Willamette Valley Beekeepers Association
May 18, 2020
This meeting was held via Uber Conference over the telephone due to restrictions on meeting size and no access to our usual meeting place at Chemeketa Community College. It was a question and answer format which I have tried to combine into a coherent account by topic.
The “meeting” call began at 7:00. The first topic was not surprising – Swarms:
- It’s been a busy swarm season of which we are about ½ way through.
- The swarms have been large, perhaps indicative of the bees being able to raise brood earlier in the year, but then to have 2 weeks of cold wet weather the second half of March which delayed swarming until the first week of April when they exploded.
- Jim picked up a swarm with lots of drones. The speculation is that drones were following a queen on a mating flight.
- If you get a swarm but discover in a few days that there is no queen, give the bees a frame of eggs and open brood and let them raise their own queen.
- Rich had a swarm with a marked queen move into a box at his house.
2020 Spring Season:
- 2020 has been warmer and drier than 2019. For you who want to nerd out over numbers…look up growing degree days. According to a phone app that I have as of April 30, 2020 we have had 219 growing degree days. 04/30/19 we had 193 growing degree days. The 10 year average for April 30 is 184 growing degree days. In other words, the numbers don’t lie. Yes, this spring has been warmer. The bees don’t need phone apps; they just check the weather outside each day and fly accordingly.
- Jeremy placed bees for pollinating peach orchards in February instead of the usual March.
- The very first blackberry blooms have opened so you had better have honey supers on with more staged to keep up with the nectar flow.
- We could have a longer nectar flow since we’ve had a good amount of rain the past few weeks which will prolong blooms.
- Paul made a split with 4 or 5 frames with 3 or 4 capped queen cells. When he checked later he found 2 cells where the queens had emerged but there was still one that was intact. Why? 1. The workers sometimes hinder queens from emerging for various reasons, most of which we do not understand. Check out this article from Science Daily on super sisters. Or they could wait for the already emerged queen to return successfully from her mating flights. We don’t know for sure. The cell could be empty. Paul will check the cell the next time he is in the colony.
- How quickly do workers tear down emerged queen cells? That depends on the colony and their need for wax.
- Do workers ever move eggs? According to research scientists, no. However, Rich has carried out an experiment where twice he found that they can move eggs. Just to further muddy the waters, here’s a blog from Honey Bee Suite, “Do workers ever move eggs from cell to cell?”
- How and when to move queen cells? According to “Raising Quality Queens” from University of Arkansas Extension, best time to move cells is day 12-14. Jeremy suggested simply move the entire frame rather than trying to cut individual cells from a frame. (This is assuming that these are not deliberate beekeeper grafted queens in plastic queen cell bases.)
- Mean bees can be hard to re-queen. The solution is to split the colony into several nucs then introduce a mated queen into each of them.
Colony lacking eggs or larvae:
- This time of year if you have honey supers on, do not feed syrup to encourage brood raising. Instead feed sweeter than normal pollen patties if the colony appears to be low on pollen. Otherwise consider re-queening.
Asian Giant Hornets:
- Washington State Department of Ag.
- UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center
- If after reading these two pages you want more info, then the USDA has a new pest response document which is 60 pages long!
- Suggestions from the group for control ranged from electric bug zappers, electric fly swatters, badminton racket, and robbing screens.
- Flavor is comes from floral source i.e. nectar not from the pollen.
- Flavor descriptors can be found on a honey flavor wheel from UC Davis. For only $12.99 you too can describe honey like a connoisseur.
- Honey Bee Suite describes tasting pollen in “An evolutionary mystery: the taste and color of pollen”.
- How long does it take pollen to become bee bread? I, (Anna), could not find a definitive answer to that question. However in “The Beekeeper’s Handbook” by Diana Sammataro page 29, we find that pollen is collected, brought back to the colony, packed into cells, moistened with nectar and saliva which contain enzymes and lactic acid bacteria which starts the fermentation process which turns raw pollen into bee bread. In the warmth of the brood nest surely that fermentation doesn’t take very long.
- Which flowers currently blooming produce red pollen? Rich said that Coastal redwood has red pollen. Anna found a chard that shows asparagus, rockrose, and scabiosa with red pollen.
- Gray pollen is most likely from blackberries.
- What’s the status of the free sugar? We don’t know. Meduri Farms changed their procedures so now their employees pick up sugar directly from the rail yard. Apparently they are more careful with the forklift as they are not damaging the amount that had previously been happening.
- Mark asked if bees would move the sugar syrup they had stored in the brood chamber up into the honey super once the super was on. Rich was unsure, but thought that the bees would most likely consume it before the moved it to make room for the queen to lay. This time of year, the bees are churning through the nectar and stored honey.
- Bees will take sugar syrup all summer long, so stop feeding once supers are on unless you want to be eating sugar syrup honey!
- Mary Ann asked about feeding the dried honey drippings from extracting. The concern is open feeding might lead to robbing. Try placing on the feed on the inner cover that might work.
- Can the bees use old frames of capped honey? Yes. Will they reprocess it from crystallized to liquid. Unlikely, but not sure. It is a good idea to simply give it to them. Anna noted that the OSU bee lab tested old honey and found it higher in hydroxymethylfurfural, (which is toxic to bees at high levels) than sugar syrup or fondant. Solution, don’t let frames of honey sit around, feed it to the bees.
- How to encourage bees to draw comb on green drone frames? Wax the frames, put the frame in the box of a swarm, create your own swarm, put the bees in a tower of 5 frame nuc boxes, feed syrup, Jeremy suggested to place the frame closer to the center of the brood nest.
- How long does a swarm draw comb? 10 frames plus. It depends on the size of the swarm.
- Wendy and Jeremy reported colonies with a high proportion of drones. We are unsure as to why that might happen.
- Several beekeepers reported finding low mite levels thus far in the season.
- Keep checking mite levels.
- Order treatments now so they are on hand when you need them.
Sulfur and Bees:
- Paul wondered if the sulfur sprayed on a vineyard (10x per season), was harmful to bees. The National Pesticide Information Center Fact Sheet on Sulfur says, “(Sulfur) is practically non-toxic to the honey bee.” It sounds like it is a non-issue.
Long Langstroth Horizontal Hive:
- Bill is experimenting with a horizontal Langstroth hive which holds 40 frames! He will keep us posted as to how it works out. Anna is also experimenting with a horizontal Langstroth hive. We are sure to have interesting adventures.
Hands-on in the bees:
- Rich had gotten his bee yard into shape and is planning to hold a hands-on in the bees day. More information will be forthcoming.
- We hope to be able to hold it. Place and time will be determined and be sent via mail chimp.
Meeting Adjourned about 9:00
May 20, 2020
Anna Ashby, Secretary