Current Newsletter
Archived Newsletters

Buzz Words - December 2011

Tuesday, December 13th, 7:30 p.m., West Barnstable Community Building, Route 149 & Lombard Rd, West Barnstable, will be our annual Holiday Market, where our club crafters will display their products in hopes that you will find items suitable to be offered as presents to your friends and loved ones. You will have to choose between Angora knit items, hand-carved items, jewelry, soaps, beeswax candles, machine-embroidred linens and things, pottery and perhaps more. Plus, lots of delicious edibles. Crafters, please note, tables are in short supply. It would be wise to bring your own.

From the President

Mentoring Blues
Darn it, I dropped the corner of the super and the bees are angry!! I sure hope I didn’t squish the queen. I'm out of here until they calm down...survey the interior damage later. There is no damage to the super itself, whether the queen survived her fall if she is even in the top super remains to be seen. I'm somewhat daunted and don't have the nerve right now to have bees flying all about me during a close inspection of this kind. I'll have to painstakingly remove every frame in a search for the queen or wait, check in a few days, to see if there is any fresh brood. The next opportunity presents itself later than I hope, two weeks down the road, and it seems like there is no new brood. It's the second week of June, should I let nature take its course or interfere by introducing a new queen?

I recall those first few weeks of being a new beekeeper; making my first inspections and being convinced that I did not have a laying queen. Called Claire who gave me the name of a queen rearing/selling gentleman to contact. He questioned me thoroughly and then told me to give it some time before deciding to go ahead and order a new queen. I did. She WAS there, yet I was prepared to jump the gun when all signs had pointed to no queen. The first thing I learned from the queen king was patience, the second thing was, that to a newly minted beekeeper predictable signs don't reliably lead the way.

This scenario is not unusual in fact it is more the rule than the exception. The first few weeks of beekeeping you will probably have to choose between alternate courses of action on any of a number of issues. Those choices will be based on what you have learned during bee school as well as extensive self-directed reading on the subject. It is incumbent on you to have a handle on the choices of best practice in the given situation before you call your mentor so you can intellectually discuss and understand the motivation behind what will become the choice to employ.

Your mentor will have at least four points checked off on this list which makes them a great resource for bouncing those choices off of. Your mentor will be somewhere in your neck of the woods so you can go to their bee yard and watch them work their hives.

Qualifying Guidelines for Mentors

  1. Active beekeeping for three years.
  2. Created a split
  3. Caught a swarm,
  4. Used a drone sink
  5. Wired in foundation
  6. Competent in current IPM methods…powdered sugar for Varroa count, Crisco patties, drone sinks, etc.
  7. Moved a hive.
  8. Introduced a new queen
  9. Killed an old queen
  10. Fed hives pollen patties, sugar syrup, misted dry sugar on paper.
  11. Skewered drone cells

We Need Mentors, Don’t be Shy!! If you can check off four points from the preceding list that is enough to intelligently discuss best practices and choices with our new beekeepers.


back to top

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:

back to top

4-H Beekeepers
The Barnstable County 4-H Junior Beekeepers/Entomology Club would like to thank the Barnstable County Beekeepers Association for 2 scholarships and 3 bee suits and the donation of honey candy. Our December 6th meeting will be at the fairgrounds administration building at 5:30pm-6:30pm and we will be working on a hive for one of the club families.

back to top

Snatches from S.N.E.B.A.
I attended the Southern New England Beekeepers Assembly meeting yesterday and got quite an earful. Have any of you ever heard a talk by Dan O’Hanlon from West Virginia? Man, is he a dynamic, passionate speaker! He was full of great info, including:

  • the value of establishing an agricultural cooperative to run the queen-rearing program (theirs is called the West Virginia Queen Producers Initiative); they set up a 501 nonprofit, got themselves grants, got training in instrumental insemination; they charge $100 dues to belong to the cooperative, but they make that back in queen sales. They create the queens in July and overwinter them in five-frame styrofoam nukes (with an 80 percent survival rate) so the nukes are ready for sale in March.
  • the value of legislation granting beekeepers immunity from civil suits (he is a judge in real life) ... this grew out of a lawsuit brought against a beekeeper friend of his whose neighbor sued him because his wife was stung and suffered a bad reaction. The lawsuit was eventually tossed out, but not till the guy had spent $10,000 in legal fees. Dan helped draft legislation that requires beekeepers to register their apiaries with the state ag. dept. and follow best management practices, in return for which the state declares the beekeeper “not liable for any personal injury or property damage that occurs in connection with the keeping and maintaining of bees, bee equipment, queen breeding equipment, apiaries and appliances.” ( ). Right now West Va. is the only state in the union that has such a law, according to Dan. He wants every state to have one, and he wants it so badly that he offered to travel to any legislature in the country AT HIS OWN EXPENSE to lobby for it!
  • the availability of funds to support beekeeping. He said beekeeping dollars right now are ripe for the picking: everyone by now recognizes the importance of bees as pollinators has heard about the dire status of the honeybee and supports the “buy local” movement.

He is a particular fan of the U.S. Specialty Crop Block Grant program, U.S. funding administered by the state Ag. Depts. He said that is money that is sitting there in a category for beekeeping and usually ends up being diverted to other agricultural enterprises because no one asks for it! “They love to buy things with it: equipment, educational materials, etc.” He said he asks for $5,000 every year and has never been turned down.

I asked him if he’d be willing to come talk to our association, and he said he’d love to. Waddya think? There were other speakers, and other good info, but he was by far the highlight. —Julie

back to top

Upcoming Meetings
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Massachusetts Beekeepers Spring Meeting, watch our website for details
Saturday, March 31, 2012
at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, BCBA will present Tom Seeley, author of Honey Bee Democracy for you listening enjoyment.

back to top

Priority Tips for Wintering

  1. Windbreak
    • Natural Tree line
    • Tarpaper Wrap vStraw bales or Burlap Bags (available from coffee roasters)
  2. Ventilation
    • screened entrance (mouse guard) for lower air flow
    • top ventilation – use spacer between inner & outer covers
  3. Stores – feeding
    • late winter – add dry sugar or fondant directly on frames

back to top

Wintering Tips – From Experience

  • Next nice day – if you have not already flipped your inner cover to the winter side, scrape off any burr comb so that your winter candy can easily fit under.
  • When cleaning the feeder pail after use, make sure you clean the screen. It could be clogged with crystallized sugar or propolis. An old toothbrush and warm water will clean off the sugar, but the hardened propolis will take cold water.
  • Watch food stores with this unseasonal warm weather. Minimal stores are consumed at an ambient temperature of 400. With our 500 to 600 of late, (and if you have already wrapped) stored honey could be munched quite readily.

back to top

Mountain Camp Feeding – from Kelley Bee News (Nov 2011)

  • Use 1 or 2 inch spacer placed directly on top brood box
  • Add 2 sheets of newspaper directly on frames (leave 1/3 of frames exposed)
  • Mist paper with water spray or sugar syrup
  • Dump 1-2# sugar on paper and mist sugar to clump, repeat sugar and spray once more
  • Misting sugar to clump will keep bees from carrying it out as a foreign material
  • Condensation from cluster heat will be absorbed by newspaper
  • If bees have not used all sugar by spring, use it to make first batch of 1:1 syrup

back to top

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

back to top

Sequencing Honey Bee Genome
Since the sequencing of the honey bee genome in 2006, some of the most interesting DNA studies have involved honey bee immune systems. Insect immunity genes are very similar to those in humans, so they make ideal study organisms that can hopefully lead to information to help keep both us and the girls in better health in the future. When compared to some of the other insects that have been sequenced (fruit flies, mosquitoes & moths) it seems honey bees only have about one third the number of immune genes as the other insects. While this may be accounted for by genes that go unrecognized as immune factors, a fascinating new hypothesis has been suggested. This idea proposes that a smaller number of genes are necessary because of the highly social nature of the honey bee. It suggests that grooming, nest hygiene & other behavioral traits can reduce the impact of pathogenic bacteria, fungi & mites. The ‘hygienic behavior’ first described for honey bees in the 1960's is now considered a classical example of a social defense, where workers identify and remove infected larvae from among the healthy brood. Other social defenses shown by the bees include the construction of nests from antimicrobial materials, the raising of offspring in sterile nurseries, social ‘fever’ in response to disease, transference of immune traits, and heightened risk-taking by infected individuals. Like most of us, honey bee colony members also possess individual defenses, including immune responses toward disease agents. But their close genetic relatedness and high population densities put honey bees at a higher risk from parasites and pathogens. However, such social costs to honey bee immunity might be offset by behavioral social defenses including mating strategy (e.g. multiple mating by queens), mutual grooming, and the maintenance of a sheltered environment for colony members. They also join humans as organisms for which there is great interest in understanding the social drivers of disease, and in using this information to improve survival. —Leslie

back to top

Claire's Corner
The second annual report for our Specialty Crop Funding is due shortly. An explanation of any problems or delays encountered must be related as well as the measures we intend to solve them.

Our goal was to raise 10 to 15 queens per week, which could not be met due to the lack of available brood for the mating nucs. More realistic were new queens every two weeks. This was attempted, however many were lost due to robbing during nectar dearth in July. This factor will continue to hinder our project unless we can locate remote areas for breeding.

Also included in the report are the following: a) loss of overwintered breeding queens, b) loss of overwintered hives needed to provide brood for mating nucs, c) cancellation by breeder of order for replacement VT Russian queens, d) two-month delay in shipping breeder queens from Ohio Queen Breeders due to poor weather, e) insufficient frames of brood needed to increase queen rearing, f) unreliability of Miller Method, g) grafting method requires additional equipment.

On a positive note, we were able to raise 36 healthy mated Cape Cod Queens. Perhaps 5 or 6 of these were lost during introduction. Come April of 2012 the balance, we hope, will emerge with a healthy brood pattern.

In order for the program to grow, members will be needed to provide brood or learn to make splits and nucleus colonies with our queens as “Head of the Household”. A core group will meet soon to plan for next year and how best to include more members.

back to top

Hive Equipment
Just a note that the club maintains an inventory of equipment for members who look to expand, or to replace older equipment. We have purchased a larger than normal quantity of deep frames and foundation if you are looking to replace any over the winter months. The list of equipment carried is a part of this issue of Buzz Words. Prices on this list are valid thru February 28th, 2012.
» View Equipment Order Form (pdf)

back to top

GOT HONEY???? NEED JARS????? Call Ed Osmun, 508-802-0509 to order your glassware. Ed has ½, 1 & 2 pound Classic Honey Jars in stock. Sold in case lots only.

Former members have a brand new Honey Extractor (stainless, 2 super, hand crank) that they paid $395 for. We also have 3 stands, 2 covers, 3 full supers, 6 1/2 supers, 2 metal queen excluders, a swarm box, and misc. frame parts. We would like to move these items asap and will take a best offer. Would really like to see them all go at once!! My contact via email is and messages/inquiries can be made at 508-295-0960 during reasonable hours.

back to top Last updated 12/02/11