2016 President’s Message

The year is quickly winding down with the rapid approach of Christmas right on the heels of our first significant snowfall. Our bees are tucked in and it will be interesting to see what this year’s overwintering will reveal in the spring. Our next “meeting” is our annual holiday potluck and is this coming Monday, December 12th at 7:00 pm. We will NOT be conducting beginning beekeeping classes that evening. Bring a dish to share, a plate and silverware and a wrapped gift suitable (under $20) for the white elephant gift exchange. Please keep in mind that we have some children that participate each year, so if your gift is not suitable for a child, please indicate. The club will provide turkey, ham and beverages. If you’re interested in observing the fine art of honey judging, bring a jar for Bob Smith who will be demonstrating the process.

If you’d like to purchase a “These Plants Feed Bees” sign for Christmas gift giving, I will have the large and small signs available on Monday evening. What a super thoughtful gift for the pollinator lover in your life!!

I’d like to thank the OBA board and chairperson of our association for another incredible year. They all put in such a significant amount of time and work that benefits the club, our community, beekeeping and our bees. A special thanks to Kathy Miles for making sure we have refreshments at every meeting and taking the time to haul everything in and out each meeting evening. We so very much appreciate you!!!

In 2016 we continued our relationship with the Sustainability in Prisons Project folks, offering beekeeping instruction to inmates at Cedar Creek Corrections Center. Their programs have been generating a lot of buzz nationwide and other prisons are interested in implementing similar educational programs. We also continued our relationship with the Port of Olympia and the Olympia Regional Airport with hives there. The Airbee team includes Roy Manicke, Frank Scolaro, James Martin and Bruce Longmire and they have done an outstanding job managing the airport hives. This year, we were able to harvest some honey and the Port’s share was donated to SafePlace in Olympia for their annual fundraising auction. A brief presentation on the project was given at the November 14th Port Commission meeting where the team was also introduced. This fall, the team worked with Dr. Danny Najera of Green River College, (and a frequent fabulous presenter to our association) to install a sensor on one of the hives at the airport to collect humidity, temperature and weight data over the winter. We’re very excited to be working with Danny!

In February we participated in our first-ever All-Agriculture Day in cooperation with the Washington State Beekeepers Association at the Capitol. Several associations were represented, including the OBA. A honey tasting was set up, great connections were made and the day thoroughly enjoyed along with other agriculture groups and organizations that were participating. We were also thrilled to witness Governor Jay Inslee signing HB 2478 on March 29th. This bill, which will help create bee forage pilot projects will also help landowners learn how to successfully replace noxious weeds with good bee forage.

We also installed two hives of bees at the Governor’s Mansion on the Capitol Grounds in Olympia. This exciting project allowed us to bring pollinator awareness to the grounds staff, who received a special educational presentation as well as to guests, staff and visitors to the Capitol and the mansion. I was thrilled to be able to give a brief talk on the hive installation and bees during Ed Hume and Trudi Inslee’s annual organic garden planting event at the mansion. We are looking forward to this continued collaboration in the coming year. Abundant thanks to the Mansion Bee Team that includes Duane McBride, Jeff Coleman and Mark Emrich. This story became national media news and we hope it becomes a model for other state governor’s to follow suit.

The association was also well-represented at multiple community outreach events including our first “Adult Swim-The Science of Eats” and a honey tasting at the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia as well as participating in their kid’s camp and other museum events. We also participated in the Nisqually Watershed Festival for the second year. We had a booth at the Thurston County Conservation District’s annual native plant sale event, brought pollinators to the Master Gardener’s Children’s Program at DirtWorks (their demonstration garden), did presentations for Kiwanis, Lions and Rotary groups, participated in Yelm Cinema’s Earth Week event, another program at the WET Science Center and even landed an interview to talk “bees” with Dick Pust on KXXO’s “It’s Your Community”.

Bert Lewis is maintaining the club’s hives at our apiary in association with the Olympia Kiwanis Garden. Thank you, Bert, for all your hard work managing the hives at that location! The Kiwanis folks that run the garden (all the produce grown is donated to the local food bank) are thrilled to have the fuzzy pollinators around and we’re looking forward to the coming year with them. Huge thanks to Dixon Fellows for maintaining our observation hive bees and to Maren Anderson who helped with observation hives, too, for multiple events. Can’t do it without you guys.

Mechele Linehan took on the herculean task of package bee ordering and, once again, did a yeoman’s job of managing the details so that the club could provide a resource for folks seeking bees. Thank you, Mechele, for this and all the hard work you do for the club!

Nathan Allan took on developing the new website and we’re thrilled to have him manage the updating and evolution of our site to make it a real resource for our members and the public. Thank you, Nathan!!

Paul Longwell, now a Thurston County Fair Board member, did a remarkable job with the bee booth at the fair this year. The pollinator garden that he and his wife Penny installed is growing beautifully and is a gorgeous and important reminder of what we can do to create gardens for bees and other pollinators. Thank you Paul and Penny!! The club also received a special certificate of appreciation for the OBA’s year’s of service to the Thurston County Fair this year and we were deeply honored.

Thanks, also, to Bob Smith and Mary Haynes for continuing to provide quality education in our apprentice beekeeping classes. Learning about beekeeping is the number one reason folks come to our club, so we are very honored to have Bob lead the education department and share his vast knowledge (and enthusiasm about bees!) with attendees in the class.

Thanks, also, to Gail Booth for spearheading our swarm team. She makes sure that the swarm hotline is answered and takes of her time to connect with a team member to retrieve swarms. This can take multiple calls and we could not do it without her. You rock, Gail!

If you took on organizing an outreach event (Phil Yarosz and Perry Holtsberry!!) or participated in an outreach event, or built something and donated it or just donated something we needed, or found a way to do something better (beautiful library cart Ernie!!) please know how much you are appreciated! And, if I’ve forgotten anyone, I sincerely apologize. Please let me know and I will headline you in the next news letter after removing the egg on my face!! Board members and chairpersons, prepare to be acknowledged at the Christmas party!

We will continue to work on evolving our governance and association as well as on local and county issues pertaining to pollinators and pollinator habitat through our relationships with the County Commissioners, the Port of Olympia, the Voluntary Stewardship Program, the Thurston Economic Development Council and others and are looking forward to a new year of beekeeping, education and other fun activities this year!

Most importantly, heartfelt and huge thanks to each and every member of the Olympia Beekeepers Association. You are what makes all this happen and each of you contributes on so many levels to the overarching success and evolution of the club just by being there. From all of us at the OBA we extend our warmest wishes to you and yours for a joyous holiday season and a happy, prosperous and healthy New Year!!

Laurie

 

Alternative Beekeeping in the New Year

At this point hopefully we have all pretty much put our bees to bed for the winter. There isn’t much we can do for our hives now that we should have done last Fall. Gently lifting a side of a hive to check weight or maybe a quick peek on a warmer sunny day to check for winter stores.
This is the beginning of our new year and is a time to reflect on our personal past year in beekeeping and do some introspecting on our future plans for this Spring. What are we going to do in relation to our apiaries- more bees, replacing bees, increasing or replacing equipment and woodware. Maybe this year growing some plants just for bee forage.
It is actually the time to start thinking about ordering bees. Remember beekeeping is a business that is always thinking one or two seasons ahead. Our club has always been good at obtaining a supplier for our packages. Because of genetic issues there is never a shame in shopping around for possible sources of stronger bee stock. In the market for packages and nucs- suppliers are now already advertising for keepers to order early because they expect to not have enough bees to meet demand. Usually it is first come, first served for packages and nucs, but now some suppliers are asking for deposits on packages and nucs. Even if you aren’t sure if you are going to need packages, nucs or queens this year. Make a guess and reserve what you think you might need. If you find out you don’t need something you reserved let our club know and/or the local beekeeping Facebook communities. I guarantee there is always keepers that missed the deadline for ordering or just realized they needed bees that will buy your reserved packages or nucs.
I just discovered this local nuc supplier;  This is Kevin and Amanda Mills in Rochester. I have talked with Kevin and he is now taking deposits for nucs. He works with local queens in his nucs. If you are like me, I like to stretch my spending money for my bee stuff, out as far as possible. Now would be a great time to buy and assemble any woodware that we may be thinking we’ll need. One extra hive set in reserve is a good idea. With all the work and speding going on in the Spring- scrambling to buy and set up an empty hive for that surprise swarm capture is never that much fun. As far as woodware and supplies we have 2 local sources I know of which are the Lacey Tractor Supply Store and Beeline Apiaries in Rochester. This year I am going to put a bit more effort in planning, ordering, and planting bee forage. I feel the greatest time of need in the Pacific Northwest for bee forage is August and September. Now understand, I like the result of any work project I do to be as easy as possible to achieve and maintain. It’s not really being lazy, it is just working smarter. If I can plan a job with an objective that at a certain point becomes as maintenance free as possible, I’m there! As far as bee forage, I’m betting this year on The Chinese Tallow Tree, also know as the Ben Franklin Tree. They produce blossoms from August until the first heavy frost and do well in our climate. In an article published in the 1979 American Bee Journal, Hayes states “The Chinese tallow tree has become the most successful tree nectar source ever introduced into the United States.” I have not done business with this companies yet, so I can’t give them a personal recommendation. I just link them for everyone to check the tree out.

“It’s all about the bees” Ernie

Fortified Sugar Block Recipe

Lauri Miller Fortified Sugar Block Recipe

  • 25# cane sugar
  • one scant quart cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp of electrolytes
  • 1-2 Tbs citric acid (found in your canning dept)
  • Splash of Pro Health or other scented essential oil of choice

Mix together about 1/3 of the sugar and vinegar at a time in a five gallon bucket with a large drill and paint paddle mixer. If you try to mix it all at once, you will get uneven moisture distribution. Mixture will feel very soft, but not wet or sticky. I use a shallow aluminum baking sheet that fits right into my Cabelas food dehydrator. You can use any size pan you want, but be sure your bricks are no taller than your feeding shim under the lid.

Roll out and lightly compress in the pan. NOW sprinkle with BeePro or other dry protein mix if desired. I don't want to force them to eat protein , especially if they can't get out for cleansing flights regularly. If you live in a climate where regular cleansing flights are far and few between (a month or more) I might leave off the BeePro. You would need to experiment a bit to see what is the right mix for your hive's conditions.

Be SURE to cut the sugar into block size as soon as you make them. You'll NEVER do it after it's hard. The blocks will usually set up and harden in 1-2 days in the food dehydrator at about 130 degrees. It can take between 1 week and 3 weeks to dry and harden out in the open air. It depends on your room temp and humidity level.

Be sure NOT to cook this recipe or it will turn out differently, possibly a gooey mess.

Cheap insurance on hives with questionable stores, crucial for hives that have run out of stores.
This is what I am doing this year for hives that had eaten some of their stores, due to our warmer than normal fall and are now a bit on the light side. (I fed syrup earlier this fall until they no longer took it up). We are well into November and it is too late to feed syrup. Time to prepare for a dryer sugar mixture winter feed. They probably will not be needed for a few months, but I want to have them ready to install on a day the weather is decent and not raining. Note: do not feed sugar until they are winter clustered and actually are close to needing the extra feed. If they have much honey left they will haul the sugar out as trash.
Make sure you have an upper entrance and good air circulation.

Notes by Jim Rieck:

Because my operation is much smaller than that of Lauri Miller, I only make up this recipe using a ten pound bag of sugar with the following proportions:

  • 10# cane sugar (I use C&H or First Street - found at Cash & Carry or wherever)
  • 7 oz. apple cider vinegar (I use Four Monks found at Cash & Carry)
  • ¼ tsp. of electrolytes (Vitamins & Electrolytes “Plus” from www.ValleyVet.com or Del’s Farm Supply)
  • 1 tsp. of citric acid (Rocky Top Home Brew Supplies)
  • 1 tsp. of Honey B Healthy

After mixing well, I put it in similar aluminum sheet pans to those that Lauri uses, only they measure 13” X 9 ½” X ¾”. I picked mine up at Cash and Carry. What doesn’t fit into those I put in rectangular paper soup bowls that I found at Winco. They measure 8” X 8” X ¾”. I roll the mixture with a rolling pin and take a putty knife to chamfer the edges. For the aluminum sheets, I measure 6 ½” and bisect the sheet with a straight edge making two bricks per sheet. They fit nicely in my food dehydrator and are just the right size to put one or even two on the top bars right over the cluster. I don’t use the BeePro or any other protein powder like Lauri does. I probably overdry the blocks just to make sure I am not introducing any moisture into the hive. To prevent moisture absorption in storage keep each one in a Zip Lock. I normally don’t put the blocks on until late November. A fairly large healthy hive may only need one block to get through the winter. In warmer winters some of the hives have needed a second block. When the weather warms in March or early April, I will switch over to 1:1 syrup to stimulate brood rearing in preparation for the bigleaf maple and fruit tree honey flow.

The Alternative Conventional Hive

I believe there is not a keeper that hasn’t experienced the emotion of discovering one of their hives has died. The sadness, the feeling of some how we failed those bees. “Did I do something wrong, could I have done more?” For me, there was a period of time, in my bee keeping career, that felt I wasn’t smart enough, that I didn’t know how to keep bees alive. I felt I was failing miserably at something I wanted so badly to succeed at. I took any colony loss personally but it wasn’t about my ego. I realize there is always some colony die outs in beekeeping, it is actually normal and should be expected at a reasonable level. Still, I felt that the colony depended on me to do my part and be smart enough to keep them alive and I had failed. Then it struck me- It’s not about a single colony survival. Don’t get me wrong I would save every colony if I could but it is about our “apiary” surviving, our personal population of bees living on.
A small group of members from the Olympia Beekeeper Association are embarking upon a big mission. A way of keeping our apiaries alive. This new movement is so exciting for me the I have taken the liberty of naming the group the South Sound Sustainable Apiaries group. The name may change pending the group’s decision. For me it is an endeavor I had already started myself and for years is something very personal to me- keeping bees alive. The concept of the group is to create sustainable apiaries. Viewing your whole apiary as a self-sustaining unit. Be it a single hive apiary or a 100 hives. How do we get off the treadmill of keeping bees by buying packages every Spring? I will say just a few words about packages then move on. “The least successful source of bees is packages, the most successful source of bees is locally grow bees. Bees grown right in your own apiary with queens that at least born, raised and bred in your region of the country.” There I said it in exactly 40 words :-). In the Spring it hurts to see your package colony has died. However, seeing a nuc you made from that colony last Summer with a strong local queen survive the Winter and bursting with bees is a joy. You may have lost one colony but you have not failed your bees, you have sustained your apiary.
There are several ways to make winter nucs and during the November 14th 2016 club meeting Thomas Mani introduced the Over Wintering Double Nuc hive method. It is a way to make our club members self sustaining beekeepers. The Alterative Conventional Hive is a prototype double nuc system that enhances the "one hive" mentality of two nuc colonies. I researched Thomas’s theory and built a prototype double nuc system that sits on a 10 frame Langstroth foot print. Basically it is two nucs side by side with a thin wall between the two colonies. When I build equipment, I try really hard to keep as much of my tweaking and refining compatible to our existing bee equipment. Trying to keep everything as standard as possible. Inside a double nuc the two separate colonies will tend to cluster against the inner wall during the winter. If they don’t at least sense each other, they will feel the thin center walls to be slightly warmer because of the colony on the other side. A good way to think of the benefits of making a winter nuc is that it is an insurance/investment for your apiary. It is an insurance policy if your main hive doesn’t make it through the Winter. If your main hive does make it through the winter strong, that insurance policy nuc just became an investment that you can sell. There is a huge market for over wintered nucs.
It’s all about the bees,
Ernie