Current Newsletter
Archived Newsletters

Buzz Words - November 2013

Next Meeting
Tuesday, November 12th, 2013, 7:30 p.m. at the West Barnstable Community Building on Route 149, approximately ½ mile north of the Mid Cape Highway, large room.

We welcome back Sam Comfort, the TOP BAR HIVE guru, of New York. His presentation is always fun and informative. Although a very laid back beekeeper, what he has to offer will help get your top bar hives through the winter. For more information you can go to

As always, sweets and treats are welcome.

From the President
As president of the BCBA, my name and contact information are at the top of the list of officers on the website and the newsletter. What that means is that I am often the “first responder” to calls from beekeepers and non beekeepers. Some questions are well posed regarding swarms, wasps, overwintering, dying hives and the like and deserve a thoughtful response. Others seem not as well thought out and have more of a dilettante feeling. While I am more than happy to respond to all inquiries as best I can, I am frequently short on both the time and the knowledge required. To my aid however, are two resources. First, my wife, who has never donned a bee suit, attended a beekeeping class, or peeked into my hives, seems to have somehow vicariously absorbed much knowledge and does a first class job at triaging things. Second, there are numerous board members with far more knowledge than I and to whom I readily refer many of the thoughtful calls.

Well, that being said, an article titled “His firm helps keep Boston buzzing” in yesterday’s Sunday Globe caught my eye. The company, the Best Bees Co., provides beekeeping services to urban residences and businesses. They deliver, install and currently manage 200 hives around Boston. In this way customers have access to very local honey and support the role of bees as pollinators without even opening up the hive if they prefer not to. A concierge bee service! While what the BCBA offers is not quite concierge, nor is it intended to be nor should it be, our classes, monthly meetings, hive openings, bulk ordering of equipment and bees, local queen raising, mentoring, and access to “first responders,” are not a bad alternative. But at the same time, maybe there is room for a concierge service here as well.

—John Beach

back to top

Check Out Club Member Blogs

Julie Lipkin @

BCBA discussion group -

back to top

Upcoming Meetings of Note
Saturday, Nov. 16, at the Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, MA
Speakers will be Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture, and Larry Connor of Wicwas Press.
Pollination of crops will be the theme
Schedule is available on the website

The Buzz About Pollinators
A Workshop Exploring the Importance of Pollinators, Threats to Native Species, and Potential Conservation Strategies
Wednesday, November 13, 2013 • 9:00AM - 2:00PM
Waquoit Bay Reserve Visitor Center
131 Waquoit Highway, Waquoit
For more information Contact Tonna-Marie Rogers at or 508-457-0495 ext 110.

back to top

Seasonal Tips

  • If your hive lacks sufficient winter stores, feed only solid carbs
  • When we get snow, be sure to clear off the landing board so that bees can make cleansing flights.
  • Remove mouse guard, clean out dead bees for better ventilation and to give bees space for cleansing flights when the weather warms
  • Dead or Alive? With an ear on top hive body, give it a sharp rap and listen for buzzing
  • Repair used equipment, or build and paint new equipment for April’s bees The Club will maintain its current store of equipment for members of BCBA in good standing. Call Claire at 508-888-2304 for availability and prices. (but NOT at 6pm before a meeting)

back to top

Consider Winter Feeding
Ideally, our hives here on the Cape should be chock full of stores (nearly 10 deep frames of honey/nectar in TOP deep) come late October. The hive should be difficult to heft from the back. Too often this is not the case. And to find a dead hive lost to starvation come March is very sad and should not be the norm.

As a rule, sugar syrup (2:1) should not be fed to the hive from mid-October to late March. Lack of time to cure the syrup and too much moisture in the hive can cause dysentery. Below are a number of options for winter feeding. The fondant or sugar sheets are laid on the top of the frames directly over the cluster. If needed in an extended cold period where the bees cannot break cluster to reach stores, the bees will have this supplemental feeding readily available.

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

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

back to top

The Cape Bee
What you say, is the Cape Bee? Well, as you know, a group of members has been gathering over the past season at the Cape Cod Organic Farm to take the former queen rearing grant to another dimension. We felt the use of “queen breeders” did not fit the direction the program was taking, thus the project is now known as “The Cape Bee”. Each month, either in the newsletter or at a dedicated meeting, we plan on updating you on the progress. The goal is to educate you on the ease of creating a nuc and providing locally raised queens or cells to head that nucleus colony. And quite directly should prevent that overwintered hive from swarming. A brief synopsis follows as to the direction this dedicated group is considering.

Propagating The Cape Bee. As we propagate better queens from selected breeder queens, we see three alternative ways of spreading their improved genetics within the Cape honey bee population: 1) selling queen cells for beekeepers to install in their own colony splits, 2) splitting BCBA colonies for sale of nucs in mid-summer headed by local queens (as done this year), and 3) selling these same nucs in spring after they have survived the winter. Given past experience, the second alternative was considered least likely to succeed; therefore, we will concentrate on producing and selling queen cells and over-wintered nucs. For the long-term success of the program, the best performing queens will not be sold, but will be retained by BCBA for future breeding. We will attempt to place all other high-performing queens with experienced beekeepers.

Currently, we have 10 hives, most in double deeps, to overwinter. Next fall, we hope to double that number. Those successfully making it through until spring, will be split and more nucleus colonies created. The plan is to add 15 more hives from packages in April. All of the new nucs will be given locally raised queen cells when the weather permits. And we welcome more of you into this project. Exciting times – stay tuned!

back to top

To a bee, no two flowers smell quite the same. When honeybees forage for flowers, they search for, learn, and memorize distinctive floral scents and return to the hive to tell other bees what they’ve found. According to a new study published in Scientific Reports, the bees sense of smell is being disrupted by one of the most pervasive forms of air pollution, diesel exhaust. The research pinpoints the mechanism by which the fuel-combustion pollutants degrade certain chemicals in floral odors. The absence of those chemicals affects honeybees’ ability to recognize the scent. Engine exhaust is not the only threat facing the honeybee. Exposure to multiple pesticides can impair bees’ olfactory skills, while ground-level ozone, or smog, and ultraviolet (UV) radiation can also degrade floral odor compounds that bees pick up on. The new study offers insight into the specific hazard for pollinators from the fumes from cars, trucks, trains, ships, and heavy machinery. Significantly, the study indicates that honeybees haven’t been helped by the "cleaner" diesel now used in Europe and the United States due to regulations that over the past decade removed sulfur from the fuel. The researchers used ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel in their experiment.

Thousands of chemical compounds contribute to flower odors, so honeybees (Apis mellifera) need a discerning sense of smell. Odor cues can tell bees which flowers have the most nutritious nectar and pollen for harvesting. The new study provides evidence of how the exhaust actually changed the chemical composition of the odors. Using an odor palette from a common target for honeybees, oilseed rape flowers (Brassica napus), a research team at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom exposed the compounds to diesel fumes from a generator fueled by ultra-low-sulfur diesel. Almost immediately, the diesel fumes started breaking down two of the flower odor compounds: farnesene and terpinene. After training honeybees recognize the flower scent, the researchers removed both degraded compounds from the mix. Even a small change in one of the very minor constituents of the mixture caused a major change in the responsiveness of the bee to the smell.

The researchers said one component of diesel exhaust takes the blame for this degradation: NOx gases, compounds that contain both nitrogen and oxygen, reacting with volatile floral odors. Although the scientists used diesel fuel, which powers the majority of cars in Europe and nearly all heavy vehicles around the world, NOx gases also are emitted by gasoline, or petrol, and even alternative fuels like biodiesel and ethanol. Both the US & EU use nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels as a proxy for all NOx gases and have set limits for the amount of NO2 in the air, but not for nitric oxide (NO) levels. Oilseed rape flowers aren’t the sweetest smelling blooms. But, their odors are very well understood, and these two degraded compounds appear to be a key element of odor communication for bees.

Interestingly, the degraded compounds in this experiment were present only at low levels, and removing terpinene by itself led to a significant decline in bee recognition in the experiment. The researchers’ next step is to look at the impact of diesel on the honeybee nervous system. The study clearly illustrates that airborne pollution can affect the ability of bees to locate food. While it’s unclear how much impact diesel pollutants might have on pollination, the new study indicates that exhaust should be added to a growing list of known honey bee threats, such as diseases & pesticides.

back to top

Interesting Article
Here is an interesting site to encourage more landowners to plant more native plants around their property to provide more food sources for our honey bees and native pollinators.

back to top

Honey Recipe of the Month
Cranberry Salsa

1 12 oz fresh of frozen cranberries unthawed OR fresh
1 apple core removed, cut in 8ths
½ large red pepper – chunked
½ red onion - chunked
food process med to fine (not too fine) transfer to bowl
½-3/4 c sugar
(optional) up to 1/4cup apple or any juice to keep apples from browning
I have found lately that the sugar seems to eliminate the browning
3 tbsp plus (taste) cilantro chopped (up to ½ a bunch)
2 tbsp chopped pickled jalapeno peppers (or less)
1 tsp grated lime zest (up to ½ to ¾ of a lime zested)

cover, refrig. Better overnight. Keeps several days

Serve with Scoop chips or crackers. Enjoy, Marte Ayers

back to top Last updated 10/2/13