Central Oregon



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

Upcoming events

09 Apr 2020 6:00 PM • Zoom Meeting
14 Apr 2020 • Redmond
28 Apr 2020 6:00 PM • Zoom Meeting
16 May 2020 10:00 AM • TBA
26 May 2020 6:00 PM • Bend Environmental Center
13 Jun 2020 10:00 AM • COAREC (Madras)

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.

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Then and Now

Beekeeping “Then” for me was the Mid 1990s.  I had had an interest in beekeeping for a long time.  I had read several books over a few years, one of which I remember reading was “Beekeeping, the Gentle Craft”.  Written by John Festus Adams and published in 1972.  I was recently divorced and feeling lonely and didn’t have much to keep me busy other than work.

            I had a friend, Butch, who had learned beekeeping from his grandfather in Elgin Oregon and who had been a beekeeper in Bend for a few years.  I had helped him go through his hives a few times and helped him move them a couple of times too.  So, I decided to give beekeeping a try.  Butch had an empty hive and gloves and a bee suit which he let me have.  He also had a stainless steel extractor (which I later realized was solid gold for a beekeeper in the days before COBKA’s extractor lending program. Thank you COBKA).  I ordered a package of bees from Texas shipped through the mail.  It arrived safe and sound and I put it in a single deep around to the side of my house next to the freezer.  This didn’t work out too well.  Almost every time I came around the corner to get something out of the freezer there was a cloud of bees hanging around. 

   After a few rather tentative hive checks over the next couple of weeks, I realized that my hive was queenless.  I had read up on package introduction, and had installed the package properly, I thought. But for some reason the queen hadn’t survived the process.  I worked up my nerve and called the guy in Texas and told him about my problem.  I didn’t know why the hive was queenless, I said, but I had read that most package suppliers would replace the queen if her introduction was not successful. Would he?  I remember thinking he was probably muttering under his breath as he questioned me about how I had installed the package.  Finally, after some coaching, he agreed to send me another queen. This one time.  The queen arrived and I introduced her and she survived and so did the hive, for a while.

             About that time, my neighbor told me that his wife was deathly allergic to bees. Wanting to be a good neighbor, and wanting free access to my freezer, I decided to move the hive to a friend’s house about 5 miles east of town.  This was mid summer and the hive had some brood but still hadn’t started storing much honey. Each time I visited, the hive seemed to be a little weaker.  Finally one afternoon I visited the hive and there were no bees in it.  All gone.  I guess they absconded, althongh I’m not sure that is what you would call it, fled might be more like it, but absconded is what I tell people now.  That was my first year of bee keeping. 

            When I started beekeeping in central Oregon there weren’t many active beekeepers.  But, as time went by, I made acquaintances with several old timers who had been at it for a few years.  Web Loy was one, he lived near me, and had kept some hives in the area.  Don Franks was another, he lived near a friend of mine north of Bend between Highway 20 and Hi way 97 off Cooley road.  I should have cornered both of them and quizzed them thoroughly and repeatedly about bee keeping in central Oregon. It would have saved me a few hives I’m sure and a few mistakes.  But, I didn’t. 

  The next year, I purchased a package from Glorybee in Eugene.  Because my neighbor was allergic to bees, I got permission to put the hive on some open lots a few blocks down the street.  This worked much better.  Close by but not too close. 

            Swarms were plentiful when I started bee keeping, mostly from feral hives I think.  I typically caught five or six per year at first, and could have gotten more but I didn’t have the boxes to hold them.  Many of these swarms were from calls from the police department.  It seemed that there were several hives in downtown Bend, probably in the attics and walls of the old buildings, that would throw swarms pretty regularly.  I would get several calls every year about a swarm in a tree or on a light pole along the sidewalk.  They were usually surrounded by curious pedestrians at a respectable distance when I got there. The police and the city workers just wanted them gone.  Of course many of those swarms didn’t survive the next winter, but it was an exciting and educational experience for me. 

   And that was about the time I was learning to deal with the varroa mite.  I’ll talk a little about that another time.

Dennis Gallagher   

Aaah, April in Central Oregon.

Hope you are staying safe and healthy.  I have to admit though, beekeeping is the epitome of social distancing with most of us having our hives pretty well spaced, away from people and most public not wanting to come anywhere near during manipulations.

April is the month of dramatic growth in our hives.  Fruit trees and other forage flowers are coming out in force and our hive populations are burgeoning.  These are the primary activities we, as beekeepers, need to watch for.

First, check that your bees are indeed increasing.  On a warmer day (mid 50s to mid 60s) have a quick look.  Outside, there should be a lot of activity, with quite a bit of visible pollen coming in.  Early in the month, I usually want to see better than 3 solid frames of brood with 5 or 6 creases of bees.  I also want to see minimum 3 frames of honey/nectar and pollen.  If I didn’t do a midwinter mite treatment, I’ll do a mite count (either sugar shake or alcohol wash).  The honey bee health coalition suggests that the treatment cutoff this time of year is 2%.

               If the colony isn’t increasing, WHY?  Is your queen old/weak/late starter?  If the colony was slow last year, but did fine during the summer, your queen probably is a slow starter.  If you’re seeing a very spotty pattern (for non VSH queens) or lots of drone cells, you might want to requeen.  If you’re seeing a medium colony, limited internal food stores, lots of eggs and small larva, but few larger larvae or capped brood, you might be having issues with a productive queen and just not enough nurse bees to keep the larvae fed.  You can either transplant some adult bees from another, healthy, hive and/or a frame of capped brood to provide the adult bee biomass to get them going (I also will feed them as much syrup and artificial pollen as they’ll take to help them out).  I will also sometimes either move them to a 5 frame nuc, or add a follower board (TBH or long hive) to temporarily reduce the size of the internal chamber to a more manageable size.  Is the mite count high?  Do a mite treatment.  You’ll need to be careful with the ambient temperatures outside and how the treatment interacts with this stage of colony activity.  Read the Honey bee health coalitions tool on Varroa management as a great resource.  For Langstroth hives, if all the activity/brood/food is in the top box, and the only activity in the bottom box is passing through, consider swapping the boxes (called hive body reversal).  Finally, with any common type of hive, if your colony was fortunate/industrious enough to come into spring with lots of stores left, from last summer/fall, the brood chamber may be surrounded by honey (honey bound).  Consider checkerboarding 1 or 2 frames, or bars of drawn comb to enlarge the brood chamber.  This shouldn’t be done until later in the month when it’s consistently warmer as the bees will have more space to keep air conditioned at the appropriate temperature, and the current brood may be chilled.

With rapid growth, comes swarming (starting later in the month).  Not good, not bad.  It just is.  Swarming, for the most part results from the colony’s perception of overcrowding, or of too fast growth.  It isn’t necessarily bad (although when I see a nice strong colony, being reduced to a mediocre sized colony, I’m usually not thrilled unless I catch the swarm).  This is more of a subject for May, however if your hive is starting to get crowded, look into splitting it to avoid the swarming temptation, if that’s your philosophy.

Finally, Deadouts!  If one or more of your colonies died this winter, you’ll be replacing them with a nuc, package, split or swarm this month.  Think ahead and get it cleaned in preparation for new bees (verify the old ones didn’t die from a brood disease before reusing).

Allen Engle

Big Thanks to Dennis & Allen for this months notes!

Some things to do:

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