January 2021

Wow! How did we get through that one?! With 2020 safely behind us, we begin to plan for Spring. For many of us, this is the time to plan our hives, order bees, and figure out where on our property we’re going to squeeze in just one more hive…. 

The Fall in the Portland area felt comparably mild this year– lots of sunny days that had the bees flying and still bringing in pollen. Our November meeting featured information from the research of Paul Stamets and his Fungi Perfecti team who collaborate with University of Washington researchers. The possibilities fungi hold for bee health are really exciting. They include increased capacity for bees to fight off viruses and best of all, high toxicity to mites. Hopefully, easy access to treatments and food additives will be available soon, especially as these products may appeal to beekeepers who are hesitant to use other types of mite treatments.  

In December, Dewey Caron hosted a Zoom honey tasting.  December is traditionally the month we gather and do a blind tasting of 30+ samples of PUB members’ honey samples and vote on our favorites. This year, not willing to completely give that up, the club opted to share samples of 5 different local and famous types of honey,  and have Dewey walk us through how to appreciate each sample. Just like wine, there’s a universal language that can be used to describe honey. PUB members had a lot of fun learning how to really smell and taste the different honey samples.  Some of the tastes and aromas included “leather”, “asphalt”, “coconut”, “marshmallow”, “spicy”, “hops”, and “licorice” or “anise” – sometimes for the same honey! Which just goes to show we’re each our own best judge, and it’s no wonder we all think our own honey is the very best of all.

I know it’s too early to feel nostalgic for 2020 – the bright light at the end of the tunnel is finally not an oncoming train – but I have to think we’ll look back on it at some point and think about what we came through and it will make us all the more grateful for what we have. And hopefully 2021 will have us hunched over frames, shoulder to shoulder, looking for that ever-elusive Queen. 

October 2020

Where did the year go?! It’s hard to believe it traveled at the same pace as last year and the year before. In such a chaotic year, it’s nice to contemplate the simplicity of the bees; their daily lives guided by the movement of the sun and the drum of the rain, all of which come and go. For many people, bee stewardship is a meditative and peaceful part of their lives and in winter we must let our thoughts go to spring where we can start again in a fresh new year. Fall, too, is marked by new blooms which herald the transition into cooler weather – sunflowers, asters, sedums are all coming into their time as are fall crops such as broccoli, squash and radishes. 

There is ongoing chatter about mites (is there ever NOT chatter about mites?) and that they may be particularly bad this year. Several PUB members treated their hives, only to still encounter high mite loads. This may require extra attention this winter to ensure survival and it will be interesting to see how PUB colonies fare come spring 2021. 

We were fortunate to have Dr. Andony Melathopoulos of the Oregon Bee Project at OSU join us for our October meeting. He gave us a preview of his talk at the OSBA conference, on native bees. His focus was on the relationship between native bees and honeybees and whether honeybees have a negative effect on native bees. One of these areas is forage competition, and whether honeybees crowd out native bees from flowers they would typically visit. Studies are still ongoing, but one of the ways people can support native bee populations is by having a variety of flower forms because different bees frequent different shaped flowers. The Oregon Bee Project website is full of great information and highlights ways to get involved in the preservation of native species – check it out! 

September 2020

The Portland area rolled into September with high heat and no rain in sight.  These were likely the last weeks of dry weather before we start to see Fall rains arrive. These can be busy times for beekeepers, readying their hives for the deep Fall and Winter. Our last monthly meeting was full of practical advice! Mandy Shaw, who has served PUB since 2016 provided helpful reminders to the group on how to best prepare. This is a critical time for the developing nurse bees, who will go on to raise our winter bees, who will in turn, raise our spring bees! Three important factors at this time are mite management, providing nutritional support in the form of syrup and pollen patties and equalizing hives for colony strength. At the same meeting we also hosted Ben Sallmann of the Bee Informed Partnership. He shared details on the life cycle of the Varroa mite which we all know to be quite a formidable foe. He recommended spanning mite treatments across a couple of weeks so the treatment kills phoretic mites as well as the ones that hatch out in the following days and weeks with new bees. The Partnership conducts extensive research on mite testing and found alcohol wash tests resulted in 95% of the mites being accounted for. With a sugar roll, only 60% of the mites were dislodged, a discrepancy which could have a significant effect on your treatment decisions. With regard to treatment, Partnership research showed Apivar works better in Spring and will not be very effective on high mite loads. For thymol, two smaller treatments are more effective than one long one. It might kill some open brood, but it’s ok, the queen will fill it out. Formic acid works well for high mite loads but can kill brood/queen in hot weather. Oxalic acid is very effective on high mite loads and is particularly effective in winter. Sallmann recommended a dose of 35g oxalic crystals in 1L of 1:1 sugar syrup and with 5ml dripped in between the frames, as a one time treatment. His recommendation for OA vaporization was that the smoke should be billowing out and under-dosing is a common problem. Vaporization is also best in late Fall through Spring, several days apart. Now get out there and prep those hives!