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Buzz Words - August 2009

Table of Contents
1. Announcements
2. From the President
3. Silence of the Bees
4. Barnstable County Fair
5. Claire's Corner
6. Glassware Saturdays
7. Honeybees are a Curiosity to Me
8. Late Summer Tips
9. Adventures with Queen Cells
10. Fair Ribbon Winners

We do not hold a meeting in August.  Next meeting is Tuesday, Sept 8th, with guest speaker Susan Chien, a Biologist/beekeeper from Rhode Island. Her topic is “Taking the Guesswork out of Hive Management: Routime Testing for Nosema and Tracheal Mites.”

Don’t forget to periodically check out member Julie Lipkin’s blog, AND add your comments to let her know that your are in fact reading her efforts.

From the President
The Barnstable County Fair is over.  Despite the less than optimal weather it was a very successful endeavor. Many thanks to all our members who volunteered at the “Bee building”, promoting beekeeping and our club.  A special thank to our Marthe Ayers who again did a super job in coordinating and filling all the shifts.  You can read more about the Fair in the Buzzwords.

Several other efforts in behalf of our Club are ongoing.  Under the leadership of Paul Desilets an application for “not-for-profit” status has been sent to the State.  It is important that the legal status of the Club is clarified. 

Claire Desilets, Jan Rapp, John Beach and others have been busy beating the deadline applying for a State grant to start a local project to raise queens.  It is a fact that we lose about 50% of our hives every winter.  This has the effect that the Cape’s beekeepers cannot satisfy the demand on honey.  It is believed that if we had strong queens, which have a history of surviving our winters, that we could significantly improve the winter survival rate of our hives. Many thanks to Claire, Jan, Paul, John (and everyone else involved who I forgot to mention).

In a personal matter, I am happy to report that the swarm I mentioned in my last letter is doing just fine and has settled down.  I do not have any more stings to report.  

Silence of the Bees
Did you see the Nature special on bees on PBS? There are several very nice clips from it on the nature website   It was dated information, but did have more from the researchers than the previous did.  We might get to speak with Dennis vanEnglesdorp at EAS next week. We do know that Maryann Frazer will be there. Looking forward to her presentation.

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Barnstable County Fair
July 17th to 25th
I would like to thank everyone who volunteered to help sell in our building at the Barnstable County Fair.
Emailing with the schedule worked out just great.  You all made my job of manning the booth so much easier.  It ran smoothly and I hope you all enjoyed your shift talking with the public and educating them on our great bees and the healthy products from them.   Hopefully you allowed time to see the rest of the fair.

We had one rain day cancellation, which might have affected our total sales.  I'll let Claire or Paul report on the sales.  We were running low on honey and cookbooks for Saturday. A special thanks to the honey producers who had honey to bring in as not all of us had any to harvest.   I guess you all did a great job of selling the cookbooks because we sold more this year than last year. You find out how the rest of the products sold when you receive your checks.  That is harder for me to judge by looking at the shelves than the honey.  Thank you for your support in that category also.  We had a lot of "newbees" volunteer and I hope you all found out just how much you really knew to educate the public. See you all next year.   Thanks for a great job. - Marte

Although the weather was not at its best, those members that had something to sell, did fairly well. Our honey candy pretty near sold out and we had 2.5 boxes (approx. 65 lbs.).  The honey sticks did not do as well this year, and it seemed as though , at least on the shift that we worked, folks were looking for “real” honey, as opposed to the flavored.  All in all, we took in $4558.50, with $3246.50 going back to members. This, with one day with low sales due to weather, and one closure due to weather. For the first time, we sold 25 cookbooks, usually it is more like 4 or 5. Thanks to all that came to clean, and to those who came to educate. It is a great way to spend a few hours.

We would be remiss if we did not thank Leslie Lichtenstein for keeping those lovely gardens lovely, and Aaron Lovell for installing our new windows. - Paul

Fair Comments
"I have nothing to add other than I really enjoyed my stint and actually learned quite a bit myself by just chatting with the other volunteers and rereading all the information available. I think it is so well done. It is so fun to see the children find the queen!"

“the new demo of the evolution of the queen is stunning!"

"The windows look great!"

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Claire's Corner
Attached is the 2009 Queen Survey that we would like returned as soon as possible. The tally of information will help the board plan next year’s package program and possible queen banking efforts. Just remember that if you don’t complete the survey, you may not be able to purchase bees through the club next year.
» 2009 Package Bee Queen Survey (doc)

As we anxiously await word on our grant proposal, we thought we might attempt the project on a very small scale. The beauty of this method is it takes little extra equipment, only 2 or 3 hives, a good, proven, over-wintered queen, and neighborhood drones of various lineage. More on the Miller Method will be covered later; but, it works beautifully. The queenless hive raised several queen cells, which were harvested and placed in 3-frame nucs (Thank You, Richard Rys, as the Queen Castle worked perfectly.) Six nucs were given cells and between our yard and Andy’s we raised 3 queens. 50%, not bad, but disappointing to see new queen cells developing from mundane, everyday Italians.

The project is not complete, of course, as the queens  are recently hatched and mating is waiting for good weather. We hope to bring these gals through the winter and repeat the process. Better acceptance of the queen cells in the mating nuc appears to be the next hurdle to leap.

Speaking of queens, check your hives and make sure they are queenright. There appears to be an “epidemic” of missing queens and late swarms.  We hear that very little honey is being stored, thanks to the prodigious rainfall, and the colonies are starving with no stores to feed the young. Is this true in your area?

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Glassware Saturdays
George will once again man the Glassware Store on the first and third Saturday mornings of the month.
Call or email George with your needs in order for him to have enough on hand.

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Honeybees are a Curiosity to Me
by Andy Morris
Whether they are on the blossom, or in the hive, they fascinate me. Like many, I can enjoy watching them skim the stamen of the Saint John’s Wort, or hover, stacked up like so many airplanes at a busy airport, awaiting a chance to land in an oriental poppy in order to bring back to the hive black pollen.

When at the hive, watching the activity at the entrance is a pleasure for me. Seeing the departing bees as they orient themselves so they can find their way back from their foraging being avoided by the incoming bees loaded down with pollen and nectar reminds me of a finely choreographed dance. Mix in the music of the birds and the breeze and I’m totally involved.
Inside the hive is a different story. Nothing fine-tuned is happening here. I am reminded of Grand Central Station at the peak of rush hour. There are bees everywhere. They are pushing and pulling. There are bees dancing. There are bees exchanging nectar. There are bees emerging from their cells, soon to begin their lives as adult bees. I sometimes think I see bees walking around carrying clipboards and looking official but doing little else. Somehow, in all this chaos, most everything gets done, and in a timely manner. And when that happens, the hive is healthy and has a good chance of survival.

We all agree that because of human influence, honeybees need help. We are all concerned, even the non-beekeeper, about the condition and plight of our major pollinator. A frequently asked question in the Bee Booth at the Barnstable County Fair was about the health of the bee population.

For the past few years I have been removing honeybee colonies from buildings. In reality, it is a good thing that I do. In practice, there are times when I would rather pound my head against a wall. For the most part, the property owner is supportive and willing to pay my fee for the removal. I have been stiffed only once, had one gentleman say that he really didn’t want to pay me for the service as I was going to keep the bees, and most recently, a very nice lady tried to negotiate a lower price. If I charged an hourly rate instead of a flat rate for the job, and extra for the lessons I give explaining why the bees are there, how they got there, etc., I’d be better off.
Each extraction is different because each building in unique, with the exception of the bees usually finding an entrance hole on the second floor. I always try to state several times that finding the bees us frequently exploratory. Yes, they are entering through that hole, but they could have their comb six feet away.

One recent removal produced 6+ pounds of bees, comb over three feet long by a foot wide full of brood (times 7), and many pounds of honey. This group had been there for several years according to the property owner.

My next job will begin by ripping off a ridge vent (the bees are entering under one end of it) in an attempt to find the comb. Of course, it will be the hottest day of this year and the humidity will be oppressive.

It is a dirty, sweaty, often frustrating job, but I guess I’m that guy… The one stupid enough to climb that ladder, willing to sweat gallons, able to pleasantly stroke the property owner to remove the demonic impression of honeybees that have invaded his/her wall/roof/ceiling, etc.

If you have a truck, several ladders, tools too many and some too unique to mention, no fear of heights, no fear of bees (especially those that crawl up your pant leg or discover that the elastic around the waist of your half suit is no good), don’t mind stinking as a result of sweating profusely, missing lunches, and a desire to keep honeybees alive, Contact me and I’ll be glad to mentor you. I’ll stand on the ground and shout directions to you for a percentage of the fee. Really, it’ll be good.-

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Late Summer Tips

  • A good time to requeen as goldenrod blossoms giving your hive a new generation of young before winter sets in. There is less spring swarming with young, over-wintered queens
  • Move undrawn foundation towards the center to be drawn out, or move to the lower deep *
  • If no stores in brood area, feed sugar syrup. Remove honey supers when feeding.**
  • Monitor varroa mite counts and treat if natural drop count is 40-50 per day.
  • Be aware of chalkbrood due to long periods of wet weather.
* we still have clethera (sweet pepper bush), goldenrod and New England asters for nectar flow & winter stores
** might see pupa on doorstep. Workers throw out drone pupa first when stores dwindle, thus fewer mouths to feed

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Adventures with Queen Cells
What a perfect day in June for the 4th Annual Mass Bee Field Day at UMASS. The weather cleared, the sun appeared, the bees were placed and the beekeepers swarmed in. This hone of a day was sweetened by the quality of the presenters and the quantity of subjects covered.  Hands-on experiences were available for all beekeepers—new bees and veterans alike.  Our kudos to Franklin County and the Mass Bee Directors for the event planning.

The highlight for us was the receipt of a queen cell.  She traveled home in a shirt pocket close to our heart in hopes of a successful hatching on the 4th of July.  Well, it was not meant to be as the cell was torn down by the 5th day.  So, what went wrong? Did we use the wrong bees in the quick split made at 7:30pm when we returned home? Was the queen a reject or deceased and the new split sensed it?  Should we have kept her  in her ‘hair roller’ cage until she hatched?  Not having much experience with queen cells, we will never know.  However, all was not lost.

The 2-frame split made to receive this queen cell came from a hive where the queen was on her 3rd spring.  She was a Minnesota hygienic moved out of an observation hive which was her home since April 2007.  The stress put on this hive has to equal the migratory hive as it moves about the country.  The observation hive’s traveling not only included trips to schools, but local fairs for several days, kids tapping on the glass, and chilly car trips while being taken to and from bee school sessions in January.  This queen was a very prolific layer, overwintered perfectly, and received no chemical treatments whatsoever: she was a keeper.  And we just had to have some of her daughters for our bee yard. 

So we were not too terribly disappointed when we lost the queen cell, as several new queen cells appeared quickly in the split.  You know that the textbooks tell us when the first queen emerges, she will destroy the remaining queen cells by stinging and the workers will take care of the rest of the disposal.  Not so in this hive!  We spotted one queen on the first outside frame of the 5-frame nuc.  Flipping over the frame, a second queen appeared, but we heard piping from inside the nuc.  In short, five queens appeared on the front of the frames while we watched.  Naturally, we did not have a camera nearby and by the time we grabbed a few queen cages, two queens had flown away.  What remains?  We don’t know as we decided to let Nature take its course and the queens to fight it out, in hopes of the best queen surviving.  And it is all thanks to a queen cell from Field Day. 

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Fair Ribbon Winners
B.C.B.A. members do take their share of ribbons at the Fair each year. This year we have Olivia Rose taking a 1st with her Lemon Cake in the Junior Baking Contest, the 4H CloverBud and Junior Beekeeping Clubs joined forces on a honeybee display for a second place ribbon. Cal Mutti took Best of Show in the Honey Competition, Joe Miksch took a second, while Mary Kay Fox ribboned in Wax. In vegetables, it was Jan Rapp with 1 first, 3 seconds, a third and 1 honorable mention in vegetables, with Cal Mutti netting 2 first and 2 seconds. Joe Miksch took a second in Garlic. The Flower competition saw Cal again getting 2 firsts, and Jan a second. Can’t leave out Tom Novitsky who is taking on a new hobby in his retirement and netted an Honorable Mention for his needlework.

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