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Buzz Words - August 2014

From the Board
As we move through the day, we all have those special moments when everything falls into place and our efforts are rewarded. Did we do everything right or was luck on our side?

Our 2014 bee season started with delays in the shipment of bees due to weather. This is always a concern as here on the Cape the nectar flow is short and unpredictable. Early delivery might mean a bit more sugar syrup, but the hive has a better chance to build with a good field force when the spring trees bloom. And yet, this season, it was exciting to hear new beekeepers with new equipment are harvesting their first shallow of honey. What a thrill for them!

After many years of beekeeping, I am still in awe when I remove a shallow of honey. I now know that it weighs close to 45 pounds with 25 to 30 pounds of honey. But to think this tiny insect within its little society has created this edible product in such short a period of time and so much of it!! Just incredible!

And then take it one step further and try raising/grafting a few queens. This effort is not something you can wake up in the morning and say you are going to do then and now. Much preparation is in order.

First you need a strong hive, good laying queen and many frames of brood of all stages for your cell builder. Most important, you want to look for a nice frame of larvae just 12 to 24 hours old (a milkylooking spot in the bottom of the cell). These larvae will eventually be your new queens. Fast -forward 24 hours (you can read up on building the cell builder) and you begin the challenge of lifting this tiny “apostrophe-looking” larva from the cell and carefully placing it in your prepared cell cups. No, it cannot be flipped over and no, you cannot use it if it is wiped up the side of the cell. Try again!

When the cell bar is filled with what you hope are a few successful larva transfers, it is tucked back into the cell builder. The worker bees, sensing/fearing they are without a queen, will start feeding your cell cups copious amounts of royal jelly to produce your new queens. It will become a very long 24-hour wait till you can peek in. Holding your breath, you carefully pull up the cell bar, brush off the bees and OMG!!! you have a number queen cups with wax collars started and large puddles of royal jelly in the bottom of the cell cup. Now, don’t get too excited, as there is more work to be done by the bees.

Five days after grafting, the larva spins a cocoon and the cell is capped. We figure the day we graft is day 4, thus 10 days later, you must move the cell as in two days or less, the queen will emerge. At this stage, the queen cell can be placed in a nuc or split or queenless colony. Best to have this recipient hive queenless for 24 hours. More waiting as she emerges, struts around the hive for a few days, departs on her mating flight, weather permitting, and returns to rest a few days before she starts laying the next generation of honey bees. And when I see that first patch of eggs or larvae, I literally “squeal with delight.” What a thrill! Did I do everything right or was luck on my side?

Flip the coin – open the cell builder, pull the cell bar, which had eight nice capped queen cells started, and what? Every cell is chewed open. Oh, what a sinking, disheartening, discouraging sight! Obviously, a virgin queen was roaming the frames. She is removed, caged and placed in a mating nuc. More grafting and, oh, no!! it cannot be that not one out of 48 grafted cells took! How can this happen? Well, would you believe this previously moved virgin queen mated and returned to the cell builder and not to the mating nuc over 100 feet away? Timing is everything. Her brood pattern is perfect, so she is now marked, caged and on her way to the farm to head a nuc to be sold. I consider her a very “roamantic” queen.

Three weeks, 96 cells grafted and one queen! What an education! And the lack of a lot of luck!

—Claire Desilets

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Check Out Club Member Blogs

Julie Lipkin -

BCBA discussion group -

Tamar Haspel -

Facebook page -

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Celebrate National Honeybee Day
The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster will celebrate National Honey Bee Day on Saturday, Aug. 16, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a special presentation at 11 a.m. by Dr. Noah Wilson-Rich, Ph.D. Noah founded the Best Bees Company in his Boston apartment while getting his doctorate at Tufts University. Best Bees supplies gardeners and any other interested parties with beehives, as well as the resources, materials and appropriate consultation for their upkeep. This service is a non-traditional means of raising money for research to improve honey bee health. In addition to providing this service in the Boston area, Noah has been keeping bees on Cape Cod since 2010.

“The Cape is a very special place for bees. I set up two research apiaries in Truro in 2011, where my research laboratory has tested experimental vaccines to increase honey bee health.” Profits from installing and managing these honey bee hives go to fund his research into bee diseases. Noah’s presentation will include a discussion of his research, why Cape Cod is a special place for honey bees and how sustainable gardening begins with honey bees.

Weather permitting, beehives will be opened at 12:30 p.m., 1:45 p.m. and 2 p.m. with BCBA board member George Muhlebach. Volunteers will also be stationed at our indoor observation hive in the museum to answer visitor questions.

Dr. Noah Wilson-Rich’s lecture is free with museum admission. Reservations are required for the hive openings due to limited space and are available by calling 508-896-3867, ext.111. Cost for the hive opening is $2 for museum members and $3 for nonmembers.

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Seasonal Tips
It is not too early to start thinking of wintering your hives. Heft your hive: Lift the bottom board from the back to get an idea of how well the colony is storing honey.

As the season progresses, a dearth can create starvation as the stored honey is consumed by the large colony. The first indication of this will be drone pupa being dragged out of the cell and out the front door. Second, your queen stops laying. Feeding sugar syrup might cause robbing, so you might think of adding the mountain camp sugar feeding or making fondant. Honey shallows should not be on when feeding. Consider requeening if your pattern is irregular or your queen is two to three years old.

—Claire Desilets

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The Barnstable County Agricultural Society was considering deleting the apiary competition at the fair due to the lack of entries. But two members came through this season with a few entries.

Consider this. If you are harvesting after the fair closes, you could put aside two to three 1-pound jars and compete in 2015. Remember, you need two identical 1-pound jars, filled correctly with no visible bubbles or foam. Honey taken after the spring flow tends to be more viscous. Spring honey, quite often, even with capped cells, tends to be above 18.6 percent moisture content and could be disqualified. More on this next June.

—Claire Desilets

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County Fair
I would like to thank everyone who helped with anything to do with the fair, from the ramp and Leslie's flowers to selling. I appreciate all the help I received and hope you all enjoy yourselves working our booth. We had a continuous flow of honey thanks to a good honey flow for some members this year. Even with three fewer days for the fair to run, we did run out of honey on the last day but we still had the honey sticks and honey candy along with the cabinet of "cosmetics" and baby honey bears to sell.

We had interest in our winter beekeeping classes and the report is we already have the class half full. So thanks for talking it up and sharing your fun, enthusiasm and knowledge of beekeeping with the public. Our new location seems to have been in our favor also, as we had first-timers come through our building. Arriving through the ramp door did not create the bottle-up that I had expected, so all in all everything flowed well. Claire's queen showed herself nicely to the public, so all the kids were wearing little bees on their cheeks for finding her.

Thanks one and all for your help and sharing a day at the fair.

—Marte Ayers

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Scallop Fest
The Harvest Fair will not be taking place this year, but it looks like we will be invited to open our bee house at the fairgrounds for the Scallop Festival, Sept. 19-21. So we will have another chance to sell our honey and wares from our building. Please keep this in mind as you extract your honey. If we have support to operate the building, we will open. Stay tuned.

—Marte Ayers

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You Just Never Know
After a better-than-average percentage of colonies making it out of winter, the lot of my 12 colonies seemed to fizzle out right about June 15. Was it mites, pesticide use, hive beetles? Only four of the 12 were slated to be new producers, all needing three honey supers each. Around July 4 the ladies gave me enough honey to relish in that light gold locust honey – not quite enough, though, to give the impression that we'd have a banner honey harvest in the next six weeks to come.

Sure enough, now into early August, with customers clamoring “I need honey,” I'm left with half-filled honey supers and the fear it’ll be yet another lackluster year on the Outer Cape.

I’m left scratching my head this year; we have had perfect enough summer weather, not too much rain, enough sun, not too hot. So what’s different this year? Too many beekeepers, as one local states? Too many manicured lawns? Time will tell if at the end of August those half-filled honey supers fill. Until then, I'll keep on with the weekly visits and pray that this year brings an abundance of liquid gold, low mite counts, and nary a hive beetle to be seen. Happy harvest!

—Rebecca Matarazzi.

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Looking Ahead
Barnstable, Plymouth and Bristol County beekeepers will sponsor a daylong program in Kingston on Saturday, Oct. 11. Plymouth will be hosting Dewey Caron, author and well-known retired researcher from the University of Delaware, and Ross Conrad of Vermont, author of “Natural Beekeeping.” More to come, but reserve the date for a day of good beekeeping information.

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Wildlife Photo Competition
Through Aug. 31, Wild Care in Eastham, the Cape’s emergency wildlife clinic, will sponsor a photo competition in conjunction with Orleans Camera. Local and visiting amateur photographers are invited to participate in this open juried online competition and exhibit. Celebrate the majesty and variety of wildlife here on Cape Cod by submitting your best photo(s) of native animals in the wild. This competition and exhibit is an opportunity for all photographers to capture powerful and moving images of the animals who share our home. Orleans Camera gift certificates will be offered as prizes for first and second place and special mention, and the winning photos will be displayed on both Wild Care's website and on Orleans Camera's website in September.

For more information and to register and enter your photos, go to Photo entries are $10 each. Entries must be received by Aug. 31.

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Items for Sale/Purchase
Looking for a secondhand smoker. Do you have an extra floating around? Rachael Crook, 508-494-1889.

Available from retired beekeeper, all new and never used:

  1. one Paragon 5-gal Bottling Pail, with lid & honey gate, (14" high x 11½" diameter)
  2. one uncapping fork w/plastic handle
  3. one Betterbee deluxe uncapping fork w/built-in scraper
  4. two requeening frames
  5. six shallow frames, unassembled
  6. six crimpwire foundation for shallows
  7. five deep frames, unassembled
  8. one 5-pound bag MegaBee pollen substitute, unopened
  9. two Complete Bee Smart "Ultimate Hive Stands" for 10-frame hives, unassembled. (see or or for info & pics.)

Call Beth Ferranti, Marstons Mills 508-428-8462

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Did You Know
Honey bees never sleep. (No wonder they get so much done!)

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Honey Recipe of the Month

Honey-grilled chicken*

  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

Preheat a grill for medium heat. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in honey and lemon juice. Reserve half for basting, and brush the other half onto the chicken breasts. Lightly oil the grill grate, and place chicken on the grill. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes per side, turning frequently. Baste often during the last 5 minutes. Chicken is done when the meat is firm, and juices run clear.

* Recipe reprinted from

back to top Last updated 8/6/14