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Buzz Words - March 2013

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013, 7:30 p.m. at the West Barnstable Community Building on Route 149, approximately ½ mile north of the Mid Cape Highway. The general topic of the presentation will be "Slovenia: The Homeland Of The Carniolan Bee." Beekeeping in this region has been recorded as early as 722. Slovenia was part of Austria …… formerly the Austrian state of Carniola until 1918.

Sub topics: 1. Mike Doyle will begin by reviewing the characteristics of the most popular hive used in Slovenia today: the Alberti-Znidersic (AZ) Hive …. using an actual AZ hive.

2. Mark Simonitsch will present his Slovenian photos, courtesy of Andy Morris's projector, of a variety of AZ hive arrangements as devised and used by contemporary Slovenian beekeepers.

3. The AZ hive is the design of choice for use in the unique Slovenian mobile and stationary bee homes. Access to the hive is obtained from a hinged rear door. Frames are easily removed via the rear door of the hive ….. foregoing the need to ever lift the actual hive. AZ hives are carefully constructed to allow for quick, convenient and safe transporting of the hives to different geographic locations of nectar in Slovenia….either in a dedicated truck or on a towed flat trailer.

4. The headquarters of the Slovenian National Beekeeper's Association will be shown: meeting rooms, labs, a restaurant and hotel rooms for tourist-visitors.

5. Mark returns to Slovenia frequently to visit his cousins who continue to live in their ancestral and medieval villages surrounding the almost 1000 year old town of Semic (formerly the Austrian town of Semitsch) in the foothills of the Alps.

6. Although the focus of the presentation will be on the AZ hive ……. members will also enjoy a "Rick Steves" like program featuring unspoiled and rural Slovenia.

From the President
Having been in the BCBA for several years I have met a lot of interesting people and learned some interesting things. However, since becoming the president last year I seem to have become the first responder for numerous issues. In the late spring and summer my place on the masthead seems to make me the first person to contact regarding swarms. Come August, how to harvest the honey, and come late fall, what’s the deal with bee school. Just to let you know, I am not complaining. I like sharing with others and, as you know, there is seldom one right answer which in a certain way makes the task of responding easier. I pass on whatever experiences I have and hopefully that gives the caller some direction.

Come January I assumed the calls would diminish, and they did, until a few Sundays ago. The phone rang and the caller said he was a local club member and his hives had died. Not an uncommon occurrence and one that could be remedied with the ordering of nucs and packages this spring. However, his call had more urgency as he needed the bees now, in January. It seems that he has been practicing apitherapy and that it had proved markedly effective in treating his arthritis. But with dead hives he had no source for treatment and wondered if he might draft a few dozen of my girls. I readily volunteered them and on a warm day he came by and took what he needed.

A few weeks later he called back and asked if he could drop by with a token of appreciation, some homemade lip balm. It certainly was appreciated but, more importantly, it gave me the opportunity to pick his brain a bit about the benefits of asking bees to sting you. Like I said at the outset of this article, one of the benefits of membership in the BCBA is you meet a lot of interesting people and learn a lot of interesting things. This is just one more example.


Upcoming Meetings of Note
The next SABA seminar will be 3/16/13 in Albany.
Speakers will be Adam Finkelstein of VP Queens in MD, Karen Rennich of the Bee Informed Partnership and Jon Zawislak of the University of Arkansas.  Go to for more info. This program has been presented for many years, always has great speakers; and, usually, a chance to dine with the speakers on the previous evening at a local (Albany, NY) restaurant.

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.  Keep your eye on the EAS website for info after January 1st.

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Recipe of the Month
Honey Scones

1¾ cups self-rising flour, plus extra for dusting, a pinch of salt, 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing 1 medium egg, beaten, 2 Tbsp. superfine sugar, 2 Tbsp. honey, ¼ cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 400°F., In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour with the salt, then add the butter and lightly rub it in until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Using a fork, mix in the egg, superfine sugar and honey, then gradually add the milk until you have a stiff dough. Using 1 tsp. each of butter and flour, grease and flour a heavy baking sheet. Roll the dough out on a floured surface to 1 inch thick and then, using a 2½-inch cutter or glass rim dipped in flour, stamp out the scones. You may have to re-roll the dough for the last couple. Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake in the center of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until risen and golden. Remove the scones immediately to a wire rack and cover with a clean towel.

Serve warm, split in half and spread with butter and honey. Makes 12 scones. —Julie

* From “The Beekeeper’s Bible,” by Richard A. Jones and Sharon Sweeney-Lynch

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Claire's Corner
In order to better understand the winter losses across the state, Mass Beekeepers Board of Directors are requesting each county to survey their members. Attached is a simple survey that many of you (10%) have returned. We really wish more will complete and return whether you have losses or have successfully over wintered your hives. These results will be made available in April.

To date there are many reasons for these losses, as expected. Rightfully so, as there are many different management techniques and weather-related situations across the state. One North Shore group is blaming the mosquito spraying done in the fall. Another factor will include the consistent cold weather and subsequent starvation. In most cases both Nosema and Tracheal mites can be excluded. So we are then left with that pesky mite, Varroa destructor. We have heard of some high counts in first year packages. There is reason to believe that viruses from these mites could be increasing the losses.

And then, we are left with poor queens which the club will be attempting to change again this season. Stay tuned, even though our USDA grant has ended, we intend to continue with this project. We will be encouraging members to learn to make their own nucleus colonies, or purchase club produced summer splits with local queens. Your help will be needed!

Our thanks to Darcie Cole for her February presentation. Her products may be purchased at the following locations: Amber Waves, Falmouth; Dennisport Natural Foods; Chatham Natural Foods; and Sativa in Harwichport.

We asked Marte for a recipe or two of her products and she sent them all. They can be found on the back page. I guess she has no fears of competition.

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Bee School
March 7th – Honeybee Pests and Diseases
March 21st – Swarming and Swarm Prevention

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Spring Prep
This sunny morning, with temperatures in the mid 40’s, my better half turned to me asking …”do you think we’ll get any really cold, bitter weather anymore?” I dunno, why? “Well I’m wondering about the need to refill the oil tank…..blah, blah, blah…” I must admit the question made me start to daydream, think about my bees and what the status was of their “oil tank”, or in other words, their food supply! I wondered whether or not todays temps were warm enough to encourage my bees to break their cluster inside the hive in order to reach my bee candy sitting on top of the frames. Time will tell if they made it.

As the calendar approaches March, the days become longer and the sun warms the rooms in my house to above 70 degrees, I count the days until I can really take a good look inside my hives and evaluate once and for all, how many colonies are going to make it until I can begin syrup feeding. Lately, I’ve decided to ‘smell more roses’ to enjoy life and the things around me more, that give me comfort and work a little less and make a day for myself. That means making room in my schedule to devote just for my beekeeping hobby. Last week, I spent a day to work in my bee room in the basement to put together deep and medium frames and add foundation, set up shallow frames for honey comb production, make a batch of beeswax candles, and take inventory of what I’ll need in order to be ready once the bee season is upon me. It was one of the most pleasurable days I’ve had in a long time and almost gave me the same amount of satisfaction as the results of Spring Cleaning, but a lot more fun! This year, unlike last year, I hope to be better prepared with frames at the ready, boxes repaired and painted, new bee sites found, and hopefully a number of hives “boiling over” with numbers, buzzing to be split! Crossing my fingers for sunny days to come in the high 40’s! - Rebecca

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Bees Needed for Apitherapy
If any of you use bees for apitherapy for yourselves, I just received a request from a lady in Brewster that is looking for a local source. If willing to supply, contact Cathy at 508-280-5670.

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Pollinator Plant Sale
Saturday, May 18th 2013
MeetingHouse Farms, Route 149, West Barnstable

As those seed catalogs arrive in your mailbox, consider adding a few extra pots of tomatoes, herbs, and annuals. In the past, the proceeds have been donated to Meetinghouse Farm educational fund and to the Eastern Apicutural Society’s Honey Bee Research Fund. Leslie

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Annual Elections
As April approaches, so do our annual elections. Many of our board members and officers have agreed to serve another year. There will be a few positions available on the board if anyone wishes to volunteer. Nominations will also be accepted from the floor in April. The board meets but 3 to 4 times a year to plan the programs.

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Check Out Club Member Blogs

Julie Lipkin @

Tamar Haspel @

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Seasonal Hints/Tips

  • This is a critical time for food reserves. Continue solid carbs until the weather breaks in late March. A 2 to 1 sugar syrup can be served when consecutive flying days exist. Excess liquid must be expelled from the hive or dysentery disaster will visit the colony. Consecutive days of 500 weather will resolve this issue.
  • Switch to 1:1 sugar syrup by early April. If needed, pollen patties can be fed; but, be aware that Small Hive Beetles love them! Feed no more than ¼ to ½ patties so bees will finish them, keeping SHB larva to a minimum. Continue with a pollen substitute until local pollen is available.

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Methods of Winter Feeding

Mountain Camp Feeding – from Kelley Bee News (Nov 2011)

  • Use 1 or 2 inch spacer placed directly on top brood box
  • Add 2 sheets of newspaper directly on frames (leave 1/3 of frames exposed)
  • Mist paper with water spray or sugar syrup
  • Dump 1-2# sugar on paper and mist sugar to clump, repeat sugar and spray once more
  • Misting sugar to clump will keep bees from carrying it out as a foreign material
  • Condensation from cluster heat will be absorbed by newspaper
  • If bees have not used all sugar by spring, use it to make first batch of 1:1 syrup

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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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Rhode Island Brick Method
Mix 5 lbs. Sugar with 1 cup water in an aluminum throwaway cake pan, (approx 9X13) 1.5 inch thick. Let sit for 3 to 4 days when it will be like a brick. It can be fed in pieces if it breaks using a 2” shim placed on top of the brood frames.

Courtesy of the RIBA newsletter.

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Rhode Island Brick Method
Insects (ISSN 2075-4450), the open access journal of entomology, published a special Honey Bee Issue in 2012. While the articles focused mostly on molecular mechanisms regulatinghoney bee social behavior and health, the results are useful to backyard beekeepers. Since we have had a queen rearing program the results of a study on The Effects of Pesticides on Queen Rearing and Virus Titers in Honey Bees (Apis mellifera L.) might explain a few of our problems. They studied the effects of sublethal pesticide exposure on queen emergence and virus titer. Queen rearing colonies were fed pollen with chlorpyrifos (CPF) alone (pollen-1) and with CPF and the fungicide Pristine® (pollen-2). The results suggest that sublethal exposure of CPF alone but especially when Pristine® is added reduces queen emergence possibly due to compromised immunity in developing queens. This reinforces previous studies that measured levels of different toxic substances each below levels considered harmful, when occurring together can be toxic. Now if we can just teach our girls to only visit organic gardens!

Another article concerned the Small hive beetle, Aethina tumida, an invasive pest of honey bees. Indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa, that has now become established in North America and Australia. It represents a serious threat to European honey bees. Commercially available biocontrol agents were screened for their potential to control beetle larvae. The fungi investigated had minimal impact, but the nematodes Steinernema kraussei and S. carpocapsae provided excellent control with 100% mortality of larvae being obtained. Sequential applications of the nematodes following larvae entering sand to pupate also provided excellent control for up to 3 weeks. Since 2006, beekeepers have reported increased losses of Apis mellifera colonies, and one factor that has been potentially implicated in these losses is the microsporidian Nosema ceranae. Since N. ceranae is a fairly recently discovered parasite, there is little knowledge of the variation in infection levels among individual workers within a colony. In this study they examined the levels of infection in individual bees from five colonies over three seasons using both spore counting and quantitative real-time PCR. The results show considerable intra-colony variation in infection intensity among individual workers with a higher percentage of low-level infections detected by PCR than by spore counting. Colonies generally had the highest percentage of infected bees in early summer (June) and the lowest levels in the fall (September). Nosema apis was detected in only 16/705 bees (2.3%) and always as a low-level co-infection with N. ceranae. The results also indicate that intra-colony variation in infection levels could influence the accuracy of Nosema diagnosis.

Also interesting was a study of flight & aging on our girls. Honey bees move through a series of in-hive tasks (e.g., “nursing”) to outside tasks (e.g., “foraging”) that occur with both physiological changes and higher levels of metabolic activity. Social context can cause worker bees to speed up or slow down this process, and foragers may revert back to their earlier in-hive tasks accompanied by reversion to earlier physiological states. They investigated the effects of flight, behavioral state and age as triggers. Brain tissue and flight muscle changed during behavioral transitions, with expression patterns in the brain reflecting both age and behavior, and expression patterns in flight muscle being primarily determined by age. Their data suggest that the transition from behaviors requiring little to no flight (nursing) to those requiring prolonged flight bouts (foraging), rather than the amount of previous flight per se, is the trigger. The time a newly hatched worker spends as a nurse bee depends on the hives food needs. In strong hives they will remain as nurse bees longer, when they do transition to foragers & begin flying their immune systems also function at a higher level. If the hive develops a need for more nurse bees, foragers will revert back to nurse duties but show continued heightened immune function. So exercise seems to stimulate the bees immune system as it does for us! You can access the journal & read the complete articles as well as others at

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Rhode Island Brick Method
Goal: Learn where in North America bees are infected by Zombie Flies

Task: Collect honey bees; report easy-to-spot signs of infection.

ZomBee Watch is a citizen science project sponsored by the San Francisco State University Department of Biology, the San Francisco State University Center for Computing for Life Sciences and the Natural History Museum of LA County. ZomBee Watch was initiated as a follow-up to the discovery that the Zombie Fly Apocephalus borealis is parasitizing honey bees in California and possibly other areas of North America.

ZomBee Watch has three main goals.

  1. To determine where in North America the Zombie Fly Apocephalus borealis is parasitizing honey bees.
  2. To determine how often honey bees leave their hives at night, even if they are not parasitized by the Zombie Fly.
  3. To engage citizen scientists in making a significant contribution to knowledge about honey bees and to become better observers of nature.

We need your help finding out where honey bees are being parasitized by the Zombie Fly and how big a threat the fly is to honey bees. So far, the Zombie Fly has been found parasitizing honey bees in California and South Dakota. We are teaming up with citizen scientists (like you!) to determine if the fly has spread to honey bees across North America.

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2013 Spring Bees
Club packages and Nucleus colonies are sold out; but, if you have delayed checking your bees and you find a loss, you may contact Claire for possible sources. But, the longer you wait, the poorer your chances, as these sources will also run out.

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Interesting Websites
This is a link to a good recent article if you haven't seen it already: 

Thought the club would be interested in this --  Tom Novitsky

back to top Last updated 3/28/13