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Buzz Words - February 2013

The February meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 12th,  2013, 7:30 p.m. at the West Barnstable Community Building on Route 149, approximately ½ mile north of the Mid Cape Highway.

Ever wondered what to do with the beautiful, clean cappings from your extracted honey frames besides beautiful candles or do something with honey besides eat it? Come to the next meeting and find out how to clean the wax, make lip balms, creams for facials and hand creams. Has anyone ever made a propolis tincture? Please share your process with us. Following the lecture there will be a Q&A with members of the Board. So bring your questions or just come to listen to what is going on with other members and their hives.

From the President
In the January issue of Bee Culture Tim Moore writes, “The new ideas that are going to solve the beekeeping problems that we are dealing with now and in the future are probably going to come from new beekeepers. Chances are very good that those answers that we seek but haven’t yet discovered to save beekeeping will have always been in full view of all of us.” Maybe it takes a new eye to see the elephant that has always been in the middle of our living room.

When I was thinking about all this I flashed to the January presentation of the BCBA about beekeeping in Ethiopia. What they’ve been doing there, and doing fairly successfully for thousands of years, hasn’t seemed to have changed a whole lot. Maybe, to respond to Tim Moore, the new ideas to solve beekeeping problems that he speaks of are actually old ideas in other cultures such as Ethiopia.

I have located a fairly successful hive for a number of years on the lee side of a hill, facing southeast, with a pond about 20 feet in front of the hive. Text book perfect location! The bees thrived there but in the past few years carpenter ants have become increasingly common in the hive and one year actually destroyed the comb and strafed the inner cover with their gnawing. Boric acid did not deter them and a vaseline moat was quickly forded by the ants crawling over their dead comrades.

This gets me back to Tim Moore and Ethiopia. In the presentation it was mentioned that the Ethiopian beekeepers also encounter ant problems in their hives. Their solution however does not involve boric acid or vaseline, two commodities probably not readily available to them. Rather, they simply save the wood ash from their fires and sprinkle that below the hive. Having a wood stove, that’s one item I have in bulk. So now, when I clean the stove I am dutifully saving the ash in a metal can and will distribute it under the hive come spring time. A new idea for me but one that has been in the view of at least the Ethiopian beekeepers for a long time.


Upcoming Meetings of Note
The next SABA seminar will be 3/16/13 in Albany.
Speakers will be Adam Finkelstein of VP Queens in MD, Karen Rennich of the Bee Informed Partnership and Jon Zawislak of the University of Arkansas.  Go to for more info. This program has been presented for many years, always has great speakers; and, usually, a chance to dine with the speakers on the previous evening at a local (Albany, NY) restaurant.

E.A.S. 2013 will be held August 5 to 9 at West Chester University, just outside Philadelphia.  If anywhere as good as was Vermont this past year, it will be a fabulous venue for all levels of beekeepers.  Keep your eye on the EAS website for info after January 1st.

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Recipe of the Month
After hearing our speaker, Eve Gabriel, at our bee meeting, I purchased her book, the Faithful Fork. In it she mentioned Kefir and after researching this through Google, I purchased the starter kit online. Needless to say, it is multiplying faster than I can eat or drink it (especially with the holiday traveling). If anyone would like to try this in their diet, please let me know before the meeting and I will bring you a starter portion. Water Kefir Grains | How To Make Kefir
It's 1/3 cup of the grains, plus a 1/3 cup of raw sugar (I found Sucanat from a health food store), unsulphured molasses (if you wish) and water. Stir together and sit on the counter for 48 hours.    --  Marte

Honey & Lemon Tart
1 ½ cup flour, salt to taste, 1 ½ tsp superfine sugar, 5 ½ oz butter, 3-4 Tbsp water, make 9” crust  -bake 400 – 15 min (weigh down w/beans on top of parchment), remove parchment/beans bake 5 more min. until base firm not brown.
Reduce to 350 pour filling in bake 30 min until set.
Filling:  1 1/3 cup cottage or ricotta cheese, push cottage thru sieve, 6 Tbsp honey, 3 egg beaten, ½ tsp cinnamon, grated rind & Juice of 1 lemon, 2 slices of lemon, 1 in center of pie  & 1 divided into 8th around outside of center to serve

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Claire's Corner
It is always distressing to find a strong hive dead or to receive an email staing the same. Fingers are crossed that this last expanse of cold weather has been kind to our bees. The cold will not directly kill our bees, but the extended cold days prevent the cluster from moving toward their stores, and starvation follows.

In at least one hive, we observed the dead cluster tightly compacted around capped brood. The bees had food above and honey stores not far away. Does it make sense that the hive would sacrifice itself to save the brood? During a July dearth we see brood sacrificed when honey stores are not available to feed the young. Tis very puzzling!

To those of you that have lost a hive this winter, clean the frames, scraping off the burr comb and brushing off the dead bees. If starvation occurred, bees will be found head first in many cells where clustered. The new bees will clean out these bodies. Most importantly, repair any damaged comb, and keep the mouse guard on. If there is honey left, either freeze it in the house or block the hive so that it cannot be robbed out before your new package arrives. This honey and stored pollen in drawn comb is a real treat and valuable resource for the new bees.

At first glance of an article in the January 2013 issue of Bee Culture, it appeared that one Varroa treatment currently in use is proving ineffective. Upon rereading it we have learned that dusting with powdered sugar does have its benefits but should not be the only method to knock down the varroa mites in a hive.

Controlled research by the Univ of Georgia found that dusting was most effective when no brood was present. Knowing the life cycle of varroa takes place in the brood this certainly makes sense. Thus, each time we dust during the season, we are missing over a third of the varroa as they are multiplying in the capped cells. Some hive on the Cape now have capped brood thus varroa is, theoretically, breeding as we read this. Perhaps dusting in November might help? Another suggestion made by a member recently is to dust our new packages a day or two after hiving them This makes sense, should we give it a try this Spring?

The article concluded with a summation that we should continue to dust with powdered sugar, BUT use a number of other IPM measures to keep the counts low.

Two new books arrived from Amazon this week. Both were recently released and are appropriate for two distinct interests of beekeepers. “Homegrown Honey Bees” written Alethea Morrison, of North Berkshire Beekeepers, and published by Storey Publishing is “an absolute beginner’s guide.

The nine chapters take you from just why do you want to do bees to the first honey harvest. Not heavy on theory, but so helpful and really corresponds well to BCBA’s classes. What is most helpful are the photographs which accompany the various subjects. Just picture perfect, and a bargain at $11.15.

“The Thinking Beekeeper” is the most recent book on top-bar hives. A guide to natural beekeeping in top-bar hives, written by Christy Hemenway of Gold Star Honeybees of Maine. In her words, it is a how-to book. Bits of history, basic beekeeping, top-bar hive construction, over-wintering, and much, much more was discovered in a quick flip through. Of the three TBH books now in print, this one seems to be the best of the brood with the basics of how to get started. Not a picture book, if that is to your liking. Also available from Amazon for $15.82.

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Bee School
for 2013 will begin Thursday, January 3rd at 7:30 p.m.
West Barnstable Community Building, Route 149
February 7th – Occupants of the Hive and Their Life Cycles
February 21st – Spring and Summer Management
Short video by one of the NASA scientists involved in the hive Scale Weight Program.  Discusses how weight change is in the forefront of weather related issues; how much earlier pollination times have advanced, etc.  – Bruce Mogardo

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Product Testing
Attention top-bar hive beekeepers: I am going to be participating shortly in a trial to test a prototype fondant feeder for use specifically in top-bar hives. Named in honor of Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine, the Flottum Fondant Feeder is meant to address winter feeding needs in horizontal hives. Testing is being overseen by Christy Hemenway, owner of Gold Star Honeybees and author of "The Thinking Beekeeper: A Guide to Natural Beekeeping in Top Bar Hives." As I write, it's a relatively toasty 23 degrees outside, so I'll be very grateful if this product ends up showing promise. I'll keep everyone in the loop. - Julie Lipkin

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Bees Needed for Apitherapy
If any of you use bees for apitherapy for yourselves, I just received a request from a lady in Brewster that is looking for a local source. If willing to supply, contact Cathy at 508-280-5670.

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Pollinator Plant Sale
Fire’s blasting, stove is cranking, but I am practically sitting on top of it. Harsh weather to be thinking about greening. Nonetheless, I have spread out in front of me seed catalogs with their pretty, unrealistic pictures that manage to breathe a lamb’s gamboling breath on to my ruddy face, evoke gardens of yore and a hint of things in store.

A peep from Judy at Meetinghouse Farm about what date is best, a plea from Claire to excite and enthuse winter bedraggle beekeepers into thoughts of pots and starts. I’m shaken out of the everyday and into dreams of the invisible, the possible. A reverie coaxed by the beating blaze carrying the promise of unsequestered carbon.

So to await the arrival of those packets of magic beans and pretend I have a part in the bigger picture. Dibble the seeds in, water, and wait for fresh promises. -- Jan

There is a new free app for iPads or any Internet phone called the Bee Smart™ Pollinator Gardener. it has a database of nearly 1,000 native plants. You can pick your plants by what pollinators you want to attract, light and soil requirements, bloom color, and plant type.

It seems to be a good quick plant reference to attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, beetles, bats, and other pollinators to the garden. You can get it free at I put it on my iPad & you can enter your zip code to get local pollinator plants & it has lots of nice pictures. -- Leslie

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Winter Break
Whenever I see the temperature is going to go up above 40 degrees during the Winter, I start to get really excited!! The only thing I can think of is clearing my day schedule to go out and see how many hives I can get to pay a visit. In the next day or two, I'll make time to prepare some bee candy to slip under the cover to give my bees a special treat once it warms up and hope for no rain drops. Since we'll be experiencing the late January, early February thaw, it's a great opportunity to go out and see my girls. Take advantage. If it's raining-and it may be, I won't even think of opening the outer cover to peek inside. Still, I'll check the front entrance for the # of dead bees and put my head up against the side of the hive body to hear just what those girls are up to! Hopefully I'll hear some nice humming that'll indicate I still have life within. IF, I do get the chance to pop the top ever so quickly, I'll take a gander inside and take a look at how many frames are covered with bees or how much of the inside is covered with bees. This will give me a good indication at this point in Winter, of the shape my colony is in. From there, I'll jot down the notes, go home and make an assessment on whether I expect the colony will survive or either consider ordering a package of bees, if I think the hive might not survive or perhaps order some of the New World Carniolan queens for either a split or queen replacement in mid May. Either way, it's always wonderful to see those girls buzzing, taking a cleansing flight, or just flying around to see who is checking up on them! Hurry up Spring!! -- Rebecca

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Check Out Club Member Blogs

Julie Lipkin @

Tamar Haspel @

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Seasonal Hints/Tips

  • If your hive lacks sufficient winter stores, feed only solid carbs.
  • When we get snow, be sure to clear off the landing board so that bees can make cleansing flights.
  • Clean dead bees from entrance to help ventilat.e
  • Dead or Alive? With an ear on top hive body, give it a sharp rap and listen for buzzing.
  • Repair used equipment, or build and paint new equipment for April’s bees.
  • Order bees early before sold out.

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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

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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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Rhode Island Brick Method
Mix 5 lbs. Sugar with 1 cup water in an aluminum throwaway cake pan, (approx 9X13) 1.5 inch thick. Let sit for 3 to 4 days when it will be like a brick. It can be fed in pieces if it breaks using a 2” shim placed on top of the brood frames.

Courtesy of the RIBA newsletter.

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Rhode Island Brick Method
Insects (ISSN 2075-4450), the open access journal of entomology, published a special Honey Bee Issue in 2012. While the articles focused mostly on molecular mechanisms regulatinghoney bee social behavior and health, the results are useful to backyard beekeepers. Since we have had a queen rearing program the results of a study on The Effects of Pesticides on Queen Rearing and Virus Titers in Honey Bees (Apis mellifera L.) might explain a few of our problems. They studied the effects of sublethal pesticide exposure on queen emergence and virus titer. Queen rearing colonies were fed pollen with chlorpyrifos (CPF) alone (pollen-1) and with CPF and the fungicide Pristine® (pollen-2). The results suggest that sublethal exposure of CPF alone but especially when Pristine® is added reduces queen emergence possibly due to compromised immunity in developing queens. This reinforces previous studies that measured levels of different toxic substances each below levels considered harmful, when occurring together can be toxic. Now if we can just teach our girls to only visit organic gardens!

Another article concerned the Small hive beetle, Aethina tumida, an invasive pest of honey bees. Indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa, that has now become established in North America and Australia. It represents a serious threat to European honey bees. Commercially available biocontrol agents were screened for their potential to control beetle larvae. The fungi investigated had minimal impact, but the nematodes Steinernema kraussei and S. carpocapsae provided excellent control with 100% mortality of larvae being obtained. Sequential applications of the nematodes following larvae entering sand to pupate also provided excellent control for up to 3 weeks. Since 2006, beekeepers have reported increased losses of Apis mellifera colonies, and one factor that has been potentially implicated in these losses is the microsporidian Nosema ceranae. Since N. ceranae is a fairly recently discovered parasite, there is little knowledge of the variation in infection levels among individual workers within a colony. In this study they examined the levels of infection in individual bees from five colonies over three seasons using both spore counting and quantitative real-time PCR. The results show considerable intra-colony variation in infection intensity among individual workers with a higher percentage of low-level infections detected by PCR than by spore counting. Colonies generally had the highest percentage of infected bees in early summer (June) and the lowest levels in the fall (September). Nosema apis was detected in only 16/705 bees (2.3%) and always as a low-level co-infection with N. ceranae. The results also indicate that intra-colony variation in infection levels could influence the accuracy of Nosema diagnosis.

Also interesting was a study of flight & aging on our girls. Honey bees move through a series of in-hive tasks (e.g., “nursing”) to outside tasks (e.g., “foraging”) that occur with both physiological changes and higher levels of metabolic activity. Social context can cause worker bees to speed up or slow down this process, and foragers may revert back to their earlier in-hive tasks accompanied by reversion to earlier physiological states. They investigated the effects of flight, behavioral state and age as triggers. Brain tissue and flight muscle changed during behavioral transitions, with expression patterns in the brain reflecting both age and behavior, and expression patterns in flight muscle being primarily determined by age. Their data suggest that the transition from behaviors requiring little to no flight (nursing) to those requiring prolonged flight bouts (foraging), rather than the amount of previous flight per se, is the trigger. The time a newly hatched worker spends as a nurse bee depends on the hives food needs. In strong hives they will remain as nurse bees longer, when they do transition to foragers & begin flying their immune systems also function at a higher level. If the hive develops a need for more nurse bees, foragers will revert back to nurse duties but show continued heightened immune function. So exercise seems to stimulate the bees immune system as it does for us! You can access the journal & read the complete articles as well as others at

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Rhode Island Brick Method
Goal: Learn where in North America bees are infected by Zombie Flies

Task: Collect honey bees; report easy-to-spot signs of infection.

ZomBee Watch is a citizen science project sponsored by the San Francisco State University Department of Biology, the San Francisco State University Center for Computing for Life Sciences and the Natural History Museum of LA County. ZomBee Watch was initiated as a follow-up to the discovery that the Zombie Fly Apocephalus borealis is parasitizing honey bees in California and possibly other areas of North America.

ZomBee Watch has three main goals.

  1. To determine where in North America the Zombie Fly Apocephalus borealis is parasitizing honey bees.
  2. To determine how often honey bees leave their hives at night, even if they are not parasitized by the Zombie Fly.
  3. To engage citizen scientists in making a significant contribution to knowledge about honey bees and to become better observers of nature.

We need your help finding out where honey bees are being parasitized by the Zombie Fly and how big a threat the fly is to honey bees. So far, the Zombie Fly has been found parasitizing honey bees in California and South Dakota. We are teaming up with citizen scientists (like you!) to determine if the fly has spread to honey bees across North America.

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Wine Tasting Event
Mark your calendar for February 6th. There will be a fund-raising event from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Barnstable Tavern, Rt 6A, Barnstable to benefit Meetinghouse Farm’s barn renovation. Fee is $20 per person. This event sponsored by Cape Cod Package Store and the Barnstable Tavern.

back to top Last updated 2/01/13