Newsletter for January 2024

Newsletter for January 2024
Join us for the January Meeting
Thursday, January 11
Central Skagit Valley Library in Sedro-Woolley
Our monthly meeting is on Thursday, January 11th at 7 PM. We will be meeting at the Central Skagit Valley Library in Sedro-Woolley, 110 W State Street.
Here's what's up this month...
  • Bee chat - Come early if you can for our informal "bee chat" beginning at 6:30 PM with a few refreshments to which everyone is invited.
  • Bee talk - We are going to begin the year with a presentation on varroa mites from a leading research entomologist - Ramesh Sagili from Oregon State University
  • Zoom option - If you can't come, but want to participate, you can join us by Zoom. An e-mail with the link will be sent to members before the meeting.

 New insights on Varroa destructor
Presentation and Discussion by Ramesh Sagili, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Apiculture, Oregon State University
January 11th at the SVBA Meeting 
Varroa mites have been plaguing beehives in the Pacific Northwest for about two decades and have become the preoccupation of beekeeping science and culture. Imagine this - they were not always part of beekeeping. But today, managing them is key to bee colony survival.
This talk will bring us up to speed on current research about this nemesis and the prospects for emerging management methods. Dr. Sagili will join us and provide a presentation and his observations as a leading expert on the topic.

Beekeeping and Other Courses
at the Country Living Expo

Saturday January 27th
at the Stanwood High School
Country Living Expo is a day-long extravaganza of classes with an  extraordinary array of agriculture topics. Organized by the Skagit County Extension of WSU, there are hour-long sessions running from 7:30 AM to 4:00 PM. The $80 registration fee covers your choice of classes and lunch, too.
Beekeeping is among the offerings. Tamila Morgan will teach a 2-hour 
course in Beginning Beekeeping starting at 10:15, and a 2-hour course "Raising Your Own Honeybee Queens" beginning at 2 PM.
You can fill out the day with lots of other classes - there are dozens of choices, ranging from solving common garden problems, fruit tree pruning, pickling and fermenting techniques - to how to raise show-winning sheep and rabbits. 
The course catalogue link is HEREThe registration link is HERE .

Managing Swarms and Splits
Dawn Beck at the February 8th SVBA Meeting
SVBA VP and Master Beekeeper Dawn Beck will be discussing swarming and methods to manage them, so that you gain more than you lose. This is a particular challenge when we have a warm winter and abundant bee populations in the early spring. She will discuss the art and science of creating "splits" to turn one populous colony into two, and avoid losing a laying queen and precious honeyflow time.

Beginning Beekeeping Course
First four March Monday evenings
Central Skagit Valley Library (Sedro Wooley)
We are providing a four-session classroom course that covers all the aspects of beekeeping needed to be a successful new beekeeper, or a better veteran. The classes will be held at the same library where we now hold our monthly meetings, from 6 PM to 8 PM. This course uses a curriculum developed by the Washington State Beekeepers Association and is part of a sequence that can lead to becoming an Apprentice, Journeyman, or even a Master Beekeeper.
The course fee is $50, which includes a very helpful beekeeping handbook.
You don't need to register in advance, and just come and pay for the course at the first session. But additional information and a pre-registration option will be posted in this newsletter and online at our website soon.

SVBA Annual Potluck and Auction Event
March 14th at 6 PM
Sedro-Woolley Senior Citizen Center
It's just two months before our annual March potluck and auction event.  Besides the traditional magnificent spread of food, there is always an astonishing collection of items that our members bring to entice each other's pocketbooks. Set-up for the auction begins at 5 PM, and the event begins at 6 PM.
So, you all have some preparation inspirations to think about this month - what can you add to the menu? And what beekeeping (or non-beekeeping items) can you bring to the silent auction? The proceeds from this event are our largest infusion of funds for the SVBA, and it's fun, too.

Keep those Dues Flying In
SVBA: One of the best deals going

It is officially opening season for SVBA membership and renewals. The annual dues are only $12 (or $13 using our online payment system). The cost is low, and the benefits are terrific; this is an important source of funds that we use to support the wide range of programs and events that we offer. The membership form and payment instructions are found on our website or by clicking HERE.

The online payment option can be accessed by clicking HERE.

Windy City
Strategies to keep colonies grounded
SVBA President Brett DeLawter took a few minutes at our December meeting to show how he has fashioned robust wind protection for his beeyard located in Bellingham. Part of Bellingham and other places in our region have some unusual, channeled wind corridors in open locations where there are few buildings, trees, or topography. Over the past few years, sustained winter winds of 60 miles per hour have not been uncommon. Those cold, nearly hurricane force wind velocities can topple hives, tear off top covers, and make it more difficult for the colonies to keep warm inside.
Moving hives to a nearby sheltered location is not a good option - this can disorient the bees and lead to losing the entire colony. Brett's solution has been to use steel T-posts, hog fencing, and salvage burlap to surround the colony for the cold and windy winter months. 
The lively follow-up discussion brought out a number of practices and ideas for those who don't have a sheltered beeyard available. Some folks run a strap or tie a rope around each hive and its supports - which could be some concrete blocks at the base.
It all served to remind us that beekeeping isn't just region-specific, it's site specific too.

Another December takeaway were the treats from the holiday cookie exchange. Here was the editor's favorite: peanut butter and honey cookies stamped with a honeycomb pattern. They disappeared quickly.
SVBA Facebook Access
Reminder about the new access procedure
We have a useful media presence as a "private group" on Facebook, where we maintain a page and opportunity to exchange information. If you are new to using the page, you will be prompted to request permission to join our Facebook group. We will monitor the requests so that appropriate access is granted, and then you will be "in".

Record Setting Warm December
The bad news and the good news
The National Weather Service confirmed what we have all been experiencing - for many areas in Western Washington, this has been the warmest December on record.
The bad news for beekeepers is that colonies stay active, populous, and consume more of their honey stores faster. They may need supplemental feeding sooner and more than in a typical year. 
The good news is that the colonies will have fewer bees perishing from the cold, and will be more robust come spring. But that can lead to more swarming than in other years. So come to the February meeting and learn more about swarm control from Dawn Beck while there's still time.

Monthly Tips
January tasks
The new bee year is upon us. Here is a New Year's checklist drawn from Brad Raspet's January schedule of activities:
  • Check the hives for damage
  • Weigh and record colony weight in pounds (that bathroom scale should help)
  • Feed honey, bee candy, or raw sugar
  • Check the bottom board, to make sure the entrance is not blocked 
  • Order bee packages or nucs if you know you will need them
  • Purchase pollen patties for spring supplemental feeding

Trading Post
Need some mentoring? Advice-rich mentoring is available to member beekeepers through the SVBA's network of experienced, helpful volunteers. There are a number of individuals you can contact, organized geographically to cover various part of the Skagit Valley region. For more information, use this link to our website page on the topic:

Les's Bees always has a range of beekeeping supplies in not-too-far-away Bellingham, and owner Les Scott might even arrange to drop off on-line purchases for SVBA members at our meetings if you arrange it in advanceGo to Or you can contact Les Scott directly by e-mail, call, or text:  360-303-0396.

If you have supplies and equipment that you may be interested in swapping, selling, or just plain giving to other interested members of the SVBA, send a brief description, price, and contact information to your editor,
Skagit Valley Beekeepers Association

Brett DeLawter
, President
Dawn Beck, Vice President
Domie Bourgeois, Treasurer
Brenda Crossley Secretary
Steve Cecil, Newsletter

Don Johnson, Board
Jim Kohl, Board

Heather Oates, Board
Seth Smith, Board
Chris Zimmerman, Board