Current Newsletter
Archived Newsletters

Buzz Words - June, 2006

Table of Contents
1. Announcements
2. From the President
3. Equipment Suggestion
4. Beekeepers’ Field Day

Pollinator Plant Sale

6. Claire's Corner
7. Bee and Blossom
8. Seasonal Tip
9. Andy's Ramblings
10. Save this Number!
11. Save this Number!
12. Classifieds

Tuesday, June 13th, 7:30 P.M. at the West Barnstable Community Building on Route 149 in West Barnstable. Our speaker for the evening will be Dr. Don Booth, Chief Entomologist for the Bartlett Tree Experts. Handouts of the major local pollen and nectar producing plants will be available.


From the President
Now that the successful plant sale is behind us, we are preparing for the annual BarnstableCounty Fair July 21-29.  Since I have only one meeting to solicit volunteers to "work" in our building, I am including the schedule here.  I will have the chart to sign up at the next meeting but in the meantime you may email me at: or 508-539-1774 and leave a message on the "2' voicemail

There are 2 shifts on Monday 24th, Tuesday 25th, Wednesday 26th, Thursday 27. They are 4:00-7:00 and 7:00-10:00.  There are 3 shifts for Friday 7/21 Saturday 7/22, Sunday 7/23, and Friday 7/28, Saturday 7/29. They are 11:00-3:00, 3:00-7:00, 7:00-10:00. I would like a minimum of 2 people per shift.  Three or four would be easier on everyone and it lets you take a break. Now as a carrot to "work" the booth, your admission ticket and parking are free and good for all day.  The fair is also offering multi day ticket. See  and click on "Buy Tickets" for complete information and advance purchase savings for your family.

For the "newbees" and anyone who has not "worked" at the fair, it is not a "work" day.  It is a rewarding experience since you already know more than the average person about bees.  It is an opportunity to share your knowledge and to educate the public about our honey bees vs. yellow jackets that are constantly mistaken for "bees" instead of wasp which can repeatedly sting.   We have lots of information around the booth to help you keep a conversation going and Claire will have her observation hive there for everyone to ask you "where is the queen".  And this is where our members may sell any of their bee related products.  We are encouraging you all to bring your products in for sale and also enter in the judging for a prize/ribbon.. Also anyone selling products is expected to do a shift at fair. There is a percentage given to the club..  Maybe that will be addressed elsewhere in the newsletter or we will inform you at the next meeting.  Last year we had requests for raw/unfiltered honey and comb honey of which we had none. 

The "cleanup day" will be the Sunday prior to the fair, July 16. In the past we have had a fun potluck for lunch break.  If there is interest we can do the same again this year.  Just show up around 10:00 and bring your gloves, pruners, rakes, clippers, and maybe shovels, ladders, brooms, flowers to help around the building.

The 2 donated electric heated KNIVES  will be raffled off at the meeting.  You must be present to win.  They sell for upwards of $80 in the catalogues.  A great tool to have for uncapping.  Looking forward to seeing you all there.  --  Marte

back to top

Equipment Suggestion
Perhaps the club could buy frames with black plastic foundation in order for newbees (and those others with less than perfect eyesight) to see freshly laid eggs. I have never seen eggs in the field, even using magnifying lenses, until I happened across a black frame of freshly laid eggs recently. Truly amazing!

back to top

Beekeepers’ Field Day
On Saturday, June 17th, Massachusetts Beekeepers’ Association will hold a Field Day at the UMASS Agronomy Farm in Deerfield. A separate sheet and registration form  are elsewhere in this newsletter.

  A local restaurant (Holy Smokes BBQ) will be making up box lunches for those interested. Car pooling is recommended. If enough folks from the Cape wish to attend, we could rent a van and share the cost.

back to top

Pollinator Plant Sale
Thanks to all who donated plants, bought plants, helped out in so many ways. This was the best we’ve had, both in terms of $$ and of member participation. The sign on the marquee at the Fire Station was great!  Judy Desrochers and the Meetinghouse Farm group provided us with a great location for a plant sale!  Total sales were $1091.50 before $225 was sent to Mass Agriculture in the Classroom for the Heirloom Tomatoes, leaving us with a net sale of $866.50

back to top

Claire's Corner
Taken from Mass Beekeepers’ Early Summer ’06 Newsletter
As swarming season quickly approaches this May, an informative article “Group Decision Making in Honey Bee Swarms” appeared in the May-June volume of the American Scientist.  Authors Thomas Seeley of Cornell University, P. Kirk Visscher of University of California, Riverside, and Kevin Passino of  Ohio State University took to the Shoals Marine Laboratory of Cornell University on Appledore Island in Maine.  Here they could attempt to realize how honey bees, when swarming, decide cooperatively where their new home will be.  This site was ideal as it lacked trees, thereby eliminating nearly all “natural nesting cavities.”

We know of Karl von Frisch’s realization of the waggle tail dance when honey bees communicate for their source of food. Martin Lindauer, a graduate student under von Frisch, observed similar activity on the surface of a swarm of bees.  Lacking baskets of pollen or nectar, he questioned the reason for this waggle dance activity.  It came to him that these few hundred bees participating in this activity were actually promoting the location of a new site for the swarm to take up residence. Amazingly, after studying this dance for hours on end, Lindauer noted many sites were eliminated and suddenly the swarm would take off for the most popular site.  How the site popularity was conveyed within the cluster was not understood.

In the late 1990s enters Seeley and company and they begin their research using swarms of 4,000 bees labeled individually and trekked them to this offshore island in Maine.  Protected nests were built and size was based on the preferred size of a 20 L volume with an entrance less than 30 square centimeters, placed several meters off the ground and facing south.  These nests could be altered in size to make them less desirable and give the swarms a choice as in the wild.

Over several summers this project progressed. The process was to decide whether the swarm reaches a “quorum (sufficient number of scouts) at one nest site or “form a consensus (agreement of dancing scouts) at the swarm cluster.”  Can you imagine sitting for hours and days on end counting scout bees at these sites?  And then reviewing video footage on each marked bee?  That is what it took.  Varying scouts and nest sizes, the following was observed.  The waggle dance was performed on the surface of the swarm and its intensity was to excite other scouts to checkout the site.  When poorer sites were introduced along with ideal sites, the number of bees increased at the ideal site, and as the vigorous dancing increased, interest faded with the poorer sites.  Adding to this activity was worker piping. The excited worker wiggles her way throughout the cluster, placing her thorax against other bees and vibrates her wing muscles.  This creates a piping signal easily heard.  This activity actually takes nearly an hour and gets the swarm revved up to launch towards the best site.  When a split decision occurs, the swarm returns or settles until a single site predominates.

The conclusion by Seeley et al was that the bees in the nest reach a quorum before taking flight to the most popular site.  To appreciate all the experiments that went into this project, check out “Group Decision Making in Honey Bee Swarms” at the following website: .

One really has to appreciate the activity that went into that swarm which recently settled in the neighbors chimney….

Seeley, Thomas D., P. Kirk Visscher, and Kevin Passino.  2006.  Group Decision Making in Honey Bee Swarms.  American Scientist.  Volume 94.  May-June.

back to top

Bee and Blossom
Member Lou Ann Colombo of Brewster has opened a florist shop at 675 Main Street in Hyannis. She also caters to her love of bees and is selling bee-related “things”, honey, some beekeeping equipment, and offers teas and coffees. Lou Ann invites members to stop by and visit her shop in the West End. She is desperate for local honey.

back to top

Seasonal Tip
If you have not yet, add your honey supers. Locust flow is about to begin. Add as many as you have.

back to top

Andy's Ramblngs - On Swarms
One can look within a hive and easily find the three castes of honeybees: the queen, the drone and the worker. Each has its unique duties to each other and to the hive. Each has its own life cycle and sequence for developing from egg to adult.  But the hive is like unto a living creature by itself. It has a life cycle, which includes a mode of reproduction. Swarms are nature’s way of reproducing colonies of honeybees.

For any number of reasons, overcrowding being the most common and most easily understood, the bees, as one, decide it is time to swarm. This takes unbelievable planning and timing: Queen cells must be created which are larger than any other cell in the entire hive. The mother queen must be pushed around and denied food. In other words, she must be treated poorly so she will be willing to go, and caused to lose weight so she will be able to fly.

Recently laid eggs must be placed in the queen cells and fed Royal Jelly until they are ready to be capped.

And somehow the general population must count off by threes, to determine the one third of the hive that will be departing with the mother queen, leaving two thirds behind to tend to the business of the hive.

When the swarm leaves the hive, it is something to behold. There are thousands of bees “milling” about the immediate neighborhood awaiting the departure of the mother queen. The sound is not unlike a combination of a vacuum cleaner and a freight train. It is not uncommon for a beekeeper’s hair (I’m becoming more and more challenged in that area) to stand on end.

And finally the mother queen leaves. Of course all this build up is the most exciting part of the swarming event. We must remember that the queen hasn’t flown since her maiden flight, and therefore can’t fly very far from the hive. She usually makes a hundred feet or so before becoming tuckered out. Once she lands, all the bees designated to leave with the mother queen collect around her in a protective mass. Stuff happens after that, but that’s not what my story is about.

I got a call recently from Mac Welch, a veteran beekeeper, friend and mentor. I (we) keep several hives at his house and he keeps an eye on them and reminds me when it is time to tend them. I enjoy working those bees as Mac is a wonderful guy and his wife makes fabulous cookies. Anyway, Mac called to tell me that one of our hives had swarmed and landed in the crotch of an oak tree, up about 40 feet. Well, my days of climbing any distance, let alone 40 feet, have long past, and Mac decided he wasn’t going to do it for me, so we decided to let them go and become a feral hive somewhere.

We had several days of rain and high winds immediately after his call, and I put the swarm out of my mind. When the weather improved, I went to Mac’s to then the hives and, low and behold, that swarm had dropped down and settled in a Rosa rugosa bush just three feet from the ground. It was a simple operation to set up a bottom board and a deep, shake the swarm into the deep, and place an inner and outer cover on them. This is the only type of swarm I like to capture.

I returned  two days later to move them to a new location and put in the missing six frames. When I opened up the hive, they had already created, and suspended from the inner cover, five compact-disc sized combs and filled them with nectar. I have high expectations for this new hive.

It is inevitable that some day one or all of your hives will swarm. Don’t be angry, frustrated or disappointed. This is nature’s way of reproducing hives and insuring that there are plenty of bees to pollinate the flowers. Nature tries constantly to fill any void so everything is balanced. We may try to thwart the swarming of a hive, but remember, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”    5/30/06

On Re-Queening
Taken from Mass Beekeepers’ Summer ’06 Newsletter
Re-queening is essential. Whether you let nature take its course and allow the bees to replace the old queen or acquire a replacement queen and install her yourself, it needs to be done periodically. The reason it is necessary is sperm count. The queen, after emerging from her cell, is a virgin. She needs to mate in order to lay fertilized eggs.

On her maiden flight the queen will mate with as many drones as she can, the number of interludes being somewhere around twenty, before returning to her hive. This is the only time she will mate for the rest of her life.

Studies have shown that the quantity and quality of sperm the queen holds drops off drastically after two years. If the queen is not replaced in a timely manner, she may continue to lay eggs, in adequate numbers, but they will not all be fertilized and will produce drones instead of workers. It is true drones are important to the well being of the hives in the area, but they contribute little, if nothing, to their parent hive. Only fertilized eggs will produce workers and workers are what we want for pollination and honey production.

Having said all that, I was re-queening some hives recently. It can be a labor of love, after all, for we all love those little creatures, whatever it takes. And this is what it takes.

Step 1: Approach the hive, well suited, with hive tool and smoker in hand. Bring along an additional, empty deep hive box. Lift off the outer (telescoping) cover and set it upside down on the ground to be used as a stand (more on this later). Then remove the inner cover inner cover, leaning it against a tree or something.

Step 2: Pry and lift off the top (first) deep, placing it on the inverted outer cover. Place the inner cover over the remaining (second) deep to shield the bees from sun and wind. This might keep them calmer. Use smoke as necessary.

Step 3: Begin removing frames from the first deep, closely inspecting them for the queen. It takes a little practice finding the queen, but after a while, one begins to notice her movements before actually seeing her. (I like to practice during the off-season by solving word search puzzles. How many words can I find by simply gazing at the puzzle and moving my eyes around, before I look at the word list?) As you finish the first couple of frames, if you don’t find the queen, place these inspected frames in the hive box you brought with you. This allows you more room to move the frames in the first box without crushing bees (possibly the queen). It also prevents the queen from moving from the next frame you are going to inspect to the frame you just inspected, during the time you take to stand up straight to stretch your cramped up back and shoulders. Continue going through this hive box. There is an excellent chance you will not find the queen in this first box, so…

Step 4: Replace the frames, in their original order, into the first deep box and begin on the second box, following the same steps as mentioned above. I don’t know how it happens but I find that the queen is always on the last frame I look at. I get so frustrated with this concept because if I would simply start with that frame I could save huge amounts of time and eliminate a very tired back.

Step 5: If you have been unsuccessful in finding the queen, I suggest you begin looking through the boxes again. Like many things in life, it is better to do it now because, with bees, every day you wait more bees are emerging. As the population increases, the difficulty in finding the queen raises exponentially (whatever that means).

If I determine that a hive is strong enough, I will remove the frame on which I find the queen, plus two other frames with brood and nurse bees, and make a split (a four frame Nuc). I will replace the now removed frames with empty frames and install the new queen.

As I said, I was recently re-queening a bunch of hives. This bee yard is in the shade in the afternoon, causing interesting patterns on the frames as you remove them. The temperature was beginning to cool down, and the breeze was freshening. Most of the mature, forager bees were already back in the hives, making the frames covered with bees. I was working on the second hive, with four more to re-queen. The second frame I pulled and inspected was not drawn out correctly. The bees had made a double layer of comb on one side. I quickly looked for the queen and decided to remove the frame from this hive because it would cause problems with moving frames around in the future. The hive was quite strong and, since the old queen was obviously still productive, I decided to make a split from it using her. I placed this distorted, capped-brood full frame in the Nuc box.

I began following the steps listed above to find the queen. After my first and very frustrating attempt look through both boxes, my back was screaming at me, the bees were getting cool and unhappy, and I still had more hives to re-queen. There was not to do but begin again and go through the steps and hive boxes.

The term hubris comes to mind. I don’t often find myself having to go through a hive a second time, and I secretly hold a level of pride (to myself, of course, so don’t tell anyone or they might think I’m vain) when it comes to finding queens. I certainly was stumped on this one. Even a second look through the hive, and I couldn’t find the queen. I even checked the bottom board to be sure I didn’t crush her and she dropped down.

I’m sure you have guessed it. It’s true. I went to the Nuc box and reexamined that distorted frame. Fat and sassy, she just stood there and mocked me. I was tempted to do her in, but she was doing a great job at laying eggs. She is now in exile, in another bee yard, in a Nuc, doing her thing.    5/10/06

back to top

Save This Number!
If you get a call dealing with bees in a house, or a chimney, call this number –781-293-2297.

John Phillips of Hanson in as carpenter by trade, and has been removing nests from buildings for years. John also guarantees his work. The bees and the attractants that lured them will be gone.

back to top


Honey Flan
3 eggs, beaten
1-1/2 cups 2% low-fat milk
½ cup honey, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1.  Combine eggs, milk, ¼ cup honey and vanilla.  Beat until mixed but not foamy.  Combine remaining ¼ cup honey and cinnamon in small bowl; mix well.  
2.  Place 4 (6-ounce) custard cups in 8-inch square baking dish.  Spoon 1 tablespoon honey-cinnamon mixture into each custard cup; divide egg mixture into each custard cup. Place baking dish on middle rack of oven; pour boiling water into baking dish around custard cups to 1-inch depth.
3.  Bake at 325°F 30 to 45 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean.  Serve warm or cold.  Loosen edges of individual custards with spatula or knife; invert onto dessert plates.
-National Honey Board, Honey Feast, 5/06

Fresh Fruit Salad with Honey Ginger Lime Dressing
tbsp fresh lime juice
1 ½ tbsp honey
¼ tsp minced, peeled fresh ginger
2 cups sliced peeled peaches
1 cup blueberries
1 cup seedless green grapes, halved

Combine first 3 ingredients in a small bowl; stir with a whisk.  Combine fruit.  Drizzle juice mixture over fruit; toss gently to coat.  Chill at least 1 hour.  Yields 8 servings.
-Cooking Light, June 2006

back to top

Claire has Honey Bee Healthy for sale. $20 for club members. See her at the meeting or call 888-2304

back to top Last updated 07/12/06