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Buzz Words - August 2013

Tuesday, September 10, 2013, 7:30 p.m. at the West Barnstable Community Building on Route 149, approximately ½ mile north of the Mid Cape Highway.

From the President
This is a sad message to write. As most of you know, Paul Desilets passed away last week. While you may know him as the kind, knowledgeable, hardworking and friendly treasurer of the BCBA, here are some remembrances from others who were enriched by Paul’s presence.


Dan Conlon of Warm Colors Apiary:
I send this out with a deep sense of personal loss. Paul was my friend and one of the best advocates of Massachusetts beekeeping. Paul spent twenty years keeping the Barnstable and State associations alive. He has served as President, Vice President, Clerk, and Secretary of the Massachusetts Beekeepers Association. What few people understand is that Paul came forward every time the State association was in crisis. He encouraged standards of excellence, participated in political meetings, and would do all the background work to achieve our collective goals. I will miss him as a collaborator, advisor, and trusted confidant. Farewell my friend - Massachusetts has lost a favored son.

Leslie Lichtenstein, Co-Vice President of the BCBA:
The bees remember Last spring in a sunny Georgia field a queen bee was busy laying eggs, each in its own perfect little six sided wax cell. She knew the apiary where she lived would send her children off to beekeepers all over the country, and like every mother she wished the best for all her children. She hoped they would find lots of wonderful flowers to visit and to drink nectar and collect pollen. But most of all she hoped they would be sent to a magical place called Cape Cod. Don't ask how, but all bees know that Cape Cod beekeepers are the best because they learned from two special humans named Claire & Paul. Now bees don't think too much about humans unless they are paving over their fields or spraying nasty chemicals on their flowers, but there are some humans who have earned their special notice. Since it’s hard work laying hundreds of eggs every day, once in their little cells, the eggs were tended by nurse bees. One was fed royal jelly every day and grew up to be a beautiful new queen. After she flew from her home hive & danced with the drones, she was packed in a tiny screen cage with a few attendant bees and sent off on a long trip. This lucky little queen wound up not only on Cape Cod but in Claire & Paul's very own demonstration hive! She happily began laying her own eggs & dreaming that she might be chosen for Claire’s Cape Cod queen rearing project. One day when her hive was uncovered she found she was in the Honey House at the Barnstable County Fair! Claire had painted a bright colored spot on her back & for a whole week hundreds of children came to look for her and learn about bees. She was sad that Paul couldn't come to see her in the Honey House he had helped build and wanted to tell him how very special she felt to be able to show so many people how important bees were. When the fair was over she went home with Claire to lay more eggs. But things weren't the same, Paul was gone and the people were sad. The little queen thought to herself, Paul may be gone but the bees will always remember and continue to think Cape Cod special because our beekeepers were taught by the very best.

Laura Eldridge, BCBA Member:
I sat with my bees today and thought about how much we have all learned from the Desilets.

Julie Lipkin, Board Member BCBA:
Paul was, of course, part of the backbone of our beekeepers association. But beyond his extensive knowledge of bees and the good will with which he dispensed it, what I most cherished about him was that he was utterly nonjudgmental. Every beekeeping mistake was one he claimed to have made himself, and the 15th asking of a question was afforded the same respect as the first (even when the same person was asking it all 15 times). We could all use more Pauls in our life.

John Beach, President, BCBA:
I can only echo the above sentiments. At times like this I am reminded of John Donne’s poem, Death Be Not Proud. In this poem he writes that death inevitably wins, but that victory is shallow, as there is a spirit that endures and ultimately trumps death. For me, when I go out and tend my hive, there will be bit of Paul there advising, guiding, laughing. And I thank him for that.

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Check Out Club Member Blogs

Julie Lipkin @

Mark Marinaccio @

Tamar Haspel @

Disovery Magazine has compiled nearly 50 articles relating to issues and challenges facing bees. They can be read at:

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Cape Cod Queens and Nucs for Sale
While we wait for our bee season with baited breath come Spring, I'm sure some of you, like me, dread the thought of August coming around. "The girls" start to kick the drones out of the hives as evenings befin to cool, as their duty is all but done, plus they may eat too much of the honey and take up too much room; it's a do or die time to figure out if you need to re queen that colony before it's too late. So much to do as a bee keeper in August: harvest available honey, check for mites, check for hive beetles, and definitely ensure that the queen is laying a solid brood pattern and if not, replace her before Fall. There are several reasons to re queen a colony in late summer. In my case, excessive drones present in a colony of mine, is a perfect lead in to the BCBA's successful queen rearing program and available nucs for member sales.

Earlier this morning, with some other members, I had the pleasure of inspecting some of the many nuc set ups in the bee yard at Cape Cod Organic Farm in Barnstable. Carefully raised, these Cape grown nucs either had a laying queen, bred locally with a solid brood pattern and fresh eggs, or a virgin queen awaiting 'dates' which will lead her to "house keeping" in her own queen right colony. Later in the day, I'd done an inspection in one of my colonies that was teaming with worker bees a few short weeks ago. Sadly today, what I saw among the capped honey frames I'd hoped to harvest in a week or so, were too many drones, uncapping the honey! Ok, I get that they're hungry, but my mind went immediately to "I need a queen NOW to replace the failing queen in this hive, so why not buy one of the clubs queens instead of sending away for a new queen prior to Fall?" Why not indeed....I'm not going to send away for yet another queen raised in Georgia or California that have completely different climates to ours. I'm convinced the way to go is to place my order soon for one of our Cape bred queens to replace this package queen. So, make a note in your journal: it's high time to inspect your colonies if you haven't already and check the health of your queen. If she isn't up to speed, laying a solid brood pattern, or you see too many drones, as in my case, put your order in for either a Cape bred queen-if you have enough bees or a nuc to replace or add to your apiary-to keep your colony healthy enough to survive the Fall and Winter. These queens and nucs are absolutely gorgeous quality! If you watch the news, you'll see that climate change in quickly becoming a very unpredictable event for all, but namely, for the future of bee keepers. Our dependence on queens and packages bred in Georgia may become a luxury that will someday become a thing of the past to the Cape Cod bee keeper. For this reason, it is essential that we understand that we will need to take care of our own Cape raised bees. As the Sustainable Cape stickers say, "BUY LOCAL." That includes bees. Without our local bees, we'll be hard pressed for anything local. I'm putting my bet on Cape hardy queens, bred locally by our club on Cape Cod for our climate. Mark your calendar and check your colony and place your orders! Happy Harvest!

—Rebecca Matarazzi

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BCBA Offers Cape Cod Grown Nucs and Queens
The club’s queen rearing efforts have taken a new approach this year. As we hope you know, the BCBA has been rearing queens from both mite-resistant purchased and local survivor stock for the past few years. Our objectives are to: 1) develop a more locally adapted honey bee for our rigorous Cape environment, 2) promote backyard queen rearing among the BCBA membership, and 3) reduce the damage of over-winter colony loss by breeding better bees and by over-wintering strong nucleus colonies.

This year, we have stepped beyond simple queen rearing and, to maximize the survival and effective use of our locally reared queens, we are offering them in strong nucleus colonies. Because there was not yet a club apiary to use for hive splitting and nuc formation, we purchased northern-raised nucs in the spring, set them up at the Cape Cod Organic Farm (CCOF) in Barnstable, and “grew them up” with supplemental feeding. Meanwhile, we began queen rearing using larvae from our best-performing queens. The mother queens are Cape survivors, derived from genetic lines, mostly Carniolan, that have shown Varroa mite resistance through hygienic behavior; queen larvae were copiously fed in strong cell-building colonies in Barnstable and Wellfleet.

Most of the original nucs quickly grew into two-deep-strong colonies. In July we began splitting them and installing our home-grown queens. At this date we have strong queen-right nucs for sale to club members on a first come, first served basis for $75. These colonies have at least two frames of solid brood, two-three frames of honey and are packed with bees.

Why buy nucs in summer?

  • This is an excellent way to acquire locally raised and adapted honey bees. There is mounting evidence that bees and queens shipped from the southern US survive poorly here, and often carry hitchhiking parasites and diseases. Plus our queens have never been stressed by travel in a cage across country.
  • Given their strength, and provided feeding and TLC into fall, these colonies have a high potential for over-winter survival.
  • Alternatively, they can be installed into weak, queenless or otherwise failing colonies to rescue them now and avoid having to replace them with a more expensive nuc or package in spring. Note that requeening with a nucleus colony is nearly fail-safe.

Where do we go from here?
With your support, we hope to continue the project at CCOF next year, using our own BCBA over-wintered and, if again necessary, purchased northern colonies as a source of splits. Proceeds from nuc sales will be plowed back into the project. Education about the project, including regular spring and summer hive openings and volunteer opportunities at CCOF, will continue with the goal of promoting the production of home-grown Cape Cod bees.

To Begin Raising Locally Bred Bees Reserve Your Nuc Now!

Nuc Details:

  • Five Frame Nuc Boxes
  • Local Breed Queen
  • At least two (2) frames of solid brood
  • Two - Three (2-3) frames of honey
  • Nucs are "packed" with bees

Cost: $75.00 per Nuc for Club Members

Contact: George Muhlebach or Lynn Heslinga by phone or email listed under Directors at end of this newsletter.

—John Portnoy

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Barnstable County Fair
I just wanted to drop a quick line to thank you all for volunteering to work at the fair and hope you all enjoyed yourselves. It was fairly easy up to the point that I dropped it into Leslie's lap. So thank you Leslie for doing all the last minute quick steps. I will await the newsletter and any emails you want to send to me on the results and your point of view.

—Marte Ayers

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Barnstable County Fair Results
Now that I have made all the deposits, our gross sales for this year's fair was $5,474, down from over $6000 last year. This must have been due to the lack of honey available for sale. Members received checks totaling $3,443 for their products sold at 100% reimbursement. Expenses have not been computed to date, but the check book is fattened by nearly $1000. We sold nearly 3 boxes of honey candy at 27lbs each and over 6000 honey sticks. Although we had a few rainy days, it appears we did well.

—Claire Desilets

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Check your Supers

Leslie Lichtenstein reminds members to be sure to check their supers. She notes that the Clethra is in full bloom and is a favored nectar source. Also she notes that BJ’s this week has sugar on sale at $3.99 for 10 pounds.

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back to top Last updated 8/26/13