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Buzz Words - November 2010

Next Meeting – Tuesday, NOVEMBER 9th, 7:30 p.m., West Barnstable Community Building, Route 149, West Barnstable. We have a guest speaker this month in the person of Noah Wilson-Rich, a Ph.D. candidate in Biology, studying at Tufts University in Medford. Noah will speak on honeybee immunology and disease resistance. He will also give us the lowdown on current honeybee research around the globe.

Juice/ Cider -- Tom & Beth Nyhan
Nibbles -- Leon Chase & Kate Clemens
Any other contributions will be gratefully scarfed.

From the Board
Seasonal shifts signal varying visitation schedules.
Late summer and fall bring the honeybees back to the garden in droves. Especially abuzz in the early morning and late evening are the Cleome. Although a flower I had never seen listed as a honeybee forage plant three years of observation has led me to believe that the spider flower is one of the lazy bees' favorite sources of nectar. I say lazy bees because I think the girls are primarily interested because the trip is short and the longer burdensome trip to a more intense source can be avoided when the day is warming or waning.

Emerging from the orange trumpets of the velvety squash and pumpkin flowers are the stalwart collectors, they have a bit more work to do to access the juicy parts of this succulent pollen provider while at the same time making way for the stumbling bumble bees that also use this flower as a food source. Early morning may find a honeybee or two just shaking off the lethargy of a too-cold sleep obviously caught out and finding refuge inside one of the protective orange flowers.

The cole crops that have been cut and tended so assiduously during the summer months manage to go to flower even under my watchful eye. The delicate yellow flowers held on the bracts of broccoli make for a nectar source that can persist way into the beginning of winter. Some might be worried that this nectar source provides potential for an unappetizing flavor in the beekeeper’s honey crop but the timing of this food availability is usually when honey supers have been long removed. During a January thaw in the warmer parts of the garden the girls head straight for these pretty, persistent flowers as if they were miniature suns on spring's altar. -- Jan

As I write, I'm taking a break, watching the water come to a boil during my nightly chores, making several batches of 2/1 sugar syrup for my daily morning chores: feeding my hungry hives! Even though I thought I'd kept a watchful eye at the end of summer evaluating my hives for honey surplus, I neglected one of the basic steps of beginning bee keeping: I didn't lift the back of all of my hives, assuming they were all heavy enough with honey stores to make it now that nectar gathering has ended. My 89 year old mentor, Mel Hammond reminds me to heft my hives and I remind my 'new bees' to do the same thing. After weeks of having the entrance reducers on, I made a trip to the hives on Sunday October 24. After not seeing much bee activity at one of the hives, I removed the entrance reducer allowing thousands of dead bees to fall from the hive entrance. Later in the week on a warmer Tuesday, I cleaned out the hive to realize they had starved to death in mid October! Terrible of me!!!  So, this past week, after getting that 'stinging' of finding a dead hive, my work and home life played second fiddle as I ran between appointments to feed the hives whenever I saw an empty feeder; a daily event, my thought was that I'd rather have them have too much food than not enough, so I visited them and fed them daily, sometimes twice/day.

When the low temperatures remain above 45 degrees I'll continue to give them heavy syrup laced with HBH (Honey Bee Healthy), as it's the quickest and most efficient way for my bees can get the highest concentration of sugar with the least amount of conversion. After the temps dip too low, I'll convert to laying a plain piece of newsprint with slits in it over the frames of the top brood box so the bees can eat through the paper to the food source. Sprayed heavily with a diluted sugar syrup, again laced with HBH, evenly spread about 2 lbs of granulated sugar over moistened paper finishing up with another heavy spray of syrup so that it cakes instead of blows away. My bees take about 32 oz. of syrup/day and about 2 lbs. of granulated sugar in 5 days. This little wrinkle I learned at a very informative BCBA (October) meeting. I love my bees. I spent way too much time, energy and $$$ on bees, equipment, sugar and gasoline this past year to take the risk in finding another dead hive to clean out. I'm going to 'bee' diligent on checking all of the weight of my hives, not just looking inside the hive. It's easy monitoring-I don't need to open the hive and I have a very good idea of the honey stores of the colony and can act accordingly. Oh, and I'm going to continue to come to the BCBA meetings-I always take something home that will save a hive. Here's to cleaning out less dead hives and realizing some return from all of the work we do. See you at the next meeting! - Rebecca

I decided to skip our October meeting in favor of heading up to Cambridge to hear a talk that same evening by Cornell biologist Thomas Seeley on the topic of "honeybee democracy" – the title, not incidentally, of his beautiful, fascinating and not-at-all-geeky new book.

Seeley has spent 40 years studying one particular facet of honeybee behavior: the selection process used by springtime swarms for finding a new home. His conclusion (and the conclusion of anyone sitting in that Harvard auditorium that night) is that Apis Mellifera can teach us a lot about building smoothly functioning groups and reaching consensus.

I learned that the waggle dance is used to communicate not only food sources, but also potential new digs. And get this: House-hunting scout bees will generally investigate half a dozen or more possible sites, returning to the swarm to dance out their relative enthusiasm for their survey's potential. Other members of the swarm will respond in kind, dancing out their support or lack thereof. The more zealous the evangelizing scout bee's dance, the more supporters she will attract for her nest selection. Thus, though a swarm may initially be divided among dozens of potential new homes, within 48 hours the break-off colony achieves 100 percent consensus in almost every case.

His findings are intriguing all on their own, but Seeley's passion for his work is contagious, and even apiphobes couldn't help but be captivated by the implications of his research for human social interaction.

My friend Anne-Marie, who's a member of Falmouth's 300 Committee, joined me for the talk and has since spoken with Seeley about coming to the Cape to give a presentation. There is talk of joint sponsorship with the BCBA. I hope this works out: Seeley is completely engaging. – Julie

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Check Out Club Member Blogs

Julie Lipkin @

Mark Marinaccio @

Tamar Haspel @

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Upcoming Meetings
S.N.E.B.A., Saturday, November 20, 2010, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Unitarian Society of New Haven, in Hamden, CT, with a theme of PROACTIVE BEEKEEPING, has the following speakers:

  • Medhat Nasr Ph.D., renowned Alberta Provincial Apiarist, speaking on Practical IPM for Honey Bee Varroa Mites, and Use of Organic Acids in Mite Control
  • David Miksa, Fl Commercial Producer of thousands of Queens annually, on 3 aspects of queen rearing, selection, and queen use
  • Larry Connor, Ph.D., on the following topics: Virgins and 48-hour cells, Insanity Confirmed (setting up a small queen breeding program), and Teaching Beekeeping Teachers
For more info and registration, go to SNEBA.COM

Tuesday, December 14, 2010, B.C.B.A.'s annual Holiday Market, where our members come to showcase (and sell) their wares, be they honey, beeswax candles, knitting's, carvings, etc. Also many delicious treats are brought by our wonderful bakers.

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Feeding Our Hives (In response to many emails received in the past few weeks- CCD)
In the perfect year, we should never have to add a foreign substance to our hives. That would mean that by early September, our honey supers would be removed and extracted, and the top deep be chock full of honey for winter stores. Well, the weather rarely cooperates on Cape Cod. Thus, most years we need to feed the hives from early fall to ensure a healthy wintering outcome.

Before feeding begins, the beekeeper needs to inspect the hive and calculate what stores are available. If you have 8 to 10 full deep frames of capped honey or nectar in the top deep (where the bees will spend the winter) your hive is in good condition; if less, you need to consider feeding. Fall feeding is generally 2 parts sugar to 1 part water. This forms thick syrup that the bees can store for winter use. Continue feeding by any method until the hives are difficult to lift off the hive stand from the back of the bottom board.

Suspend liquid feedings after the first hard frost. The bees will have few opportunities to fly hereafter and will not be able to expel any extra liquid. From this point you could add fondant (recipe elsewhere in newsletter). Don't just throw it in now if they have a healthy amount of stores. Fondant is best reserved for long cold weather spells when the bees will not break that tight cluster to move toward more honey. Then a piece can be placed right over the cluster on the frames.

In years past we relied on blooming Goldenrod for winter stores. Drought dried up most of the nectar this fall. Just remember that stored honey is the better winter food for our workers and not empty calories from cane sugar.

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Claire's Corner
Do you want to have some fun in 2011 with your bees? Buy a customized BCBA Nuc Box for $25 and rally experience more fascinating activities with your bees. These 5-frame nuc boxes have been modified for us by our own Richard Rys and they will be perfect for a number of uses. And they are secure for travel to pick up your new Cape Cod Queen or queen cell.

Use #1 – if your strong hive overwinters successfully, you can be assured come mid-May it will begin building swarm cells. Don't lose your honey crop by letting the bees swarm and frighten your neighbor. As the frames of healthy brood continue to add up, remove a frame or two of capped brood and bees and plop in the nuc box. Also snitch a frame of honey for food. If queens are not available yet, just make sure your frame of brood has some eggs and larva and let your ladies create their own queen. Make sure you replace those brood frames with new undrawn foundation to slow the hive down a bit. And, make sure you fill the 5-frame nuc with frames.

Use #2 – Oh, your hive needs to be requeened? Simply take 2 frames of bees and brood (no, leave the queen home!), place them in the nuc box with a frame of honey and pollen. Place the nuc box on top of the hive to be requeened; field bees will return below and nurse bees will stay and attend to the brood. Twenty-four hours later, add your new queen to the nuc box. Once the new queen is accepted and laying, go below and remove your old queen. Wait twenty-four more hours for the old queen's pheromones to dissipate, then lightly mist the frames and queen with sugar syrup and Honey Bee Healthy and move them into the original hive. A little thought towards frame numbers will be necessary, but the result should be quite positive.

Use #3 – Shame on you! You missed those swarm cells and now half your hive is hanging from a nearby bush. Not to worry, as you now have a nuc box to drop this swarm into. Of course, you will need 5 frames and foundation and will eventually need a complete new hive setup; but, you have prevented neighborhood excitement, or anger, before it settles into a neighborhood chimney. And, if you do not want another hive, just sing out and we will find a member you can sell it to. If you find the swarm cells before the swarm issues from the hive, move the frames with cells to your nuc; add another frame of bees and brood, and see what happens.

Use #4 – For the grant program to be successful, we need members to accept (buy) the queens produced. Make up a nucleus colony of a frame or two of bees and brood from your strong colony and add a queen or cell. Feeding might be necessary, or you could add a frame of honey and pollen. Monitor the buildup and laying pattern. From this point the nuc can then be moved to a single deep hive or used to requeen a failing queen hive.

Use #5 – In late June or early July, with the last batch of CC Queens available, start a nuc with a single frame of bees and brood, a frame of honey and a mix of drawn and undrawn frames. This nucleus of bees and new queen will reside here through the winter with sufficient stores. The purpose here is to replace the hive that does not make it.

There are a number of other uses for these mini hives, which will be available at the November meeting, unless sold out.

Workshops will be provided come good weather in May and June in order that we might all make good use of these nuc boxes. Perhaps we should adopt the former 4-H motto, "We learn by doing".

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Confusion Bee
Got a call yesterday from the Bourne Department of Natural Resources about a bee hive right over a bus stop. There was a concern that the children might be in danger. I calmed the lady who phones and said that, even though it was most likely a wasp nest, I'd go to Sagamore Beach (over the bridge) and check it out. Sure enough, hanging in a large maple tree was the basketball sized nest of the bald faced wasp. If you have had no experience with them, they have a definite attitude. I called the DNR and explained that this nest had been there all summer and caused no one any problems. I also pointed out that this time of year, it is probably empty, the workers dead and the queen already seeking out a home in the leaf litter for the winter. The person on the phone with me was greatly relieved, was amazed that there was even a bee club, let alone that we have bee school. Grateful would be an understatement of what she expressed. Her ignorance of our club's existence demonstrates to me how little we advertise our hobby, the good works we are capable of, and how important beekeeping is. Any ideas as to how we can change this? Sure, we have the bee booth at the County Fair, and we are well known in some circles, but when a town's government isn't aware of us, I worry we aren't doing our job. Push honey bee awareness. -- Andy

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Fondant Candy Recipes

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 2400°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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back to top Last updated 11/09/10