Skagit Valley Beekeepers Association

Newsletter for October 2022 
Upcoming Meeting
Join us for our October Meeting
(In-person or On-line)

Our meeting this month is on  Thursday, October 13that 7 PM at the Burlington Public Library. We will be sharing information and advice about preparing hives for the winter, and other tips and tales. Keep an eye out for a Zoom meeting link from Brad Raspet for those who want to attend and stay at home at the same time.

SVBA Leadership
Thanks to Brad Raspet !
Brad Raspet has let the membership know that he will be wrapping up his tenure as the SVBA President at the end of this year. He will be handing off the lead role for an association for which he has been a superb and timely steward, including maintaining and building new energy across the challenging hurdle of the Covid era. 
Brad has been a beekeeping mentor, advisor, and educator who helped bring us into the age of virtual meetings. He has linked longstanding members and club traditions to the newbies among us, always with an amazing energy and enthusiasm.
He underlines in his message to us that he won't be disappearing, and looks forward to helping with the transitions for the existing and new leadership. This includes looking forward to 2023 as an advisor, helping us grow and adapt to the evolving world of beekeeping.
Stepping Up
Leadership Roles in the SVBA
As Brad has noted, in addition to the president's role, there are a number of positions and volunteer opportunities to fill. One of the key ideas is to distribute some of the tasks that Brad has been accomplishing to keep the SVBA current with the contemporary communication and meeting management. He cites the following slots and responsibilities to be filled:
  • President – Organizes and runs SVBA meetings per protocol, arranges speakers for meetings, and supports club functions. Maintains current membership list for each year and email addresses so that meeting notices and other communications go out to members on a regular basis.
  • Web Page Administrator – Updates web page events and posts newsletters to the web page monthly. Must also pay for annual host and domain fees by credit card on file that are then reimbursed by the club. Requires some learning of the software Komposer and a lot of copy and paste.
  • Zoom Meeting coordinator – Needs to obtain or use a Zoom account with the costs reimbursed by the  SVBA. Needs to provide technical support at the meetings including bringing a cell phone (for club speaker) and laptop, and provide for a Zoom meeting assistance to facilitate connections for participants at home. Arranging for and setting up a projector is also required if the speaker is remote.
  • Reserve Meeting Location Coordinator – Needs to reserve the Burlington Library meeting room via reservation web page six months in advance of SVBA meetings (except months we have a silent auction or barbecue or the fair). Needs to update the reservations on first of each month.
  • Beginning Beekeeper Instructor – Become familiar with the lesson plans, reserve room for four Monday evenings in March, and share your knowledge about beekeeping with the beginners and assist the other instructors each year.

If you are interested in any of these positions, you can:

Featured Beekeepers
Isabelle Biren and MichaŽl Gourreau
Rucher de la Combe de Savoie (Savoy Valley Apiary)
(Editors note: We had the opportunity to spend the month of September in a corner of France, in a small village near the Isere River where it leads up into the high Alps. The local climates are surprisingly similar to the Skagit Valley, with its range of marshy riverways, foothills, and high mountain country.
While there, we were curious about the local beekeeping. We fortunately met two prominent and thoroughly engaging beekeepers who have an amazing enterprise in the adjacent town. They agreed to be featured as our beekeepers of the month and provided a wonderful international perspective for us to share with the SVBA members. Here are our notes from the tour they gave us in the rural town of St-Pierre-d'Albigny as we discussed their operation and experiences.)
Michael and Isabelle in front of their shop and apiary in France
MichaŽl Gourreau's family roots are in this mountainous region, which has a rich tradition of beekeeping - including a close family member/beekeeper. But for MichaŽl, this is his second career. He was formerly a member of France's elite Alpine infantry force that is trained to operate in steep mountain terrain. Ready for a change, he then enlisted in an educational program for those shifting their careers that focused entirely on the practices, science, and business of beekeeping.
After completing the program, he launched his ambitious enterprise, teaming up with Isabelle Biren as his business partner. They bought and assembled hundreds of hives and all of the accompanying equipment, borrowing space from a nearby grapevine nursery. They then moved their operations to a building they acquired at a prominent crossroads. They have since fitted out a portion of it with a sparkling retail store, decorating the exterior with murals by a local artist.
Michael in the bottling room and its automatic filling apparatus
They set out clusters of hives at distinctively different locations, targeting specific plants or environments. This included finding places from the low valleys to high alpine meadows. Among these, they now maintain the highest bee yard in France at an altitude of 7,500 feet, on the wildflower slopes around a mountaineering hut. 
Surprising relative to our seasonal cycles, their honey flow is normally finished by early summer when they bring the full frames back to their operating base. They cold-extract and bottle 12 different varieties with a process that avoids any filtration. Some of the honeys are named for the bee yard location, and some are named for the predominant plant sources, which include chestnut and linden trees which are plentiful and native to the region.
Isabelle in the stock room
From only about 450 hives, they also assemble and market an amazing range of other products - soaps, pollen, propolis and honey-based cakes and candies. Their mead is distinctive and far better to this editor's taste than any others we have tried. To make it, they enlisted the expertise of an expert local wine maker. He helped them craft a unique approach to each step in creating a mash, drawing off the liquid, and fermentation.
The Rucher de la Combe de Savoie is among very few beekeepers producing and selling royal jelly in France. Apparently 98% of the French market is currently supplied by Asian sources. They adhere to the stringent standards of a national association of royal jelly producers governing refrigeration, sources, and even the unique numbering of every jar identifying the producer.
Just like us, varroa mite management absorbs much of their attention. They have an interesting approach using a special plastic cage that isolates the queen within a brood super and prevents egg-laying for 4 weeks. This clears the way for an effective dose of treatment without any larvae in the colony, at which point the queen is let out of her cage.
If you are curious about them, you might look them up at their website

Trading Post
Les's Bees has a full line of beekeeping woodenware and supplies in Bellingham - SVBA member Les Scott has gone into business providing a wide range of beekeeping supplies. We featured Les and his operation in the September newsletter. Check out at or 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,

SVBA Membership
Join Now...or Renew
What a great time to join the SVBA, or get caught up on your 2022 dues before the year ends. Your $12 annual dues support the many programs and benefits that the Skagit Valley Beekeepers Assocation provides - just look at our website at Think about the return on your investment and what just $1/month brings in building and maintaining such a key part of our regional agriculture and ecology! The membership form and payment instructions are found at:
Brad Raspet, President

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

Steve Cecil, Newsletter

Alvin Forar, 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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