The Nevada County Beekeepers Association is a diverse group of professionals and hobbiest, men and women, young and old, with a keen interest in promoting the well being of honey bees and their habitat while enjoying their amazing benefits. The NCBA strives to promote education on beekeeping and agriculture by providing the latest news and techniques in these fields. 

The club members meet once a month on the first Monday at 7pm and visitors are always welcome. All meetings are held in the Veterans Memorial Building at 255 South Auburn Street, Grass Valley, CA. Entrance is off the back parking lot, in Grass Valley at 7pm.  The August meeting is always moved to the County Fair Grounds with a fair booth clean up following by a barbeque social. 

  • Any questions about bees?
  • Always wanted to get bees?
  • Questions about honey production? 
  • Have some information to share?
  • Wondering about pollination in your garden or orchard?
  • Have some bees or equipment to sell?
  • Want to meet some great folks?

Join our lively question and answer session starting promptly at 7pm followed by refreshements, brief business discussion, raffle and a great program.

Become A Member!

President's Message - November

October is almost gone but with these daytime temperatures in the mid 70's it's hard to believe that Thanksgiving is less than four weeks away. According to the ten day weather forecast these mild days are going to stretch right into November. Just as many of us enjoy "supplemental feeding" throughout the holidays our bees may want some as well. Unfortunately when the days turn colder they may not move out of the cluster to take it. Right now is a great time to check the weight of your colonies and feed if needed.

November is not just the start of the holiday season but its also when we elect officers for the coming year. Amy Hustead has been vice president for two years now and has done a great job but will be unable to continue next year. I'm hoping someone will step up and fill that position. I'm sure there must be someone who has always wanted to be president. If that's you then just let me or one of the board members know or ask someone to nominate you. We should all be thankful to have a place to gather once a month with like minded people to discuss beekeeping and have our questions answered. The best way to show that you are thankful would be to volunteer for one of these positions. You don't have to commit for two or three years just do it for one and give someone else a chance to show how thankful they are. Its not difficult and you have the entire board for support, in fact we really all work together.

Jerry Van Heeringen

Bee Bits - November

With our cooler weather and shortening days, some of our local flora are producing food for the bees, allowing them to produce critical brood prior to winter. The bees are taking advantage of the favorable weather to forage.

Unfortunately, something else is also occurring—the drifting of mites from highly-infested hives into some of your hives. I’m in the middle of a detailed and expensive, but fascinating field experiment to learn more about that mite drift.  Thanks to Brion and Alice Dunbar, Sandy Honigsberg, Anna Mudd, and Brooke Molina for helping to glue some 6000 painted steel discs to the backs of bees in colonies that I’m intentionally allowing to collapse from varroa/DWV. Briefly, we’re using magnetic entrance capture traps to recover the tags, as well as using stickyboards to quantify the amount of mite immigration into surrounding hives.

The experiment is about half completed at this time. So far, our findings are of considerable interest.

  • We’ve confirmed that some hives in the same yard tend to suffer from far more mite immigration than others

  • A number of bees have drifted to hives in yards a half- and a full mile distant

  • So far, it appears that there may be relatively more drift to distant hives than to hives that are nearby

  • A hive at this time of year can pick up ~10 mites per day, day after day, from other hives

The above findings may help to explain the late-season spike in mite counts that many of us observe in our hives. We’re collecting a ton of data, and hope to shed light on exactly how this happens.

That said, our Ag Commissioner, Chris de Nijs and ranch owner Laura Barhydt are working with me to create a bee ordinance for Nevada County to prevent the overstocking of hives in the County.  Our fear is that a single irresponsible commercial beekeeper, by placing a thousand hives with syrup cans next to either Grass Valley or Nevada City, could easily ruin any chance of any local beekeeper making a honey crop.  That would be a perfect example of Dr. Garrett Hardin’s “The Tragedy of the Commons” (http://science.sciencemag.org/content/sci/162/3859/1243.full.pdf). 

I want to thank those beekeepers who attended the Ag Advisory Commission meeting in September—their attendance and support of the measure made a big impression!  We will want an even greater show of support when we present the final version to the Board of Supervisors later this year (we hope to get the ordinance in place by spring).  I will send out a copy of the proposed ordinance to all members in advance, and the time and place of the meeting.  Since we’d like to have unanimous support for the ordinance, we solicit comments during the drafting process.

Hive management tips: ideally, your colonies at this time will be nearly free of mites, with plenty of healthy sealed brood, and heavy with honey for the winter. They should be out of cold or damp air pockets, and if possible be exposed to morning sun.

Randy Oliver
Grass Valley, CA

In The Yard - November

I have a plant in my back yard that is a wonderful source of late summer pollen and nectar for bees. It is member of the sage family, Salvia uglinosa (picture with blue flowers). Its an unfortunate name, as I think it is very beautiful. The bees do too, as we see honey bees, carpenter bees, and bumblebees, and the plant is loaded with flowers. This plant has been blooming since July, and is still going strong. It is a shrub that is about 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide. It does well in mix of sun and shade, and likes wet areas. I tried to start a bunch of cuttings 3 weeks ago but have not had any success to date. I will try again in the spring and bring some starts in to give away. Many sunflowers also bloom very late in the summer, and are great sources of nutrition for our bees.

There was an interesting study of honey bee clusters published in Nature last month: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41567-018-0262-1.  The swarms were exposed to rhythmic side to side motion; much like you or I would do in an earthquake the swarm flattens out.  What is interesting about this is that in order to accomplish this, many of the individual bees have to move to an area of increased stress, thereby sacrificing their own individual exposure for the good of the super organism.  A video is shown here:

Brion Dunbar
Grass Valley, CA