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Buzz Words - July 2013

Our next meeting is Clean Up Day, SUNDAY , July 15th at the Bee Building on the Barnstable County Fairgrounds, Route 151, East Falmouth.  This is our annual clean-up day in preparation for the Fair. Many hands make short work.  Bring hand tools, garden tools, your favorite hot weather dish to share. Clean up usually takes about 2 hours, then we sit and enjoy people’s favorite summer recipes, discuss selling prices, etc. The club provides paper goods, plastic utensils and drinks.

From the President
In case you missed it, the Boston Globemagazine on June 23 had a feature article on  honey bees entitled Without a Trace,
discussing CCD and the challenges honey bees and we, by extension as beekeepers, face.  The article named the usual suspects-climate change, nutrition, cell phone towers, fungus, mites, viruses, monocultures-but ultimately focused on the impact of chemicals on bees and the resistance of both the scientific and academic communities to this line of thinking.  The article went into detail describing an experiment conducted in Northbridge, MA where 20 hives were set up and fed high fructose corn syrup.  Sixteen of these hives were fed the syrup containing a neonicotinoid; a type of pesticide found in many seeds, and the other four received a non-dosed syrup.  What they discovered is probably not surprising to many of us-15 of the 16 laced hives collapsed although, importantly, the article does not mention the fate of the non dosed hives.

While this is certainly compelling data, I am reminded of an article I read in college which talked about how colonial Americans attempted to eradicate yellow fever through cannon fire.  Unfortunately they were unable to calculate the mosquito mortality rate from cannon fire and the practice fell out of favor as the populace began to appreciate that a more complex intervention strategy might be more effective.  I suspect the same is true of CCD-that there are multiple co-conspirators and hence multiple prevention techniques.

At the same time I admit that I am a bit like the colonists in their battle with yellow fever.  I find reductionist thinking compelling.  It reminds me of Occam’s Razor, a principle of inquiry that basically says, “Don’t complicate simple things.”  Unfortunately however, CCD does not seem to be a simple thing.  In support of this but somewhat buried in the Globe article is a quote from the USDA that states that CCD is a “complex set of stressors and pathogens…and researchers are increasingly using multi factorial approaches to studying the causes of colony loss.”

So how does an adherent of Occam’s Razor like me become multifactorial?  Here’s what I do and don’t do.  I buy non treated vegetable seeds.  I don’t use a leaf blower.  I don’t use chemical on my lawn.  I splurge on Honey Bee Healthy and pollen patties for my girls. I treat (chemically I must admit) for varroa.  I plant a variety of vegetables, fruit trees and flowers in my yard.  And you know what, I still have colony loss, some of which I understand and some of which seems to have no explanation.  But like the mythical character Sisyphus, I will keep rolling the rock up the hill, and eventually I will get to the other side.


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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:

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Barnstable County Fair - Help Needed
There are NO meetings in July and August; this is our summer meeting. Please consider giving back a few hours to the club. It is fun and you are doing your part to help educate the public about the incredible activities of the honeybee.  You will have a working observation hive to watch and explain; and, honey, honeystix, honey candy and member beeswax products to sell.

The Barnstable County Fair is from Saturday July 20th through Saturday the 27th.
We have our own building where we sell our honey along with homemade items; homemade soap, jewelry, and beeswax items, candles along with the famous honey sticks, candy, etc related to bees/products. It’s a great opportunity to sell your honey at an attractive price.

I want to thank all the people who signed up at the June meeting.  Attached is the current signup sheet.  Now that we are closer to the Fair time, please check your calendars and see which day and shift works in your schedule.  I still need more people to support this club activity.  You can also check the web site at for the entertainment of the day/evening.  Their entertainment is usually very good.  Your admission and parking tickets are good for the whole day so come early or stay late and enjoy the whole fair.  Claire will have her observation hive there for the pubic to view and try to find "her majesty".  The kids are always better at seeing her than the adults.  Our theme will be "Products from the Hive".

We are looking for honey to sell so please extract some early & check last year's supply to sell any leftover at a great price ($9.00/lb last year) which will be set at the Sunday (July 14th) workday.  Any products containing something from the hive are welcomed for sale; candles, soap, jewelry, cosmetics, etc.   You need to work a shift if you have something to sell in our booth. 

Our Sunday workday starts at 10:00 a.m.  Bring shop vac, ext. cords, trowels to clean building, rakes & gloves to weed the yard.  Usually by Noon we are finished and enjoy a "Pot Luck" lunch.  Bring your favorite dish and the club provides the drinks, plates, "silverware".

Tickets will be handed out to those in attendance.  The remainder will be mailed.

Please email me with your choice of day and shift at or phone me on my cell at 508-274-8754.

—Marte Ayers

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Are you planning on Competing with Honey and/or Wax?
As thousands of fairgoers walk through the exhibit halls at the fair, it would be spectacular to see multiple jars of honey lined up for competition. Perhaps you make beeswax candles, cut-comb honey, or can compete with a perfect frame of honey.

If you have already extracted, or have two 1-lb. jars of honey left from last fall, drop them by on 7/?? Between 5 and 7 p.m., or the following morning from 8 to 10 a.m. for competition in the Adult Hall.

Jars should be unlabeled and free on fingerprints, filled to the line (ridge) above the bottom of the cap. No honey can be on the inside of the lid, so bring an extra set of caps to replace. It is not about the ribbon, but about the quality of the product you are producing.

See Apiary Products, Dept 28 in Fair Competition Guide

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Free Photo App
I found the nicest free app that allows you to make collages of any pics you have on an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. Might be useful to make slides if you are doing a power point or something. I just grabbed some pics I had from before to play with. Created using Pic Collage.


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BCBA Queen Rearing
For the past few years a few of us have been working to advance our knowledge and skills in rearing queen bees from local survivor stock. Our ultimate goal is to make large numbers of them available to the membership as an alternative to buying queens (and bees) from the southern US; southern-bred bees may be Africanized and poorly adapted to survive Cape Cod winters. We believe that breeding from local surviving bees is one of the best ways to develop a culture of sustainable local beekeeping.

Many people ask us how one produces a large number of queens from a small apiary, for example 20 to 30 queens at a time and perhaps hundreds over the course of a spring/summer season, so here’s a brief description of the tried and true process.

Good queens are produced by strong colonies collecting abundant nectar and pollen. Therefore we begin the process by selecting our strongest colonies to serve as “cell builders”, the units that will rear well-fed queen larvae. We try to concentrate our queen rearing during major nectar and pollen flows; otherwise we feed our cell builders syrup and pollen substitute.

Once these cell builders are boiling over with bees, especially young nurse bees producing royal jelly, and the season is advanced enough that we have flying drones for mating, we rearrange the builder colonies. The resident queen is left in the colony, but moved below an excluder along with most of the open (uncapped) brood. Frames of pollen, most of the capped and emerging worker brood, plus some nectar or honey are moved above the excluder. Also placed above the excluder, i.e. in the now queenless portion of the hive, is one frame of young larvae. These larvae draw nurse bees from below and concentrate them in the box just above the excluder. All that capped/emerging brood in the same region constantly adds to the army of nurse bees around the young larvae.

These manipulations strongly stimulate the colony to raise excellent queens. First, the colony as a whole is crowded, causing a swarming impulse; second, the bees above the excluder sense that they are queenless, prompting the production of emergency queen cells. If we were to stop here with our interventions, the colony would produce a few queen cells, and ultimately one mated queen, above the excluder, but by grafting larvae into the queenless mass of nurse bees above the excluder, we can make many queens. We graft by carefully transferring larvae, less than one day old, from a selected mother queen into plastic cups that can be inverted, like a natural queen cell, amongst that mob of nurse bees above the excluder of the cell builder. Pollen and nectar are readily available in nearby frames to feed the nurse bees that produce the food (royal jelly) for the developing queen larvae.

Queen cells are capped in just four or five days after grafting, and queens will emerge about seven days later; therefore, we have to separate them before then or the first emerged will kill all her sisters. “Ripe” queen cells, i.e. ready to emerge, are therefore installed individually in mating nucleus colonies. Those virgin queens that successfully hatch, mature , mate and make it back to their nuc begin egg-laying usually about two weeks after their ripe cells were installed.

—J. Portnoy, 26 June 2013

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Meetings of Interest
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. Details at Check out beginner and advanced level courses, complete with field bees.

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Pollen Trapping
As a participant in a Harvard School of Public Health study of pesticide concentrations in bee pollen, I received a simple pollen trap in the mail. I am amazed at how much these girls bring in! Closing the trap door for about three hours (forcing the girls to squeeze through tiny holes, thus loosing their collected pollen into the trap drawer below) yielded about a quarter-cup of pollen. I mention this in case anyone is interested in collecting pollen for personal use, or for sale. Obviously, you would want to space apart your collections so you don’t deprive the brood of nutrition, but it’s truly astonishing how much pollen comes in. The trap can remain affixed to the hive entrance all season, propped all the way open, and closed for short periods of collection. If anyone else wants to try, the plastic trap I have can be had for $18 from Brushy Mountain.


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June is the Month
Although anxiously awaiting the end of Winter, I do look forward to March is the month where I am hopeful in finding more bees alive than dead….and April is certainly nice if our packages arrive and I’ve had time to ready my comb honey frames with foundation….and certainly May is unique because we finally start to see buds for our girls to find Spring’s first foods. But the really ‘tell all’ month, in my book, is JUNE. By the beginning of June, after weekly inspections and non-stop 1-1 syrup feedings, I can be certain that my new package is installed, the queen is healthy and laying a solid brood pattern. By the middle of June, if the new package was installed into already drawn out comb, the package should be about ready to stop taking syrup and I should be getting the honey supers ready to add. Mid June, depending on temperatures, may demand popping the outer cover ajar to allow for better air circulation in the hive; it’s also surprising to see how quickly the girls move in and out of the hive when this is done. In June, when there is more than 1 colony to compare I can truly see which ones exhibit the traits I’d like to see more of in the bee yard and set up a quick walk away nuc for increase; nectar is flowing, the host hives are still building up in numbers and they don’t really miss a few frames of brood for the good of colony increase. Also in the beginning of June, there may already have been queen cells taken from over achiever colonies to create an easy nuc with 2 or 3 frames of brood. By end of June if all goes well, those newly created nucs with new queens left to mate in a yard full of mature drones, there will be several replacement queens in case one of my over wintered colonies seems to have a bit too many drones this close to the honey season….finally, the end of June signals to me that if my colonies aren’t close to filling up 2 brood nests, they will be combined for strength instead of being left to wallow through Summer; June is also a line-in-the-sand month I draw for getting my colonies up to speed (2 deeps + honey supers) for the honey harvest. By confirming the strength of the queen by June, the strength of the overall colony, I can also anticipate my honey packaging needs ahead of time. By the end of June, I’m getting ready to put away my bee suit more often and let the bees do their thing. As my mentor Mel Hammond used to tell me, “let the bees take care of themselves.” I only do this after weekly hive inspections early on, taking good notes, and making sure they are ready for the quick 10 week high season of storing away nectar and preparing some honey ready for the Fair! So, think about making June the month to make sure everything is on track. You’ll have a happier July and August.


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Summer Tips

  • Water MUST BE AVAILABLE to be a “Good Neighbor”
  • Remove honey and extract the same day
  • Return shallows for bees to “lick” clean and refill
  • DO NOT USE QUEEN EXCLUDERS if your honey shallows are new, with undrawn foundation
  • Consider purchasing a nucleus colony from the club headed by a Cape Cod raised queen

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Scale Hive Updates

Club members now read four scale hives on a daily basis. Designer Brian is ready to add a new feature. The next step will include all members wishing to participate. Your street address, zip code, and number of hives managed at this address will be added. Please forward this information to

Using this address, the app will “geo-code” the address and determine the latitude and longitude of the individual apiaries. With this we can provide hive density around the Cape.

Our hive gained 10 pounds over June 23 to 25 (72 hours)! What is the nectar flow? Linden, Tulip Poplar, Winterberry? Go to and sign up using Club code BCBA (all caps)

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Workshops and Hive Openings – 1 p.m. start

Saturday, June 8th – Barnstable, Brewster, Wellfleet 1
Sunday, June 9th – Soares Nursery, Sandwich Rd, East Falmouth (Park behind greenhouses, NOT in customer lot.

Checking Status of new packages and brood patterns
(Sunday will be rain date, BUT check with presenters if demo’s will be available)

  1. Cape Cod Museum Natural History-869 Route 6A, Brewster
    George Muhlebach (
  2. John Portnoy, 60 Narrowland Rd, Wellfleet (
    From the South, take Rt 6A into Wellfleet and pass all the turnoffs for Wellfleet Center and Harbor. Opposite Moby Dick Restaurant, turn east (right) onto Gull Pond Rd. Travel ½ mile, take left onto Chris Drive. Bear right at top of hill onto Mayflower Drive. About 200 meters at bottom of hill take right onto dirt/gravel road – Narrowland Rd (homemade sign). We are second house on left about 200 meters just before you hit the power lines: street no 60 (508-349-9618)
  3. 3- Claire Desilets, MA Audubon Long Pasture Sanctuary, Bone Hill Rd. Barnstable
    Minimal parking in small lot to the left before the curve, or park well off the roadside please

Be sure to wear protective clothing, this will be a hands on affair

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back to top Last updated 08/26/13