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Buzz Words - March 2007

Table of Contents
1. Announcements
2. From the President
3. Bee School
4. Dana Stahlman
5. Claire's Corner
6. Errata
7. Fondant Candy Recipes
8. Upcoming Meetings of Interest
9. Package Bees
10. Library
11. Pollinator Plant Sale
12. Seasonal Tip
13. Colony Collapse Disorder

Next Meeting -7:30 P.M., Tuesday, March 13th, at the West Barnstable Community Building on Route 149.  Beeswax – Cleaning, Safety-Tips and Candlemaking presented by George Muhlebach.

Corinne Henderson and Karen Schwalbe could use another plate of goodies.

Future Meetings
April 10th – David Simser, Cape Cod Extension Entomologist, - Deer Ticks and Lyme Disease
May 8th  – Roberta Clark, Cape Cod Extension Horticulturist, - Bees and the Garden

Bee Equipment
The remainder of the equipment has arrived. Ed will announce pickup date at the next bee school session and regular meeting

From the President
With cold, raw winds and our hives all bundled up, all we can do is hope all is well inside.  I have confirmed that I have lost one and it looks like they starved with uncapped frames in an extra super on top of them.  I have another that was flying very weak compared to the next hive so that's now a question.  I gave them the deadout's super and hope it saves the day.

On a happy note our "newbees" of 30 strong are going great guns learning all about bees at our classes.  They are so enthusiastic and eager to learn that it is fun teaching to them.  Also any member of the club is welcome to sit in on any or all the classes.  The schedule is posted on our web site,, under bee school.

A Yankee tip - to keep the bees out of your jacket sleeves.  Cut the toe out of a pair of worn out socks; slip the toe on first over your jacket sleeve.  Now the cuff fits tightly on your wrist preventing the bees from climbing into the sleeve.

See you at the meeting.  --  Marte

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Bee School
The two sessions this month will again be held at the Whelden Library, beginning at 7:30 P.M.
        March 8th, Thursday,  Swarms, the Why and the How

        March 22nd, Thursday,  Pests and Diseases

In the event of seasonal weather, if Cape Cod Community College cancels night classes, bee school is also cancelled.
» 2007 Bee School Schedule

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Dana Stahlman

It is quite cold here.    Can’t wait until it is time to raise some queens.  In the meantime, this is the next installment of the queen project.   We are finally to the heart of the subject:  Raising queens.

In the first class meeting, a discussion of queen rearing basics is required.  Anyone raising queens should be aware of the biology involved in getting the bees to raise queen cells.  Regardless of methods used, everyone must understand and use “queen time.”

Honeybees reproduce naturally in the spring of the year.  Depending upon each individual colonies condition, one can expect honeybees to swarm in April, May or June in the North.   One of the leading causes of swarming is over crowded conditions in the hive.  Another situation occurs in many hives when the old queen is replaced due to lack of pheromone production or sperm availability to fertilize eggs.  In both cases, the bees set about to raise new queens.    A beekeeper can create a situation to cause the bees to raise queen cells.  The easiest way is to remove the queen from the hive!  Under this situation, the bees recognize that the queen is no longer available (lack of queen substance-- a pheromone).  Nature has provided the honey bee with the ability to create new queens from fertilized eggs.  If the hive has fertilized eggs or larva, the bees will attempt to raise a new queen.  They are for the most part successful in this attempt.

Beekeepers have started new hives by using swarm cells or supercedure cells and this is recorded in the old written beekeeping literature as a way to increase colonies.  However, most beekeepers want to raise queens that display characteristics that are uniform and produce the queens when the demand for them is great.  

It is easy to raise queens!  The greatest problem is deciding which queen is going to provide the beekeeper with desirable larva to produce new queens.  In an earlier article, I mentioned the need to select good queens.  The goal of a good beekeeper is to manage bees in the challenging world of bee diseases.  This is a difficult task and the results show up very quickly when our bees do not survive even to get to winter. 

Queen time:
The powerpoint presentation has a table showing an egg, larva, pupa, and adult.  These are the stages that all honey bees must go thru in order to emerge as an adult.  In the case of the queen the period from the time an egg is laid by the queen to the time a new virgin queen emerges is 16 days.  However, when the bees begin feeding a young larva, the time to the virgin queen emerging from her queen cell is 12 days or less.  It is this period of Twelve Days that I call queen time!

The best queens are raised from the youngest larva.  They are fed over a longer period with royal jelly by nurse bees intending to raise them as queens.  A queen can be raised from an older larva but they generally will be smaller and less productive.

If you are going to raise queens, it is necessary to mark dates on a calendar so you can remember certain dates.   Such dates as when the young larvae are given to the bees to feed are very importantAny error on dates by the beekeeper could result in a lot of work to get only one queen.

The biology is basically this:
The bees that feed young larva are young bees.  There must be a large number of these young bees available for feeding and building wax.   These bees must have available a large supply of nectar and pollen.  If a nectar flow is not going on at the time the queens are being raised, then the beekeeper must provide sugar syrup or corn syrup generously to stimulate these bees to feed and prepare the queen cells.    The bees will build queen cells if the queen pheromone is not available (queen-less) to them or the hive is crowded (swarming impulse).   And finally, mature drones must be available to mate with the new virgin queens when they are emerging from their cells.

In the next newsletter, we will take these facts, and discuss the various non-grafting methods of raising a few queens.   The following article will concern itself with grafting larva using the Doolittle method and a final article on harvesting queens/mating etc.   By that time, the weather should allow you to start your queen-rearing project.  -- Dana

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Claire's Corner
Wow! Have honeybees made the news of late. Let us hope that a definite cause is realized and soon.

The losses on the Cape appear to be above average, but probably not attributed to this disorder. The winter’s long below-freezing days and nights has taken its toll. Starvation due to the lack of cluster movement seems more noticeable, with even a few cases of later winter nosema. Comparing the location of losses with survivor locations, cranberry bogs are overwhelmingly in the lead. Several conditions exist here that differ from the average backyard. These low-lying areas usually cause excessive moisture in the hive, more condensation, ice and eventually mold. Wind protection is sometimes a problem, but can be negated with wrapping. Most apparent is the number of hive per bog which leads to starvation as there is just not enough foraging to satisfy stores in all placed hives.
Let’s dispel with all the negativity and bring on spring, the best time of the year! New packages, hives building and busting, new beekeepers and dandelions, eyes peering for those black locust blossoms all combine for renewed energy and enthusiasm. And, we will soon have our own Cape Cod Queens!

February’s meeting brought more members into the queen program. In addition to the few who will try queen rearing, we need members with extra equipment and bees to accept queen cells for mating of mated queens. Nucleus colonies need to be made up within a few days notice if all systems work. Consider which over-wintered hive might be split  and watch their stores. Feed pollen and sugar syrup. Also, who might be nearby to saturate your area with drones.  Of concern here will be the potential for swarming prior to splitting and additional drone brood could increase the mite load. Beehavers beware! This project is not for you.

Looking at the calendar, plans now schedule Jenter intro or queen grafting for the 4th week in May, weather permitting. This will mean that stimulative feeding must begin 3 to 4 weeks earlier of both breeding hives and drone colonies.  Plastic drone comb is not well accepted here on Cape Cod so a few shallow frames will be placed in the brood box. The resulting space should be drawn out as drone comb.  Now, if all systems proceed as planned, queen cells will be harvested shortly after Memorial Day. Cells then can be placed in nucleus colonies made up a day ahead, or used to requeen an existing colony. At this point our Cape Cod Queens will be but a few days from emerging and then fresh eggs in less than 2 weeks. Does it get any better than that!  I am convinced that this is the year, even the weather will cooperate. Bee Ready!   

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We have just received a call from former BCBA President and Secretary Jean Kennedy Johnson who, after keepings bees for over 30 years, has decided to retire her equipment, old and new.  Jean has a long list, including 8-frame copper-top garden hives, as well as enough standard 10-frame equipment for 10 hives, honey jars and a bottling tank. If all this talk of Colony Collapse Disorder has encouraged you to expand your operation, give Jean a call at 508-888-1554

Sandy Wilkins reports that she is “awash” in sheep and chicken manure. If you want any for your garden just contact her at 508-398-4808  and come on over with your shovel and container(s). 

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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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Upcoming Meetings of Interest
Saturday, March  24th, SUNY Albany, NY – Southern Adirondack Beekeepers Assn. – Tom Seeley and Nick Calderone of Cornell University, Maryann Frazier, Penn State Extension, Ann Harmon, VA beekeeper and author, 8 topics, lots of raffle items, good place to meet beekeepers from all over the northeast.  For more info go to

Saturday, April 7th, Topsfield Fairgrounds, Topsfield, MA – Dr. Dewey Caron, Professor of Entomology, Univ of Delaware, speaking on the 2007 Bee Loss Epidemic and an IPM Approach to Mite Control; and Dr. Gordon Wardell, USDA ARS, Tucson, AZ, speaking on results of 260-hive study of supplemental bee feeds. For more info, contact Paul Desilets at or go to

Saturday, June 23rd, UMASS Agronomy Farm, South Deerfield, 9 AM to 3:30 PM., hosted by Franklin County Beekeepers Association and The Massachusetts Beekeepers’ Association. Workshops for beginning and experienced

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Package Bees
There are a limited number of packages left. Payment of $65 each is due no later than the March meeting of 3/13. Any not paid by that date will be offered to other members.  Arrival dates will be announced as we get confirmations.   Italian ($15) and Russian Hybrid ($18) Queens from Hardeman Apiaries will be available May 5th. Place your orders with Claire A.S.A.P. 508-888-2304

Nucleus Colonies
We have had numerous inquiries for nucleus colonies. We list here sources of nucs. Transportation is your own.

Merrimack Valley Apiaries, Billerica, 978-667-5380,
Warm Colors Apiary, So Deerfield, 413-665-4513,


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We are desperate for videos for our 32 “newbees”. If you have a copy of “A Year in the life of an Apiary”, (big green, two-tape one), please return it to the next meeting, or mail it to us at P O Box 808, E Sandwich, 02537. There are still three copies out there that are way overdue.

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Pollinator Plant Sale
Keep Saturday, May 19th, 2007 in mind as those seed catalogs begin to trickle in. Burpee was the first to arrive. There is always a demand for a good tomato  It’s almost time to start your seeds, isn’t it.

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Seasonal Tip
This may be the most critical time for your hive, check stores by hefting the hive to gauge its weight. Continue to feed fondant until the weather breaks and the bees can get some daily flight time. At that time, you may begin to feed 1:1 sugar syrup.

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Colony Collapse Disorder
This buzzword is on many lips of late. I started reading about the “Fall Dwindle Disease” that was vexing Florida beekeepers back in late October or early November. Watched its progression, via the Bee-L discussion group thru Georgia, Pennsylvania, and on into California, the land of big-buck almond pollination. As of the American Bee Journal that just arrived, beekeeping operations in more than 25 states have been affected.

Maryann Frazier, Penn State apiary extension associate, was quoted as saying that “during the last three months of 2006, we began to receive reports from commercial beekeepers of an alarming number of honey bee colonies dying in the eastern United States. Since the beginning of the year, beekeepers from all over the country have been reporting unprecedented losses.”

A working group of university faculty researchers, state regulatory officials, cooperative extension educators and industry representatives is working to identify the cause or causes of Colony Collapse Disorder and to develop management strategies and recommendations for beekeepers. Participating organizations include Penn State, the U.S.D.A., the agriculture departments in Pennsylvania and Florida, and Bee Alert Technology, Inc., a technology transfer company affiliated with the University of Montana.

back to top Last updated 03/07/07