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Establishing pollinator-friendly habitats and food sources for bees, butterflies and birds www.pollinator-pathway.org

Are you interested in learning about bees and beekeeping?

If you have little or no experience, the 'Getting Started with Bees' Certificate Program is a great place to start. It is a stand-alone program that satisfies the curiosity of those who want to know more about bee biology and backyard beekeeping through online learning and discussion forums. No waiting list - join at any time!

Take your beekeeping to the next level!

Are you interested in learning how to become a better beekeeper? Have you experienced problems in the past that you'd like to remedy? Do you want to help others learn about bees? The Oregon Master Beekeeper program is for you!

Participating beekeepers gain experience at three successive levels: ApprenticeJourney, and Master. Each level provides opportunities and support for additional learning, practice in the field, and community service.

All of our beekeeping programs represent a cooperative effort between the Oregon State University Honey Bee Lab and the Oregon State Beekeepers Association to contribute to both the health of honey bee colonies and the integrity of the practice of beekeeping.


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For more information, contact Heike Williams at heike.williams@oregonstate.edu

May in your Central Oregon Apiary

Now things are changing quickly.  Still not a whole lot of flowers, but the fruit trees are blooming, even if you can’t see them and many bulbs are blooming, as well as forsythias and the bitterbrush.  We can’t really plant our tomatoes (frosts still) no matter who in the area carries them.  And, we’re getting more and longer strings of warmer weather.

Achtung, Attention, atenciĆ³n, Dude, arreta, attenzione:

Swarm season is starting!

Especially if your hives are in town, there’ve probably been a bunch of flowers and forage plants that you didn’t know about (but your bees did).  It’s a “first world problem,” but if your hives are bursting at the seams, the next step they’re going to take, unless you intervene, is organizing a swarm.  If you remember, recently Clyde Dildine talked about swarming, it’s causes and possible mitigations.  Remember swarming is natural, it’s up to you to decide if you want to allow a swarm or try to mitigate it.  If you do nothing, they will likely swarm.  If they’re bursting at the seams, I like to inspect weekly until the swarm season is past (middle of June generally) as queen cells can emerge quickly.

If they haven’t started preparing for swarming (no queen cells (not cups), no increase in drone population, queen is still laying)…..you probably have time to “redirect” your colony to continue their increase and away from swarming.  As you know, some of the causes of swarming are: a “feeling” of overcrowding, no place for queen to lay or for workers to store honey, too many young workers.  At this stage, fixing these problems can help mitigate the swarming tendencies.  If all the bees and especially brood are in the upper box (Langstroth), reverse the hive bodies, if not you can add a super if applicable (80% rule).  Think about doing a split, removing primarily capped brood and it’s associated nurse bees for the split backfilling with empty drawn frames in a checkerboard fashion.  Or you can remove capped honey and backfill the same way.  Stealing some brood or honey to strengthen a weaker colony.  If you can keep ahead of the bees, you have a good chance to stop the swarming before it starts.

If they’ve already started preparing for swarming (filled queen cells, increase in drone population, queen is no longer laying) You need to be a little more drastic and timely.  My favorite technique is the “artificial swarm”.  You take the queen and several frames of brood (and associated bees) out of the hive and put them in another hive body, or nuc, being VERY careful not to damage or move any of the queen cells to the new hive.  If there are many cells in the old hive, many beekeepers like to reduce the number to 2 or 3 of the best looking ones.  Because the new colony has lots of space and little open brood and a reduced number of nurse bees, they “think” they’ve swarmed.  In the old colony the queen cell will hatch out, go out and mate and start laying.  If she doesn’t successfully mate, you can just recombine them later, or add a queen.

If you have colonies that are just slower than molasses in January with their spring buildup, now’s the time to figure out the problem.  At this point, if they aren’t building up, they won’t unless you “fix” the problem.  If everything looks good with food and mites, the queen might be old and need to be replaced.  If they just don’t have the “beepower” to keep the brood fed, think about boosting them with some brood and/or food from another healthy colony.

Of course, you’ve been keeping your mites under control through last winter, and the bees should be out-reproducing the mites during the buildup.  However, now would be an excellent time to do a mite count just to make sure that those winter treatments actually did work (this is especially true if you see symptoms of a bad infestation (DWV, mites on bees or on drone larvae)).  If your mite levels are elevated, or worse very high, treat.  Keep in mind the temperatures required and when you’ll be wanting to super.  Apivar and essential oils have periods of 1 to over 2 months after application before you can super.  As always, check the BIP tools for Varroa management for specifics, videos and strategies.

Enjoy your Spring,

Allen Engle

COBKA Notes - Archives

COBKA Meeting Slide/Video Archives


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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