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Buzz Words - December 2009

Table of Contents
1. Announcements
2. From the President
3. S.N.E.B.A. Synopsis
4. Future Meetings
5. Claire's Corner
6. Club Equipment Resources
7. Grant Update
8. Tips
9. Did You Know?
10. Holiday Hints
11. Fondant Candy Recipes
12. Classifieds

Note date change Due to Election
TUESDAY, December 15th, 7:30 P.M., at the West Barnstable Community Building on Route 149, will feature our annual HOLIDAY MARKET, where some of our crafty members display the fruits of their labors in hopes that you will find gifts for those special folks on your holiday lists. The club will have available their cookbooks, honeystix and honey candy for your baskets and stockings.  Come see, share, and celebrate!

A few holiday nibbles are needed to go with the offerings of Susan V. and Leslie L.

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
I hope all of you had a nice Thanksgiving with family and friends. As always, the Cape Cod weather has been unpredictable. It’s already December and we had hardly a decent frost. This means that our bees have continued to be active in the hive without finding practically any food outside. This increased activity means that they have been using more of the stored food and it will become very important that we start early with feeding sugar candy and/or fondant candy.

We still have not gotten a written contract from the State covering our grant to start up a queen-rearing program. At our November meeting, the membership gave the Board the authority to implement the program. The Board in its last meeting has formed an implementation committee under the lead of Claire Desilets. More details will follow.

As is our tradition, our December meeting will be an opportunity for our members to sell their crafted items and for others to get some nice presents for family and friends. I hope that all of you will take advantage of this opportunity.

I wish all of you a happy and safe holiday season and a healthy and prosperous New Year. May the bees fly and the honey flow.

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S.N.E.B.A. Synopsis
The fourth meeting of the Southern New England Beekeepers Assembly was held on the 21st of November, 2009 in Hamden Ct. Joining the meeting organizer Dr. Lawrence Conner were speakers Dave Mendes and Randy Oliver. The current state of beekeeping and the challenges associated with it were profiled. Outlined also, were the responses the beekeeping community on all levels has used to address those challenges. Unwilling to accept the loss of colonies and for some, livelihoods, beekeepers have sought a panacea in the form of chemical treatment. Initially, this silver bullet approach seemed to offer hope. Upon review under the backdrop of natural selection however, there is mounting evidence that this approach is flawed. Pest and pathogens are developing tolerance and resistance to the compounds apiculturists aim as arrows in colony defense. Clearly to avoid being labeled as shortsighted, the tactical methods we employ in dealing with our problems need to be re-examined.

Dave Mendes manages ten thousand colonies involved in honey production and the pollination of almonds, blueberries and cranberries. Dave believes beekeepers need to comprehend the biological dynamics of a honeybee colony. In his view we need to understand what bees do at any given time of the year and the reason they do it. When inspecting he wants us to identify the condition and take note of the bees and brood present along with the amount of food available. This involves record keeping. As managers we must decide if what we see is appropriate for that time. The quality of food is also important. When a colony is raising drones, creating swarm cells, producing white wax and storing a ring of pollen exhibiting a variety of colors surrounding brood, this is evidence of good nutrition. Highly populated nutritionally strong colonies are the first line of defense against many of the maladies Apis Mellifera faces. When appropriate, supplemental feeding helps foster strong colonies.

Randy Oliver maintains a website called An educator and popular speaker from Grass Valley California, Randy manages five hundred colonies in a migratory pollination operation. While researchers attempt to identify a smoking gun involved in the demise and collapse of colonies one thing stands out. On some level certain colonies demonstrate the ability to coexist with the same characters that bring other beehives down. Like Dave Mendes, Randy Oliver believes nutritionally strong colonies promote survivability. In terms of value he holds that pollen represents the greatest return. Randy spoke of a compound called Vitellogenin that he identified as the currency of protein. Vitellogenin is stored in the abdomen and head of honeybees. This molecule has many functions, the levels of which have implications in the timing and delineation of behavioral tasks. Much more can be found on his website.

Natural selection is ever present. As beekeepers prop up genetically susceptible hives with treatment, they are simultaneously screening and selecting for more tolerant and virulent mites and pathogens. Randy Oliver discussed epigenetic selection. He explained it as the process of genetic expression and described it as fast and environmentally influenced. Beekeepers can choose to have selection work for them or against them.

SNEBA organizer Dr. Lawrence Connor is a noted queen breeder, author and owner of Wicwas Press. He has been a strong proponent of self-sufficiency in disease tolerant and mite resistant bee stock. Dr. Connor encourages the co-operation of beekeepers on a local and regional basis in the development of breeding programs. He reminded the assembly that honeybees have been dealing with pest, diseases and pathogens throughout history without our help. He sides with Dave Mendes when he claims that much of what we learned in beekeeping 101 still applies. Breeding programs that forgo treatment will suffer losses. Randy Oliver states that we need to “get over it”. The resulting survivor stock will be worth it. He says honeybees have multiple strategies for fighting any parasite. Dr. Connor observes that traits such as grooming and hygienic behavior can be selected. Chemical applications accumulate toxins in the honeycomb as well as contribute to resistance. The cost of resistance must be weighed against the benefit to the colony in every treatment schedule. Beekeepers need to work together in the development of genetically strengthened stock suitable for their region. They also need to understand the lifecycle of pests, and employ Integrated Pest Management (IPM) measures such as the breaking of honeybee brood cycles. Due to the dynamic and fluid nature of selection, the idea of creating a “super bee” with complete resistance seems unrealistic. Tolerance and survivability are reasonable and within reach. These traits combined with IPM, comb replacement, and maintenance of nutritionally strong, populous colonies greatly promote the attainment of productive hives with sustainable stock. (Our Thanks to Bob Waldron for this submission)

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Future Meetings
January 12th – Wax Cleaning, preparation and safety, candle crafting – George and Paul

February 9th – Small Hive Beetle - Arnie Howe

March 9th - Bee-related publications, journals, blogs, resources - Leslie Lichtenstein, Julie Lipkin, Jan Rapp

March 20th – Mass Beekeepers Spring Meeting (Topsfield)

March 27th – Southern Adirondack Beekeepers Assoc. Spring Seminar (SUNY Albany) Seeley, Spivak, & Hayes

April 13th
– Swarming, how to control, how to capture - Andy Morris and George Muhlebach

May 11th – Pollinating Plants – speaker TBA

June 8th - Sam Comfort of (check out his website)

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Claire's Corner
Remember years ago we entertained several seed swaps? We got to thinking of those meetings after Paul harvested lots of seed heads from one of our bee plants. This led to researching the name and plant data, which led to a file folder housing a project on fixed-land planting.  From here we came across a grant written in 1998 by the late Dick Bonney of U MASS Extension of which we were “cooperating beekeepers”.  The title was “Increasing Value-Added Honey Production and Honey Bee Numbers for Pollination by Improving Availability of Nectar Producing Bee Forage.” (Phew!) In common language horticulturists and beekeepers were to plant specific species of pollen and nectar bearing plants. Once established, it was hoped this blend would provide sufficient foraging to maintain honey bee hives in the area.  The grant was not funded but we received a number of plants and seeds to propagate.

Here are a few of the bee forage plants suitable for Massachusetts, and listed in the grant:
Golden Honey Plant(Actinomeris alternifolia)
Anise Hyssop(Agastache foeniculum)
Swamp Milkweed(Asclepias incarnata)
Butterfly Weed(Asclepias tuberosa)
Purple Coneflower(Echinacea purpurea)
Blue Globe Thistle(Echinops ritro)
Chapman Honey Plant(Echinops sphaerocephalus)
Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
Mountain Mint(Pycanthemum pilosum)

Two species now thrive in our gardens. Mountain Mint spreads like a typical mint, but the bees work the small blossom feverishly during August and September.  The Golden Honey Plant grows to 6 feet tall, with a sunny yellow flower. It blooms profusely from August well into October and one can see clouds of honeybees rolling over blossoms.

Seeds of the Golden Honey Plant were dried and bagged and will be available to members at the December meeting. They are a perennial and can be sown directly outdoors. Consider a location abutting woods due to their height and their ability to reseed.

Member Beth of Marstons Mills has forwarded a revised list of bee foraging plants in order to help you plan your 2010 gardens. Check out the club’s website for the update. Thanks, Beth.

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Club Equipment Resources
In addition to honey jars, we also have frames, foundation, and woodenware in inventory for your planned additions or just to replace comb, repair damaged equipment, etc. Contact Paul via email to see if we have what you are looking for. Have just finished packaging deep foundation in 10’s; and we have lots of shallow put up in 10’s and 20’s ready for your work during the winter doldrums.

As an aside, Brushy Mountain Bee Farm is opening a second location in Pennsylvania. Orders placed by bee school members and for others after they officially open will be shipped from this location, resulting in lower freight charges for us.

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Grant Update
While we await funding of our grant, sites for breeder hives are being explored. Wellfleet, Barnstable, Marstons Mills and East Sandwich all look promising. Minnesota Hygienic Queens have been order for May and June shipment. Consider requeening with one or popping one in a newly made split (to prevent swarming). This will help the drone congregating areas.

Once the equipment has arrived, we will put the word out for a weekend “hammer” party, hopefully in January/February.

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Following the wintering techniques previously published, switch to fondant if the hive is hungry Keep the hive entrance clear of debris, leaves, ice and snow Remove dead bees from the entrance if needed

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Did You Know?

  • Fermented honey, known as mead, is the most ancient fermented beverage. The term “honey moon” originated with the Norse practice of consuming large quantities of mead during the first month of a marriage.
  • Honey has been used to embalm bodies such as that of Alexander the Great.
  • Honeybees fly at 15 miles per hour.
  • Honeybees are almost the only bees with hairy compound eyes.

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Holiday Hints
A subscription to a bee journal such as Bee Culture or the American Bee Journal is always a nice gift. Print out discounted subscription form below and leave around as a “hint”. There is always wood ware and foundation to think about; or, some of those things that we told you as a newbee not to buy.
» Subscription form form Bee Culture Magazine or the American Bee Journal

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Fondant Candy Recipe
Microwave Recipe (feeds 1 or 2 colonies)

  1. In a 1 quart or larger microwave dish, thoroughly mix 1 & ½ cups granulated sugar and ½ cup light corn syrup. No water.
  2. Microwave on high, stirring every few minutes until the mixture is clear and bubbles become thumbnail size (about 10 minutes). Stop immediately if the mixture starts to brown. A wooden spoon Is very effective for stirring, as it can be left in the dish during cooking.
  3. Pour into a mold made from cardboard or a container lined with paper to cool. The candy will become brittle and can be slipped on top of frames where the bees will consume it.

Stovetop Recipe (makes nine 5” x 6” pieces)

  1. Mix 5# granulated sugar, 1 pint corn syrup, 1 & 1/3 cups of water in a large pot.
  2. Hold over medium heat to 240 d on a candy thermometer. VERY IMPORTANT TO HOLD THE 240 F.
  3. Stir only occasionally, it takes a while.
  4. At 240 , place the pot in a sink of cold water.
  5. Change the water a few times.
  6. Beat with a mixer, cooling the mixture to 190
  7. Pour onto greased (Pam) cookie sheets to ¼ inch thick
  8. Cool and slice into patties

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We recently received a call from a former member who has a stainless steel hand-crank 3-deep frame, or 6 shallow frame extractor for sale. It has had very little use, and has legs. A similar model at Betterbee costs $550 plus shipping.  You can pick this one up for $350.  Contact Bob Wright if interested – 508-237-7297 or email at  Gentleman says he also has supers in good condition.

back to top Last updated 12/10/09