Current Newsletter
Archived Newsletters

Buzz Words - June 2013

Tuesday, June 11th,  2013, 7:30 p.m. at the West Barnstable Community Building on Route 149, approximately ½ mile north of the Mid Cape Highway.  HONEY HARVESTING, when and how, extracting and preparation will be the topics as we watch the Black Locust begi n to bloom, with much anticipation.

From the President
May usually marks the beginning of the busy season with bees and this month has proven to be no exception. I’ve managed to hive a swarm and, not to be out done, my bees have filled a honey super since the beginning of the month, and this is before the locust blossoms! I’ve also had several swarm calls and numerous miscellaneous inquiries: some from the uninitiated such as a person who “had always been interested in bees” and wondered how to get some bees next week; others posing thoughtful questions such as how one might introduce a nuc into a top bar hive (I’ll take advice from all of you readers out there on that one.); and one very generous call from a woman cleaning out her barn and wishing to get rid of some bee equipment, more about her gift later.

I also have been able to introduce others to beekeeping. Specifically, my neighbor and my son in-law are each now tending their own first hive after much encouragement from me. There is now also a group of novice but enthusiastic beekeepers at the Mattacheese Middle School associated with the beekeeping club I run there. It is very gratifying to be part of the contagion of beekeeping. It is also very gratifying to get something back. Sometimes that comes in the form of a good honey harvest, sometimes you notice increased vegetable production in your garden, sometimes being a beekeeper is invaluable social currency, and sometimes it comes in the form of generosity such as the woman I mentioned in the first paragraph offering all her beekeeping equipment to the club. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I immediately went to her barn and filled my truck. I now have numerous honey supers, Ross Round supers, Ross covers, and various feeders in my yard. If any of you have use for any of them, please contact me by phone (508-362-2054) or email ( to make arrangements to drop by and take your fill. Let’s keep the contagion going!


back to top

Upcoming Meetings of Note

Saturday, June 30th - MA Beekeepers Annual Field Day, UMASS Agronomy Farm, check out our website at MASSBEE.ORG

E.A.S. 2013 wwill 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.

back to top

Swarming season and queen rearing
Claire recently forwarded an email from me describing a management strategy that could help avert swarming, suppress Varroa mite reproduction, and maybe even increase the harvestable honey crop during the spring nectar flow and swarming season. As my strongest over-wintered colonies begin swarm preparations, indicated by a crowded brood nest and enlarged queen cups/cells with or without eggs, larvae and royal jelly, I’m finding and removing their queens. Because most of these queens are only a year old and heading the most populous colonies, I don’t want to discard them, so they go in a nuc box with a frame each of brood and nectar plus attached nurse bees.

If I’m keeping the nuc colonies in the same yard as the source colonies, I give them a couple of additional frame-shakes of nurse bees to compensate for all the field bees who return “home”. The bees in the large colonies no longer have their queen with whom to swarm, but do not despair; instead they start to raise replacement queen(s) by lavishly feeding selected larvae with the currently abundant nectar and pollen. With no laying queen for nearly a month, these colonies will have no open (uncapped) larvae for Varroa mites to infest for at least three weeks; this should suppress the typical ramping up of mite populations that occurs in the warm months, leading to colony failure in fall and winter. Besides raising nice fat queens, the workers continue to exploit the rich nectar flow and, with fewer mouths (larvae) to feed, they theoretically store more harvestable honey. This strategy is not new: it was used by Brother Adam (Beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey) in the 1920s, R.O.B. Manley (Honey Farming) in the 1940s in England – and probably earlier by many others to inhibit both swarming and brood parasites and diseases (see Mel Disselkoen’s website Like so many aspects of beekeeping, success with this method depends on timing. Here in Wellfleet, I know from over a decade of scale-hive data that I don’t need a huge workforce in July, typically a time of nectar dearth, and when I do need a full field force during the Sweet Pepperbush flow in August, the new, fat and vigorous queens will have produced them (I hope).

Of course when you de-queen a strong colony during a nectar flow, you have produced an excellent “cell builder” for the production of great locally adapted queens. Accordingly, I’ve grafted larvae from my best overwintered queen and placed them in my strongest de-queened colony for cell building…which brings me to the BCBA’s queen rearing program.

The plan this year is to offer both ripe queen cells and laying queens in nucleus colonies to BCBA members, with queen rearing activities centered on County land near the Cape Cod Organic Farm in Barnstable. Fourteen colonies are set up and building there, to be split into mating nucleus colonies in late June or July, headed by queens raised in cell-building colonies both at the CCOF and elsewhere on the Cape. We’ll put out the word to members when ripe queen cells and laying queens are available; cells may be ready for your mating nucs in early June. We also plan to offer hive-openings and queen-rearing education to help EVERYONE get started in their backyard beekeeping toward perfection of the Cape Cod Honey Bee.

Swarming season, far from a time to be dreaded, is a legitimate excuse to open your hives and disturb your bees at least weekly without feeling guilty – you are checking for swarm preparations, and hopefully catching your bees before they leave with “your” honey. It’s also a time when it’s hard NOT to rear queens, either accidentally (the swarm) or in a controlled and purposeful way selecting larvae from our best surviving queens - the latter is our general goal. For more reasons for raising your own queens see Kirk Webster’s comments at

John Portnoy, 24 May 2013

back to top

Claire's Corner
The BCBA is full of great articles, tips and hints, emailed to us on a yearly basis. I remembered one of the mass emails I'd received from the Bee Club on Swarm Season and making note of the time period of 3 weeks prior to Swarm Season. I couldn't remember why, but I noted the date on my calendar nonetheless. I marked for our area that date as May 17. As fate would have it, in early May, the fun started to begin on the Outer Cape one day in early May. Within some stacked, stored deep and medium supers, there was scouting activity. Of note, the supers were about 6 feet high and at a more desired height to attract the scout bees. The activity resembled the robbing dance. I had no colonies near my stacked equipment, so they weren't my bees. I figured that the bees were just finishing up some of the left over honey from my dead outs. This activity lasted for a good 2 weeks. The activity was very scheduled; they'd arrive around 9 a.m. and leave to go back home around 4:30. Then, one evening around 6:30, I noticed something very exciting: there was activity around the hive bodies and it was not the usual scouting! There was a 'to and fro' behavior and I marked that some were bringing in pollen. Bringing in pollen.....? Must be a laying queen inside! I placed my ear up against the hive body and there was a very pleasant hum. I was able to place a screen underneath the deep and close up the swarm and move it to one of my apiary locations.

Within the following days, I noticed another swarm had 'landed' in another stack of hive bodies, within one of my apiaries. But, none of my colonies had swarmed; they weren't that heavy.

It's swarm season and this year I'm ready! Today, a friend of mine called me to say he had a bee challenge. I quickly called him back, out of curiosity and concern, hoping that one of my colonies wasn't at his house! He had about 20 bees inside the house and I saw the area under his eave that the scout bees found safe and sound to enter his interior walls and set up housekeeping. I proceeded to set up a bait hive in an attempt to lure the scouts to 'my place.' On leaving Dennis's lane, I noticed a neighbor had a colony of bees in what looked like a stack of 3 shallow honey supers. I told my friend that it looked like his neighbor's crowded colony was checking out his 'pad' and I thanked him that he called me. I said his grandchildren were coming in several weeks and really didn't want a bee hive. I was certain they'd like my hive body filled with older combs and a little syrup laced with Honey Bee Healthy. Think about placing some hive bodies out, up higher, and try your luck at being a bee whisperer! - Rebecca

back to top

Barnstable County Fair
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. The past two years the charge was $9.00 per pound. The price is voted upon at the "work day Sunday" prior to the start of the fair. If you have something for sale at the booth, you are expected to work at least one shift.

The Sunday prior to the fair we gather for a cleanup of the building and grounds followed by a pot luck lunch. Many hands make lite (fast) work. Please come help and bring your sale items at the same time. Tickets for the fair are also passed out at that time. For our "newbees" this is a chance to rub elbows with the more "experienced" beekeepers that will be with you for the shift, pick their brains and also talk with the public. You already know more than the average person and usually everyone wants to just see the queen. Claire will have her observation hive on display. The time always seems to fly by for me.

Attached is a schedule with 3 shifts per day. However, for those who would like to work longer, please feel free to sign up for double shifts. With 3- 4 people per shift there is plenty of time to take turns going around the fair, sample the food and refresh yourself. I would like to have 3 people signed up on each shift, then fill the 4th if there are extra volunteers. You receive free VIP parking at the front main gate and an admission ticket which is good for the whole day. So come early or stay after your shift and enjoy the whole fair. You can view the entertainment for each day and pick the day you would like to work.

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

back to top

Seasonal tips

  • Continue feeding new hives (packages and nucs) a 1:1 sugar syrup till they stop taking it.
  • Conduct weekly inspections – pay attention to brood patterns; a good queen will create a good hive.
  • Be one step ahead of the bees. Honey shallows should be added by mid-May for strong over-wintered colonies.
  • Watch for swarm cells – a quick split or nuc will prevent the loss of your healthy queen, and will keep peace in the neighborhood. Read, and re-read John’s article on swarming season
  • Water is a constant and continuous must.

back to top

Check Out Club Member Blogs

Julie Lipkin @

Tamar Haspel @

B C B A Blog @


back to top

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 ˝ 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- 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

back to top

Julie found this bumper sticker online and we decided to order 100 of them.
You can pick one up at next meeting for just $1.00

back to top

back to top Last updated 6/11/13