Invitation to members: Washington State Fair Honey Show & Competition

All are invited to enter exhibits for the Washington State Fair Honey Show & Competition in Puyallup, WA.
Attached you will find the Honey Show Premium List showing you all the details and rules of the show.
Also attached is a flyer you can print and share with all beekeepers.
Our honey show is statewide.    If you have a honey item you want to enter, please bring it to the fair on August 30 or August 31.   Please remember to register online before you bring you exhibits into the fair.   There is no charge for entering exhibits.
For all those who would like to send in their exhibits, please register online and you can send the exhibits to me at the address below (please include all contact information).    Ribbons can be picked up at the fair during the fair.   If you are out of the area, I will send you your ribbons.   Checks for winners will be mailed out by the fair.   Please only send perishable items (honey, wax, pollen, etc.)--no baked goods or items that can not withstand mailing.   All items sent in through the mail will not be returned unless you pick them up at the fair on Sept 25th or Sept 26th or you make prior arrangements.
Judging will take place on Sept 1st.    The fair opens on Sept 2nd and runs through to Sept 25th(closed on Tuesdays).    Ribbons:   Best of Show (Open & Novice), 5 Best of Categories (see premium list for details).
If you have any questions, please feel free to email me or Bob Bennett, the Honey Show Coordinator (
Thank you
Louis Matej
Superintendent, Ag/Hort
Washington State Fair
445 S. 96th St.
Tacoma, WA  98444
PDF: WSF16_Honey_Flier

Hives of Cedar

Does it make a difference what you build your hives out of? Depends on who you ask and the answer will depend on why and how they keep bees. It is generally accepted that commercial hives serve a different purpose then Alternative hives.

The wood and other materials used to construct commercial hives are excellent for the purpose they serve. Many times a keeper wants to make the hive itself- a symbol of statement. Neat rows of bright white Lang hives have a beauty showing a pride of ownership. Some keepers of Lang hives make their hives yard art by decoratively painting them with bright colors and designs. The bee hive can be a piece of art that just happens to house honey bees.
Western Red Cedar hives are very attractive in the Alternative beekeeping circles. They do make an attractive piece of yard art that houses bees. A hive of any style made of Western Red Cedar has a natural level of unique aesthetic beauty. The wood has the quality of not being uniform in appearance. Every piece of cedar will have a different design of color, grain, and knot pattern. When I build with it, I organize the pieces of wood out on the work bench. I will move them around, turn them over, study the wood, looking to maximize that uniqueness. I make a deliberate effort to accent the beauty of the wood. Then build it into the bee homes I am making. When I build hives for other keepers I guarantee them their hive will be “one of a kind”.
Western Red Cedar is more then just a beautiful wood to look at. It has several physical qualities making it an excellent material to make bee homes with. Cedar is a wood with a very low density. Low density means a high proportion of air spaces, which makes Cedar the best thermal insulator of all our common building wood. It has a 1 ½ to 2 times better insulating value then other woods. A hive with a higher insulated value assists the bees in managing the warming and cooling duties preformed by the bees in the hive. A low density also makes Cedar more dimensionally stable, shrinking and swelling less in a wet climate. That’s not to say that it doesn’t shrink or swell at all, it just doesn’t do it as much as other woods. Another property of Cedar that makes it a good hive building material is that it is hygroscopic. Meaning that the wood will absorb and expel moisture trying to balance with its surrounding environment. When I talk about this I say, “Cedar can breath”.
The natural preservative properties in Cedar wood means it can also absorb high levels of moisture without developing mold and fungus growth. Being hygroscopic and resistant to mold and fungus is a good quality to have inside a bee hive because of the high levels of humidity and condensation the bees can produce.

One thing I did find out, well I should say, I could not find- Evidence that building a hive out of Cedar will deter Wax moths. The Cedar wood appears to not have any properties that has any effect on any of the pest and diseases that affect honey bees. In my mind it would stand to reason that if there were substances in Cedar wood irritating or harmful to other insects it would have an adverse affect on the bees. Through it does make for lively debate in the social media beekeeping sites, I can not find any scientific study or verifiable evidence showing any adverse effects on bees kept in cedar hives.

My experience building and using Cedar hives is that they do take bee housing to different level for both the keeper and the bees. Personally I refer to Cedar hives as “Bee Homes”.

It’s all about the bees,


Beekeeping-Managing the Odds

I saw a bumper sticker once that said,"I’m a professional gambler- I keep bees". At the time I thought it was humorous, but as I thought about it more and more, I realized there was some level of truth in the humor. Sometimes it seems that keeping bees alive and healthy is a game of luck and odds.

So how do you stack the odds in your favor? As in-"Doing specific things for the intentionally purpose of increasing your chances of successful outcomes in beekeeping". For this philosophy to work one needs to establish a starting point of what the odds are. Normally we might approach it by saying, "If I do nothing, I have a 50/50 chance of success". In today’s beekeeping "doing nothing" with your bees reduces your chances or odds of success to less then 50/50. Under normal, natural, healthy conditions in the wild, a new swarm with no human intervention has about a 20% chance of surviving their first winter. Nearly every winter loss is due to starvation. Interestingly enough, a colony of bees that survives that first Winter has a 75% chance of surviving it’s second Winter. The first Winter is tough for a new colony but the odds of survival triple if we can get it through the first Winter.

What can beekeepers do to increase the odds of a new swarm/package to survive it’s first winter? The answer is in the reason why the majority of them die- starvation. Feed them new colonies. The minute a package or swarm clusters in it’s new home in early Spring, it begins to prepare for the coming Winter. Everything they do requires energy in the form of nectar/syrup and pollen/patties, the comb building, brood raising, gathering propolis, water, etc. It is estimated that a new colony must produce the equivalent of over 40 pounds of honey by Fall to prepare the colony for the coming Winter.

Another method to increase odds of success- keep more then one hive. If you start with one hive and it dies, you have lost 100% of your bees. If you have 2 hives and lose one, you have only lost 50% of your bees. It reduces the chances of total loses. If the hives are the same style it retains resources for the keeper to reinstate lost hives by working from the surviving hive.

Also retaining the old comb from your die outs. Safe, old drawn comb is like a gold mine to bees. Swarms actively seek out abandoned hives, previously occupied tree cavities and swarm traps baited with old comb. Making comb takes time and a lot of energy, having ready made comb gives the new colony a jump start. My personal method of "sterilizing" bars and frames of old comb for reuse is carefully packing them in the freezer for a few days. Be super careful! Frozen comb crumbles very easily.

There are many ways a keeper can manage their bees to increase the odds of success. I feel the most important way to stack the odds in your favor is knowledge. Surround yourself with like minded people, join a bee club, read books, watch videos, find a mentor. Don’t depend a whole lot on luck, simply getting bees and hoping for a good out come. Don’t get me wrong, there is an element of luck involved in beekeeping. However, I have found unquestionably, that the smarter I get, the luckier I get. So how does one separate the difference between the odds, knowledge, luck, or being good at beekeeping? You don’t- You mix the first 3 to get the 4th.

Happy Beekeeping,


Finding That “First Read” Alternative Beekeeping Book

There are excellent books for Alternative bee keepers. The selection of Alternative books is smaller then the selection of mainstream bee keeping books. Even then it is difficult to pick a best one. Finding the perfect "first" how to keep bees book is somewhat like trying to find the perfect hive. Beekeeping is so complex and diverse that there just doesn’t seem to be one that can be considered the single perfect book. Even books narrowed down to a specific hive and management style differ in quality of helpful information for a first read. I have an extensive personal beekeeping library containing over 70 books and 12 videos. In the Alternative keeping category I have several books and videos that stand out as what I would consider-"first reads". I think most of these books can be found on Amazon, but I have included a website associated with the author and book. I am not attempting to do a "sales pitch" for any of the books or videos only to help anyone interested in them to local sources for them.

Top Bar Hive

"The Thinking Beekeeper" by Christy Hemenway.
I consider this book, not only the first read, but as the owner’s manual for Top Bar keepers. Ms Hemenway owns the Goldstar Honey Bee Company . She has written this excellent book for bee keepers starting out with a Top Bar hive. The book is invaluable in that it covers situations and solutions directly affecting Top Bar keepers in our kind of temperate climate zone.
"Back Yard Hive, Alternative Beekeeping Using the Top Bar Hive and The Bee Guardian Methods" a video produced by Corwin Bell. I mention a video in a book review because of the level of information in this excellent video. This hour and half video stands alone- I have not found a Top Bar beekeeping video even close to the quality and professionalism of this one. The graphics showing and explaining the life cycle of a colony in a Top Bar hive is incredible.

Warre Hive

"Natural Beekeeping with the Warre Hive-A Manual", by Dr. David Heaf
Dr. Heaf is the man that started the modern Warre hive revolution. He translated Abbe’ Emile Warre’s book about the Warre hive-"Beekeeping for All" from French to English. After years of experience keeping Warre hives, Dr. Heaf wrote"Natural Beekeeping with the Warre Hive-A Manual" A modern how to book that stands alone as the state of the art in Warre Beekeeping.

Langstroth Hive

"Natural Beekeeping", by Ross Conrad.
For those of you that are considering Alternative keeping in a Langstroth or keeping a Langstroth along with your Alternative hive, this is the book to have in your personal library. In his book, Mr. Conrad has approached keeping bees in a Langstroth "naturally" as an alternative method of keeping bees. Mr. Conrad also has a video associated with this book which I have not reviewed- yet. Both book and video are available on Amazon.
"It’s all about the bees"