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May 2015 - Volume 21 - Issue 5

May meeting topic:  Forage

 Information on what flowers bees need for their food
by Thomas Mani of the Olympia Beekeepers Association

By Franclyn Heinecke, PCBA President

Now that you've got your bees in boxes and have been feeding them, you may be thinking – as I did my first year – what do these bugs need as their food that I don’t have to mix and provide?

Answers to questions about flowering food for bees will be provided during our May meeting presentation.  Thomas Mani, from the Olympia club, will be with us to talk about forage.  He has done extensive research on the nutritional value of many plants, and will share some of that knowledge with us in May.

Flowers and pollinators co-evolved over millions of years.  The relationship between flowers and pollinators is the intersection between the plant and animal world that provides us with one of every three bites of food we eat, and allows the fruition of 70 percent of the vegetables, fruit and seeds that we enjoy.  Pollination is the mystical moment where life regenerates itself over and over again.  We have our bees, and other pollinators, to thank for that.

That beauty and seduction of flowers with the animals that pollinate them is one of nature’s tools for survival.  With the growing concerns over the health, and even survival, of many pollinator species, some scientists believe that the threat to pollinators is the most serious issue facing humans today.  If they go, we go, or at least a large percentage of our healthiest food will be impacted.

Forage checklist on our website:
On our club website is a handy checklist of some of the most common forage plants needed by honey bees and other pollinators.  You can find it here

It provides a list of flowering plants by their bloom time throughout the year, if they provide nectar or pollen (or both) and whether the plant is native or introduced.  You can use it as a reference to evaluate the forage found in your bees’ foraging area – from 2 to 5 miles in any direction from where your hives are placed.
Another good resource is a free smart phone app from the Pollinator Partnership – Bee Smart.  You put in your zip  code and you get a list of native plants that provide good food for pollinators.  Very handy app!

See you at the meeting in May!

In the Bee Yard

by Alicia Halbert, Sunny Bee Honey Farm
This is an amazing spring for our bees!  The mild winter combined with early blooming season has thrown many of us into a frenzy of activity.  Not only are the newest beekeepers watching their bees and asking, “What do I do now?”  But 2nd and 3rd year beekeepers are finding that swarming and other mid-late spring activities are already well underway, catching many off guard.  And those with 4+ years of experience?  Yeah, we saw it coming, we’re still scrambling!

So, let’s break this down:

New hives:  If you’ve hived your bees (or are about to) you’re season is, and will continue to be, all about getting wax (comb) built in your hives.  Right now, you’re feeding your bees 1:1 syrup.  If you hived packages, you’ve probably already checked to make sure your queens are released.  About a week to 10 days after that, you can do an inspection.  You should see wax being drawn and eggs, hopefully even larvae!  If you hived a nuc, you should see additional frames being drawn.  Whether it was a package or a nuc, you should see bees bringing in pollen.  

Your job, for the next few weeks (inspections every 10-14 days), is to make sure the bees keep drawing wax and that the queen has room for her ever-expanding brood nest.  If at any time you feel like the resources your bees are storing are squeezing your queen out of space, contact your mentor for help.  Frame manipulation may be necessary.

Overwintered Hives:  Yeah, we’re in the middle of swarm season – wahoo!  Regular inspections are critical right now to assess the overall condition of your hive (for brood space, particularly).  

If your hive has already swarmed, you may be in the midst of a requeening process. You will need to do some serious bee math to know your outside window for a queen’s deadline to start laying eggs. If you are feeding, be careful.  Bees without a queen will take all the feed and store it, potentially nectar binding the new queen before she’s even had a chance to start laying!  If they have food in the hive, stop feeding for a bit. Just keep an eye on the stores. Also, it is helpful to keep a frame of uncapped larvae in your hive to buy the new queen time to get mated and start laying.  This will stave off the laying workers. 

If your hive hasn’t swarmed, you’re going to want to take measures to manage that process in advance. You may find that if you’ve been feeding, that your queen’s brood space is diminishing rather than expanding. Swap out some food frames (filled – to feed back later) for frames with drawn comb (empty). Empty, drawn comb will enable the queen to immediately have access to a larger area for laying. If you don’t have empty, drawn comb, add frames with new foundation to encourage the bees to draw more comb for you.  If necessary, or uncertain, you can even add another brood box! The point is to give the bees the message that they have more space available.

If you find queen cells, you may need to split your hive.  Once the bees are set on this course (large queen cells with advanced stage larvae), it is hard to deter them from this process without splitting.  There are many ways to split and a mentor can help you decide what may work best for you and your situation.

Other things you can do to deter swarming include, but are not limited to:  Expanding the brood area (as discussed above), adding ventilation, adding a basement/rec room (for the foragers to hang out in to reduce congestion in the brood area), adding honey supers (though the brood area is the critical factor).

On the question of varroa treatments:  One of the things that has caught many off guard with the early season is the timing of a varroa treatment.  Many medications say that you cannot add honey supers for 30 days AFTER the treatment has ended.  If you are wanting to add honey supers now to take advantage of the spring flow, this will put you in a bind.  

One consideration may be a softer treatment now, to knock back the varroa, with a follow up later in the season.  Powdered sugar, HopGuard II, there are several ways you can research and use.  Just keep in mind that these treatments only work on the free-running mites (not any in the capped cells), and given how much capped brood you probably have, your varroa load will remain high.  So keep an eye out for signs of high varroa infestation like k-wing virus and deformed wing virus.  These diseases are often found before you actually see a varroa and if you do, you are out of time and will need to take action.

Working with the City of Tacoma

Recently, the City of Tacoma contacted PCBA in two areas:
  1. They wanted a segment for TV Tacoma's Urban Green
    Segment #4 of this link goes to a talk I gave about our association and some uses for bee products.  That's pollen from Harvard Robbins that is shown and talked about!
  2. Even more important and longer lasting, the City Council committee on the environment and sustainability asked to have a work session on the needs of bees.  I was in contact with City staff developing their presentation to the Council committee, and then had the chance to speak before them on this topic.  They are especially interested in developing forage corridors in Tacoma.  Jim McCaig also attended that Council committee meeting.  We'll keep you posted on developments.  If you are in contact with your Tacoma City council person, please support the work of the committee that deals with the environment and sustainability!
Franclyn Heinecke, President, PCBA

Feeding Bees

by Franclyn Heinecke

YEAH!  Packages and nucs have been delivered, or maybe you’ve rescued a swarm.  However you got them, your bees should be in their new homes by now.  The goal for year one of a new colony is to help them build up and store enough food to live through the coming winter. Your job is to make sure they get the food they need to set up the new home.

Here’s a photo of where wax comes from. Young bees extrude the wax, chew it until it is pliable and then form festoons of interlocking bees to build comb. It takes a lot of food to make wax, build comb and raise young bees. It takes one frame of honey to raise one frame of bees. And that’s after the comb has been built; a job in itself.

Through spring and summer, you can feed your bees a 1:1 sugar syrup solution.  I even go to a 1½ parts water to 1 part sugar in the early spring.  In September, switch to a 2 parts sugar to 1 part water syrup so the bees don’t have to work so hard to evaporate out the extra water.  

I stop giving syrup in the middle of October and start feeding fondant then to make sure all of the syrup is processed and capped before cold temperatures set in. Uncapped syrup or honey gathers moisture in the winter and encourages mold to grow.  This is not what you want in your hive over winter.

Also feed your colonies protein patties.  You can buy premade patties or powdered mix to make your own.  

Here’s a story of what not to do …. Rushing and trying to do too much at one time!
Colonies with new queens raised last summer overwintered well, and were bursting at the seams with news bees.  I wanted to do a small split to give one original colony some room and get a daughter from that robust queen.  The weather was iffy, but there was a small window of time when I thought I could into the colony, make a quick split, give them some food and close everything up.

Hurry.  Make the syrup and stir up some protein patties.  Get cooled syrup into gallon water jugs with plastic rings to use for handles. It’s about 500 feet from the kitchen to the hives.  I had three gallons of syrup, protein patties, hive tools and other gear to grab up and go.  Oooh, but those clouds are looking dark.  Time was a wasting.  So I grabbed up all of it and headed downstairs to go down the steps to the garage and out to the apiary.

On step two, one of the plastic ring handles broke.  Unbelievable!  These had been my trusty syrup bottles for so long, and never an incident.  Thud, thud, thud, down it bounced, splattering syrup on the walls, steps, me.  Since I was already weighted down with other things, I couldn’t just reach down to stop the flow.  Then I slipped, rear end splattering even more syrup around and soaking me to the skin!  With 1:1 sugar syrup.  Ever done that before?

I was still weighted down with everything else when the river of sugar syrup started to flow down the steps and into the garage.  What’s a beekeeper to do?  What else would I do but stand up, steady myself and beat feet out to the apiary to make that split and feed the bees before the weather moved in.

Those girls were so confused!  I smelled like a giant candy store.  Bees were all over the drenched clothing.  But I worked fast, made the split, fed the colony and new split.  The third colony that I knew also needed food would have to wait for another day.

Then I had to face the steps and garage.  Gooey, sticky waterfall of sugar syrup down the stairs, forming a small lake at the bottom.  Four towels needed to soak it up.  With sugar syrup drenched clothes that are sticking to me!  Then washing and rinsing the steps, walls and floor with warm water.  Then getting those sticky clothes into the washer.  My 15 minutes “just get out there, split the hive and feed them” task turned into an hour-long adventure feeling like I was living with Willie Wonka!

There are a few bruises, and brightly cleaned steps and walls to the garage.  Yeah, you new beekeepers might think some of us who have been keeping bees a bit longer are confidently going along, doing everything right and not having a problem.  Don’t believe it for a minute!  But, even with spilled sugar syrup streaming down steps, the most important thing is to feed the bees!

Bee Plant in the Spotlight 

Pieris japonica - Lily of the Valley Shrub

The most impressive bee plant in my garden
from February to May is the Pieris japonica, aka the Lily of the Valley Shrub. Planted in a sunny spot, it seems to attract every bee in the neighborhood. It's white bell-shaped flowers attract an array of honeybees, bumble bees, mason bees and numerous native pollinators. This large cold-hardy evergreen shrub comes in many new varieties, including 'White Cascade', 'Variegata', and 'Cavatine'-- all of which are Great Plant Pick selections. Right now is the last chance to buy Pieris in the nurseries while it is still in bloom. For more information and a list of local nurseries selling neonicotinoid-free bee plants, visit PCBA's Plant a Bee Garden webpage.  
By Becky Sundstrom



Minutes from the April General Meeting and the March Regular Board Meeting can be found here.

Treasurer's Report

The main thing of note for the month of March is that we: 1) purchased five bee packages for the Association apiary and 2) paid our apiary registration fees for the year.  Did you?*

* Editor's note: If you haven't registered your hives, it's not too late! Print out your form HERE. Late fees are listed in RCW 15.60.031 as 1.5% percent per month after April 1st. Failure to register, under WAC 16-602-050, can incur civil penalties of $100 for the first violation, $500 for the second violation and $1000 for third and further violations.

Hmmmm, 1.5% of $5 is 7.5 cents.... or a $100+ penalty, which would you rather pay?

If you have questions about late fees:
call (360) 902-2070 or email

Apiary - Swarms


The new bees are looking great all the queens are laying and the workers are bring a lot of pollen. The hives that are going to be used for queen rearing are also doing great.

Looking forward to having the apprentice students out to the bee yard, it's going to be a great beekeeping season.

It's been a very busy couple of weeks with swarms! I want to take the time to thanks all the members that have gone out and got the swarms. It looks like we will have a very busy swarm season; if you have not signed up for the swarm list please see me at the General meeting so I can get you signed up

Thanks - Jeff, apiary chairman

PCBA Website

Our April 6th guest speaker Master Beekeeper Morris Ostrofsky has graciously shared his PCBA General Meeting PowerPoint presentation 'Maximizing Honey Production' and Microwave Fondant Recipe with us.

Most Requested PCBA Website Links This Month: 
By Becky Sundstrom - PCBA Webmaster

Programs & Speakers

We are looking for someone to put Mr. Peter Borst up for one evening on May 30th.  He will be speaking in Seattle earlier in the week, and then will come down to PCBA to give a talk on varroa mites June 1st.  Mr. Borst is from Cornell University.

The members need to begin thinking about the auction that will be held in October.  We are in the planning stages for it.  So stay tuned for further information.

Reminder; the annual BBQ is slated for Saturday, August 22.  The BBQ will be at the honey house.
Submitted by Marge

Thanks For Celebrating With Us

Wow, what an epic Spring Fair! Thank you to everyone who came to soak up the sun with us. This was without a doubt a record-setting Spring Fair. 
Submitted by Alisa Shorey

May 2015  Membership Report

Active Members: 233
Comp & Other Bee Clubs: 6
Additional Records: 98
March meeting attendance: 116 

Due Feb: Ann Church, Shannon Cline, Elena Gleyzer, Richard Holmes, Brian Holthe, John Inch, Jill Jensen, Carolynn Jones, Edward Ketcham, Sheila Lentz, Fred Masella, Roger McLhathin, Lauri Miller, Rebecca Nighswonger, Cheryl Peterson, James Smith, Gayle Southwell, Matt Sudo, Alyssa WhiteThompson, Greg York

Due March: Vernon Craig, Sheryl Craig, Louis Matej , Hilda Steinhauer, Ernest Stephenson, Gary Thompson, Greg York

Due April: Timothy Burbank, Karen Kelly, Keith Kusler, Roger McClatchie, Swvin Nova, Lenah Raykovitz, Glenn Sellars

Due May: Terry Carsen, Stephanie Halvorson, Alisa Shorey

New Member(s): Bruce Carpenter, Justin Flores, Rick Gehrke, Scott Huseby, Doug Wenzen
Renew online HERE!

Upcoming Events

May 4th
  • 6:15pm - Apiary Field Day
  • 6:15pm - Beginning Beekeeping Class & Journeymen Group
  • 7:30pm - General Meeting: Thomas Mani (from the Olympia Beekeepers Association) - "From Beekeeper to Bee Steward'
May 18th
  • 6pm - Executive Board Meeting
May 23rd
  • 11am - Apiary Field Day
June 1st
  • 6:15pm - 7:15pm - Apiary Field Day
  • 6:15pm -  Journeymen Group (No Beginning Beekeeping Class)
  • 7:30pm - General Meeting: Presentation of certificates & Q&A Session
June 13rd
  • 11am - Apiary Field Day
June 15th
  • 6pm - Executive Board Meeting
June 20th
View complete event information here.
Copyright © 2015 Pierce County Beekeepers Association, All rights reserved.

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