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Buzz Words - December 2013

Next Meeting
The next meeting is set for Dec. 10. This is the club’s annual holiday bazaar, with products from the hive and other homespun goodies for sale for the holidays. Don’t limit your thinking to honey: You’ll also find candles and other wax products, health and beauty aids, and often knitted, felted and other handcrafted gifts. Newbees and future beekeepers are very welcome.


As always, sweets and treats are welcome.


From the President
Last year I wrote a Buzz Words article about challenging my neighbor and my son-in-law with the call to beekeeping.  Each responded to the challenge and a year later each has a hive that has survived the travails of any first year hive and any first year beekeeper.  They have each hunkered their respective hives down for the winter but, interestingly, while they both have gotten to the same place in their beekeeping journey, each took vastly different paths.
Each got a package last spring at about the same time and each set up their new hive in an advantageous location (facing south east, close water supply).  But this is where their paths parted.  One of them, we’ll call him Buzz, dutifully read Bee Keeping for Dummies, checked his hive weekly, indulged his girls with sugar water and Honey Bee Healthy, checked for mites, and seemed to be on a first name basis with his queen.  The other, whom we’ll call Buzz Off, took just the opposite path.  He eschewed any reading, only checked his hive when I personally escorted him, fed grudgingly, and seemed content keeping distance from his charges.  Despite their different approaches, each will tell you they had a great summer with their new neighbors and look forward to the new bee season next spring.

Obviously Buzz Off’s approach is anathema to what is considered best practice and to what is taught in the BCBA’s bee school.  And if this were a horse race, the smart money would likely be on Buzz’s hive.  But each, at least at this moment, has arrived at the first furlong with a seemingly healthy hive, ample stores in the top deep, a laying queen, minimal problems with disease and mites, and a summer full of good memories.  However, as you know, beekeeping is a longer race than one season and I look forward to sharing with you next spring more of Buzz and Buzz Off as down the stretch they come.

—John Beach

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Check Out Club Member Blogs

Julie Lipkin @

BCBA discussion group -

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Bee Cozy
This time of year, I’m already starting to count the days until the end of March/early April when I can see the bees free flying, see how many colonies have made it through, and to inspect my bee colonies again.

Once the November cold weather started to set in, I managed to pick a warm enough day to quickly remove the outer cover and peek inside the inner cover and get a quick visual on how well the colonies have managed since summer’s end.  I could see the number of frames occupied by bees that would soon be forming cluster, and have a preliminary idea of which colonies might not make it. This is the last time I’ll venture inside.

I chose to remove the inner cover completely for the winter, replacing with a 1-inch shim installed in its place, surrounding the top deep frames. This step of inner cover removal is to ensure the outer cover doesn’t sit up to high, allowing a draft to enter in. Then, a layer of paper was placed over the bee frames, sprayed lightly with diluted syrup; on top came the 5 lbs. of sugar poured above, then sprayed again with syrup water to produce a clumping effect.  Ah … the esteemed mountain camp method of winter feeding.  (Google it if you don’t already prescribe and maybe you can still find a warm enough day to add it this fall.) The clumping will hopefully prevent the bees from carrying the sugar out of the hive, thinking it’s a foreign object …

Now it’s time to replace the outer cover on top of that shim full of sugar, equipped for the winter months.  ‘Cozy part 1’ starts with a 1-inch piece of rigid insulation tightly placed inside of the outer cover, making sure that I’ve got a void cut out in the rear of the insulation, allowing my friends to eliminate any humidity that builds.

Now it’s time for ‘Cozy part 2’: application of a black felt paper wrap around the outside of hive bodies. I cut the paper a bit long, making sure the entire wooden double deep boxes are covered, including landing board. I make slits at the 4 bottom corners so that I can wrap and pull the paper tightly, stapling as I go, all the way up to the bottom edge of the outer cover lip so that drafts are prevented from entering the colony by way of slipping under bottom edge of the outer cover. On the front entrance, I allow the flap of the ‘tar paper’ to reach out over the landing board edge and staple it down, but lightly so that there is air movement. The bees have to have a way of exiting and the slits made at the front corners provide them 2 areas in which to take their cleansing flights on those warm days without letting in unnecessary drafts or weather. You could also cut a small hole close to the spot that marks the reduced entrance to give them another opening. This prevents this lazy beekeeper from having to go out on snowy days when the snow could likely block the front entrance. With this method, the front entrance has a shield with a getaway.

The result of all this: my recipe for a cozy bee environment, full of stores and with a bit of a wind break for when we get those horizontal wind/snow/sleet/rain gusts. The bees have been known to handle the cold, but they cannot handle the wet cold. Time will tell, come late March, but I’ll rest easy now over the winter months, dreaming of the queen starting to replenish her colony come late January after having a snug and cozy home over the winter…..Until March….bee cozy.
—Rebecca Matarazzi

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A slutty queen is a good queen
OK, maybe I’m oversimplifying it with that headline, but the gist of the latest research is that queen bees convey signals to their hive about how promiscuous they’ve been (with more promiscuous queens leading healthier hives). Researchers say their findings may help explain why honeybee populations are declining. Read all about it here
—Julie Lipkin, courtesy of George Muhlebach

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Did you know
The queen honey bee lays up to 1,500 eggs per day, and may lay up to 1 million in her lifetime.

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Bee School
Registrations are now being accepted for the next session of bee school, set to begin Jan. 2 at the West Barnstable Community Building in West Barnstable. To register, visit the association website at and click on the bee school link. Gift certificates for bee school will be available at the December meeting.
Thursday, January 2nd - Introduction
Thursday, January 16th, Registration and equipment

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A limited number of Barnstable County Beekeepers Association T-shirts ($10 apiece), and an even more limited number of embroidered polo shirts ($20) are available through the club and will be on hand at the December meeting. Speaking of which …

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Consider Winter Feeding
Ideally, our hives here on the Cape should be chock full of stores (nearly 10 deep frames of honey/nectar in TOP deep) come late October. The hive should be difficult to heft from the back. Too often this is not the case. And to find a dead hive lost to starvation come March is very sad and should not be the norm.

As a rule, sugar syrup (2:1) should not be fed to the hive from mid-October to late March. Lack of time to cure the syrup and too much moisture in the hive can cause dysentery. Below are a number of options for winter feeding. The fondant or sugar sheets are laid on the top of the frames directly over the cluster. If needed in an extended cold period where the bees cannot break cluster to reach stores, the bees will have this supplemental feeding readily available.

Methods of Winter Feeding

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

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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Honey Recipe of the Month
Polish Christmas Tree Cookies (Ciastka miodowe)*

It's the only rolled dough in the book for those fancy Christmas cookie cutters that I only make once a year.  Come see if I had time to make them for our Christmas party Dec. 12.  Doesn't seem too bad cholesterol-wise.
½ cup butter            ½ tsp. ginger
1 cup sugar              ½ tsp. ground cloves
1 cup honey             1¼  tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 Tbsp. cream          grated rind of one lemon (organic)
1 Tbsp. cinnamon      3½-4 cups flour (more if needed)
Grease and flour cookie sheets. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the spices and cream.  Grate the lemon directly into the bowl so no aromatic oils are lost.  Sift the flour and add gradually, beating well between each addition until the dough is stiff enough to roll.  Chill briefly.  Roll out 1/8-inch thick on floured surface and cut into desired shapes; dough may be somewhat sticky.  Transfer carefully to cookie sheet (use a wide spatula) and bake 10 minutes or until just beginning to brown around the edges.  Cool on a rack. Store in an airtight jar.

To make cookies sturdy enough to hang on the Christmas tree, add up to ½ cup additional flour to make a stiffer dough.  Before baking, make a small hole in each cookie with the tip of a paring knife.  When cool, ice the cookies with white icing and candies, string yarn through the holes and tie on the branches.   Reprinted from the HONET FEAST by Gene Opton & Nancie Hughes.
—Marte Ayers
Merry Christmas

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