January ’23 in the Apiary

January ’23 in the Apiary

By Kathy Cox

Say goodbye to ’22! I won’t miss it. Will you? I sure hope the spring is really the spring this year. Last year was so wet and cold and we jumped direct to Summer.

If you are a new beekeeper, you will want to attend the January 24th meeting virtually at PSBA. The link is on the calendar. We are having a panel discussion and yours truly will be there. Also, some of the commercial people with packages and nucs will be there to answer questions and tell you about their products. We have vetted the ones on our website. There are many more venders who sell locally.. They can be found on the Internet.  Make sure to order early. Bees are usually sold out by April.

General meetings start at 7pm, but did you know we have a beginners meeting that starts at 6:30pm? These are usually taught by Master Beekeepers, Tracy Klein or Dawn Beck.

If you are a new beekeeper, you must register your hives. You can find a copy of the WSDA Apiary Registration form on their website. As of mid-January, the 2022 form is still listed. In addition, check out our summary of local beekeeping laws here.

New beekeepers have options to choose – mediums or deep boxes, 10 frame or 8 frames, Langstroth or Top Bar style hives.  All mediums are my choice. Every frame is interchangeable, and the weight is much less. A medium box can weigh 40-50 pounds when full of bees and honey and a deep can weigh 90-100 pounds! Make your decisions and buy equipment early. You need to paint and let air dry for 2 weeks before introducing bees. Always order extra equipment. You never know when the bees will issue a swarm and you will need someplace to house them.

Most importantly sign up for a beginning beekeeping class. The classes are virtual, so everyone can access them no matter where they live. The classes are posted on the PSBA website . We even have a Top Bar class this year. Our classes are taught by Journeyman and Master Beekeepers. You will find me in the chat room answering your questions.

If you are an intermediate beekeeper is your Queen marked? (Why should you mark a Queen? First of all, it makes it easier to spot her! It also will let you know when she has been superseded (if the queen was marked and they replace her, the new queen will not be marked) .It will let you know how old your queen is. A second year queen is more likely to swarm and knowing her age will be important if YOU decide to replace her. This becomes so important as you gain more knowledge and grow from a bee haver to a beekeeper. So, mark those queens! If not marked, order a set of 5 marking pens and practice catching and marking drones. There is a mnemonic to remember what color to mark Queens. “Will You Raise Good Bees.” The first letter of each word tells you the color. “W” is white and used in years starting with 1 and 6. The reason the colors repeat after year 5 is because queens don’t last more than that. I just lost my 5-year-old queen last week!!!

Check your overwintered hive as soon as the daytime temps are around 55 for a queen or eggs. Start feeding 1:1 syrup to get the hive up and running by the time the blackberry flow is on. If your hive has moved up to the top box, reverse the boxes, putting the brood nest on the bottom and the empty on top. Make sure not to split the brood if the bees are in both boxes. You can move all the frames of brood to the bottom box instead. The bees will not draw comb without an uninterrupted source of nectar or syrup. Since we still have a rainy spring season, nectar cannot be gathered when it rains. And sometimes nectar can be washed away and only a few days after it is dry does it start up again.

To all beekeepers: do you know what not to wear in the bee yard? Black, Red or fuzzy are all things that remind bees of bears. Why red? Because bees see ultraviolet and red looks black to them. Also, the bees are not happy with certain smells. Try not to wear smelly products like shampoo, perfume or deodorant. Don’t eat a banana before working with bees because it mimics the alarm pheromone. Some toothpastes are too smelly for bees, too.

These columns go back, so check January of last year for more hints.

Kathy Cox


Master Beekeeper U of Montana

PSBA VP, Education Chair, Eastside Neighborhood Captain

Text: 206-465-1464

Website: Facebook.com/seattlehoneybees