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Buzz Words - February 2011

Next MeetingFebruary 8th,  7:30 p.m., West Barnstable Community Building, Route 149, West Barnstable. We have a guest speaker, Everett Zurlinden of Beehavin’ Apiaries, who will speak to us about Hive Nutrition, Nucs, and the upcoming Eastern Apicultural Society’s Annual Short Course and Conference to be held in Rhode Island this year.

Juice/ Cider -- Volunteer needed.
Nibbles -- Volunteer needed.

From The President
Spring sounds pretty good to me what with the slanting rain mixed with sleet just turned from snow beating against the window promising a slush mix sure to harden into an ice sheet in the next few days. The Barnstable County Beekeeper’s Association’s Pollinator Plant Sale scheduled for May 14th is surely a day we can look forward to that won’t be described in terms aforementioned. The annual sale under the greenhouse glass can be a day ranging in attitude from 60 to 75 degrees clothed in bright blue or gray bouncy cumulous cloudy skies promising more clement weather to come. What our wares portend are juicy tomatoes, crisp cukes, brilliant flowers buzzing with bees, butterflies and hummingbirds and baskets filled with garden produce. All this promise is held in and transferred from our hands on that early spring Saturday. Six-packs of veggie starts and flower seedlings flying out the door with bags of divided perennials, the occasional dogwood or other sapling and lilies, lilies, lilies. You too will go home with twice as much as you brought. Surprises and old favorites. Starting a few more plants than you need, after all there are plenty of seeds in that package, will give you good reason to join us in celebrating the start of that new cycle of rebirth. - Jan

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Check Out Club Member Blogs

Julie Lipkin @

Mark Marinaccio @

Tamar Haspel @

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Cranberry-Apple Sauce
Here's a recipe that I wish I'd had in time to offer for the holidays. But it's lovely anytime.
2 12-oz packages cranberries, rinsed
4 tart apples, pared and diced
1½ c. honey
¼ c. orange juice
¼ c. water
Heat all on medium high and cool till cranberries pop. -- Julie Lipkin

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From the 4-H Club
The president of the 4-H Bee Club, Ella Hunt, is enrolled in bee school. At the January meeting, the club worked on putting together frames and foundation for Ella's hive. Her hive will be located in the Town of Barnstable, in the village of Marstons Mills, making this hive the club's second in that town.
Andy Morris, of the BCBA, was on hand at the January meeting to mentor the kids through the process of building the frames and foundation. There were many parents too and everyone helped out! Many hands make light work. The membership of the 4-H Bee Club and the 4-H Farm Club is very similar and we look forward to working on projects and fundraising together.
Kalliope Erin Egloff

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Upcoming Meetings
February 22nd - We have been invited by Bristol County Beekeepers to hear Michael Palmer, commercial beekeeper and queen breeder, of St. Albans, VT, speak at their monthly meeting. 7 p.m. at the Bristol County Agricultural School, Dighton, MA
March 8th - Former Beekeeper Michael Talbot, of Talbot Ecological Landcare will talk about Ecological Tree, Lawn and Shrub Care, Bee, Bird and Butterfly Gardens, Low Maintenance Landscapes, Tick Treatments, Etc.
March 26th - Save this date. Massachusetts Beekeepers Association Spring Meeting, to be held at the Topsfield Fairgrounds. Registered Bee School members receive free admission. Check us out at
April 12th - Bruce Gordon, M.D., Beesting Allergies
May 10th - Pollinating Plants on Cape Cod – Sue Phelan
May 14th - Pollinator Plant Sale, @ Meetinghouse Farm, Rt. 149, W Barnstable. Club fundraiser
June 14th - Honey Harvesting and Preparation
July 25 to 29 - Eastern Apiculture Society Annual Short Course and Conference, Crowne Plaza Hotel, Cranston, R.I.

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Nuc Boxes
We still have several nuc boxes on hand. We will again have some available for sale ($25.00) on February 8th. Keep in mind they are invaluable when it comes time to requeen. This nuc box will give you a few extra days as you muster up your courage to “do away” with the aging queen.

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Bee School
Monday, February 7th - Occupants of the Hive and Their Life Cycles
Monday, February 21st - Spring and Summer Management

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Tips For February

  • Remove snow at entrance for ventilation; but, remember that snow is a good insulator
  • Monitor weight and feed fondant or granulated sugar directly on frame tops
  • Clean dead bees (natural occurrence) from entrance
  • confectionery sugar (for seasonal dusting) without cornstarch is available at: Glazing sugar #1275 $5.95/lb.

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Temperature Rule of Thumb
Below 40° open hive in emergency only to feed candy/sugar more quickly
Below 50° open hive for short period – do not pull brood combs check outer frames for honey/pollen - move closer to cluster
At 50° bees begin to take cleansing flights short inspections permissible but avoid chilling brood
At 60° complete hive inspection, unless very windy, then just quick brood check
At 70° thorough hive inspection

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Claire’s Corner
As Bee School progresses with newbees having ordered their equipment, we are nearing the assignment of mentors. Many beekeepers have come forward and we have all sections of the Cape covered except Truro. Would any of you Lower Cape beekeepers help out with an email or a hive visit? Thank You!

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For the Woodworkers
The following website has a plan of how to make a hive scale from an inexpensive bathroom scale. It is a box with a provision to read the scale utilizing a “periscope” made with mirrors. Coupled with a pollen trap, an individual could take part in a NASA sponsored research program recording honey and pollen flows. For more on this NASA research check out

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Fondant Candy Recipes

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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Peter Cooper has 5 pound glass honey jars with white plastic lids for sale. He has 8 available for $2. each 508-398-2891

While in the classifieds, I would like to remind everyone that the club stocks enough equipment to build 5 standard hives, including frames and foundation, right here in our basement at 186 Old County Rd. Our prices are the same as those in the current Brushy Mountain catalog, but with no freight charges.

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Herbicide Spraying of N-STAR’s Cape Cod Rights-of-Way

It is now 2011, and NSTAR intends to begin once again spraying herbicides throughout their power line easements despite opposition from residents, legislators, municipalities, and a variety of Cape organizations.

Our one source of drinking water is an aquifer protected from everything we do only by the extremely permeable sandy soils of Cape Cod. Few are surprised anymore that tests performed by our water departments indicate the substances we’ve been putting into this aquifer over the decades are showing up in the water coming out of our faucets.

NSTAR plans to manage the vegetation under their transmission lines by subcontracting the spraying of a suite of herbicides, and claims that cutting, mowing and other mechanical methods are too expensive for them. Investigations show the herbicides in question do enter ground and surface waters, and there is evidence that the herbicides and their breakdown products are associated with potential cancers, tumors, nerve damage, attention deficit disorders, miscarriages, embryo defects and hormonal disruptions.

EPA does not approve herbicide products. EPA pesticide registration offers no assurance of safety. Federal regulations prohibit any claim that an herbicide is safe, non-toxic, or harmless, even if used according to the label.

Most importantly, the full public health and ecological impacts of the particular chemical mixtures in question are not known and have never been tested. Herbicide combinations can have synergistic effects resulting in greater toxicity. There is no specific information on the synergistic and additive effects of these chemical mixtures.

Given what we know and, perhaps even more important, all we do not know, we cannot be assured that human health and our living environment are protected in such an herbicidal spraying program as NSTAR proposes. And, it is difficult to see how a smaller immediate cost to NSTAR can be reasonably balanced against the possibly enormous costs of a polluted aquifer and widespread adverse health effects amongst all those living here.

At our January 11th meeting it was proposed that the Barnstable County Beekeepers Association join the growing chorus urging NSTAR to adopt a long-term, preventive approach, employing land management practices that build and maintain native and desirable plants that naturally compete well against weeds. It was also proposed that we advise the membership of this discussion, so all will have the opportunity to voice their opinions before the motion is voted at our next meeting on February 8th.

The motion made and seconded is as follows:
We join the residents, municipalities, legislators and other interested Cape Cod and Islands organizations in asking NSTAR to abandon its current plan to use herbicides along power line rights-of-way on Cape Cod and commit to a no-spray, herbicide-free policy of vegetation management on Cape Cod and the Islands.

For a great deal of information on this critical issue, please visit the GreenCape website at www/


Some Comments From The Members
I have been involved with similar motions/resolutions on this thorny issue Cape-wide though I did not bring up this topic at the last BCBA meeting. As a point of clarification however—I can say with certainty that the motion does not involve any “ban on spraying by NSTAR”. Only the state has that authority. The motion is merely a request that NSTAR return to their earlier methods of maintaining the easements over our sole-source aquifer by selective cutting and mowing, which they used successfully for decades. I understand the club’s reluctance to address the issue but we can never be too protective of our only water supply- for our bees as well as ourselves. Bee forage would be impacted on or nearby approx. 3,300 acres under the easements along the spine of the Cape.  A resolution- nearly identical to the motion put forth to the BCBA–has been passed by 12 Cape towns already (the remaining towns may pass before the next BCBA meeting). The town resolutions all state:

We request, by virtue of this RESOLUTION, that NSTAR abandon its current plan to use herbicides along rights-of-way on Cape Cod and commit to a no-spray, pesticide-free policy of vegetation management on Cape Cod and the Islands.”  

It’s that simple. Last week the Sandwich Board of Health (in addition to their Board of Selectmen) unanimously passed the same resolution based on available health research so I would consider that a realistic statement related to health. Living in a democracy, it’s not always easy to avoid uncomfortable discussions and decisions. – Sue Phelan

I think that the fact that the compounds that NStar is proposing to use have not been properly tested on honeybees and other insects (by an independent agent, more than once) is what our message to them should start with and maybe be limited to.

We are a specialized group. Our communication should claim that unique position.  NStar has heard the objections included in the attachment that Claire sent out, many, many, many times already. We should contribute an additional insight, not repeat what they will then ignore.

Here's some language that I think could work: 

Given that insufficient independent testing has not been done to confirm that the herbicides that you (NStar) wish to apply along your power line easements on Cape Cod will not harm the local insect population in anyway whatsoever, the Barnstable County Beekeepers' Association requests that NStar use only manual methods for clearing vegetation to prevent potential damage, particularly to the valuable honeybee colonies owned and maintained by the BCBA's members throughout the peninsula.

Remember that in the US, health issues are less apt to hold weight in the courts. 
Damage to property that results in financial loss is another matter.

I started a file on NStar's return to the use of herbicides  in 2006 which is when they first sent out a notification about it. I was then in my last months of serving on the Wellfleet Selectboard. I was alarmed.  Afterwards, in 2009, I was one of the people who pressed the Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown boards to vote on this. I researched it heavily. While doing so, I spoke with both the person in charge of the spraying at NStar and the head of the company contracted to make the applications. I did much research on each chemical. 

I am also very concerned about the effects of these chemical applications on the ground, groundwater and animal populations, not to mention my being able to pick blueberries. Continuing to put pressure, a lot of pressure, on the DEP, our municipal leaders and legislators about the over-all wrongness of this, is the way to go. But as individuals or in groups dedicated more generally to the environment.

Thank you for reading this.  -  Sincerely, Helen Miranda Wilson

Everyone can read for themselves about the proposed spraying by NSTAR:

A.  List of Mass. regulated Herbicides, with all information available to the state:
B. NSTAR right of way treatment plan:  

My summary of key info on the herbicides NSTAR intends to use:

1.  Glyphosate (Roundup).   LD50 (dose that kills half of the bees) for honeybees of 100 mg/bee at 48 hours   This level of exposure is very high compared to levels that would occur during typical use.     However, in the soil, glyphosate is degraded by soil microbes, and there is no data on toxicity of the primary metabolite of glyphosate.

2. Imazapyr.   The honeybee LD50 is greater than 100 mg/bee.      However, repeated annual applications may result in build—up of Imazapyr in soil.

3. Metsulfuron methyl.   Acute toxicity in the honeybee is greater than 25 mg/bee.     This herbicide has a moderate to high mobility in soil and is relatively persistent, especially when applied in the fall. These factors would be of concern , however, metsulfuron methyl is applied at very low rates (3-4 ozs./A) and therefore the amounts which reach the deeper soil are believed to be low.

4. Sulfometuron methyl      Not tested on bees,     Sulfometuron methyl is moderately mobile under most conditions.  Immediately after application, all locations had detectable residues in a layer below the top layer of soil, and in two locations, in the deepest layer sampled. There are indications that sulfometuron methyl would leach further than the deepest soil layers that were sampled.  Sulfometuron methyl is a material both moderately mobile and moderately persistent.  Sulfometuron is believed to be safe if the application rates are kept sufficiently low. This is because the soil organic material and soil microorganisms are able to absorb and degrade lower rates of pesticides.

5. Fosamine ammonium.  Acute toxicity LC50 is 10,000 mg/L for bees at 48 hr     Fosamine ammonium is not persistent and has low mobility in soil.  It has low potential to leach to groundwater or to reach surface waters from surface runoff.

6.  Triclopyr.   Not tested on bees.    Small amounts of Triclopyr and its metabolites were found in the 6—12 inch and 12-18 inch layers of soil 28 to 56 days after application   Triclopyr has been tested for mutagenicity and found to be weakly positive in one rat test system. There was also an increase in combined incidence of mammary adenomas and adenocarcinomas in female rats at the highest tested dose. Triclopyr is considered a group C carcinogen (possible human carcinogen: limited animal evidence). 
My personal view on this is:  Except for # 5, there are potential problems with all of these herbicides.  I think that we should not be experimenting on our only aquifer.   When you read the NSTAR plan, it all makes perfect sense.   But, when spraying repeatedly, with herbicides like these (presumedly the safest ones known) what are the odds that we will wind up with a problem that will affect our grandchildren many years from now???   How much risk are we willing to take?   -  Bruce Gordon, M.D.

From The Board

Let’s not get confused.  The question of whether spraying is justified or not is very difficult because, in addition to science, emotions and politics get involved.  Each of us has to make up his/her mind.  The question whether the BCBA should get involved is a different issue. For me it is clear that as a club we should not get involved in emotional and political issues. -  George Muhlebach
I am inclined to agree, George, but as you said this is a hot issue and if we do not at least allow the general membership to think on how they want the club to proceed, we may have a faction(s) and rifts. My opinion is my own, and I'm not sure we as a club should take a stand. But, there are those who think otherwise. Being a democratic organization, the majority should rule, even if I do not agree.  -  Andy Morris

While I am an organic gardener at home, I have also been involved with the use of herbicides to control invasive species on town land. I do this because these invasives are a serious threat to native plant species, the fauna that depend on them, & there is no other practical way to do it. I don't know enough about the NSTAR program, & always mindful of the "law of unintended consequences" I agree with George & Andy, & am not sure the club should officially do this. As a member of a small local conservation group that was almost torn apart, when the club voted to take a stand on a local issue, & where after several years there are still lasting bad feelings among the members that prevent us from getting as much done as we could, I personally don't think it's a good idea. I'm all for "bees first", & will go along with the majority but I have a slightly different suggestion. Why not have a petition & those members who want to support this can sign & send that in. The petition can say "we the following beekeeping members of BCBA" but it won't be a resolution from the entire club, just the individual members who sign.  -  Leslie Lichtenstein

I mentioned to a friend from another bee club the dilemma I am having over this and whether or not the club should stand on either side of the fence, and she said her club had a similar problem in the recent past and the issue was handled by the by-laws of their club. It was felt that if there is nothing in the by-laws stating anything "non-beekeeper related", it should be avoided.  If the "aims of the organization are to promote beekeeping, assist beekeepers in learning," can we as a group take a position?   -  Andy Morris


As a point of order the motion regarding Nstar's plan to spray herbicides was withdrawn from the floor at our last meeting. So, there is no open motion on the floor as of now.

There it was also decided to ask Beth, the initial framer of the motion, for a more comprehensive statement on the subject. This with the hope that everyone will be more informed when and if a new motion is made on this topic. As you all are aware a lively dialogue  has ensued after Beth's statement was published to the entire current membership of BCBA.

The agenda will reflect a line item allowing a fifteen minute discussion on this topic...that is all. Whether someone would like to phrase and move a motion at the end of that discussion remains to be seen.

Thank you, Jan Rapp, President, Barnstable County Beekeepers Association

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back to top Last updated 02/21/2011