June 2021

Hard to believe we’re halfway through the year and already into peak bee season! The Portland metro area is popping with color and lush green leaves and wonderful floral scents. Wisteria and rosemary are in full bloom, the horse chestnuts are coming as we say goodbye to pears and apple blossoms. Last year, I planted an area of my apiary with Botanical Interests brand of a pollinator flower seed mix.  It is trying to come back this year, though I noticed it is currently dominated by a fast-spreading euphorbia. Poppies and borage are also making the scene and hopefully won’t get too crowded out. Might be time for some “weeding”. 

The best of the swarm season is closing and as of this writing PUB has collected 77 swarm reports, up for grabs for our 184 registered users. Our May meeting featured Max Kuhn who spoke to us about brood breaks for varroa mite management. Max has 15 years of beekeeping experience, is a master level student in the Oregon Master Beekeeper Program and developed a unique method to cage the queen on a frame, probably familiar to most Oregon clubs. The system is a form of hive brood break, which uses a queen excluder screen to restrict the queen to one frame.  The queen continues to lay on this frame.  After 9 days, when all the other brood in the hive has hatched, her eggs/brood is the only game in town and the mites are drawn to that frame which is later removed. He has provided most clubs with instructions on this technique and it’s more one tool in our toolbox for effective alternative for mite control.   

May 2021

It’s official, the bee season has begun…multiple attempts to procure an extra inner hive cover the other day were met with “out of stock” and “check back next week.” By now, many of us have received our new bees. But as I write this, it has not yet happened and I am counting down the days to when I pick up my packages. Having lost my hives over the winter, I miss the bees. I miss doing spring checks and watching for swarm cells. I miss watching them react to the warm sunny mornings and looking at the different colors of pollen coming in. It’s a wonderful feeling, really. I see it as an affirmation of what beekeeping means to me and the value I place in being a steward of their species. Until then, I’ll watch others do their inspections and tidy my shed and clean my equipment for their new tenants, grateful for the space that will be created when the boxes and supers go back to work. 

Our April meeting featured Dr. Dewey Caron who reviewed Spring management – splits, swarms, feeding – all the classics. So many good reminders and new ideas, he is such a rich source of experience and knowledge. We’ve decided to keep our meetings directed to more experienced beekeepers and it’s worked out well. Our online Beekeeping 101 class is a great way to serve new beekeepers but keeping more advanced beekeepers engaged via our monthly meetings has remained a priority. One great side benefit of Zoom meetings is the dialogue that happens amongst members in the chat box – don’t you think? It’s added an unexpected dimension to the meetings for folks to pose questions, links to more resources, explanations of something the speaker said, even jokes. Just one more way for us to connect and share!

April 2021

Who isn’t loving these warmer days? We’re happily watching our bees zip back and forth from parts known and unknown or we’re anticipating the arrival of our bees (or both!). Either way, the Spring is a harbinger of finer days to come. 

PUB was fortunate to hear from its own Mandy Shaw at our March meeting. Many of you know Mandy as the creator and producer of the podcast Beekeeper Confidential and she gave us an overview of swarm catching – showed informative videos and provided stories and lots of tips and tricks for success in both collecting and baiting swarms. 

For a few months now, PUB has been surveying its members regarding whether members would like to reconvene in person or continue our meetings on Zoom, after the pandemic. We’ve heard from about half our membership and so far the votes are 2:1 in favor of remaining on Zoom. It seems the convenience of participating in a meeting while in our pajamas is too good to pass up!  PUB is now looking at ways to augment those with in-person social events, which we all know is an important part of our community development. PUB is hoping to start work parties at its apiary in June and we’re considering hosting quarterly gatherings at local pubs for informal sharing and mingling. 

Many thanks to our members who developed and created a virtual Bee Buddy system on our web page. Now potential mentors and mentees are able to connect through our website and find another beekeeper to pair up with, learn from, and teach. If you’re a beekeeper in the Portland area, join in!

February 2021

It always feels like such a tease when the warm weather of random February days drops into our lives. I can’t help but think maybe an early Spring is upon us and start looking for crocuses. I do see my tulips starting to come up, so it can’t be that far away.  

Before we go any further, I need to give a shout-out to our OSBA 2020 Conference speaker and 2020 American Honey Queen, Mary Reisinger. In her presentation, she highlighted her family’s banana bread recipe which uses honey instead of sugar. When I found 11(!) frozen bananas in my freezer the other day, I knew it was time. The results were delicious and I wanted to share a link to her recipe here:  Substitute Honey for Sugar in Your Favorite Recipes 

PUB was so fortunate to hear from Dr. Tom Seeley for our February meeting, speaking about Darwinian Beekeeping. This evolutionary approach to beekeeping focuses on reproducing conditions the bees have in nature. Small hives, minimal manipulation, swarm promotion, low honey production are all aspects to this fascinating approach. There are some real challenges to working this method in an urban environment where other colonies and beekeeper methods can intersect, collide and contradict. I couldn’t help but think of the discipline such an approach requires: resisting honey production, euthanizing mite loaded colonies, encouraging brood breaks – all of the things that go against the lauded goals of increased brood expansion and honey production. At the same time, I appreciated his reinforcing the idea that all the ways of keeping bees are valid, just different. His talk made many of us think about why we do what we do when it comes to our bees. By taking the time to really think about what our individual goals are related to beekeeping, the better beekeepers we have the potential to be. 

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!

Swarm Report 2020

Response to Portland’s Proposed Beekeeping Ordinance

The city of Portland is proposing changes to the beekeeping laws. We received a detailed outline of the changes proposed, and as a club, we rebutted. There will be public hearings sometime in March 2020.

In response to the proposed changes we sent out a survey to PUB members. Below are links to PDF documents of the survey results and the rebuttal to the proposed changes. The city has acknowledged receipt of our rebuttal, and we would like our members and the general public to have access to it as well.