Central Oregon



Upcoming events

25 May 2021 7:00 PM • This is an online event (via Zoom)
22 Jun 2021 7:00 PM • This is an online event (via Zoom)


Huddled close, happy

Warm for winter, together

Work all done, Bees sleep

S. K. Montgomery, 2020 COBKA Haiku Contest Winner      


We are a diverse bunch of individuals who share a fascination for the honey bee and its workings. Our members range from full-time beekeepers and pollinators with hundreds of hives to hobbyists involved in backyard beekeeping. 

Some members do not even keep bees, but are fascinated by the six legs and four wings of Apis mellifera.


The Mission of the Central Oregon Beekeeping Association (COBKA) is to promote effective, economic and successful regional beekeeping through education, collaboration, communication and research in the spirit of friendship.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

May Notes

Your Central Oregon Apiary 

Aaaah, May.  Things have pretty much (except for the occasional freeze) become warm, and the flowers and trees are in full bloom.  Other than the occasional controlled burn, and spring storm, the skies are getting clearer.

Well, up till now, it’s all pretty much been prep.  May is the busiest month of the year for many beekeepers.

For those who have existing survivor hives from last year.  They should be well on their way coming up to speed for summer.  If you haven’t already, you need to inspect.  By now in a survivor hive, I like to have at a bare minimum 1 hive body in Langstroth, or ½ of other hives with 5 or 6 frames of a variety of eggs/uncapped brood/capped brood, 2ish frames of honey/nectar and 1-2 frames of pollen.  If the food is low, feed to correct (1:1 syrup, pollen patty VERY close to brood).  If the brood is insufficient, figure out why and correct it (poor queen, poor food, insufficient nurse or foragers, mites).  With the population (hopefully) booming, your bees should be outgrowing the mites.  Do a mite count.  If it’s greater than 2 (per the Honey bee health coalition tools for Varroa management) strongly consider treatment (keep in mind temperatures and when you’ll be preparing for excess honey in making treatment decisions).  Finally, if your colony(ies) are progressing on the upper side of average, they’re going to be “getting that swarming feeling” (to paraphrase Halle and Oates).  If you want to minimize the swarming possibility, early is better.  Before they have made the decision to swarm (no eggs or larvae in queen cups or cells) swap out frames of honey with new frames, add another box in a Langstroth or Warre, checkerboard the brood chamber with DRAWN comb, or split the colony (walk away or add queen).  Even if not for swarm control this is an excellent time to split your colony to increase your hives.  Remember the queen only takes 16 days from egg laying to adult, so if you examine your hive every 2 weeks, you have an excellent chance of missing the swarm cells.  So this month, you should check every 10 days or so if you want to mitigate swarming.  If they’ve already decided to swarm (eggs and/or larvae in queen cups or swarm cells) but haven’t yet swarmed, you really only have two choices.  Let them swarm, or do an artificial swarm.  Put the queen and the uncapped brood (and associated bees) in another hive, leaving the swarm cells, capped brood and associated bees in the original hive and location.  There are several other techniques (clipping the queen, queen excluder below boxes, pinching swarm cells, putting the swarm back in the original hive, moving frames around dramatically to confuse the queen) but, in my opinion, they aren’t particularly efficacious.

For those new colonies, your split/nuc/package should be coming this month.  After installing, I like the insurance of feeding them (1:1 syrup and a pollen patty very close to the brood chamber) until they are established with a frame or two of pollen as well as a few frames of honey.  They’ll start hauling the pollen patty out with the trash when they don’t need them any longer.  Mites aren’t usually an issue initially.  The supplier usually creates the package or nuc from treated hives so the mite levels start low, and the bee population is increasing rapidly.  In June, however you should start counting.

After all that, sit in your lawn chair, sort of over to the side of the hive, with a cold beverage in hand, and watch the ladies go about their tasks and keep the world in order.

Allen Engle

At our May Meeting we plan to discuss Honey Bee Photography. Hope to see you there!

no wind or weather    

caring anticipation

joy! eggs and honey!

Georgene Siemsen, 2020 Haiku Contest 3rd place winner

When the Honey is Not So Sweet: Managing Bee Stings

By Nancy Pietroski

Stings are a common and not unexpected hazard of beekeeping.  If a particular honeybee stings, it will only happen once as they die after stinging, and can’t attack repeatedly like hornets and wasps. However, a person can receive multiple stings at the same time. With the sting a venomous toxin is released, which can cause an allergic reaction in the unfortunate victim. The degree of reaction to the sting depends whether someone is allergic to the venom.

Initial Management of Stings

If a sting occurs, do the following as soon as possible:

  • *        Remove the stinger by scraping it off with a fingernail or credit card
  • *        Wash the area with soap and water
  • *        Apply a cold compress or ice to decrease the amount of toxin absorbed into the skin ,and to decrease swelling
  • *        To neutralize the acidity and initial pain of the venom, these home remedies used immediately on the stung area offer rapid relief: honey! (cover with a bandage), make a paste with baking soda and water, apple cider vinegar, meat tenderizer, toothpaste

Management of Sting Reactions

A mild reaction to a sting can cause burning pain, redness, and swelling at the site. A more moderate reaction can cause substantially more redness and swelling at the site. These reactions may become more intense with each sting.  After the above has been done:

  • *        Take an antihistamine like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton) to ease the itching (because bee venom contains histamine). These are older antihistamines and can cause drowsiness, but they work better than second generation ones like fexofenadine (Allegra), loratadine (Claritin), or cetirizine (Zyrtec).
  • *        Take an anti-inflammatory agent/pain reliever like ibuprofen (ex. Motrin, Advil) or naproxen (ex. Alleve). Although acetaminophen (Tylenol) is a pain reliever, it is not an anti-inflammatory, so will not help with swelling.

*        Use hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, or something with a topical anesthetic (like benzocaine) to ease redness, itching, swelling, or pain.

*        Herbal oils/creams like aloe vera, tea tree, witch hazel, calendula, or lavender may soothe the sting site.

*        Try not to scratch the sting area as it could make the reaction worse and may lead to infection at the site.

  • Anaphylaxis
  • A more serious reaction can occur after multiple stings at the same time, but is more likely to occur with a sting after a more pronounced reaction to a previous sting. This serious reaction can cause lip, eye, face, tongue or throat swelling/constriction, difficulty breathing or swallowing, itching, flushing, hives, nausea and vomiting, stomach cramps, or dizziness. These may indicate anaphylaxis, which is a true medical emergency. The only treatment for anaphylaxis is to immediately call 911 and administer epinephrine, such as EpiPen, if it is available. A person who has had a previous moderate reaction to a sting should be carrying epinephrine; this needs a prescription from a doctor. If epinephrine is not available, emergency personnel will administer it when they arrive on scene, along with other medical measures, but it may be too late.
  • EpiPen and other products such as AuviQ and Adrenaclick are autoinjectors, which are a syringe and needle that injects a single dose of epinephrine when pressed against the thigh, even through clothing. If you carry an EpiPen or one of the other products, know how to use it and make sure those closest to you know how to use it! Those who have been prescribed epinephrine autoinjectors always carry two pens, because if the first dose does not work in 5 minutes, another one should be administered. Even if the reaction subsides after administration of the pen, follow-up monitoring in a medical facility should be done.

If you are carrying an Epi-Pen for yourself and someone you are with has what you think is an anaphylactic reaction, but hasn’t been prescribed the Epi-Pen, should you administer it? For perspective, bee stings are responsible for 20% of all anaphylactic reactions, and people who have had a more intense reaction to a previous bee sting have a 25-65% chance of experiencing anaphylaxis with the next sting.  Although legally an epinephrine autoinjector should only be administered to the person for whom it was prescribed, it is not unreasonable in an emergency situation to use another person’s pen if an anaphylactic reaction is occurring. If you are going to be repeatedly in a situation where stings are occurring (like beekeeping), familiarize yourself with the use of an epinephrine autoinjector (instructions are on the label of the pen, too) in case you ever need to use it. Visit one of the product websites, which contain useful information on recognition of anaphylaxis and administration of epinephrine, such as https://www.epipen.com/en.

Allergy Shots

If you've had a serious reaction to a bee sting or multiple stings, you should see an allergist for testing and possible allergy shots to decrease your response the next time you may get stung. Consider wearing a medical alert bracelet that identifies your allergy to bee or other insect stings.

Thank you to Nancy & Allen for these May Notes!

COBKA Monthly Notes Archives

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software