Central Oregon



We meet on the fourth Tuesday of most months at the Bend Environmental Center. 

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24 Feb 2020 5:00 PM •
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2019 Photo Contest 1st Place Winning photo "Ladies Night"

by Jolene & Harley


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.

      Not much going on in the apiary in February, that we can see.  It may seem like they are probably resting in there, whiling away the hours eating and snoozing, waiting for spring. Kind of like us.  But bees are not slackers. If they have enough stores and are healthy and have a good population with a healthy queen, they have work to do all winter.

      There are cold winter days and even colder nights to survive using a methodology that has been adapted and honed over around a million and a half years give or take a few hundred thousand. The oldest fossils of Apis mellifera, the modern honey bee, are traced to the mid Pleistocene era. Think about that for a few moments. We are dealing with an insect that has been around much longer than Homo sapiens (modern humans, around 200,000 years) have been around.  And they have developed a survival strategy that seems to work pretty well on the whole.

   They have other winter tricks up their sleeves. 

    Have you ever noticed that when you open a hive that has survived the winter everything has been glued together? All the small spaces and cracks between the frames and around the frame ears are packed with a mix of beeswax and propolis.  The cracks between the hive bodies have been carefully stuffed and stuck together too.  The lid or inner cover is often stuck to the frame top bars with burr comb. One theory is that this reduces the number of places that invaders such as ants and beetles might hide where the bees can’t get at them.  This is another reason to make sure the hive has plenty of stores going into winter so they have sufficient honey and nutrition to make wax.

    Sometimes, if the hive has an upper entrance, the bees have piled a big glob of propolis in that upper entrance, apparently trying to seal or nearly seal it.  I know they have a purpose, but sometimes I wish they would lighten up a little on sealing everything.  It makes for some tough and tedious work to open the hive and break loose the frames and separate the boxes from their wax and propolis bracing in the spring.  But my life doesn’t depend on everything being glued together and maybe their survival does.

  Another thing they are doing in there is protecting the queen and building the population of young bees so the hive can be strong right out of the gate when the weather finally warms and the flowers and trees start blooming in the spring.  The bees have a firm grip on reality.  And are covering all the bases to enable them to survive and multiply.

            Meanwhile we, the beekeepers, can help them by being aware of whether or not they still have plenty of stores, (usually by hefting the back side of a hive to assess roughly judge the weight of stores remaining) and maybe vaping a hive with oxalic acid for mid winter mite control.  Treating those hives that had high enough mite counts last fall to require treatment then, can help get early control over mite numbers in the spring.  A mid winter treatment can give the beekeeper and the bees a head start.

    As well, we need to get ourselves and our plans ready so when the bees come busting out in April we are ready for them.  February is a good time to start, or maybe even finish, projects such as ordering queens, or nucs or packages of bees for delivery in April or May. Also ordering and assembling frames and boxes, and painting things.  Preparing for whatever our hives or future hives might require of us, can make for some indoor work to while away the winter hours.   

     I really enjoy seeing the bees out for a cleansing flight on a mildly warm day in the early spring, nature is coming alive again. The warm days will be here soon.

Enjoy your bees

Big Thanks to Dennis Gallagher for writing this month's notes!

A few quick thoughts on Feeding in February 

Yes, the girls are flying, and we are all pleased (hopefully) to know they're still alive. For the moment. February is typically our coldest, snowiest month. The problem is that they are flying on nice days, burning energy stores in the hive and there are no native food sources for them yet. HEFT each hive from the rear to determine how light it feels. They may still have enough weight of honey left in there to get them through to March. But, maybe not. In warmer temps, they can move the cluster into adjacent available food and/or they will move upward. IF there is any food left. In COLDER TEMPS, play it safe and feed them SUGAR CAKE where they can access it directly on top of the frames of the upper box (above the cluster) if there is room to get the outer cover or blanket box back on securely. Or put a shim there to give more space. Or put the cake on top of the inner cover if that's all you have. Fondant, the old standby, is time consuming to make, and the process produces HMF which is toxic to bees. SUGAR CAKE is easier to install and less messy than just pouring sugar on the inner cover or a piece of newspaper with slashes laid on frame tops, but that will work too. It is still not consistently warm enough yet to start feeding syrup, which also puts a lot of moisture in the hive. SUGAR CAKE recipe: 2 1/4 c plain cane sugar (not organic) plus 3 TBS water. Work together with your hands until it is like wet sand. Compress into a block and let dry in the open air in the house for a week if possible. I use wax paper in pie tins to make discs that are easy to insert into hive on the warmest, driest day available.

Thank you to Sara Miller for writing these feeding notes!

Sugar Cakes

"In the Apiary" Archives

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