“ had no idea there were so many people

had no idea there were so many people
interested in beekeeping living on the
Island,” David explained.
Whidbey Island (pronounced Wid-bee) is
the largest Island in Washington state and is
located in the Puget Sound area north of
Seattle. The Pacific Ocean waters surrounding the Island are a Mecca not only for waterfowl, fish, and whales, but also for
outdoor summer water sports, fishing, and
recreation enthusiasts. At different times of
the year (during fall and spring) pods of gray
whales and orcas are spotted in the area as
they gather for a couple months to feed before either migrating south to warmer Mexican waters for the winter, or north to
Alaskan waters for the summer.
Whidbey Island is about 50 miles long
and only a few miles wide. It is heavily
forested, especially with firs and cedars. Besides natural meadows and wetlands, there
are numerous small farm fields cleared by
earlier settlers. The island has an abundance
of birds such as bald eagles and osprey that
attract the attention of birders from across
August 2009
the nation that flock to the area for relaxing
vacations and to enjoy its scenic beauty.
Today, a wide variety of residential and
summer vacation homes (many in the million dollar plus price range) built on small
acreages dot the landscape. The largest town
on Whidbey Island is Oak Harbor (pop.
20,573), which is located on the northern
section of the island. Also, the Oak Harbor
Naval Air Station is located adjacent to the
Travel to the Island from the Washington
state mainland is via a 20 minute state-operated ferry from the south. There’s another
ferry at mid-island (that goes to the Olympic
Peninsula), and a bridge on the north that accesses an adjacent island. The southern ferry
leaves the mainland from the city of Mukilteo. The main transportation route is Highway 525 that runs the length of the Island
down its center.
David Neel lives on the southern part of
the Island near the town of Freeland with his
wife Mollyshannon and he manages Island
As a result of this initial meeting the
Whidbey Island Beekeepers Association
(WIBA) was formed and it is now affiliated
with the larger state-wide Washington State
Beekeepers Association. David was also
elected president of the new group even
though he claims there are more knowledgeable and experienced beekeepers than himself on the Island. The consensus was,
because he took the initial step to organize
and plan the meeting, that he should be the
first president.
The new bee organization has also set up
a web site at www.whidbees.com. Right
now David is talking with other Northwest
affiliated beekeeping organizations to see
whether there’s enough interest to jointly
plan and cover the expenses of bringing in
a nationally-known beekeeping authority as
a guest speaker at a future meeting.
David said the vast majority of beekeepers on the Island are hobbyist with only a
hive or two and there are a few people whokeep between 10 to 20 hives. He said as far
as he knew there are only a couple commer-
(l) David Neel manages Island Apiaries and is pictured with his bee truck. He was instrumental in forming
a new beekeeping association on Whidbey Island this past winter. (r) David is shown at his home bee yard.
cial pollinators who live in the area.
David and his wife have been living in a
rental home (with an option to buy) on a
couple acres of land along with their two
dogs for the past five years. They moved to
Whidbey Island from Tacoma, Washington,
to care for David’s mother when she became
seriously ill with cancer. When they moved,
he left behind a career in the educational
field where he worked as a behavior disorder teacher with the Tacoma School District.
Mollyshannon presently commutes daily to
Seattle (via the ferry and an interstate highway) where she works for Children’s Hospital.
David explained, “Once we moved here
we loved it and decided to stay.” It wasn’t
long before he also decided to get back into
beekeeping and started raising bees again.
Today he runs Island Apiaries, which caters
to a local market selling honey, beekeeping
supplies, and specializing in backyard
flower and garden pollination.
As a kid growing up in the state of Georgia between the ages of six to 18, David
worked with an uncle who had a large beekeeping operation. He got out of beekeeping
when he headed off to college. He later married and began his teaching career. “You
might say I’ve re-blossomed back into beekeeping and really enjoy it again.”
He said unfortunately a vandalism inci-
dent at a wintering yard destroyed a bee
truck load of his hives, thus curtailing most
of this season’s backyard pollination plans.
Now, his main focus for the next couple
years will be to build his bees up to about
100 hives. He’s also negotiating with two
beekeeping friends, looking at the possibility of forming a partnership where they
could combine their beekeeping equipment
(extractor, beehives, bee truck and trailer)
and skills and explore the market for additional bee pollination contracts. They would
also assist each other with honey sales at the
local Tilth Farmers Market in the community of Bayview, as well as the Seattle area.
Besides caring for his bees, he’ll occasionally substitute teach at the South Whidbey Children Center, a K-5 school, in their
before and after school program.
He said he’s heard of some other beekeepers in northwestern Washington (west
of the Cascades) who have suffered huge
bee losses. Also, according to David, bee
losses due to flooding this early spring have
been a major problem in the region as a
combination of heavy rains and melting
snow created the worst flooding conditions
since 1925.
His beekeeping equipment includes a
pickup truck and he has access to a 1 ½ ton
bee truck and a trailer when needed. He also
has a large frame honey extractor which he
purchased from another beekeeper.
The last week in March of 2009 found
David, as president of WIBA and another
Whidbey Island beekeeper, driving to California to pick up bee package orders for distribution to local association members. He
later made a second trip to California during
the third week of April picking up 110 more
bee packages.
Most of the people keeping bees on
Whidbey Island only have a few hives and
Marie Lincoln, who co-owns the Chocolate
Flower Farm along with her husband Bill
near the town of Langley, is no exception.
They specialize in raising chocolate-colored
flowers and run a combined flower, gift, and
chocolate shop named The Garden Shed in
town. A year ago they purchased three beehives and set them in back of their display
garden to pollinate their flowers.
Marie said that because they are only
“bee-ginners” when it comes to raising bees,
Steve Noble, a local beekeeper, stops by periodically to check on the health of their
hives. She added that he’s been providing
them with a wealth of information on keeping their bees “happy, healthy and thriving.”
Whidbey Island beekeeper Tom Schioler,
who lives near the community of Greenbank, manages Golden Harvest Bee Ranch.
He has kept bees for nine years and for the
past five years he has been a commercial
(l) Whidbey Island beekeeper Tom Schioler has been keeping bees for nine years. Here he’s standing in
his bee yard at the Five Acre Farm, a vegetable and sunflower farm, which his bees pollinate. (r) Tom inspects a hive.
American Bee Journal
(l) Tom Schioler owns and manages the Golden Harvest Bee Ranch on Whidbey Island. (r) Beekeepers Tom
Schioler (on right) and Wendell Ankeny (on left) confer with the Five Acre Farm owner Damon Gibson and
Soma Mansfield about the pending pollination season. This year’s crop will include a combination of vegetables and sunflowers.
bee pollinator. He usually runs about 100
hives and then sells honey in season at local
and regional Farmers Markets on weekends
at Coupeville, Port Townsend, and the Seattle suburban city of Ballard. The Ballard
Public Market is open year-round on Sundays.
Following the initial island-wide beekeeping association meeting, which Tom attended, he said while he was pleased that so
many newcomers were interested in learning about beekeeping, he was a little disappointed in the reaction of some of the
people. He even had one lady tell him that
she wasn’t interested in learning how to
raise bees from a commercial beekeeper as
she only wanted to learn how to raise bees
organically. He said although he tries to
raise his bees as chemical free as possible,
he does use Mite-away formic acid pads.
He hoped that these new hobbyists will
find mentors they can work with as that’s
the best way to get started and learn how to
keep bees.
Tom said his mentor was Jim Malsch, a
commercial beekeeper from Arlington,
Washington, which is located about 25 miles
northeast of Whidbey Island in the Skagit
Valley. This farming region on the west side
of the Cascade Mountain Range is noted for
Bill Lincoln co-owns the Chocolate Flower Farm at Langley,
Washington with his wife Marie.
Bill and his dog, Nellie, are
shown at the farm’s display garden. The owners keep three beehives, in the background, to help
pollinate their flowers.
having large flower farms of tulips and daffodils.
He also has a beekeeping tradition in his
ancestry and said his great grandfather was
an eye doctor back in his home country of
Denmark and kept bees. He said he grew up
hearing tales from his grandmother about
the benefits of bees and the healthful qualities of honey.
As an adult Tom said he traveled a lot, but
always at the back of his mind he thought
that if he ever settled down somewhere permanently, he would raise some bees. He
spent more than 16 years living in Asia buying and selling gemstones and making jewelry. He lived in Japan four years, Thailand
two years, and eventually Hong Kong for
ten years until the Chinese Government took
over in 1997. When the Chinese took possession of Hong Kong from the British
Commonwealth, he returned to the United
States. He said at the time he lived in Asia
he was married, but he isn’t now.
He started raising bees after reading
everything about beekeeping he could get
his hands on from the library.
Like most people taking up beekeeping
for the first time, he worked with his mentor
starting small with a few hives and then
built up over the years to 25, then 50, and
finally to 100 hives. He laughs about it now,
but he tells the story of his early days of
beekeeping when he hauled beehives in his
enclosed van while wearing a full-suit with
gloves and a veil and the bees were literally
flying around everywhere. He eventually
bought a flat-bed bee truck for proper and
safer hauling.
Tom’s commercial business name was
Golden Harvest until a lady once asked him
(l) Fields of wild loosestrife can be found across Whidbey Island in wetlands. Beekeepers say the purple
flowers when in bloom make great honey. (r) On a sunny day Mt. Baker (10,781 feet above sea level) some
55 miles away and the Cascade Mountain Range can be seen from Washington’s Whidbey Island.
August 2009
(l) Here’s one of Tom’s bee yards at a lavender and sunflower field on Whidbey Island.
shop is ready for building frames. (Photos courtesy of Tom Schioler)
at a farmer’s market how many head he was
running on his ranch. He told her, “Oh,
about six million.” That’s when he changed
his name to Golden Harvest Bee Ranch.
According to Tom, Whidbey Island beekeepers can mainly produce five different
kinds of honey and he believes they’re very
fortunate because in a lot of beekeeping
states and region’s bees largely forage on
only one particular kind of plant such as
clover. He sells the following types of honey
to his customers: loganberry, lavender, wild
flowers, blackberry, and loosestrife.
He yards bees for pollination at several
lavender farms on the island and then places
them at additional yard sites for foraging
and honey production. Although he doesn’t
do it anymore, in some previous years he’s
hauled his bees to California for almond
pollination and then back to Washington
state for the blueberry fields and apple orchards. Now he keeps his bees closer to
A couple years ago one of his lavender
farm owners also planted five acres of sunflowers. That season his bees from that yard
produced a record supply of honey. Normally his bees will make about 25-30
pounds of honey per hive. That year they
each produced about 60 pounds of honey.
Unfortunately, according to Tom, the lavender farm only planted sunflowers that one
season as the owners apparently had trouble
marketing all the seeds.
When setting hives in bee yards, his bee
truck has a boom that will only hold two
hives on a pallet at one time. Therefore, due
to the weight restriction load of his boom,
all his beehives are placed in yards with two
bee hives per pallet.
Over the years, Tom has developed a coding system that works for him when he inspects his hives in his yards. He first marks
down the date the hive was last inspected. If
it is a good healthy hive, he writes the letter
“G” on top of the box with a piece of white
soap stone, meaning the hive is in good condition. Other symbols include: “VG” very
good condition, and “P” for poor shape.
He’ll also mark down what type of honey is
in the supers. For example, “LV” is lavender, “BB” blackberry, and “LS” is looses-
trife, “LB” is loganberry, and “WF” is wildflower.
While checking hives, he’ll also stick a
colored push pin on top a bee box as a reminder that the hive needs some special additional attention. A yellow pin means it
needs food; a white pin means it needs some
attention as it is a weak, or small hive; a blue
pin means it needs to be requeened; and a
red pin indicates that the hive is in danger
of dying off.
His bees are mostly New World
Carniolans. He says they work best for the
region because there are a lot of rainy and
overcast days on the island and he thinks
they are good cold weather bees. He also has
some Italian bees plus a few Russians. He
found that Russian bees are good honey producers, but they are a little more active and
aggressive, thus he places these boxes on the
outside of a yard and marks the word “Hot”
on the top. He once found one of his Russian
hives upended and lying on the ground some
40 feet from his bee yard. He believed
someone was attempting to steal the hive.
When the bees became a little agitated the
thief probably got stung a few times so he
dropped the hive and ran.
Tom said there are several different places
on the island that have large areas of wetlands with loosestrife plants growing wild
and when he first saw them, he thought it
was fireweed because of their purple flowers. He later found out it makes great honey,
but the state has it classified as an invasive
noxious weed and has made on-going attempts to eradicate it.
An old timer beekeeper once told him that
loosestrife, which is native to Europe, was
brought onto the island by farmers decades
ago and planted for its honey production
qualities. It also provided a steady blooming
source for foraging honey bees as blackberries and other wild flowers in the surrounding forests didn’t produce enough nectar to
sustain the bees.
According to Tom, another foraging problem the island has with wild flowers is that
the county and state crews are continually
cutting down blackberry patches growing
along road right-of-ways and land developers often bulldoze down the thorny black-
(r) Tom’s wood
berry bushes when clearing land for home
Tom rents a caretaker house on two acres
of land, which has a shop he uses for woodworking, storage for supers, and honey extraction. His rental property is sandwiched
between $2 million dollar summer homes.
He has a great view from his back porch that
overlooks the Pacific waters of Saratoga
Pass where he often sees whales, bald eagles, and seagulls.
He’s currently recovering from a huge 75
percent loss of his bees due largely to a combination of CCD, an infestation of Nosema
ceranae, mites, and the rest to winter kill.
While he struggles to replace his bees and
build his business back up to what it was,
he’s unhappy with the assistance and support he and other fellow Washington state
beekeepers receive, or don’t receive from
state and federal agencies.
Beekeepers in Washington state are required to register their hives and pay an annual $25 and up registration fee with the
Washington State Department of Agriculture Plant Protection Division. They are then
assigned an apiary registration number. Tom
brands all his boxes, supers, and frames with
his number 860 for identification purposes.
Tom claims a fellow beekeeping friend of
his, Wendell Ankeny, who helps him sell
honey at the Port Townsend farmers market,
was told by a state entomologist at Washington State University last year that they didn’t
have the facilities to test his bees when some
of his hives died. Wendell is a semi-retired
Methodist Preacher who is still serving at
the Trinity United Church in his home town.
He kept bees for more than 40 years back in
Minnesota, but now as a hobbyist, living in
Port Townsend (a ferry ride away from
Whidbey Island on the Olympic Peninsula)
he only keeps eight hives. When his hives
started dying, he sent frozen bee samples to
the university laboratory in eastern Washington for testing. He received a letter back
from them stating that they weren’t
equipped to diagnose his bee problems and
suggested sending them to another lab.
Tom believes that the federal and state departments of agriculture have double standards when it comes to beekeepers. “If a
American Bee Journal
cattle rancher contacts a state, or federal
agency about a huge 75 percent loss of his
cattle herd, say due to hoof and mouth disease, you can bet they have some program
established to test his cattle and compensate
him for his losses.”
As far as bee insurance goes, Tom said it
mainly covers theft and vandalism, but not
losses from diseases, mites, pesticides, winter kill, or CCD losses. He said, while some
countries of the world are very supportive
of their beekeepers, recognizing the important role bee pollination is to agriculture, he
doesn’t believe the U.S. is. He cited as an
example the European country of Denmark,
which he claims pays $100 per hive per year
to commercial beekeepers to help cover the
cost of maintaining healthy hives.
He added, “While our government is
spending millions of dollars for bee research
funding, the actual beekeepers are not getting one red cent to help them with their
He also cited an example of a western
Washington commercial beekeeper he
knows who lost all 900 of his hives last year
due to a combination of CCD, pesticides,
mites, and other problems and he finally just
gave up, quit beekeeping, and he’s now
growing flowers instead of bees.
Tom Schioler is proud of the fact that as
a voting member of the Washington State
Farm Bureau he, along with the help of
Richard Boslaugh, vice president of the Is-
land County Farm Bureau, were instrumental in developing a statement in the Washington State Farm Bureau Policy book that
says beekeeping is essential to state agriculture production and must be supported by
legislature. Prior to this, he said, beekeeping
wasn’t even mentioned. He hopes that with
this bee statement in the bureau’s policy
book, it will help when lobbying the state
legislature for future funding.
Whether the beekeepers on Washington
state’s Whidbey Island are new “bee-ginners” with only one or two hives, a sideliner
with a couple dozen hives, or a full-time
commercial pollinator, they all face some of
the same challenges as they try to keep their
bees healthy and producing quality honey.
Ph. 808-328-2656
Toll free: 888-485-2244
FAX 808-328-7433
email: [email protected]
Pollen Traps—U.S. Bee Pollen
Royal Jelly—Bee Propolis Extract
5455 N. 51 st Avenue, # 17
Glendale, AZ 85301
Tel: 1-800-875-0096
Fax: 602-381-3130
August 2009