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Buzz Words - May 2015

May Meeting
The club’s next meeting is Tuesday, May 12, at 7:30 p.m. at the West Barnstable Community Building, Route 149, West Barnstable. Dr. Stephen M. Rich, microbiology professor and director of the Laboratory of Medical Zoology at UMass Amherst, will share his latest research about ticks and what’s being seen on the Cape and Islands. Refreshments will be served; donations of sweets and treats gratefully accepted.

From the Board
May is swarm watch time for overwintered hives. The season may be a little later this year because of the cold start, but check those hives weekly to monitor the number of frames of brood in each brood box. I start to really watch closely when I have 10 frames out of the 20 frames containing capped and open brood. It is time to think about removing a couple frames (shortly) and start a second hive in a five-frame nuc box. You could use a divider in a 10-frame brood box if you are a handy left-handed carpenter; the bees don’t care as long as it’s half a hive. It’s easier to keep guarded and warm. Close off part of the entrance.

Place at least one frame with eggs and “baby” larvae in this new hive with a frame of nectar/honey and some pollen. This is the bare minimum of frames – use more of each if you have them. Two frames of brood and two frames of pollen/nectar/honey. And last, one frame of preferably drawn comb. This make the five-frame nuc. You may have to remove more frames in a week if the queen is still in the main hive and filling up more frames. You add foundation or drawn comb frames in the center of the hive, where the queen usually starts her laying.

You want to add the frames with attached bees; then shake another frame or two of bees into the nuc box. The idea is all the field bees will go back to the original (parent) hive and you will be left with only nurse bees. You need more bees to cover the brood to keep it warm. They will raise their own queen, or you can buy a queen. If you have the queen on one of those new nuc frames, the parent hive will raise its own queen. You have created a swarm effect without losing half the hive. Make a shim to fit the top and add syrup baggies on top of the inner cover. You make a slit in the bag after it is in place.

You will know in a week which one has new larva from the queen laying and which one has more capped brood or queen cells started. I would not check before a week to let everything settle down. There are other ways to split a hive, but this is the easiest if you are OK with the possibility of your queen being in the nuc and retaining the workforce in the main hive for honey production. This also interrupts the brood cycle of the mites in the main hive. A good IPM (Integrated Pest Management) option.

You can split the hive in half, placing the second box on its own bottom board with covers. Wait a week to see where the new larvae from the queen are located. Feed the other hive, as all the field workers will be in the original hive. As usual, there is more than one way to split a hive to prevent swarming. We expect you to do some research on your own. The CLAMS system at the Cape libraries is a great way to request a book from another library. Our club has donated a lot of bee material over the years. You can also research the Doolittle method of splitting a hive. Here is one article.


—Marte Ayers

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Spring Hive Openings
On Saturday, May 16, at 9 a.m. (rain date May 30), no matter where you are on Cape Cod, a workshop/hive opening for newbees and experienced beekeepers alike will be happening. These events offer a chance to see what is going on inside the hive and have it all explained by a veteran beekeeper. Events are scheduled at the following locations:

  • East Falmouth (run by Marte Ayers, at Soares Nursery, 1021 Sandwich Road, Hatchville. Location is ½ mile south of intersection of Route 151 and Sandwich Road. Drive between the two greenhouses. Please park behind greenhouses, not in customer lot.
  • Brewster (run by George Muhlebach, at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, 869 Route 6A, Brewster across the street from the museum.
  • Wellfleet (run by John Portnoy, at 60 Narrowland Road. From the south, take Route 6A into Wellfleet and pass along all the turnoffs for Wellfleet Center and Harbor. Opposite Moby Dick Restaurant, turn east (right) onto Gull Pond Road. Travel ½ 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 Road (homemade sign). We are second house on left about 200 meters just before you hit the power lines.
  • Barnstable (run by Claire Desilets, at the Cape Cod Organic Farm, 3675 Route 6A. Proceed to top of hill by offices, bear to the right and park near big red barn and on grass behind garages. Please be kind to the area and property, not driving over agricultural species, and be sure to wear protective clothing (veils, etc.), as this will be a hands-on affair.

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Tips for May
Newbees: Your queen should be out and laying small patches into that newly drawn comb. Beautiful sight, isn’t it? Make sure that the feeding pail does not run empty. The workers need to keep ahead of the queen by making new cells. The sugar syrup (1:1) and nectar will encourage the bees to produce wax so the bees can draw the cells.

Overwintered hives: Now that dandelions are out (two weeks late?) and warmer weather has arrived, deeps can be rotated. Do not forget to clean that bottom board. Wire brushes work well to clean the screen of debris (Home Depot $3.19 in paint department).

Still a bit too early to make a split, but if your overwintered hive is very strong, you might consider adding a third deep/medium until late May when mature drones will have arrived. The last thing you want is to experience a swarm and lose that hardy overwintered queen. As the season progresses, the Cape Bee project will focus on making splits or nucs, the hows and whys. Ideally, most of our apiaries should have a five-frame nuc on site in the event of the loss of a queen. And do not forget those honey shallows come mid- to late May on the strongest hives.

—Claire Desilets

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Does Simplified Installation Method Work?
I tried a new installation method this year that BCBA members were talking about on Facebook: The one from Beaman’s Fork where you put the open package into the deep super instead of shaking the bees onto the frames. Follow the link to see a demonstration video of this method.

In theory, it’s supposed to be gentler for the bees (less shaking). The trick is getting back into the hive the following day to remove the box and add the missing frames.

I installed my package on Saturday around 6 p.m. The installation went smoothly and is definitely less dramatic than the shaking method (my audience was a little disappointed). I went back in on Sunday at 1 p.m. (sunny with a little breeze), and most of the bees were out of the box. The queen was still in her cage. No burr comb. I shook out the remaining bees and added the frames. On the surface, it seems like a good method, but I am a bit concerned that the bees weren’t yet acting like a colony and I’m hoping that my visit on Sunday did not upset their transition too much. A lot of bees left the hive when I opened it (more than usual - like they didn’t have jobs to focus on yet) and landed nearby. Additionally, there were several dozen bearding on the underside of the inner cover that, in hindsight, I should have brushed into the hive before removing the cover. Instead I gently placed it on top of the second deep on the lawn. Those bees ended up in the grass and they seemed very confused about what they should be doing and did not seem to “know” where home was. After watching them mill around for 10 minutes I started trying to collect them on the brush and put them back into the hive. I’m not sure if the confusion on Sunday was worth the gentler installation method. I’ll report back on hive status.

—Melissa Sanderson

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Barnstable County Fair - July 20-26, 2015
Just a reminder to mark your calendar for this year’s fair. I will have my spreadsheet at the May 12 meeting with the shift schedule worked out for signups. I realize it is early, but many of us plan way ahead in our busy schedules. If you already know when you can work a shift, it would be great for you to sign up early (for ME!!!). Also, I might not be available that week (no, it’s not a vacation) so I might need help with the opening day and closings at night. Contact me @ or 508-274-8754.

For the newbees, we have a building at the fairgrounds where we sell our honey and other products from the hive. We split the day into usually three-hour shifts to man the booth. You receive free parking and free entrance for the whole day to peruse the grounds before or after your shift and take advantage of all the fair offers. I always make sure a veteran is with the newbees just for procedures in the booth - not for the questions. You already know more than the public. The majority of the questions are “where is the queen” in the observation hive? The kids are great at finding her (young eyes)!

It’s always fun and interesting. During the slow times we ask each other for advice on beekeeping, of course. If you sell something in the booth, you must work a shift. We will determine the honey selling price on the Sunday, July 12, at the “work day” preparing the site for opening. We charged $9/pound the past couple years. It’s a great way to sell your honey at a nice price. More details in the June or July newsletter.

—Marte Ayers

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Beekeeping the Slovenian Way
Yes, the Slovenian way – I don’t know it yet, but I’m about to find out. As I compile this newsletter I have just returned from Rhode Island, where I purchased three packages, one of which will be installed tomorrow morning in the new AZ hive purchased from Mark Simonitsch. You may remember from his presentations to the club that Mark – who has family in Slovenia – arranged to import a container of Slovenian hives. They arrived late last month, and I’m about to give it a try. I feel as if I have a prized piece of furniture sitting in my garden. If it’s half as effective as it is beautiful, I have at least one package of very lucky bees.

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Way Cool Video
This YouTube video on the life cycle of the honeybee and the life cycle of the varroa mite, presented by entomologist Jeffrey Harris of the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, is definitely worth 10½ minutes of your time.

—Board of directors

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Recipe of the Month
Honeybee cocktail*

2 ounces Jamaican dark rum
¼ ounce honey
½ ounce lemon juice

Pour the rum, honey and lemon juice into a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice cubes. Shake well, strain into a cocktail glass, and serve.

* Recipe reprinted from

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