Central Oregon will be abuzz this weekend as the Oregon State Beekeepers Association holds its annual fall conference in Bend.
It’s a big deal. Bees pollinate $15 billion worth of crops across the U.S. each year, according to the U.S. Department of agriculture. Oregon State University estimates the value of honey bee pollination in Oregon at around $500 million.
Among those keeping the bees buzzing is Muffy Roy, who has been keeping bees for six years at her house on Bend’s westside.
“I am a backyard beekeeper.”
Make that front yard European Honey Bee wrangler.
“All the bees have their jobs.”
From guarding the hive against predators like wasps to collecting pollen.
“At three weeks into a six-week life in the summer, they begin foraging and that means going out into the neighborhood looking for food.”
The little fuzzy pollinators can travel up to two or three miles.
Muffy smokes the hive to make sure the bees “are going to be nice” before she opens it up.
“They have their brood down in the bottom box which is textbook. And that’s not because I’m textbook, it’s because they’re textbook.”
The future bees are in their egg, larvae and pupae state in the bottom box, and eight frames of food in the upper box.
“This is all capped honey. It could be a mixture of flowers. It could be partially this sugar water.”
“It’s totally fun, the world of bees is a phenomenal thing,” Muffy said. “A colony of bees chooses their place to shop and they don’t all shop at the same place.”
That’s evidenced by the color of their honey from two of the four hives — each managed the same way in the same yard.
“So, it’s fascinating to me that not only the color is quite different, the flavors are quite different.”
Speaking of flavor, the fruits of her bee’s labor ended up in a Fuzzy Buzzy Hazy IPA brewed at the Crux Fermentation Project. The small batch was brewed for the International Snow Science Workshop held a couple of weeks ago in Bend. Muffy’s daughter, Zoe, was a co-chair of the conference.
The IPA is also tap for the weekend for the beekeepers conference.
Back in Muffy’s front yard, she treats them for the Varroa mites, which Muffy says is the biggest problem in Central Oregon. The parasites will kill off a hive if left untreated.
“If the bees have good population, are healthy, and have lots of food, they’ll survive the winter well.”
Muffy also shows us an insulation box, rigged with an old comforter to keep heat in and moisture at bay — to set her hive up for success in the winter.
Do you want to help the bees, but not ready to don a suit? Muffy says you can put out a pollinator garden.