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Buzz Words - January 2014

Next Meeting
Tuesday, January 14th, 2014 at 7:30 pm, West Barnstable Community Building on Route 149 in West Barnstable. This is a good time to look back on the 2013 season. What went well, what problems occurred and just how can we make beekeeping on Cape Cod better. Come with your questions and answers as to what really worked well in you apiary. Show and tell welcome.

As always, sweets and treats are welcome.

From the President
This Buzz Words comes at the dawn of the New Year.  This is a time for me to reflect on what has transpired this past year and what to anticipate or even vow to do in 2014.  It is also a time for me to think back about how things have changed over my life time and how 2014 seems very different than say 1960.  For example, back then seat belts were a choice (if your car had them at all), recycling trash was unheard of and a small pack of cigarettes was handed out to you on the sidewalks of Longwood Avenue in Boston as you left various medical facilities.  And I remember my father, an avid gardener, happily coming in from the garden laden with some mystical white powder that he told me would ensure bug-free potatoes.  Remarkably, however, each of these scenarios is unlikely to be part of the next year, at least not in my world.

So how did each of these common 1960s practices vanish?  Looking at change from the top down, obviously some good scientific data and various bits of legislation hastened their demise.  But looking at change from the bottom up, how did it become taboo for me to mix my newspapers with the plastics at the dump (excuse me, the transfer station), and how did it become personally irresponsible for me to fail to buckle up?  I think there is a lot of subtle yet powerful social norms marketing that personalizes research and laws and ladens us with a sense of personal responsibility to “do the right thing.”  Maybe we get a certain sense of self-righteousness as we deposit the plastics in their bin at the transfer station, and maybe we dread the scorn of peers if we don’t “click it” before we drive off.

So what this rambling does is it brings me to two items I saw in the papers this month.  First, on December 2, the Boston Globe ran a full-page ad titled “Bees can’t wait 5 more years.”  It was placed by and asserted that the EPA must take a strong stand now on the restriction of the use of certain chemicals that it states affect the bee population.  Second, on December 21, the Cape Cod Times ran a Dave Granlund cartoon in its “Ideas and Opinions” section of the paper depicting a small NSTAR herbicide truck being pursued by a much larger Cape Cod Residential-Lawn Pesticide and Herbicide truck with the driver of the latter shouting, “Look, it’s that polluter that folks are complaining about.”

While the December 2 ad was an excellent example of change from the top down, the December 21 cartoon made me consider the power of change from the bottom up.  I guess what it did is it made me very aware that change often begins at home.  While we certainly hope that the EPA acts quickly and wisely in terms of pesticide regulation at the national level, and NSTAR adopts a prudent approach to spraying in our region, we each, through our own practices, can be very important marketers of wise social norms at the local level.
So as the year draws to a close and we anticipate 2014, what resolutions will you make (and hopefully keep) to help make at least your small corner of the world more bee friendly?  To paraphrase a line from Gandhi, “Bee the change you want to see in the world.”

—John Beach

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Check Out Club Member Blogs

Julie Lipkin @

BCBA discussion group -

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The Cape Bee
BCBAs 2014 queen-rearing and nuc sale program

As many of you have heard, over the past few years a small group of BCBAers has been experimenting with queen rearing and nucleus colony management in response to the declining quality and escalating price of southern-bred bees, and high winter colony losses.  Our goals have been to: 1) develop, and make available to members, a more locally adapted honey bee for our rigorous Cape environment, 2) promote both backyard queen rearing and the use of nucleus colonies among the BCBA membership, and 3) reduce the damage of over-winter colony loss by breeding better bees and by over-wintering strong nucs. 

Our typical breeder queen has come from our own apiaries; she is a dark bee, probably of Russian or Carniolan ancestry, but more importantly she has produced a docile and productive colony that has survived at least one Cape Cod winter in excellent condition – The Cape Bee. Some of our breeder queens come from a line of Wellfleet bees that have been untreated with synthetic pesticides for the past 12 years.  We also look for colonies with low mite counts in the fall, as another critical criterion for breeder-queen selection.   In addition, we occasionally bring in queens “from away” that have been selected by the USDA and cooperators for resistance to mites and other brood diseases (e.g. displaying Varroa sensitive hygiene); we incorporate their progeny into our breeding program. 

Most of this work happens at the BCBA apiary behind the Cape Cod Organic Farm (CCOF), a great spot loaned to us by the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension.  This coming April, our ten(?) existing colonies will be supplemented with 15 package colonies, just because we need more bees; however, southern queens from these packages will be “disappeared” and replaced with our locally selected queens.  Both over-wintered and new package colonies will be fed and built up so that they can be split into at least 30 nucleus colonies in June and July.  The resulting nucs will receive queen cells from the BCBA breeding program and serve as mating nucs.  Some nucs will be made available for purchase by club members in July, but strongest nucs, and their queens, will be retained by the club for future selective breeding.

Besides purchasing our limited number of nucleus colonies, members have been tapping into the project in other ways.  We will very likely have for sale extra queen cells from our locally selected line of bees, and maybe even virgin queens; either can be used by members to expand your own apiaries by making summer splits.  Club members can also benefit by volunteering at CCOF on scheduled work days, where they’ll assist and learn about growing their own apiaries with the Cape Bee.

Please look for project updates as the new season progresses.

—John Portnoy

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Packaged bees for 2014
The availability of packaged bees will be limited this spring. As in the past, these 3 lb packages will be trucked from Wilbank's Apiary in Georgia. The cost this spring will be $98 for each 3 lb package.

Attached is the order blank; these will be available to current members in good standing only, with Bee School attendees having first dibs.

Also attached is a list of suppliers of nucleus colonies and packaged bees.  This list is for your information only and BCBA will not be participating in purchasing from these sources. Members must order, purchase and pick up on their own.

—Claire Desilets

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Interesting Links

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Bee School
Thursday, January 16th, Registration and equipment

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Equipment for Sale
Alas, a six-year beekeeper has developed allergies to bee stings and must quit beekeeping. He’s selling his equipment. Here’s what’s available: antique smoker; conventional smoker; four pail-style feeders; four deeps; six shallows; two hive covers; two bottom boards; one inner cover; one queen excluder; one 5-gallon bucket with spout; one escape screen; one frame gripper; two pairs of medium gloves; one hat and veil; one inspector’s jacket; two entrance reducers; one hive tool; one bee brush; dozens of frames, foundation (including trimmed), assembled and otherwise. Contact Kevin at 508-420-5386 or (if emailing, put “bee gear” in subject line).

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Further Adventures of Paul n' Patty
Paul ’n Patty were concerned about the planet. They subscribed to the philosophy of the “Four R’s”; Rethink, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. They had jobs near enough to so they could use just one car, and that was a hybrid, utilizing both gasoline and electricity. They had a worm farm in their cellar to dispose of their vegetable table scraps, and free-range chickens in their back yard for all the rest. Instead of fertilizer, they composted their yard and garden waste and surplus.
None of this seemed as important to them as what they learned from one fateful newscast on the television: that the honeybees were in crisis, that something called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) was affecting them, and if something wasn’t done, and soon, the entire planet was in jeopardy.

Sleep didn’t come easy for Patty that night. She kept having visions of what the world might be like if this CCD weren’t dealt with. Her dreams were straight out of an early Mel Gibson movie, post-apocalyptic and violent.

Breakfast wasn’t much fun the following morning. Patty had her bad night but Paul had slept like a bear in January. Paul was all smiles and feeling frisky and she was grumpy and quite depressed.

Now Paul could sense something was amiss and asked, “Honey, what’s the matter. You don’t look like you slept too well last night.”

“Well, I didn’t,” she said. “And you shouldn’t have either!”

Realizing he had already lost whatever battle she was about to wage, Paul offered, “You’re right, Honey, but I couldn’t help myself. I was tired, the lights were out and I was in bed. Tell me what was bothering you so much that you couldn’t sleep.”

“It was the news last night, before we went to bed,” She said. “That story about the bees being lost and the possible impact on the world…it kept me up most of the night.”

Cautiously, Paul eased in that he thought it might be many years before the loss of the bees became a real problem and the impact wouldn’t and therefore shouldn’t bother them. That’s when he got “The Look”, and he knew he had made a very serious tactical error.
With her clenched fists on her hips and her head tilted to the left (never a good sign), Patty squinted her eyes and said, “Who are you? I don’t even know you any more!

“Whose idea was it for us to recycle? Yours.

“Whose idea was it to drive the hybrid? Yours.

“And now you have the nerve to say that this is not our problem? I don’t think so!”

Paul had retreated to the kitchen sink and was holding up a dishtowel in defense. He could not remember a time when he had seen Patty this angry. He wasn’t sure if she was angry with him so he tried to sooth things out. “Honey, you’re right. But what can we do?”

“I’m glad you asked,” said Patty, “because while I couldn’t sleep last night, I did some research. I called the fire department and asked…”

“You WHAT?” Paul exclaimed. “You called the fire department? But this wasn’t an emergency. There are laws against doing that!”

“…Them what they knew about honeybees. I knew they would be awake, so that wouldn’t be a problem. They told me about a local bee club. Can you believe it? There is actually a club, here in town, just for beekeepers. Today I’m going to call them and see what we can do to help out.”

Paul swiped his sleeve across his brow and let out whoosh of air as he sat down at the center island of the kitchen. He knew anything could happen when Patty was in one of these moods, and he tried to brace himself. He cradled his chin in the palm of his hand and wondered to himself, ‘What’s next?’

—Andy Morris

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
Cuccidatini (Sicilian stuffed holiday cookies)*

1 cup dried figs, chopped
6 Tbsp. brandy
1 (8-oz.) jar honey
cup raisins
 cup dates
cup dried cherries
 cup citron or candied pineapple
1 cup walnut pieces, toasted
1 cup whole, blanched almonds, toasted
 tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
2 pinches ground clove
Rind of 1 lemon (remove white pith)
Rind of 1 orange (remove white pith)

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
¾ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
3 eggs (1 whisked with 1 tsp. water, to make an egg wash)
 cup milk

1 cup confectioners' sugar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 to 2 Tbsp. milk
Colored sprinkles, or small dot

To make the filling, combine the figs with 4 tablespoons of brandy and let soak overnight or up to 1 week in a bowl.

In a food processor, combine soaked figs, remaining 2 tablespoons brandy, and all remaining filling ingredients. Process until chopped and well combined. Keep chilled until ready to use.

To make the pastry, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the butter and pulse until it looks like fine crumbs. In a small bowl, whisk together the 2 eggs and milk. While the motor is running, pour the liquid through the feed tube until just combined and a dough is formed. Form the dough into a disk and chill 30 minutes.

On a floured work surface, roll out the dough 1/8-inch thick. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut out large (3-inch-long) almond-shaped pieces from the dough. Transfer the pieces to a sheet pan; then chill.

To assemble the cookies, gather the filling, the chilled dough pieces, the egg wash and a pastry brush, and a sharp knife. Paint the edges of the dough pieces with egg wash and place 1 teaspoon of filling shaped into an oval in the center of half the pieces. Top each with a second piece of dough and carefully pinch the edges together to seal. Trim the excess dough from around the edges. If you wish to make them into shapes (crescents or wreaths) do so at this step, and rechill until ready to bake.

To bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Brush the top of the cookies with the egg wash. Bake the cookies until lightly golden brown, about 20 minutes.

While they are baking, make the icing by whisking together all of the icing ingredients.
Toss the cookies with the icing in a plastic resealable bag while they're warm, put them on a plate covered in wax paper, and then drop on your sprinkles. You may also place the icing in a plastic bag and cut a tip off and drizzle the icing on top, then use your cleaned pastry brush to spread the icing before using sprinkles. Make sure to lay parchment or wax paper down on your decorating surface first. Alternately, some cooks leave these cookies plain without icing or sprinkles.

Yield: 5 dozen cookies

Recipe courtesy of Leslie Lichtenstein


back to top Last updated 1/6/14