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Buzz Words - April 2013

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013, 7:30 p.m. at the West Barnstable Community Building on Route 149, approximately ˝ mile north of the Mid Cape Highway. Swarm prevention and Retrieval are the themes of this program. George Muhlebach will explain why we have swarms, and the best way to prevent them. Andy Morris follows with the results when swarming occurs.

From the President
You know what they say; there are no coincidences in life. Let me tell you about this. Last month I wrote about my chance encounter with a fellow bee club member who practices apitherapy and since then I have had the opportunity to sit down with him and learn more about this practice.

He said it all started about three years ago-the pain in his hip. As most of us would, he consulted with his GP and also ended up seeing two orthopedists, two other physicians, and a hip specialist. But no relief. He underwent cortisone shots, worked with an occupational therapist, did the prescribed exercises, and consulted with a chiropractor. Still no relief but at least a diagnosis-arthritis.

Being resourceful, he began reading books on arthritis and learned that modern medicine’s response to arthritis is primarily palliative in the form of increasing medications for pain but not curative. But what he also learned is that apitherapy, being stung purposefully, by a bee, may result in remarkable symptom relief. And with that, he began stinging himself several times in his hip every other day and, after 5 months of treatment, he became pain free. Subsequently he has treated an arthritic big toe with a 2 week regimen effectively.

So how does this bee sting thing work? The practitioner is not sure. However, he offered me a book, Health and the Honeybee, that offers numerous testimonials and stories of its efficacy. I left my sit down with this practitioner impressed and wondering if I would do the same if confronted with the chronic pain of arthritis.

Getting back to the opening of this article about coincidences, I had my yearly physical last week. Everything checked out as good as they could for someone my age and I guess I’m good for another 25,000 miles or so. But the doctor did identify an emergent arthritis in my big toe and suggested aspirin as needed as treatment. I went home and looked in the medicine cabinet for the aspirin, but didn’t take it. I then looked outside and saw my bees were flying. I wiggled my big toe. Still sore. To be continued……


Annual Elections
As April approaches, so do our annual elections. Many of our board members and officers have agreed to serve another year. There will be a few positions available on the board if anyone wishes to volunteer. Nominations will also be accepted from the floor in April. The board meets but 3 to 4 times a year to plan the programs.



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Upcoming Meetings of Note
Saturday, May 18th – Barnstable County Beekeepers Annual Pollinator Plant Sale, Meeting House Farm, Rte 149, W Barnstable Perennials, Annuals, Vegetables, Flowers, Tubers, Bulbs, Trees, Divisions

Saturday, June 30th - MA Beekeepers Annual Field Day, UMASS Agronomy Farm, check out our website at MASSBEE.ORG

E.A.S. 2013 will be held August 5 to 9 at West Chester University, just outside Philadelphia.  If anywhere as good as was Vermont this past year, it will be a fabulous venue for all levels of beekeepers.  Keep your eye on the EAS website for info after January 1st.

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Annual Pollinator Plant Sale
Saturday, May 18th at the Meetinghouse Farm, Route 149, West Barnstable

Your plant donations are most welcome!

5:45 Carolina wren chirps the first day's welcoming, every day a minute earlier, every day a bit more jubilant. A reminder to check the wee seedlings for water, rotate them for even growth and direct seed the spinach asap. March the lion poised to pounce on every niggling thought of spring, a chimera to be ignored by mites of green on the windowsill.

It’s time to split those veggies, annuals, herbs and perennials in your seed trays. Tomatoes always go so well. Proceeds benefit the Meetinghouse Farm’s education endeavors and the EAS Honey Bee Research Fund.

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Claire's Corner
Queen-rearing project continues

An ambitious project is underway after a group of members met to lay some ground work. Please read through the attached page. Plans are to continue with monthly workshops, raising queens from overwintered survivors and building a healthy supply of summer nucs. We will need your help as the summer progresses.

Winter Survival Survey results will be posted the May newsletter.

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Bee School
Scheduled classes have ended, but we now move to our regular monthly meetings with much information forthcoming. May (pollination plants for our bees) and June (honey harvesting and preparation) will be the topics. All you newbees join us and come with all your questions.

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Bee venom better than honey!
Besides providing over a third of our food our girls venom may be the answer to preventing the spread of HIV & curing some cancer! A recent article in Antiviral Therapy reported that when a toxin found in bee venom is bound to nanoparticles, it can pop the outer coating of HIV particles without harming normal cells. The nanoparticles were designed to be delivered as a vaginal gel to help prevent HIV infection before it starts. The particles are coated with the bee venom toxin melittin, which can poke holes in the protective outer envelope of the virus on contact. Melittin is normally also toxic to human cells, but the particles are designed with “bumpers” that extend from their surface and prevent the melittin from coming in direct contact with the much larger normal cells, the particles simply bounce off, but the bumpers pose no barrier to the virus, which is much smaller than a cell, and smaller than the nanoparticle itself. Large amounts of free melittin can cause a lot of damage. In addition to anti-viral therapy, the researchers have shown melittin-loaded nanoparticles to be effective in killing tumor cells. According to the researchers, an advantage of this approach is that the nanoparticle attacks an essential part of the virus’ structure. In contrast, most anti-HIV drugs inhibit the virus’s ability to replicate. But this anti-replication strategy does nothing to stop initial infection, and some strains of the virus have found ways around these drugs and reproduce anyway.

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Caffeine helps bees learn!
Can’t get started without your morning coffee? A new study shows that the naturally caffeine-laced nectar of some plants enhances the learning process for bees, so that they are more likely to return to those flowers, reported researchers at Newcastle University in England in Science this month. The plants use this as a drug to change the pollinator’s behavior for its own benefit. Plants can go to great lengths to attract bees, they want their pollinators to remain faithful so provide sugary nectar & distinctive scents. The researchers did not set out to investigate the evolutionary stratagems of plants. Rather, to use the honeybee as a model to study drugs that are commonly abused. Several varieties of coffee and citrus plants have toxic concentrations of caffeine in leaves and other tissues, but low concentrations, similar to that in weak coffee, in the nectar itself. The toxic concentrations help plants fend off predators. They conducted learning experiments with bees to see if they associated a reward with an odor, the reward being either sugar water or a combination of sugar water and caffeine in the same concentrations found in the nectar of coffee and citrus plants. If they put a low dose of caffeine in the reward when they taught the bees a task, similar to what we drink in weak coffee, the bees begin to associate the caffeine aroma with the sugary reward. After 24 hours, three times as many bees remembered the connection between odor and reward if the reward contained caffeine. After 72 hours, twice as many remembered. They then tested the effect of caffeine on neurons in the bee brain and found that its action could lead to more sensitivity in neurons called Kenyon cells, which are involved in learning and memory. Insect and human brains are vastly different, and although caffeine has many effects in people, like increasing alertness, whether it improves memory is unclear. But the excitation of the Kenyon cells was similar to the action of caffeine on cells in the hippocampus in a recent experiment on rats.

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Seasonal tips

  • Dead-outs cleaned, scraped, and new foundation ready to replace old, dark, damaged, and drone filled frames
  • When excess honey remains in deadouts, or overwintered hives, leave 4 frames (2 in each deep) and freeze balance, or add to other needy hives
  • Mid-April (dandelion bloom time) AFTER scraping, cleaning, and brushing debris from bottom board, rotate deeps as bees and brood move down to bottom deep.
  • Feed 1:1 sugar syrup when consistent 500 temps arrive
  • If pollen/bee bread is lacking in hives, feed pollen substitute. Be aware that small hive beetles love these patties, so only feed 1/3 to 1/2 patty. Balance of fresh patty can be frozen
  • Consider making a nuc or split if your overwintered hive is strong to prevent swarming. If queens are not available, add a third deep for more space and split off later in May.

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The Care and Feeding of a Mentor
by Anne Frey (Reprinted from the March 2013 issue of the Southern Adirondack Beekeepers BEELINE)

A Mentor is a person who can show you their hives, look in your hives, answer questions via email and phone. If you've only ever learned though books, listening to presentations and viewing slides, mucking about on your own or - God forbid - watching YouTube, you'll be amazed at how quickly you learn after getting a mentor.

But what about the mentor? Do you, the needy protege, just get all this help - like winning a lottery?

You win the prize of X amount of advice per month For Life

Hopefully this is not the case. Many experienced beekeepers have horror stories about the needy newbee who called when they were desperate, way too late to make changes to a hive, and after being given advice which they ignored or didn’t have time for. There is also the needy newbee who wants the mentor to initiate every inspection, and otherwise ignores their colonies. To the “students” : remember, it is more polite to visit the mentor’s bee yard, rather than expect him/her to drive to your location every time. Also, consider emailing your questions rather than calling if it is not an emergency. Observe the bees. Prepare clear questions. Observe the bees some more.

As a periodic thank you some people give their mentors homemade pies or jams. Some pay them for gas, or bring a six-pack. Some mentors need help with their heavy lifting. Perennials have been known to change hands. Very rarely, a per-hour fee is charged.

And you mentors shouldn't let yourselves get burned out. You are needed! If you feel you're being taken advantage of, speak up! People are generally nice, but sometimes they don't think and need a friendly nudge.

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Check Out Club Member Blogs

Julie Lipkin @

Tamar Haspel @

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Approximately 1:00 P.M. with installation demo
East Sandwich – 186 Old County Road – Directions- Mid-Cape Highway to Exit 4, head NORTH off the ramp for approximately ˝ mile to a left on Old County Road. 186 is the FIRST driveway on the left. PLEASE PARK ON THE STREET unless handicapped.

Approximately 1:00 p.m. with installation demo
Pickup will be at Bill’s Bog at 1150 Harwich Rd, Brewster
Directions- Route 6 to Exit 10, head NORTH on route 124 for approximately 2 miles. Bill’s Bog is on the left side of 124. Parking is on the RIGHT SIDE of 124. NO VEHICLES WILL BE ALLOWED ON BILL’S BOG

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back to top Last updated 3/27/13