Newsletter for July 2023
The SVBA Summer Picnic - Join Us!
Potluck plus on Sunday, July 16th
Take a mid-summer break on Sunday, July 16th for our annual picnic and gathering of the bee folk at the Hillcrest Park gazebo. The SVBA will provide the burgers, dogs, and the fixings. You should bring a picnic dish to share and a beverage of your choice.
We will be set up from noon to 3 PM on Sunday at the prominent gazebo near the parking lot in Hillcrest Park (1717 South 13th Street, Mt. Vernon). 

Mostly it's about getting to know other beekeepers, and it is a wonderful opportunity for newbies to get tips from the veterans. We will punctuate the gathering with a brief meeting, catching up on news and the plans for the Skagit County Fair in August. Susan DeLawter reminds us that official jars will be available for purchase at the picnic for those who want to enter their extracted honey.

For you SVBA Board Members, remember that there will be a Board meeting on picnic day, from 11 AM to noon.

A Tale of Two Junes
We had very memories of bad bee weather last June. But this June seemed near perfect in comparison. 
So we decided to test our recollections against the facts, and we were right; last year was terrible for bees, which couldn't gather nectar and pollen because it was too cloudy, cold, and wet. This June was terrific by comparison. In theory, our honey hauls should reflect the difference, right?
Here are interesting charts of the cloud cover in Mount Vernon comparing this last year and this year. Gray means cloud cover, and blue means clear skies:

Cloud Cover in Mount Vernon by Date and Time of Day
Source: Weather Spark (

Looking Ahead: Skagit County Fair
The County Fair is around the corner, and we look forward to your participation. The Fair runs from August 9th to the 12th, but there is some preparation and "assembly required", too ... and it's all fun. 

Fairground SVBA Meeting 
Tuesday, August 8th at 6:00 PM
The special version of the SVBA monthly meeting will be at the Fairgrounds and will include last minute preparations for our booth in Building D at the fairgrounds, amid the bustle of exhibitors getting ready for the Fair opening.
The SVBA Booth
Set up and staffing
Volunteers should sign up at the August picnic. You can also contact Heather Oates about decorating the booth ( or Rob Johnson about staffing it (
  • Help set up the booth - There are displays and decorations to set up in advance.
  • Staff our booth - There are 4-hour time slots still available; get them while they last.
Preparing for the Judging Event
Getting ready...

  • Pick your categories - Get ready to prepare your entries in any of the categories we have this year, including extracted honey, novelty jars, cut comb, and full honey frames for both adult and youth divisions. There is also a category for youth-prepared educational posters about bees and beekeeping. For more information, look up this summary for "Open Class Honey" at
  • Buy your official entry jars and lids - You can pick them up at the July picnic.
  • Check out the rules - They are on-line at
  • Get ready to submit - Entries will be accepted at the fair booth in Building D on Sunday, August 6 (2 PM to 7 PM) or on Tuesday, August 8 (9 AM to 2 PM). For any questions or clarifications, contact Rob Johnson,
  • Register your entry - You can register in-person when you drop off your entry.
  • Get more information - If you have more questions, contact Susan DeLawter at

WASBA Knowledge & Fun Fest
Olympia's Medicine Creek Winery
Saturday July 22

We hope you can join other SVBA beekeepers and travel down to the Medicine Creek Winery in Olympia for this big, free, public event and statewide beekeeper festival on July 22nd. The Washington State Beekeepers Association is hosting this fair-like event. There will be vendors and information booths staffed by WASBA clubs, games, raffles, mead tasting, activities for kids and more.
Directions, times and details can be found at

The ins and outs of slow and steady mite treatment
At our June meeting, master beekeeper Dawn Beck shared a boatload of information about an emerging method to control varroa mites: slow-release oxalic acid. The presentation was one part lecture, one part cooking class, and one part questions and answers. 

Here are just a few of the takeaways:
  • Oxalic acid: natural origins, common treatment - Oxalic is an accepted effective treatment that differentially harms mites and does not flavor or harm honey. Until recently, however, the approved application methods are for large intermittent doses of vaporized acid that can be traumatic for the bees.
  • The route to FDA approval - Although the ingredients and approach were initially approved by the FDA and were based on combinations of previously approved materials, a technical inconsistency in the application relative to a published recipe has extended the cycle of reviews.
  • Slow and steady using soaked pads - There is a way to cook up a solution with oxalic acid and other benign ingredients, soak it up in absorbent pads, and slip them into hives for long-term exposure at low doses. This method can keep the mite populations very low and manageable, with less trauma to the bees. But follow the directions!
  • Swedish dishcloths are prettiest - There are several inexpensive absorbent materials like shop towels that you can use, but Swedish dishcloths are perfect if you cut them in half - and they have cool colors graphic patterns to choose from. Who knows? The bees might appreciate them, too. 
A key source of information on this method is Randy Oliver's website at

Back in the Saddle Again
Seth Smith joins the SVBA Board
Long-time SVBA leader and beekeeping guru Seth Smith has joined the Board, adding another phase of his many contributions to the organization and our members. Thanks!
Getting the Word Out
SVBA feature article in Skagit Valley Living
Anne Doherty wrote a flattering feature article about the SVBA in the latest issue of Skagit Valley Living. With information provided through an interview with Vice President Dawn Beck, the article conveys many dimensions of our group and its activities. The author was particularly and personally pleased with our website's Swarm Capture Contact List. It led her to Dawn, who then collected a swarm from a tree limb at her sister's home in Burlington. 

Monthly Tips
July: Yup, it's blackberry season all right
The blackberry blossoms are abundant as we turn into July, and the honeyflow will be peaking this month in many of our bee yards. Here are some tips inspired by Brad Raspet's seasonal advice:
  • Early harvesting - You can harvest blackberry honey now if it is plentiful, or wait until later.
  • Checking varroa mite counts - If colony counts are excessive, you should treat them. Make sure to use methods that are approved to be consistent used simultaneously with honey flows, if you plan to harvest any of the honey in the hive.
  • Drones - If you use drone frames or remove drone cells as a mite control method, this month is an important time to remove brood cells where they are at least 50 percent are capped.

Trading Post
Bottles for Honey Judging - We will be selling bottles for the honey judging event at the July SVBA picnic at a low price that just covers our costs (see the lead article in this newsletter).
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,
Membership: Renew or Join Us!
Use our online sign-up, or just send or bring a check
Please join (or rejoin!) the SVBA. Dues get you an annual membership and supports our many activities, meetings, and special programs - including the education and outreach that we provide through our courses, speakers, and annual County Fair participation. Just look at our website at

The annual dues are only $12 (or $13 using our online payment system). The dues support the many programs and benefits that the Skagit Valley Beekeepers Association offer our community of helpful beekeepers. The membership form and payment instructions are found at:
The online payment option is located at:

Brett DeLawter, President
Dawn Beck, Vice President
Rob Johnson, Treasurer
Susan DeLawter, Secretary

Steve Cecil, Newsletter

Gail Buce, Board
Don Johnson, Board
Jim Kohl, Board

Heather Oates, Board
Seth Smith, Board

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Skagit Valley Beekeepers 2926 Schattig Ln Oak Harbor, WA 98277 USA

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