. In a TBH, the honey bars should be to one side of the cluster. The idea is that the cluster should be able to move together in one direction to eat through the stores. You don’t want half of the cluster moving in one direction and the other half moving in the other!
Remove your queen excluders
If excluders are left in the hive, you run the risk of the queen being left behind as the cluster moves up in the honey stores. This will kill your queen (and your colony).
Combine weak colonies. If you wind up with two colonies that are too small to overwinter, consider combining them. Overwintering one hive is better than losing both! You can also combine a weaker colony with a strong one, but be sure that the colony isn’t weak due to mite overload or disease - you’d just be weakening your strong colony. Also, be sure that the stronger colony has enough food stores to take on the extra bodies - you don’t want to bolster a weak colony at the expense of a strong one.
Entrance reducers and mouse guards should go on in the latter half of summer - right when populations are beginning to decline and honey stores are growing. Smaller entrances will keep out yellow jackets and thieving neighbors in the fall, and mice looking for a warm place to live in the winter. If your colony is weak, it’s good to close up the entrance as much as possible to give them the least amount of space to defend. It’s important to remember to check in on your hive entrances in the winter; dead bees may need to be cleared out periodically to allow bees to exit for cleansing flights when weather permits.
Wet Bees are Dead Bees
The need for extra insulation will vary by location. Portland [Washington] winters are more mild than Minnesota winters, but much colder than in San Diego. It’s a good idea to consult with beekeepers in your area to see what works best, but we will cover some general techniques.
Make sure your hive is water tight. Examine the roof and box sides, plugging up any cracks or holes that might let moisture or excessive cold air into the hive. If you’re using screened bottom boards, be sure to close them up or swap them out for solid boards.
Insulation Quilt Boxes are a good idea for any climate
The idea is pretty simple: you place a shallow box with a breathable bottom (i.e. canvas, burlap) filled with dry, organic material on top of the colony. These are standard on Warré hives, but I’ve seen them modified for Langstroth and Top Bar Hives, as well. These insulation boxes will keep heat in the hive and draw excess moisture out, both very important for winter months. [How to build a quilt box]
Think twice before wrapping your hives in beecozy or foam insulation, because it can be dangerous if done incorrectly. Wrapping often causes a build-up of moisture in the hive, which can freeze and kill the colony. A soggy hive environment is also at higher risk for mold. Instead, consider constructing a wooden “hive cozy” with dead space between the outer shell and the boxes. This would provide an added layer of insulation while maintaining breathability. Roofing tiles placed on top of the hive is an easy addition that can help soak up and retain heat on sunny days.
Provide a windbreak.
If your hives are in a particularly windy location, a wind buffer will go a long way for temperature regulation and preventing the hives from being knocked over. Stacked hay bales make an excellent temporary wall.
Move them inside a 3-sided structure
Beekeepers in harsh climates will sometimes move their hives into a shed or garage for the winter. If you go this route, make sure to move them after foraging is done for the season, so that foragers don’t get stuck at their original location. Be sure that they get moved out into the open with an open entrance so they can do cleansing flights on the warmest days. Placing the hives in three-sided structures (like a horse run-in) can provide extra shelter without the need to move them back and forth.
HOW TO SAFELY STORE EMPTY SUPERS & FRAMES IN WINTER
I learned over the past couple of winters, how important it is to store frames and boxes, properly. Mice, wax moths, and other pests want everything your hive equipment has to offer. It took me only 2 seconds, after shielding my eyes and heart as Mark Mietzer stomped on mice this Spring when we cleared out the club apiary - that it wasn't those pests fault. It was the fault of the keepers. There is much to be said on this topic. Greg Willging has shared with us multiple times that he stores his frames with Paramoth, to stop wax moths from destroying all of the comb that his bees worked to hard to build. I personally have decided to use the "stack and seal" method this year in my Apiary and in the club's. Here are 4 methods for your consideration.
Air Tight - Doesn't take much space, can be indoor or outdoor, has a high rate of success, but is a bit expensive
Open Air - Takes a DIY-minded person to do, can cost a little bit to start up, but will last for years to come
Criss Cross Stacking - This is the least expensive method out there. Many beekeepers have had success with it, but is not guaranteed
Stacked and Sealed - Uses a chemical, however, has been proven to be a successful method over the decades. Very inexpensive to do.
How I got started into the wonderful world of beekeeping and why I use Layens Hives
It all started one Christmas morning about 8 years ago when I was still young and able to lift heavy objects. My brother and I still exchanged gifts and when he walked in with a huge box, well, I was excited and intrigued. He seemed really excited too. As I carefully unwrapped the gift, I became increasingly confused. In the box was...wood. A lot of wood. Then, black plastic things. By then, he was grinning ear to ear. I still had no clue. When I finally got to the bottom, I had unwrapped a bee suit, a smoker and a hive tool as well. I looked up at him and he asked, "What do you think"? He was soooo excited, I couldn't really tell him what I was thinking (sorry John). Beekeeping and playing with things that sting you was NEVER on my radar!! But, his excitement was catchy so I jumped in. I went out and bought an air compressor and wood glue and got to work. I built all of my boxes in my living room (it was December and cold outside), ordered my bees and then waited for spring. When the bees came, he helped me install the Nuc and bam, I was a beekeeper. It did take me a full year before I didn't run every time the girls got a little feisty. The problem started about 3 years ago. The boxes were getting too heavy, it seemed like too much work and I didn't want to go out and work my hives. Beekeeping just wasn't fun anymore. I decided to quit. But that night, I found myself surfing the internet. You know random stuff. I happened along to a website that talked about long Langstroth hives and then... I fell down the rabbit hole. One site led to another, then to another and then another. I finally landed on a website that was all about Layens hives. It talked about a different kind of beekeeping and hives that were designed to need fewer inspections, were less disruptive to the brood chamber and best of all, no lifting of heavy boxes. My history has homebirth, home schooling, homeopathic ideals and limited interventions as a way of life and philosophy. 3 hours later after reading about Layens hives, I emerged from the rabbit hole and changed my mind from quitting to giving it one more try.
The 1st problem was buying one. With a price tag of $650 shipped, it was a no go but, the website lets you print off free blue prints. I was in. It gave me an excuse to by power tools. I built my first hive for about $200 and I was off and running. I have since build 8 more with a price tag of about $75 each with getting free wood and wool from facebook groups. I am no carpenter but the bees don't care.
So, what is it about Layens that I like. It is a top bar hive so there is no breaking apart the boxes and brood chambers. I built mine to be fully insulated but there are options to build it just thick walled. The concept is to mimic the insulating properties of a tree. The top bars fit tightly together to make it easier for the bees to maintain hive temperature but it also helps with inspections to keep the bees calmer as you are only moving one frame at a time. Once I find new eggs, I can stop. I have proof of being queen right. I do deeper inspections more often just because I like to find the queen but, I don't have to. I can do a full inspection in as little as 10 minutes per hive. The frames are deeper than Langstroth. This makes it possible for the bees to have a complete circle for the brood pattern instead of a half. Their natural tendency is a full circle. Because the frames are deeper, the bees store their honey and pollen on the same frames as the brood. Easy access. Although the full honey frame weighs 12-15 pounds and are heavy, I am only moving one at a time. No more slinging 45-100 pound boxes. I am an old woman and just can't do that anymore. I also don't have to store tons of woodenware through the winter. Most importantly, I have more time to just sit and enjoy watching the bees. It's not all roses though. The cons of Layens hives are, the frames are not interchangeable with Langstroth. Your options for extracting honey is crush and strain, purchase an extractor or find someone with one that you can rent or borrow. You will need more hives to get the same amount of honey. They are expensive unless you build your own but, if I can do it, anyone can. Lastly, it is a different method of management but easy enough to learn. If I hadn't stumbled down that rabbit hole, I would have given up beekeeping 3 years ago. For me, the pros far outweigh the cons. I'm glad I found options and didn't have to give up something that I so much enjoy. Now, 8 years later, I am grateful for that Christmas gift and my brother for the times I get to spend with him talking about bees, working the bees and enjoying the bees.
Adding a swarm.
It took me 2 years to convert all of my hives to Layens
I'm able to have 2 colonies in one hive.
Hives are fully insulated year round.
Long Langstroth and Layens Hives
The frames are approximately 14x 18 in as opposed to15x9 in.
Interview With A Legend: Harvard Robbins
“Bees are fascinating!”
by Tina Tyler
Harvard Robbins and his wife, Suwannee, own Robbins Honey Farm at 7910 148th St SW in Lakewood, WA. Suwannee has efficiently run the store as long as I have gone there, a dozen years. Harvard’s comment on working with family is, “That’s the only way to do it!” Currently, she does all of the store management due to Harvard’s age (90) and his “mind is good but not my legs, eyes and ears.” With certainty, Harvard says she is doing a great job.
Harvard has a distinctive voice that comes off friendly and warm. His information is years-long hard-earned and leaves us wanting more.
In April of 1974, he left the army after 26 years and was looking for something to do. Since he had a home in this area, he settled in. So, 50 years ago he caught a swarm and then his neighbor objected to seeing bees. Harvard simply moved the hive but was kind of fascinated to see them return to the old location. “So, I put a box there so they had something to eat.” He had taken over a frame with eggs, pollen and honey. Next thing you know, he found a laying queen! So, he began, now, with two hives.
“I kept playing with them.” He built up to 700 hives. Later, he decided to get out of it but continued involvement with buying and selling pollen, honey and bees, and still does today. “Besides, too many people depended on me.”
Members of Pierce County Beekeepers have helped him. Once, John Meier took a day off just to help move hives to the fireweed. Two different medal of honor recipients helped with many trips and learned a lot. “People that didn’t need to do that but they got enjoyment and learning.”
Harvard’s key advice for new beekeepers is to “get involved with someone who helps them learn, who knows about beekeeping. So many things simple can be made complicated without a little bit of help.” Also, “Best way to learn is keep up with the current things that have to do with bees: medication, food. Talk to someone that has bees and is making a living at it. That is a different ballgame; can’t even compare.” Patience is a big thing. Don’t try to be top of line of everything. Use what you have on hand. “I sell a lot of equipment. I will tell the customer, ‘It is better if you don’t use that. Do this: simpler, easier. Stay simple and look after the welfare of the bees. It is so simple it is crazy.’” I know this to be true from personal experience, since I have always gotten all of my equipment from Robbins. Solid, basic and a great price. A little education with it is frosting on the cake.
Harvard does not think the Pacific Northwest is the right area to raise queens. “You have to have queens early. You can’t raise drones to mate with. It is a moot deal, really. If you could, carry a half dozen or so over the winter.”
I asked, “What is your secret for overwintering in the Pacific Northwest?” Harvard did not hesitate. “Ventilation and keep then out of the wind.” He finds old, cheap bales of hay that cost almost nothing. Another thing that would work is a big bag of leaves. Then, he will put two or three in front of the hive to keep the wind out. “Ventilate the top.” Over the top of the hive, he will place tin or glass. He will wrap the hive with black plastic.
Lastly, I wanted to know his favorite breed of honeybees. “Just like analyzing dogs, there are differences. It depends on what you are doing. Carniolans have great honey production and they stop laying in the fall when the pollen is gone. Sometimes, they are harder to work with. They being in the spring earlier. Italians keep laying as long as there is food; you can have a much larger population in the spring.”
Personally, I have seen Harvard and Suwannee support Pierce County Beekeepers Club in all the years I have attended. They always participate, bring a lot to the table and have quietly donated much
Hats off to a legend! In his words, beekeeping is good for the soul.
Honey House Rental
Bring your boxes and buckets!
The Honey House is available for rent.
Reserve your time on the website.
We also have an extractor that is available for rent that you can take home for 72 hours.
You must be a member to use the Honey House
Member Suggested Resources & Articles
If you have suggestions for the newsletter, please send to Kathleen firstname.lastname@example.org
This month I thought to present to you some of what was shared at the WASBA Conference!
It was an inspiration to be surrounded by such knowledge!
Dealing with Deadouts - What to do with old comb - Dr. Megan Milbrath, Michigan State University [READ]
Sustainability in Prisons Project, Beekeeping in WA State Prisons - Emily Passarelli, Evergreen State College [LEARN MORE]
Dealing with Fall Equipment - Jeff Ott, Beekeeping Today [LEARN MORE]
Bee Breeding in the age of Genomics - Dr. Garret Slater, USDA-ARS Baton Rouge Bee Laboratory [WATCH]
Giant Hornets, what we've learned and what we still don't know - Dr. Chris Looney WSDA Entomologist [READ]
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