• Science & Research

    Research Opportunities with PSBA

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    Danny Najera Weighing Hive

    Danny Najera Weighing Hive

    PSBA supports beekeepers with information to improve their hive management practices and honey bee health.  In 2013, we initiated some focused data gathering from our beekeeping community – with the help of board member and PSBA Research Chair, Daniel Najera, PhD.  Below are the outputs of those studies, as well as a list of opportunities for beekeepers in the Puget Sound Area to participate.  Do your part to help bees by contributing observations and data from your beehives!

    Sign up to participate in any of the below by clicking here.

    PSBA Research Opportunities

    1. Evaluate hive density and impact to honey flow in urban environments:  Where are the most bees currently, where are there voids?
    2. Evaluate regional honey yields: use feedback from local beekeepers to generate a honey yield map, compare to hive density map
    3. Hive Tower Study – a way to control varroa and boost honey flow too:  This study will be in collaboration with Maryland beekeepers to compare results in different regions of the U.S. -more info:  http://www.mdbeekeepers.org/towerhive.html
    4. Hive Droppings – Mite Counts and Pollen Samples:  The drop counting is working well, but we need more data – i.e. more participants!
    5. Hive Weights: Measure amount of honey stores throughout the season to better understand requirements to successfully overwinter
    6. Pollen Colors and Counts:  On sunny days, 5 or 10 minute counts of watching the entrance can tell us a lot!
    7. At PSBA Meetings:
      • Monthly Surveys:  Come to a PSBA meeting and participate in our monthly surveys on hive data!
      • Nosema Study:  Come to a PSBA meeting with your sample of bees to see if nosema is a problem in your colony.






    Bee Informed Partnership 2015-2016 Colony Loss and Management Surveys Open

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    Bee Informed Survey open until April 30th!The annual Bee Informed Partnership National Colony Loss and Management surveys are LIVE!  Starting now and continuing until April 30th, your responses to these surveys provide invaluable information that helps create a clear picture of honey bee health throughout the country and helps guide best management practices.  Your participation is important and could help to create a better regional snapshot of how we compare to the rest of the country.


    Follow the link below to participate:



    Some Things I’ve Learned

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    Laura and I have been keeping bees for six years now.  Seems like only yesterday when someone plopped a one-deep hive in our yard and said “Here, read this book.”  (Not a recommended way to start beekeeping, BTW).  Even so,  we bought bee jackets and a smoker the next day and started read everything we could.  The bees swarmed in three weeks.

    We’ve come a long way since then.  I’m still fascinated by those little flying creatures and still learning stuff all the time.  Six years and I still feel like a beginner. Through PSBA and my own drive, I’ve gotten a bit beyond honeybees to learn more about other bees, insects, arachnids, flowers, gardens, ecosystems and even politics (ugh!). So here are just some of the things I learned through or tried directly because of PSBA:


    A frame of comb gathers the remains of a swarm

    An empty brood comb gathers the remains of a swarm

    A little about catching swarms: At the PSBA summer potluck picnic two years ago, an elder (read experienced) beekeeper from North Carolina told me “You could get a swarm out of a tree if you can get a brood frame close to it.  Just tie a rock to a string and toss it over a higher branch, then haul up the frame.  It works better if the comb has open brood in it.”  Here’s a picture of a brood frame I hung very close to bees that were left behind after someone got the main swarm.  These bees were reunited with their main colony.  That gentleman was a treasure.



    Honey Production Split brought in the honey

    Honey Production Split brought in the honey – notice the hive that is 7 boxes tall!

    Splits:  In 2014, I did a “walk away” split for the first time for swarm prevention.  It was easy – split the colony into two, each having equal numbers of eggs, larvae and capped brood.  The half with the queen thinks it swarmed, the other half raised a queen.  This year, I took Kathy Cox’s PSBA-sponsored class on splitting hives.  One method she described was called a “honey-production” split.  Basically, half the split is one frame containing eggs and larvae, plus all the frames of capped brood.  The first half of the split is the queen, the frames containing the rest of the eggs, larvae and a lot of nurse bees.  The bees think they swarmed and go about their business.  The second if the split half has a few nurse bees that raises a new queen, but the rest of the huge number of workers and emerging brood have nothing else to do but to gather nectar and make honey.  In the picture at right, the center hives got to seven boxes tall shortly after the blackberry flow.  I was too optimistic for the outer two hives and had too much space for the colonies.  By the way, we did get a personal record for honey this year.  Kathy Cox is a treasure.


    Robbing Screen

    Anti-robbing screen constructed from Dr. Mussen’s design

    Simple robbing screen - PSBA

    Simple robbing screen – modified after PSBA Board Member Maureen Sullivan’s design

    Robbing Screens and Varroa: In 2014, Dr. Eric Mussen gave a talk at one of the PSBA meetings and before he spoke on his main subject of bee nutrition, he gave a five-minute talk on varroa mites and how bees that rob or are robbed can exchange mites.  It happened to me last year where we got our moderately strong colony down to a minimal mite load, but in three weeks there was over a thousand mites.  On the topic of mites, one of Dr. Mussen’s last statements was (paraphrased) “While you can do everything right and get your mite loads minimized, your hives can get re-infected.  It’s not your fault!

    The screens prevent robbing of the hives, but don’t preclude the colony going out to do the robbing.  What a treasure we have in Maureen, and also the PSBA speakers.




    Does your sticky board look like the one above?

    “Natural” varroa treatments can and do work, but there’s a lot of work that goes into it, not to mention methods, experience, observation and timing.  My mentee had the methods.  Experience?  Second year beek.  Lost the first year colony.  Observation?  Getting better with experience.  Timing?  Oops!

    In discussing mite treatments, I told her that oxalic acid, formic acid and beta acids in hops were organic in nature, so the mentee decided maybe HopGuard wasn’t so bad.  The picture above is worth a thousand words.  What a treasure we have in the Neighborhood Captains program.  I guess that includes me.  (The newsletter editor wanted me to say that.)



    Danny Najera and a team of students making observations on and inserting sensors into our hives.

    Danny Najera and a team of students making observations on and inserting sensors into our hives.

    Gathering data for overwintering success:  Danny and his team will collect data on temperature and humidity during the winter and make correlations with colony mortality.  I’m going to try to skew the data by having 100% colony survival this winter.  (Two years ago, I took part in Danny’s mite count study.  I sure learned a lot about observing and treating for mites.)  Danny Najera is a treasure.






    Bees will find the honey – oops!

    This picture was taken after my bee buddy (she’ll remain anonymous) after honey extraction parked her car in a mostly-enclosed garage with wet comb in the back.  The windows weren’t exactly all the way up.  We estimated 5000-8000 bees in the car the next morning.  Having left her bee suit in the car, I had to come to the rescue.  If you’re ever in a similar situation, just make sure the door is pointed toward the sun, open the door or window and the bees will leave in that direction.  Yes, my bee buddy is a treasure, too.


    This article was submitted by PSBA neighborhood captain Kevin Gow. He and his wife Laura are ever present volunteers for PSBA and we certainly consider both of them a treasure along with  their contributions and support of our community of beekeepers.

    2015 Bee Data

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    Around this time last year, Danny Najera spoke to PSBA about how technology was integrating with bees by tracking data from sensor devices placed into hives. Arnia, a hive monitor manufacturer, figured out how to get the weight, temperature, and humidity of a hive, and stream it over a 4g internet connection directly into a database that can be accessed through a web interface in any browser. 

    Wow! As a data geek, this was music to my ears.  I immediately got in touch with Danny and told him how we could use my company’s software, called Qlik Sense, to visualize this data, and create an interface for him to run his analysis.  With a few clicks, Danny can see how much honey has been produced on any single day.  He can also compare the vital statistics of various different hives.

    Soon, we can add additional data points into the application, such as the type of bee.  Then, we can compare how Carniolians do overwinter versus Italians.  People say that Carniolians do better, but I want to know what the data has to say about it!

    In the initial version of this application, Danny’s hive collected over a year’s worth of data.  As we aggregated the hourly data up into the day, then to the week, then to the month, we can start to see some trends begin to form.

    Bee Data - Overview


    The chart at left shows the average weight of hives (red bars), aggregated to the month, with the average “Energy Consumption” (blue line) overlaying it.  “Energy Consumption” is the difference between the temperature outside the hive, and the temperature inside the hive.  This chart immediately starts to tell a story of the 2015 beekeeping season in our area. 

    By looking at this data, I can see three major events of note that had an impact on our hives.  The first is the blackberry flow in early June.  This is the major food source of the hive for the year, and you can see how the weight of the hive more than doubled in less than 30 days.  The hive that provided this data, Isabel, was pulling honey in at a peak rate of 6.8 lbs per day!  In just 8 days, she was able to haul in 54.9 lbs of honey.

    Bee Data - Dearth

    The next event took place in September, and was something I was hearing in the PSBA meetings anecdotally.  There was a fairly large dearth this year that caused many hives to run out of food before winter ever hit. The dearth is a period of time where there is no access or limited supply of natural food sources, and the weather is typically hot and dry.  Bees rely on backup food reserves during this period, and if a beekeeper took too much of that blackberry honey, the bees might not have enough food to survive.

    The bees that did make it through the dearth were rewarded with a second nectar flow.  The rains returned, and many of the spring blossoms came back for a second nectar flow.  The bees were high in population, with a majority being field bees, so this was a total slam dunk for many hives.  The extra intake of pollen and honey during this period is exactly what the bees need to make it through the winter.

    Bee Data - Second Flow

    All this data  came from Danny’s single Arnia hive monitoring system, which was setup last Fall.  We have collected over one year’s worth of data from this one hive and already learned so much.  In 2016, we’re taking it up a notch.  Danny has been working with a local electrical engineer that has been able to produce a cheaper version of a sensor that collects temperature and humidity.  Danny also went out and recruited beekeepers within the community to help raise the funds and provide hives for the monitors.  Over the past few weeks, he and his team have been out in apiaries all around Western Washington, installing 100 sensors on hives.

    Next year, we’ll have 100 times the data, and 100 times the information that we can learn from it.  As we progress with this and start to learn useful things about bees, we’ll share it with you.  It’s our hope that this information will be used by you and other beekeepers to help keep bees alive and healthy.


    Request from UW Beekeeping

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    We received these 2 requests from Evan Sugden at UW, if you are able to accommodate, please get in touch with him directly. From Evan:

    1) My summer beekeeping course is continuing the Zombee fly study begun two years ago. We are looking for beekeepers who are willing to have their hives sampled. This is totally non-invasive and only requires that a student researcher set up a fluorescent light in the apiary for one night. The bees collected will be analyzed for Zombee fly infestation; data will be given back to the beekeeper. If this year’s results are good, we will again give a report to PSBA. We hope to look at some new aspects, such as how to find parasite larvae in individual bees. If this could be put on the web site or circulated by works of mouth ASAP, I’d appreciate it. Any respondents can get back to me directly at this email address or 425-280-0423.

    2) I have two advanced students who would like to experience queen rearing techniques with local beekeepers via a short internship. They will come with some bee yard experience and basic understanding of queen rearing. The ideal arrangement would be to spend several days spread out over the duration of one or two queen production cycles, so 2-4 weeks and experience the major elements of the technique. They would be willing to help with mundane tasks in the apiary to make themselves useful. As above, if anyone is interested, let me know by email or phone/text. We are trying to get this off the ground in the next week or two max.

    Thank you!

    Evan A Sugden, PhD
    Department of Biology
    University of Washington Seattle
    BOX 351800, Seattle, WA 98195
    Ph: 206-221-5218

    Call for Research Participants for Honey Bee Health

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    The PSBA Research committee has been gathering both qualitative and quantitative data for the past 2 years. The total amount of data that was collected in year 2 far exceeds the data collected in year 1. This trend is expected to continue and we want to make it as easy as possible for our membership to participate.

    Below are the topics that are being investigated followed by instructions for how to participate.

    A. Overwintering Success

    The better we overwinter our bees, the more we sustain ourselves. To get clarity on the most important details, we ask for qualitative data about how you overwinter your hives. If you come to PSBA monthly meetings, you have likely filled out the Overwintering survey. If you have not, follow the below link to the survey and submit it using the email address at the bottom of this post. If you have the data for previous years, I can still accept it. If your memory is a bit fuzzy and uncertain, don’t guess, leave options blank.


    B. Varroa Mites

    The Varroa mite (Varroa destructor) is the major problem facing honeybees right now. We intend to increase the overall knowledge base of mite biology and how beekeepers can plan their strategy for dealing with Varroa. If you are not monitoring the levels of Varroa, it is likely (if not predictable) that you have many mites and are potentially (if not predictably) infecting colonies that are within 3-4 miles of your bees. All information regarding Varroa is important and necessary information to help us understand how to manage our honeybees here in the Pacific Northwest. Let this be a priority of your beekeeping strategy, share your data, and together we can find the best practices based upon data.

    Follow the links below for different data recording sheets; one is for live drops and the other is for shaking mites after treating them with powdered sugar/ether/alcohol wash. Please indicate every time you treat for mites, especially the first date you treated for mites this year (after coming out of winter if it is an overwintered colony). To read up more on how you can specifically help, see the last link to the Mite Report. If possible, doing both the live drops and sugar/ether/alcohol rolls is preferred; this is a major emphasis this year.



    MITE REPORT 2014

    C. In Hive Monitoring

    In conjunction with the Green River College (GRC), PSBA will be managing two colonies that have Arnia sensors in them to help facilitate quantitative analysis. Other individuals and groups are also pitching in with GRC such that we will receive information from at least 8 colonies. Next year we anticipate purchasing more Arnia sensors. Look forward to this data once we get it up and running.

    In addition to Arnia sensors, GRC is working with a local entrepreneur to place 100 custom made temperature and humidity sensors into 100 colonies this coming winter. In July we will send out a call for participants around the Puget Sound, so stay tuned for that.

    D. Contact information

    All data, questions, suggestions and any other curiosities can be sent to the following email.

    Email: research@pugetsoundbees.org

    PSBA Mite Report 2014

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    We have increased our participation and overall understanding of the mite situation in our particular part of the world. The full mite report will detail the different methods of data collection we had this year as well as present the primary and secondary information acquired through data analysis. The things we are certain on, are the following.

    1. September, October, and November have higher mite drops than the other months studied when colonies are not treated.

    2. May, June, July, August, and December are similar in their mite drops when colonies are not treated.

    3. Live drops can be used to measure the immediate effectiveness of treatments.

    4. Live drops can be used to measure the long term effectiveness of treatments.

    Items 3 and 4 were goals that were achieved from last year. In 2015 we have 1 primary goal. INCREASE PARTICIPATION. The Mite report details 7 different ways you can help participate, covering nearly all types of beekeepers. Regarding data collection, a specific goal is to link these live drops to other mite sampling techniques, specifically alcohol washes and sugar shakes.

    Enjoy the Mite report and if you have any specific questions, do not hesitate to ask.

    Danny Najera – research@pugetsoundbees.org


    President’s Message – September 2014

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    Krista Conner  2013-14 PSBA President

    Krista Conner
    2013-14 PSBA President

    I hope you are enjoying the remaining warm (and dry) days of the 2014 beekeeping season. Winterizing hives is already underway and we will all  begin planning our 2015 beekeeping season soon.

    The PSBA board is already looking ahead and planning an exciting 2015 for your participation and learning.   To ensure you have the opportunity to play a role in the future of PSBA and the beekeeping community, I wanted to pass along the following items:

    • PSBA was made aware that there is an effort underway by several organizations in Seattle to ban the use of neonicitinoids by the City of Seattle. This resolution was passed by the sponsoring committee and will be reviewed by the Seattle City Council on Monday 9/22 at 2pm. You can read the resolution here.     I encourage all PSBA members to read more on the topic of neonics and determine an appropriate course of action.

    Below, I’m providing some information supplied  by our local experts at WSU concerning Neonicitinoids. Please note: This info does not support the ban on neonic use at this time and suggests energy could be better focused by encouraging increased forage for honey bees, something we know for sure is a factor in supporting pollinator health.


    •  “Neonicitinoids and Honeybees”  Published by Timothy Lawrence, PhD and Walter Sheppard, PhD, WSU, Nov 2013,     “As of this writing, there are insufficient data to suggest that neonicotinoids are a substantial contributor to the decline of either native bees or honey bees. The value and benefit of neonicotinoids—when used as prescribed on the product label—to agriculture, professional landscapers, and homeowners, are that of a relatively safe and effective product, and this should be kept in mind when considering changes in availability or restrictions for this class of pesticides.”


    • Via an email with Dr. Lawrence on 9/18/14,  he confirmed that nothing has changed since the publication of the above info sheet, and further advised that his team completed  sampling (for pesticides) of 148 apiaries around the state (in urban, rural and agricultural settings), a study in which some PSBA beekeepers participated.  All samples were below the detectable level of 5 ppb – indicating that neonics are not showing up in Washington beehives, which is consistent with other studies looking at neonics within colonies. 


    • Further, Dr. Lawrence commented that:  “Right now the evidence does not support a ban on neonicotinoids – Rather than banning something that we can not demonstrate is having a negative effect on bees in field studies – I think cities like Seattle or Spokane would be much wiser to plant more flowers – and the state should encourage or require planting of eco-appropriate dicots in areas they control and when companies or noxious weed control boards spray areas with broad-spectrum herbicides.“




    While we probably all agree that pesticides, in general, should be avoided when possible, it is imperative that we beekeepers stay informed on all the available research and ways we can help bees and other pollinators.

    In addition to the above here’s a couple more ways you can shape the future of PSBA:

    September 27th is the next PSBA Board meeting.  The Board will be setting goals for 2015 and considering proposals for projects, classes, speakers and events – and more. If you have input  you’d like the board to consider – we want to hear it!  Let’s make PSBA even better than it is! please email info@pugetsoundbees.org before Saturday Sept 27th


    November is PSBA’s annual business meeting (and Potluck) –

    • PSBA members get the opportunity to vote on trustees and officers, filling 6 open trustee positions (2 year terms) and 4 open PSBA Officer positions (1 year term). If you have interest in serving PSBA in a leadership position, please get in touch with me or an existing board member.
    • To encourage board service, I offer my testimony on board service for PSBA – it is exciting…formulating the organization’s goals and seeing them come to life with the energy and collaboration of many volunteers is very rewarding. While having fun (the board’s number 1 value), I get to hone my leadership skills AND establish lifelong friendships and mentors in the process.  PSBA is 100% volunteer run and is a safe and supporting environment to explore and learn new things – If you have time and skills to offer PSBA, I encourage you to consider serving as a board member or committee member.


    See you at the September meeting on Tuesday!




    New funding from PAm (Project Apis M.)

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    Project Apis M

    Project Apis M. is looking to fund researchers with a passion for honey bees. Blue Diamond Growers has entrusted PAm with monies to petition for research that helps almond growers improve crop production and helps improve the health and vitality of honey bees. Let’s get some needed work done! We are looking for practical solutions for managed colonies with the efficient transfer of research results into field practice. Proposals are being accepted now through August 25th so don’t delay!

    PAm is issuing a call for almond grower-friendly research proposals. Submitted proposals should meet the following objectives:

    * Provide practical solutions for almond growers and for managed honey bee colonies

    * Yield results that can be transferred into field practice

    * Provide an excellent rate-of-return for beekeepers and growers.

    Awards are between $5,000 and $35,000.  Funding at a higher level will be considered but not to exceed $75K. DEADLINE For FULL PROPOSALS is Monday, August 25th.  Proposal format can be found at (http://projectapism.org/?page_id=814)

    Find lots more Project Apis m. news and newsletters at http://projectapism.org/

    2014 Varroa Mite Monitoring Survey

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    Green River Community CollegeAre you concerned about the destructive effects of Varroa mites? Do you want to help developing Varroa mite treatments?

    Here is a great opportunity for you to become actively involved in a research led by PSBA Research and Education Committee Chair Daniel Najera. You can help gathering data about mites count in your hives at regular intervals.

    Data submission is limited to PSBA members only at this time.

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