January is typically the month for garden planning. Once all of those seed catalogs start arriving I know it is time to start planning for the beekeeping year as well. Now is the time to build new equipment, rehab old equipment, and research the areas I want to focus on in the coming season, as well as read any new beekeeping books that look promising. I will include an updated list of resources at the end of this post that might be useful for new beekeepers and those who keep bees in the Portland area. Check last years postings for a list of books, websites, and other good information for getting started.
My first plan is to start to consolidate my equipment and make things more user friendly and interchangeable (in my household, this means cutting down from four hive systems to two or three). My foundationless bees are all going into Warre style vertical hives, and I think we will also run a couple of hives in Langstroths (my husband’s preferred method) as well. Of course, I hope to convert those to foundationless comb over time. One of my favorite online beekeeping authors, Michael Bush, has consolidated the info on his website into books on foundationless beekeeping. I haven’t read them yet, but feel confident I can recommend them as I recommend his website all the time. If you have Langstroth gear, but are interested in keeping bees on natural comb, this might be a great resource for you. It has useful information for Top Bar beekeepers as well.
So, I am building a few Warre hives for myself, as well as an 8 frame Michael Bush style Langstroth, and hopefully funding the projects by selling off the Top Bar Hives I have (both new and used) on Craigslist. I hope to build some extra’s that I can use to start small swarms in to either sell or move to the farm, depending on how the land hunt goes.
If you are thinking about keeping bees, now is the time to get your ducks in a row. If you are ordering nucs or packages, look into placing those orders this month. If you want to start your colonies with swarms, look into a swarm catching class and start networking with the local beekeeping community. If you want to take a beekeeping class, look into that now as well, bee schools and classes usually start in February, and here in Portland they fill up fast. Decide what kind of equipment you want to use, and order or build that now. April and the bees will be here before you know it!
Here is an exploded view of a typical Langstroth hive with a single deep, a queen excluder, and two honey supers.
Here is a collection of resources for equipment and classes in the area. Note: I have not taken classes at all of these venues, so cannot personally guarantee the quality of the classes offered, except for the one I am teaching, of course!
Beekeeping classes in the Portland area for 2012: (check websites for dates and times)
Zenger Farm: I am teaching beekeeping 101 and a swarm catching class, Tom Lea is teaching a beekeeping 101 and a bee handling class at Zenger this spring. Class fees are a little higher, but the additional fees go to support Zenger Farm’s great programs, including the Zenger Community Bee Project. Tom has been keeping bees for years, and helped form the Zenger bee group.
Beethinking: Matt Reed started a brick and mortar shop this year in Sellwood that specializes in Top Bar and Warre hives, and he usually schedules several classes on Top Bar Beekeeping throughout the year. Beethinking is a good place to go in Portland for Natural Beekeeping equipment and supplies. Matt also catches and occasionally sells swarms.
Ruhl Bee Supply: Ruhl usually hosts several beekeeping classes every spring, as well as classes on Mason Bees. They tend to fill up very quickly so sign up ASAP. In the past these classes have been focused on beekeeping in Langstroth equipment, though that may be changing. The classes I took there were extremely thorough and informative. Ruhl sells Langstroth equipment, but is also branching out into natural beekeeping supplies and hive bodies as well. Ruhl sells locally sourced nucs and package bees from California. They sell out quickly, especially the nucs, so get your deposit in early.
Glen Andresen: Glen has taught classes for years through the Oregon Department of Sustainability. Classes usually include three visits to Glen’s apiary over the beekeeping season, so there should be lots of good opportunity for bee handling. Glen is very well respected in the local beekeeping community.
Livingscape Nursery: Livingscape hosts several beekeeping classes taught by Tom Lea, as well as classes on Mason Bees. Livingscape carries some beekeeping equipment and supplies. Livingscape also sells bees in the spring.
Other Beekeeping Classes in the Region:
Willamette Valley Beekeepers Association: WVBA’s Bee School is Feb 16th, 21st and 25th, at Chemeketa Community College in Salem.
Astoria Bee School: A comprehensive all day class at Clatsop Community College in Astoria, March 17th.
Friendly Haven Rise Farm: Beekeeping classes with a biodynamic focus, located in SW Washington. I believe they offer classes monthly, each month focusing on a different topic.