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Buzz Words - November 2011

Tuesday, November 15th, the THIRD TUESDAY due to Barnstable election day, 7:30 p.m., West Barnstable Community Building
Route 149 & Lombard Rd, West Barnstable
George Muhlebach will lead us in a discussion on Top Bar Hives. With a healthy number of members having started TBH’s this season, we would like all to share what we have learned, some of the pitfalls encountered, and ideas on winterizing. Hopefully everyone will take the time to read the article on Top Bar Hives that is attached as this is an indepth summary on Top Bar Hives contributed by a very experienced beekeeper from New York.
» View Top Bar Hive article (pdf)

From the President

crossing the traffic hurtling towards you to turn into Joe and Ann's driveway off Route 28 is an act of bravery.  the steady stream of trucks, passenger vehicles and hot rods is loud, aggressive and a constant reminder of our lives in the fast lane.
worth the turn every time is the oasis that greets as a farm materializes out of the midst of this vehicular madness. a dell encircled by an old wooden sloop up on jacks, a hoop house, an outhouse, a flower and water garden, a trellis with grape vines displaying fall-ripened grapes and a river bounding one side of the scene. beyond up on the hill are the strawberries, asparagus and raspberries. nestled near, the girls.

the smoke curling up from the smoker in the back of the truck reminds me of the road inferno one minute and my intentions the next.  going to check, feed and generally cosset the farm's newest denizens. accompanied by the next to the newest members of the farm, the kittens, and the oldest member, Joe, the serenity architect.   --   Jan

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Check Out Club Member Blogs

Julie Lipkin @

Mark Marinaccio @

Tamar Haspel @

Disovery Magazine has compiled nearly 50 articles relating to issues and challenges facing bees. They can be read at:

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Fall Harvest Festival
It was not the most successful that we have had, but Saturday’s wet and wild weather did not help.  The club did make a few dollars from honeystix and honey candy sales, as did those members that brought honey.  This is always a good sales venue as folks are looking for local.

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Priority Tips for Wintering

  1. Windbreak
    • Natural Tree line
    • Tarpaper Wrap vStraw bales or Burlap Bags (available from coffee roasters)
  2. Ventilation
    • screened entrance (mouse guard) for lower air flow
    • top ventilation – use spacer between inner & outer covers
  3. Stores – feeding
    • late winter – add dry sugar or fondant directly on frames

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Upcoming Meetings
November 19, 2011
Southern New England Assembly of Beekeepers, East Lyme CT. for details
Saturday, March 31, 2012
at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, BCBA will present Tom Seeley, author of Honey Bee Democracy for you listening enjoyment.

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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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Organic Honey is a sweet illusion By Alex Wild, Scientific American, August 11, 2011
As a follow up on a recent email sent out regarding Brazilian Honey sitting on local supermarket shelves wearing a USDA Certified Organic" label, Julie provides us with this informative article.

Worker bees ripen honey by adding digestive enzymes to nectar, heating the solution to detoxify plant defensive compounds, and evaporating off excess water. Forgive the off-topic post, but today is Food Day here at Scientific American. As I teach a university beekeeping class, I'd like to talk about honey.

Considering the revered place of honey as the oldest natural sweetener, and considering that its insect makers- honey bees- are highly intolerant of pesticides, you might think honey would be the easiest food crop to produce for the "organic" food market. But you'd be wrong. The long reach of the super organism: a typical foraging radius of a honey bee colony normally stays within five kilometers of the hive (marked by the red circle), but during times of dearth bees will fly more than twice as far in search of resources.

Honey is floral nectar cooked down into a thick carbohydrate soup. How many flowers are needed to make honey? A lot. More than most of us can easily comprehend. To survive a year, a single colony brings in about 250 pounds of nectar- an astounding weight for a small insect. It's not as though individual flowers are generous with nectar, either. Most yield just the smallest of droplets. A standard jar of honey from the supermarket requires bees to make a million flower visits. A colony might produce 50 to 100 such jars per year.

Thus, a colony's foragers cover a staggering amount of territory. Because bees are furry, statically attractive little animals (useful for pollen collection), their bodies readily gather all sorts of environmental particles. Any agrochemical applied anywhere within a colony's extensive reach can end up back in the hive. Since beekeepers don't own the tens of thousands of acres surrounding their hives, they have no control over what their bees are bringing home.

Organic honey isn't impossible. It's just beyond of the ability of most beekeepers. Bee yards situated in isolated spots deep in the Adirondacks, or mountain valleys in sparsely-populated New Mexico, can probably pull off honey free of agrochemicals. Most beekeepers operate within a bee's flight of pesticides, however, making "organic" honey an illusory proposition.

Then there is a second, more insidious problem. The hydrocarbon chains of beeswax itself retain certain pesticides, including those used by conventional beekeepers against the ubiquitous Varroa mite. Over time pesticide residues accumulate in the combs, so chemicals linger or build for years beyond the original applications. By itself this might not present a problem for aspiring organic beekeepers, except that beekeepers routinely buy and sell wax as starter comb. A recent survey of pesticides in commercially-available beeswax recorded an astounding 98% of samples contaminated with miticides. An organic beekeeper who refrains from chemical pest control and situates her hives somewhere off in the wilderness is still going to have pesticide contamination unless she also abstains from using the omnipresent (and very useful) wax starter foundation.

Certainly some of the honey labeled as "organic" may actually lack pesticide traces. But I'd not count on it. None of the certification protocols take into account the newly-documented problem of wax contamination, and most underestimate the real foraging radius of a large bee colony. As to whether agrochemical-free honey is significantly healthier for humans, that's a contentious debate I'm all too happy to sidestep.

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Claire's Corner
The majority of our members perhaps do not realize that Massachusetts has had an apiary inspection program. This program formerly came under the direction of the Department of Agriculture and now is umbrellaed with the Department of Agricultural Resources. Going back 12 to 15 years ago, Barnstable County had an assigned inspector. With cutbacks in government that followed, the state had but a single seasonal county inspector (Worcester) and a lead inspector (Al Carl) in Boston. Both were made available for total state coverage if requested.

Come the spring of 2011 state cutbacks eliminated the inspection program. Not only lacking state monies, but the program had become a "hand holding" affair. Yes, education should be a part of inspections, but individual county organizations, their bee schools and assigned mentors should be more instructive.

Why did we or do we need a bee inspector? The program was established to prevent the spread of American Foulbrood, a major disease with more severe implications than CCD. Equipment and bees would need to be burned. At this point, the only medication, Terramycin, has become ineffective for treatment. AFB is the evil that we know, what would happen if we get the evil we don't know?

And what is the next step? A few of us met this week with state and Mass Farm Bureau members. After much discussion, the MFB Apiary Advisory Committee will draft a resolution to continue with a state inspection program. Most beekeepers are now concerned with Varroa destructor, but at any time AFB can rear its ugly head and much would be lost.

Part of this discussion at Mass Farm Bureau was directed toward educating beekeepers, with less emphasis on inspection. The individual counties and their bee schools need to provide more information and workshops on diseases. It would also be constructive if all members wrote to their local representatives to emphasize the need for this inspection program to continue. There is the fear that as the state inspector nears retirement, all will be lost. One important fact is that migratory hives coming into Massachusetts for pollination are inspected before leaving their respective states. And, the cost for a seasonal inspector (May through October) would be around $10,000 and includes salary, mileage and insurance costs.

As winter sets in and the bees are clustering with the cold, every BCBA beekeeper, newbee, and beekeeper-to-be should read up on pests and diseases. Learn good Integrated Pest Management and make a resolution that you will do Varroa mite counts. Promise yourself that you will check your hive every 10 to 12 days in the spring and early summer for queen right, good brood pattern, pollen and nectar stores and lack of disease. If you cannot overcome the fear of getting stung when opening your hive on a regular schedule, then sell it!

We no longer want to hear that your hive died in late summer or early fall when no inspections have been done and you have no idea of your Varroa level. Just peeking in under the inner cover to see if you have bees is NOT an inspection. Pulling frames and checking brood pattern is critical. And feeding syrup or fondant needs to be done on a timely basis. The association also has an obligation. We must provide more workshops and hive openings, and include more members in and continue with more enthusiasm our queen rearing project.

I was in Manhattan over the weekend and happened to spy a honeybee inadvisably trolling the sidewalk on West End Avenue. I picked her up and petted her, inquired of her travels, and gently placed her on a window ledge where she wouldn't be stepped on. I imagined she was a beneficiary of New York City's newly enlightened attitude toward beekeeping, but perhaps, after all, she was just a wild and crazy Central Park gal groovin' on breeze off the Hudson River. -- Julie

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Top Bar Hive Enthusiasts
Gold Star Honeybees -

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Hive Equipment
Just a note that the club maintains an inventory of equipment for members who look to expand, or to replace older equipment. We have purchased a larger than normal quantity of deep frames and foundation if you are looking to replace any over the winter months. Just email us or call for a price list and we can email it to you…….

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GOT HONEY???? NEED JARS????? Call Ed Osmun, 508-802-0509 to order your glassware. Ed has ½, 1 & 2 pound Classic Honey Jars in stock. Sold in case lots only.

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