August 2017 Presentation

Andony Melathopoulos joined us again for our August meeting and gave us a great presentation on Living with Varroa.

andony_1000x1000Andony is an Assistant Professor of Pollinator Health Extension in the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University. His work at OSU comes out of a mandate from the Oregon Legislature to create a state-wide pollinator safety and outreach program. Prior to coming to OSU he was a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Department of Biology at the University of Calgary working with Shelley Hoover and Ralph Cartar on canola pollination. He holds an Interdisciplinary PhD from Dalhousie University (2015) and a Master of Pest Management from Simon Fraser University (1999). Formerly he worked as the chief technician in Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Apiculture Research program (2000-2012).

Rebekah Golden Bio

Introducing our newest blog contributor…

Rebekah Golden discovered herself as an unexpected bee-lover working as an undergraduate research assistant in a bumblebee pollination behavior lab at the University of Arizona. She found that through bees, she was more in touch with the environment and world around her, and it wasn’t long before she became completely mesmerized by the simplicity of the individual and how that translated into the complexity of the honeybee superorganism. Using charismatic honeybees as a gateway to the ecosystem concept, Rebekah and 2 friends started Bee & Bloom LLC in Portland OR. Together they run an educational apiary with 16 hives & an online resource shining a light on pollinators, sustainability, and natural wellness.

Summer Management

The Reason Behind Honey

It’s no secret that honey bees are wholly unique from our 4,000 North American bee species. The main difference is the size, scope, and intricacy of their social system. The superorganism life history strategy bestows certain benefits to Apis mellifera, who use their vast colony numbers and communication systems to maximize collection and use of the pollen and nectar resources of their environment. Just as blooms have seasonal cycles, so do honey bees, and these 2 cycles are indelibly linked as shown in the diagrams from Ruhl Bee Supply below.  

While solitary and small social-colony bee species have some form or caste that hibernates through the winter, honey bee colonies actively survive through the cold months by clustering inside the hive and generating heat by vibrating their flight muscles. This is fueled by the spoil-proof and sugar-rich substance we know as honey. To ensure survival and reproduction of the colony as a whole, the spring months are spent building up their populations enough to swarm, and summer months are spent preparing for winter. At each stage in the warm season they must adjust their behaviors to maximize their workload to either collect as much pollen as they can to build their population, or to collect as much nectar as they can to turn into honey.

Where we fit in

As the responsible honey bee stewards we are, every time we open our hives, it is important to consider exactly what the colony should be doing at that point in the season. Summer is stressful for the bees. This is when nectar is scarce, they must defend their hive from robbing bees and yellow jackets, Varroa populations spike, and they must keep their hive cool. Additionally, colony populations are at their densest, and hive inspections can disrupt their primary goals in favor of cleaning up the mess the beekeeper left behind. It is important to go into each inspection with a goal in mind; once you’ve satisfied your goal, close up the hive and move on.

Summer and the nectar dearth

Unfortunately, the nectar dearth is here. We were hoping that this year we’d see blackberry in bloom through July, however it is becoming apparent that will not be the case. It is now that we can begin to predict whether a hive will survive the season or the winter with a higher degree of accuracy. Weak hives can be diagnosed by having low honey stores, signs of robbing,  and high mite populations. Depending on your personal management philosophy, each of these hallmarks can be responded to in order to increase their chances of survival.  

Feeding

Low honey stores can be responded to by feeding. It is important to remember Boardman entrance feeders can draw robbing bees from other colonies or yellowjackets to the hive. So, break out an internal-hive feeder of your choice if your bees need a hand building up their honey stores. Additionally, move from your 1:1 sugar:water syrup ratio to 2:1. This will help them dehydrate their stores more quickly and with less effort, and will prevent too much moisture in the hive during the winter.

Robbing Prevention

Robbing can be diagnosed a few ways. The first warning sign would be remnants of warfare- large numbers of dead bees at the entrance of your hive. If you’re lucky, you may see robbing bees before this point with large numbers of bees landing on, buzzing around, and sniffing out cracks and other areas of the hive body. Foreign bees are not familiar with your hive’s entrance, but it is only a matter of time before they find it. Robbing must be responded to immediately! As soon as there are any signs, equip your hives with entrance reducers or robber screens to give your guard bees a much needed edge. These tools are also useful for preventing yellowjacket predation, which is also picking up at this time–if you haven’t broken out your yellow jacket traps yet, do it now!

Monitoring Varroa

Now, onto the lengthy topic, and bane of the modern beekeeper’s existence…Varroa mites. Regardless of your treatment philosophy, mites must be monitored and dealt with in an urban setting, where there are many managed hives in a small area. July is when we begin our more diligent mite sampling efforts. There are many ways to sample your hive for mites, though the ones I use most frequently are the sticky board method with screened bottom boards, ether rolls, or alcohol washes (if you don’t have a mite sampling kit, or don’t want to make your own, pick one up at the next PUB meeting).

Jar methods of sampling like ether rolls and alcohol washes tend to be more accurate than sticky boards. To perform these methods, collect nurse bees from the heart of your brood nest (with extra care not to collect the queen!), in a quart jar. I recommend a 300 bee sample, which is about ¾” in the bottom of the quart jar. For an ether roll, use a solid lid and spray automotive starter fluid (ether) for about 2 seconds. Then swish your bees around the inner walls of the jar, and the mites will stick. From there you can count the mites, and you can determine the ratio of infection. For an alcohol wash, drown your bees in isopropyl alcohol, and equip your jar with a mesh lid. Strain the liquid out of the jar over a coffee filter, and count the mites left behind to determine your ratio.

It is generally agreed upon that a colony with 3,000 mites cannot survive (Source). If you find 9 or more mites from your 300 bee sample, it is time to react. If you subscribe to use of chemical treatments, this would be the time to use them. If you do not use chemical treatments, my go-to response is to induce a 3-5 day brood break by caging the queen. Other options would be to re-queen if you suspect the issue is weak genetics (take context into account here- is it the genetics or external environmental factors causing the mite-spike?), add a frame of capped brood from another hive to spike the colony population, decrease hive cavity space (Source), or sift powdered sugar onto your bees to encourage them to groom (only do this if you have a screened bottom board). If the mites persist, this is the time you would choose to experiment with a treatment of your choice, or to do the hard task of killing your colony with soapy water before they spread the mites and diseases they vector to other local colonies.

Even strong colonies can be affected by high mite populations at this time; strong bees pick Varroa mites up from the weak bees during robbing, and bring them back to their hives (Source). It is of utmost importance at this point in the season to monitor and respond to mites regardless of your personal treatment philosophy. Keep in mind, it is often the viruses that mites transmit rather than the mites themselves that are directly responsible for a colony’s demise (Source). During inspections, keep your eyes open for Deformed Wing Virus, K-wing virus, and Sac Brood.

It’s not you, it’s them

It should be noted that even the most diligent and responsible beekeepers can end up with dead colonies. My best advice would be to pay attention to your bees. Allow them to take care of the problems they can handle, and when they can’t, take mindful action. Each beekeeper must craft their own management philosophy, which often entails combining elements of many separate doctrines. So long as you are responding from a place of knowledge, experience, and good intentions, you’ll be doing a service to yourself, your bees, and the greater good.

PUB June 2017 Beeline

This month we will be recapping our June 7th PUB meeting. Our next meeting is Wednesday, July 5th at Rose City Park Methodist Church from 7-9pm. Hope to see you there!

PUB President Bill Catherall started things off reminding those not on the Swarm List to register as this is the month for swarms. If you haven’t registered jump on over to the Bee Allies site and take advantage of swarm reports, mentoring opportunities, and available apiary spaces.

Glen Andresen shared his monthly Pollen & Nectar report. Glen took us through annuals, perennials, shrubs, vines and flowering trees that are contributing to this year’s honey flow. For a more detailed report check out bridgetownbees.com for Glen’s monthly “What’s in bloom” report. And please email Glen with any photos and/or suggestions of other good honey bee plants.

Our featured speaker was Brian Lacy, owner of Urban Bees And Gardens, which offers a range of programs for all ages to educate, support and advocate for the beekeeping community. Brian’s highly informative presentation covered first-year beekeeping and offered knowledge from his 45 years of beekeeping experience.

Tour De Hives 2017

Tour De Hives is just a few weeks away!! TDH is a self-guided tour of backyard apiaries and bee trees in and around Portland, Oregon. This year the tour falls on the weekend of June 24-25. We’re still looking for volunteers so please sign up here. Saturday we will be exploring SE neighborhoods and Sunday will be in NE Portland neighborhoods. We hope this will help give people more time to enjoy the tour stops, create more traffic at more stops, and give tour hosts a chance to also take the tour. Get your tickets here!

Zenger Work Party June 18th

Also a reminder/invite for the work party at Zenger Farm on June 18th from 10am-noon. We’ve been doing great things at Zenger and the apiary is looking awesome. But there’s still more to be done.

PUB Member Survey

At Portland Urban Beekeepers, we are honored to host a place for beekeepers to come together to learn, share, and engage our greatest passion – bees! Beekeeping is an exciting and challenging journey, and we all have our own unique experiences. We want to take this opportunity to learn more about who makes up our beekeeping club! Please click this link to fill out the online survey. We thank you for being a part of our community!

Multnomah County Fair

PUB’s presence at the 111th Multnomah County Fair was it’s best ever. The observation hive was a huge hit (thanks Bill Catherall & Janene Gibbs), as was the face cutout photo board. Special thanks to Linda Zahl for organizing and staffing the event and to all the volunteers who donated their time to making it a huge success!! Part of PUB’s commitment is to advocate for the bee community and educate those interested in raising honey bees and supporting their presence in the environment and we hit our mark at this year’s fair. Well done everyone!!

Zenger Farm May 2017 Report

Donation provided by Beetanical Apiary

On Saturday, May 20, 2017, several PUB Bee School students and mentors met together to get some hands-on experience in the hives. We had only 2 hives over-winter this year. But with 1 split performed 2 weeks ago, and thanks to a generous donation of 5 nucs from Beetanical Apiary, our hive numbers are back up to 8!

The weather was perfect. The students and mentors all had a great time. The bees were (mostly) well behaved. We have 4 OMB students helping to care for the hives this year as recipients of PUB’s OMB scholarship.

The apiary we maintain at Zenger Farm is used as our club’s outdoor classroom. These hives do so much more than just pollinate the crops on the farm. They also serve to educate the general public, local school groups, Afghanistan delegates, and Iraqi youth.

Come on out and join us sometime during a work party. It takes a great deal of effort to maintain this apiary and we need all the busy little worker bees we can get! Work parties are the 1st & 3rd Sunday of the month, from 10am-noon. No need to sign-up, just show up. Work parties are open to the public and free (except for the work we ask you to do).

(Photos by Jordan Egstad.)

          

May 2017 Beeline

In this month’s Beeline we will be recapping our May 3rd PUB meeting. We met at our usual location at Rose City Park United Methodist Church – and will be again on Wednesday, June 7th from 7-9pm. Dewey Caron shared information on swarms in May. He also shared an important link about the impact of pesticides on our bees. Go to http://pesticideimpacts.org for more information.

what's-in-bloom

Glen Andresen shared his monthly Pollen & Nectar report. We’re seeing annual flowers such as the Hybrid Poppy, and bulbs like the crocus bellflower (campanula), as well as the usual suspects like the sweet cherry and the asian pear starting to bud and flower. For a more detailed report check out bridgetownbees.com for Glen’s monthly “What’s in bloom” report. Send photos and suggestions of other good honey bee plants to glen@bridgetownbees.com.

baithivesSwarm Traps! By setting out swarm traps we can make it easier to catch our own swarms and give swarming bees a place to move into instead of a neighbor’s wall or attic space. And there’s no better time to catch swarms than right now! For information on how to catch swarms and to download swarm trap plans check out PUB’s blog post here. If you don’t want to build your own bait hives, we still have a few still available for purchase for $30 ($25 for 2 or more) so contact Lauren Smith  to order.

Our May meeting featured Rebekah Golden, who gave a wonderful presentation about her experiences working with native bees. Rebekah loves talking about all types of pollinators and is the education coordinator over at Bee Thinking. She was nice enough to allow us to post it on our blog so head over and check it out. We are so grateful to Rebekah for taking the time to share with our group.

Come check us out at the Multnomah County Fair May 27th – 29th starting at 12:00pm over at Oaks Amusement Park, 7805 SE Oaks Park Way, Portland, OR 97202, USA.

Zenger Farm will be having an Epi-pen training class at the farm on Wednesday, July 14th from 10am-12pm. Cost is $30 per person. If you want to attend send an RSVP to andy@zengerfarm.org.

And last but not least… don’t forget to SAVE THE DATE for Tour De Hives 2017 June 24-25! We will feature tour stops of backyard apiaries all over Portland. If you’d like to become a sponsor and be featured on this website, booklet, and poster please send send an email to events@portlandurbanbeekeepers.org. Tickets are going fast so head over to our website and pick up your own.

March 2017 Beeline

In this month’s Beeline we will be recapping our February 1st PUB meeting.

Once again, Bridgetown Bees‘ Glen Andresen shared his monthly Pollen & Nectar report with his extensive slideshow on current flowering plants. Even though we’re coming out of an atypically harsh winter, Glen provided some great information on the several blooming nectar and pollen plants just coming into bloom that are keeping our girls busy this February and March. You may want to look out your backyard and see what’s blooming there.

For example, there are several variety of crocus that are just starting to bloom for our girls coming out of the darkness of winter. Also vine plants such as the winter jasmine and winter honeysuckle are beginning to bloom as well. For a more detailed report on current flowering plants check out Bridgetown Bees for Glen’s monthly “What’s in bloom” report. Click here to check it out. In addition, if you happen to run across any interesting honey bee plants during your outside times be sure to email Glen with any photos and/or suggestions.

Our featured speaker this month was Susan Chernak McElroy, best-selling author, master storyteller and co-founder of Spirit Bee. Susan’s hives are the focus of her spiritual practice—the apiary as temple, teacher, divine inspiration, and meditation corner. She continues to study the science and the mystery of beekeeping, and believes that what is truly good for honeybees is equally good for human bee-ings. If you haven’t checked out her New York Times Bestseller, ‘Animals as Teachers and Healers,’ you should. Click here for a link to her books. Susan’s writings are published in more than twenty languages worldwide. Many thanks to Susan for sharing her holistic view of what beekeeping is like for her.

We’re excited to announce that Michael Thiele, founder of Gaia Bees will be speaking here in Portland on Saturday, March 18th. More details to come!!

Bee School 2017 was a huge success as we had a record 42 attendees and 8 volunteers. For those not familiar, Bee School is a yearly event for beginning beekeepers and provides 6 hours of classroom instruction plus 2 hours of hands on experience inside a working hive. For those who attended, keep on the lookout for your field reminder which will be coming to you in the coming weeks.

We have several opportunities for volunteering and being involved with the club. If you’d like to volunteer for Tour De Hives 2017, help out with Zenger Farm, help a board member, or become a mentor, please email Bill or talk to a board member at the next meeting.

January 2017 Presentation

andony_1000x1000At our January 2017 meeting our featured speaker was Andony Melathopoulos.

Andony is an Assistant Professor of Pollinator Health Extension in the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University. His work at OSU comes out of a mandate from the Oregon Legislature to create a state-wide pollinator safety and outreach program. Prior to coming to OSU he was a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Department of Biology at the University of Calgary working with Shelley Hoover and Ralph Cartar on canola pollination. He holds an Interdisciplinary PhD from Dalhousie University (2015) and a Master of Pest Management from Simon Fraser University (1999). Formerly he worked as the chief technician in Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Apiculture Research program (2000-2012).

If the video on Slide 9 doesn’t play it’s linked below:


Video Link