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Buzz Words - June 2014

Next Meeting
Our next meeting is at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 10, in the West Barnstable Community Building on Route 149 in West Barnstable. At this meeting we will focus on HONEY: how it’s made, when to harvest it, and how to extract and prepare it for market or for gifts.

As always, sweets and treats are welcome.

From the Board
Swarming season is here. It can be a good thing. For the most part, you have heard of the problems of losing part of your hive or hives. The good thing is catching a swarm and adding to your apiary. Over the years I have managed to pick up quite a few swarms to add to my collection. In many instances, the swarm is in an accessible location. They are not in a fighting mode in this situation, so you can approach them without fear. I am usually able to shake them into a five-gallon bucket and drape a burlap bag over them. I usually put them in the luggage compartment of the car for transport home. You will find that some of them will find their way into the car. Again, they won't sting in this situation. The next step is to dump them into a deep and start feeding sugar syrup. Very simple! You now have another hive.

—Bill Brown

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Check Out Club Member Blogs

Julie Lipkin @

BCBA discussion group -

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Chive Blossom Vinegar
There is no honey in this recipe but it is an easy concoction if you have a plentiful supply of chive blossoms and love a flavorful salad dressing.

  • When blossoms fully opened, snip off the heads into a strainer.
  • Rinse the blossoms under cold water and let drain.
  • Find a large glass container and fill 2/3 full of white vinegar.
  • Stuff in all the chive blossoms, cap and tuck away in your cabinet for 3 weeks.
  • Best to make a note on your calendar.
  • Come 3 weeks, drain blossoms through a coffee filter, saving the vinegar, naturally.
  • Vinegar takes on a wonderful flavor of the chives and becomes a pretty pink hue.

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June: Taking Good Notes and Weekly Inspections a Must
By now, after your weekly inspections and nonstop 1-1 syrup feedings, you should be able to ensure that since installation of your new package, 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, weather permitting, you should be getting the honey supers ready to add. If it was new equipment, as Claire often says, “Do not let the girls run out of syrup – they need those carbs for building out the honeycomb.”

In mid-June, depending on our weather temperatures, it may demand propping the outer cover ajar with a stick to allow for better air circulation in the hive; it’s amazing to see how quickly the girls move in and out of the hive when this is done, when viewed aside the hive, watching all the traffic flow like an expressway!

When there is more than one colony to compare, we can see which ones exhibit the traits we prefer to see more of in the bee yard. Those properties would be gentleness upon approaching the hive, quick foraging behavior, good laying pattern by the queen and more. Consider setting up a quick walk-away nuc for adding a queen or a colony start to your apiary while the 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 overachiever colonies to create an easy nuc with two or three frames of brood. By the end of June, if all goes well with those newly created nucs and new queens left to mate in a yard full of mature drones, there will be several replacement queens in case one of your colonies seems to have a bit too many drones this close to the honey season….you don’t want to get to July and find you’ve got few bees in the colony and no queen.

Finally, the end of June signals that if your colonies aren’t close to filling up two brood nests, they should perhaps 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 (two deeps plus honey supers) for the honey harvest and the near approaching fall. 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 June hive inspections, done early on, taking good notes, and making sure they are ready for the short season of storing away nectar and preparing some honey for the fair (see below)! So, think about making June the month to make sure everything is on track. You’ll have a happier July and August.

—Rebecca Matarazzi

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And Speaking of the Fair
Barnstable County Fair July 21-27

The BARNSTABLE COUNTY FAIR schedule is attached. Should you not be able to open the attachment, the shifts are: noon to 3:30; 3:30 to 7, and 7 to 10 p.m. from July 21 through July 27. I will try to bring the up-to-date schedule to the June meeting for you to sign up there, or you can email me at or call me on my cell phone at 508-274-8754.

The tickets will be distributed at the “work day” (date to be announced); anyone unable to attend that day will receive their tickets by mail. It is always appreciated if you can come to help prep the building and grounds rather than adding to the secretary’s responsibilities by requiring tickets to be mailed. Thanks. Don't forget the tickets are good for the whole day, so come to enjoy the fair.

Look it up at and pick your favorite event to attend that same day. Just remember not to pick the shift that has your event. Looking forward to all your emails, which is better, as I have the schedule in front of me – but phone works too. Thanks for all your support in the past with this club event.

—Marte Ayers

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Adventures in Swarmland
Last year we were fortunate to Macgyver the swarm from our first hive to create our second hive, creatively named Hive 2. About a week and a half ago H2 swarmed and nested in a holly tree on our property but morphed into two separate clusters. About an hour later one cluster disbanded and flew back into H2 and was followed 10 minutes later by the second cluster, which bearded underneath the opening of the hive and eventually went back in.

In slight panic and confusion I contacted some fellow beekeepers and was fortunate enough to connect with Julie Lipkin, whose TBH was on the fritz, and she was kind enough to come over and inspect the hive with the prospect of hopefully finding two queens and harvesting one with some of her minions. While she didn't locate a queen, she did find and harvest a supersedure cell on one of the two frames that she took and replaced with honey-laden frames. A momentary sigh of relief followed a few days later by the reswarming of the two clusters back to said holly tree, back to the hive, but this time one of the swarms went kerplonk onto the ground, and my husband and I scooped them into a box while our baby was snoring away.

Unusual? Quite. Even more so? They followed the same trajectory over the Memorial Day weekend and then swarmed again yesterday afternoon. It has been a buzzy, I mean busy, time and a wee bit frustrating. Upon the urging of Anne-Marie Runfola, I emailed Professor Tom Seeley to ask what was up, down and all around. Tom (he's very friendly – we're on a first-name basis) said this is actually quite a common phenomenon; when the bees swarmed, Queenie didn't get the memo and was left behind. Hence, mass hive-steria and confusion. The second go-about, when one of the swarms landed on the ground, was explained as Queenie not having enough jet propulsion to blast off and away. Perhaps too many Cheezits due to her cravings as a mama bee? Likely. All in all, we are perhaps the most popular (or unpopular) house on the block, with one more hive, a lot more knowledge and a few more grey hairs. Special thanks to Claire, Shona, Anne-Marie and Julie for their guidance while I was initially watching the first couple of swarms in horror and wonder from my kitchen window with a little one clawing to go outside

— Sharon Koh

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Presto-Chango, From Langstroth to TBH
Here’s my jury-rigged top-bar comb garnered from frames taken from Sharon Koh’s about-to-swarm Langstroth hive. I swapped her two full frames of honey for two frames of brood, including an unhatched queen cell, and a bucket full of bees. I cut the comb from her two frames into four pieces and tied them with butcher’s string onto four top bars and dumped in the bees. My expectations were low, but all is well! They’ve attached the comb to the bars, and the queen hatched and is laying. Innovation works!

— Julie Lipkin

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Warring Studies, and other Bee Research
Many of you have seen or heard of the recently released study by Dr. Chensheng “Alex” Lu of Harvard’s School of Public Health on the effects of the neonicotinoid class of insecticides on honeybees. (You can read his results at The results are controversial, and California beekeeper Randy Oliver, who writes the Scientific Beekeeping blog, does not mince words in his criticism of the study. Check out his take here Once you’re good and depressed, read this uplifting news on improved winter survival rates.

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Survival of the Fittest
What kind of survival results did your colonies experience? After spending my first winter off-Cape, I in early April, expecting to come back to the worst, after hearing about the relentless storms and punishing weather. After the winter-from-the-Arctic Vortex, to my amazement, my colonies experienced an unusually high percentage of survival. There was a good amount of honey stores left in the hives. The few that perished were likely due to inferior queens. Was it the snow that insulated the surviving hives more than other years? My thoughts: During last season, I made sure I inspected weekly during the summer to check up on the overall hive health; IPM was utilized to inspect and treat for varroa as needed; hive beetles were present but kept in check with the use of hive beetle traps; as soon as I pulled the honey supers, the colonies were fed lots of 2-1 syrup, quickly, laced with Honey-B-Healthy and Mega Bee Diet to fill and fatten them up. Those colonies that needed it were given new queens. I topped the colonies with 4 pounds of granulated sugar, placed an insulation board inside the outer cover, provided ventilation, removed inner covers and wrapped the exterior of the hive body tightly with black roofing paper. The result was that all the colonies had a surplus of honey coming out of winter. While alive, only about half of the colonies were boiling over and another half had about five-six frames of bees and a queen present. Last year was the first year that an effort was made for heavy early feeding going into fall, IPM and treatment where needed and a healthy queen placed in each colony, all by the end of October. It was the also the first season to do all these things in combination. For the first time, I'd truly felt like I'd given my bees the best chance they'd have going into winter, knowing that I wouldn't be around to drop fondant in. It's something I'll repeat again this year. With only aboutsix months on the Cape to experience our bees, we have to be ever present and watchful over what's going on within their little worlds. What were your results and what will you do to change your results if survival wasn't as high as other years? Each year, I try to learn at least one thing from my peers and from the bees, digest it and use it to increase my overall colony survival rate. After losing nearly everything in the winter of 2012/13, it's finally rewarding to use different techniques and see them literally pay off. Happy inspecting!

—Rebecca Matarazzi

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Sharing Information Coast to Coast
Club member Laura Eldridge of Little’s Family Farm writes to say that a student from a Seattle school contacted her to thank her for information on her website. The student wrote, in part: “I just wanted to take the time to write you and let you know that my classmates and I have really enjoyed using your page ( for our community beekeeping project! My tutor, Mrs. Lowe, thought it would be nice if we wrote you a thank you note (by using her email) to let you know that it's been such a great help for us to learn all about the different parts of beekeeping :)” The student offered a link to another site her class discovered and found useful, Laura says the class seems to have just stumbled on her site – so if you learn it, share it!

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Creepy Crawlies
Please be very careful when working with your bees – or any time you’re outside – that you double-check for the presence of ticks afterward. As if Lyme disease, babesiosis and anaplasmosis weren’t threat enough, a new tick-borne virus that can cause meningitis, encephalitis, permanent neurological damage and even death has emerged in New York state. Read on:

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Tips and Hints
Here is a check list for those new hives managed by new beekeepers.

  • Feeding is critical, as all that new foundation needs to be drawn into cells for brood, nectar and pollen. Check syrup every 5 to 7 days, especially as the strength of the hive increases.
  • Inspect brood pattern every 7 to 10 days and note space available. Add second deep box when all but 2 frames are left to be drawn AND move those outside empty frames in between filled frames. You do not want to go into fall and winter with undrawn comb. If the cluster is off to one side, center it by moving frames from one side to the other. This will encourage the workers to move in.
  • Review the hive population graph in your text. Note that this upcoming week represents the critical low numbers in you hive. BUT, your new brood should soon be hatching and the numbers will climb dramatically from here on.
  • Learn to light your smoker even if you are using sugar syrup with Honey-B-Healthy. There will come a time you might need it. Wood shavings, pine cones and clean burlap all work well and create a cool, white smoke. Accidently dropping a frame of bees from a sting on the hand will cause a real fear of working the hive.
  • Enjoy your new hive and watch these fascinating little creatures with amazement and awe!!

— Claire Desilets

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Got Wax Moth? Eat'em!
I went to a presentation May 31 by Chef David George Gordon, aka The Bug Chef, who cooks with the things we pray never to find in our food: ants, spiders, crickets, mealworms – even, I hesitate to say, bees (he’s got a recipe in his “Eat-a-Bug Cookbook” for Three-Bee Salad, the three bees being the adult, the pupa and the larva). But as someone who’s lost a hive to wax moths, I must admit I was horrified to learn that he claims his favorite recipe of all to be what he refers to as white-chocolate-dipped “waxworms” – those writhing, throbbing wax moth larvae that churned my stomach to have to deal with in my dearly beloved bees’ devastated home. Proving once again that one man’s meat is another man’s poison.

—Julie Lipkin

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Recipe of the Month
Honey Ice Cream

3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 c. whole milk
1½ c. light honey
3 c. heavy cream
3 c. half-and-half

  • Place cornstarch and milk in the top of a double boiler and cook over medium heat until mixture forms a smooth paste. Cool in the refrigerator.
  • Add cooled cornstarch to honey, heavy cream and half-and-half. Mix well.
  • Cool mixture to 40°F in refrigerator.
  • Place cold mixture in ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s directions.

—Julie Lipkin

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