Skagit Valley Beekeepers Association

Seth Smith, President 

Bessie Robar, President (shadowing)

Elizabeth Pheonix-Agin, Vice President

Rob Johnson, Treasurer

Natalie Dougliss, Secretary & Newsletter

Scott Rhodes, Board

Alvin Forar, Board

Brad Raspet, Board

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope that everyone is well and can enjoy this time of the month!

Due to the Burlington Library still being closed, our next meeting will be held Thursday, December 10th at 7 pm on the Zoom Meeting app. Brad has emailed everyone the link with instructions.

December Newsletter

Bee Flight in Winter

Your bees will be clustering all winter long. However, there will be times during the mild, warmer days when you will see your bees fly around. I have already seen a bunch of bees trying to take sugar water from our hummingbird feeder. On warmer winter days, the bees will fly and forage for what they can find. They will also use that time to defecate and to stretch their wings. On colder winter mornings, you probably won't see your bees at all. If you listen closely, you can kneel on the grass and put your ear up to the hive and hear their gentle buzz. 

For the commerical beekeeper, this is the time they grade their hives and mark which ones are well and big enough to send down to California for almond pollination.

The queen has officially stopped laying eggs, so if you do hive inspections you will see no brood. It is the time of the year when the beehive has the lowest bee population count. 

Deadout Autopsy 

Like we have discussed before, dead-outs are not necessarily a bad thing. You can use the resources available (comb, honey, pollen, etc) to assist other hives that may need an extra boost for winter or springtime.

However, it is always good to know what a beehive has died from. Was it from mites? Starvation? Queenless? Here are some easy diagnosis tips while going through your hive.

1. Mites: There are a few different tell tale signs that mites have overtaken a colony. If you observe your bees closely, they will look sickly. They might have deformed wing virus (wings will be larger/smaller than others, wings crinkled up). You might even see red specks (mites) still on your bees, or mites on your bottom board. You can also observe the cleanliness inside/outside the hive. If it has a lot of yellow/orange discoloration, there might some nosema involved (can get from mites).

2. Starvation: Starvation occurs when the colony runs out of food for the winter. This can happen when a beekeeper doesn't provide proper nourishment before winter hits, or , some colonies have to genes to consume their stores very quickly. If you do not have extra honey frames to put in those hives, the colonies probably won't make it. When you observe a hive that has died from starvation, the bees will still be in their cluster on the frames, usually with the queen at the center. If you brush some of the bees away, you will also see bees with their bottoms hanging out from the cells. They died in the cell while looking for food. The frames around the colony will be completely out of honey. Sometimes there will be honey on other surround frames, or even inches away from the colony cluster. The bees are so tightly clustered together that sometimes, unfortunately they can die inches away from their food because they move the cluster in the wrong direction.

3. Queen-less: As I was inspecting my hives a few weeks ago, I opened the lid to do a quick check. All of my hives but one were tightly clustered and few were flying. They seemed mellow and I could hear their gentle hum. However, when I opened to lid to my last hive to inspect, I noticed that they were all sporadic and unsettled. This was not normal or consistent with my other hives, so I knew something was wrong. I could see they still had honey on the outer frames, so I knew it wasn't starvation. This leads me to believe that they were queen-less. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do in the wintertime if your colony goes queen-less. Sometimes they will survive winter, but when they are all sporadic they are confused. The colony circulates its worker bees around the queen during the winter to form that tight cluster in order to keep the queen warm. Without a queen to keep warm, they do not have a core center to keep warm. The cluster will break up and they will die from being cold. If you are observing a dead-out that still has a lot of honey, the bees will not be dead in a cluster, but most likely be on the bottom board. 

Asian Hornet: Update

I think we've all heard in the news that the WSDA has officially found and exterminated their first Asian Hornet nest.  Seth sent me this awesome flyer about the asian hornet removal. Above are some facts that the WSDA published and all citations are found above. 

I have provided a link to the WSDA page if you would like to see maps and data on the captures of these insects.
Springtime Maintenance 
Like I mentioned in the last newsletter, springtime is right around the corner!! It's a perfect time to order more equipment, bee suits, hive tools, mite treatments, and much more.

If you plan on growing your apiary to 20 or more, you might want to consider expanding your hives to different locations. There is only so much food in a given location for hives to thrive. If too many hives are in the same location, the bees may starve due to lack of food. I would recommend looking around your neighborhoods/ country spots for other commercial or residential beekeepers. Beekeepers are very territorial and rightfully so! Making sure there are no other hives in the area before setting your beehives down is the right thing to do. This ensures not only you aren't stepping on other people's toes, but it also (more importantly) ensures that your bees will have food. Some areas lack vegetation, so it is not guaranteed. Just keep that in mind. 

Buying books and watching YouTube videos is a great learning tool if you have any questions or concerns about your bees!


New Canidates for SVB
Thank you to those who have stepped up to be apart of the Skagit Valley Beekeepers counsil!

1. President: Brad Raspet will be our new president! With the help of Seth for a while, we are excited for his leadership! Thank you Brad for your heart for bees, and thank you Seth for faithfully serving the bee club for years.

2. Secretary: 

I believe we are still looking for a board memeber. If you are interested in this position, please email anyone of the names listed above!

I hope that everyone has a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year!!