February in the Apiary

By Kathy Cox

That darn groundhog saw his shadow! I’m ready for Spring. How about you? I’m sure the bees would be happier. So, while the bees and you wait, make sure to register your hives. (The form is on this website) For most of you the cost is only 5 dollars. So many beekeepers avoid this, but it is important for several reasons. One of the best is funding research projects with Washington State University.

If you haven’t already ordered bees, don’t delay! Many vendors sell out by April. Vendors vetted by PSBA are listed on the website for ease of ordering.

If you are new to the monthly meeting of PSBA and new to beekeeping, please come to the meeting at 6:30pm to view the beginners’ lesson. Dawn Beck, Master Beekeeper, will speak on “Early Spring Management.” Our next meeting is on the 22nd and the Zoom link is on the calendar. See you there. This month our featured speaker is Dewey Caron. The topic is one that is asked by most beeks, “why did I lose my bees?” Dr. Caron will talk about: “CSI: Dead Out Necropsy.” Beginning in April we will have in person meetings at the Center for Urban Horticulture and, also carry them via Zoom.

Remember to switch from Winter patties to Regular pollen patties, which have more protein for brood building. It is a fact that feeding pollen vs. not means you will have a lot more bees at the time of the blackberry honey flow.

Just a reminder on hive inspections, especially for newbees, do them in the middle of the day, because most of the foragers are gone. Light your smoker even if you don’t use it. If you get stung, smoke yourself where you were stung to mask the pheromone that the stinging bee places on you to alert other bees to sting you “there.” It is the older (foragers) who sting. As you get better, you will experience less stings. I usually crack the inner cover and give one or two puffs to let the bees know I’m there. Then wait a minute to give the bees time to get to the honey and ignore you. Remember that the more smoke the more the bees have to air the hive out. When they are taking the time to do this, they are not feeding brood or offloading honey from foragers. Move slowly. Know what you are looking for. You don’t have to look at every frame. Take out a frame at the edge to give you room to view the rest of the frames without squishing bees OR your queen. The outside frames are usually resources, not brood. It is the brood nest that you want to see. See larvae? The queen was there in the last week. See eggs? She was there in the last 3 days. You don’t have to hunt for her. Take a quick look at the bees. Do you see K-wing, mites, deformed wings? Bee a detective. Check and clean the sticky board. It is a quick look into the workings of the bees. Debris show the bees accessing the frames. You can often see eggs, wax flakes, pollen balls, mites, microscopic bugs feeding on the debris, wings, legs, and more. It is good to clean it often. It is also the time to add boxes if the bees are actively covering 7 frames. Crowded bees make swarm preparations.

Make sure to put out yellow jacket traps. The yellow jackets that are alive now are queens. A queen killed now is a colony that will not bother your bees later.

Many beekeepers are surprised that they probably won’t have a honey crop their first year. I like to tell newbees that their first-year harvest is wax! It takes 10 pounds of honey to produce one pound of wax. Especially if you start with packages, your goal is wax. And by all means, stick your finger in the honey and have a taste!