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Buzz Words - November 2014

November Meeting
Tim Friary, owner and operator of Cape Cod Organic Farm in Barnstable, will speak at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, November 11 (yes, that is Veterans Day) in the West Barnstable Community Building on Route 149 in West Barnstable. The CCOF is, of course, where the club keeps the hives for its Cape Bee project, but it is also fresh off its best growing year ever (according to an article last month in the Cape Cod Times). Come learn what’s involved in running an organic farm.

From the Board
Meh. What Can You Do? Well, ladies and gentlemen, we're done(ish). Most of the winter preparations are in place and we're looking at long nights. I leave for work in the morning, and there are no bees. I come home at night, and there are no bees. With the chilly weather today, no one was out even in the daylight. It’s kind of like the onset of withdrawal symptoms.

Like every other year, this has been a hit and miss. Some beekeepers have had a great season with plenty of honey. Others have stories of challenges or opportunities missed. Plans Bee, as it were! For me, my second year of beekeeping was completely different from my first. For the majority of the season, I had two hives from late-arriving packages. Everything was new, and not just the equipment. Every action I took yielded some new learning, some new fascination. By this point last year, I was only wondering what the future might bring ever so slightly. I was still thinking day to day. Every day like today, I’d go poke at the hives with my eyes if not my hands, trying to ascertain what was going on inside. Are the girls OK? I had just learned that at this point there were only girls. I’d get down on my knees and try to look up inside and between the frames. I almost felt like I was doing something untoward when I really, really tried to see them huddled in there.

As winter came to stay, I began to relax my daily oblations, but if we got a day in the 50s, I’d be right back at it. The lure of the opportunity to see the object of your desire and unrequited love. I’ll tell you, when that one big snow came, I made sure I shoveled my grass so I could get to the hives. Sadly, that turned out to be a mistake. My uneducated self had to futz with the mouse guard for some reason I now don’t remember. That made enough noise that several of the girls had to come investigate. You can imagine how my heart fell as each one came out, succumbed to the cold, and crashed into the drifts.

GET IT TOGETHER, MAN! These are just insects! Bugs! Ones that sting, on top of that! Husbandry, indeed. I became married to it: beekeeping. By the spring, those two packages made me a widower.

So here we are, on the doorstep of winter. Some say it’s going to be another hard one. Tomorrow, I will work on my last step. I will build wood frames and attach hardware cloth as a bottom. I’ll make my bed of sugar in that as top insulation and a moisture collector. I don’t think my hives are really ready for winter. I know now what I didn’t know last year. You can do all you can do, and it may not produce the result you want. As Bobby Waldron says, “Bees don't read the same books we do.” I’ve given them what I can, including fewer visits where I take apart their home, and a few score pounds of sugar. Whatever the result I find in the spring, I look at my apiaries and sigh with resignation.

What can you do? Everything you are able and not a thing more.

—Joe McClure

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Check Out Club Member Blogs

Julie Lipkin -

BCBA discussion group -

Tamar Haspel -

Facebook page -

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Coming Up
The Massachusetts Beekeepers Association will have its fall meeting Saturday, Nov. 15, at Red Apple Farm, 455 Highland Ave., Phillipston (about 2 hours from the Sagamore Bridge). Details here.

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Update on the Cape Bee Project
For the past five years a small group of BCBA members has been experimenting with queen selection, queen rearing and nucleus colony production to improve beekeeping success in our difficult Cape Cod environment. Our objectives have been to: 1) select for and produce locally adapted and hardy queens for Cape beekeepers; and 2) teach and encourage queen rearing as a routine activity among the entire BCBA membership. Recent winter survival surveys, especially last winter’s (with results summarized by Truro beekeeper Dan Smith, originally sent with the July Buzz Words, and appended below*), clearly show that bees selected from local New England stock outperform packages purchased from the southern U.S. Such from Cape Cod and beyond, plus the high cost of packages and nucleus colonies “from away,” encourage local queen rearing and colony propagation from our own locally proven winter survivors.

The queen-rearing group’s successes and failures since 2010 have led us to change strategies several times. We have tried raising a large number of laying queens and nucleus colonies led by locally selected queens for dissemination to club members, and have had some success with both approaches. Unfortunately, they amount to way too much work, checking queenrightness, maintaining mating nucs, etc., for a few volunteers. Like a good mariner, we’ve decided to change course again in the face of unfavorable winds, while still aiming for the above two basic objectives.

We’ve concluded that, to promote the replacement of poorly adapted bees from the South with locally selected stock (our Objective 1), we need to broaden the core of beekeepers on Cape who have the interest and skills to raise their own queens and propagate from their own apiaries. And the best way to meet this objective is to concentrate on Objective 2, i.e., EDUCATION. Accordingly, next year the BCBA apiary at the Cape Cod Organic Farm (CCOF) will be run primarily as an educational endeavor, with frequent hive openings throughout the spring and summer emphasizing methods of backyard queen production, colony propagation, and over-wintering of nucleus colonies. Although we will no longer produce many nucs for sale, we will continue to make our own locally selected stock available as queen cells and, perhaps, mated queens. These will be accompanied by hands-on instruction at the CCOF, at regular BCBA meetings, and in monthly newsletters on how to use queen cells and mated queens to improve and/or expand your own apiary.

Check Buzz Words for notification of monthly hive openings and other opportunities to help with and learn from this project next year.

—John Portnoy

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BCBA Winter Survival Survey Results
In April 2014, the BCBA sent out a survey to its members requesting statistics on hive survival over the winter of 2013-2014. Results were collected during April and early May. A total of 83 members submitted survey results. The results were tabulated and are as follows:

83 members submitted results for the Honeybee Winter Survival Survey (2013-2014).

Data was obtained for 230 hives on Cape Cod. Of the 230 hives, 108 or 47% were reported as alive and 122 or 53% were reported as dead.

Of the 230 hives – 102 or 44% were from packages, 103 or 45% were from nucs and 25 or 11% were from local swarms.

The bees of Cape Cod had a very hard winter, with an overall survival rate of 47%. The survival rate for packages of bees was 27%. Nucs and swarms fared far better, with survival rates of 63% and 60%, respectively.

Details related to the 102 Packages are as follows:

  • 28 or 27% were reported as alive
    • Range of Frames of Bees was 1– 10 frames
    • Majority reported 6 - 8 frames
  • 74 or 73% were reported as dead
Type of Queen Alive Dead
Buckfast 2 1
Carn/Rus Mix 3 0
Carniolan 3 0
Italian 17 72
Other Mix 3 1
Total 28 74

Details related to the 103 Nucs are as follows:

  • 65 or 63% were reported as alive
    • Range of Frames of Bees was 1 – 15 frames
    • Majority reported 4 – 6 frames
  • 38 or 37% were reported as dead
Type of Queen Alive Dead
Buckfast 2 0
Carniolan 49 28
CCQ 3 2
Italian 8 3
MN/Hyb Mix 3 4
Russian 0 1
Total 65 38

Details related to the 25 Swarms are as follows:

  • 15 or 60% were reported as alive
    • Range of Frames of Bees was 1 – 10 frames
    • Majority reported 6 – 8 frames
  • 10 or 40% were reported as dead

228 hives were Langstroth and 2 were top bar.

—Dan Smith

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Bit of Business
Here is During the September meeting, John Beach announced to the attending membership that the board of directors was contemplating the purchase of “slip and fall” liability insurance to cover our fair building and director-and-officer liability insurance. It was necessary to hire an accountant to establish our tax status to go forward. Members were asked to expend up to $3,000 to cover this proposal. In order to cover this annual expense, it was proposed to increase our annual membership dues to $20 per year. Both proposals in the form of a motion were made and seconded and agreed upon with a unanimous vote. Please note that the dues year runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. Membership renewal forms will be included in the December Buzz Words.

—Claire Desilets

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TBH Winter Feeding Idea
top bar hive feedingWhile I will add fondant to my top-bar hive as temperatures drop, I’ve found that a single frame of fondant via the Flottum feeder is not enough to sustain the hive through the cooler months … and I hate to open the hive more than absolutely necessary (given my dismal winter survival experience so far). So … my current solution is to open a 4-pound bag of sugar, cut down the paper to the level of the sugar, spray with sugar syrup or water to clump, and pop it into the hive among the honey-heaviest frames. I’ve kind of moved them around (wisely or not) so that they are off to the side of the entrance (thus farther from the cold air). Stay tuned for results come April or so (last year my TBH colony died in March).

—Julie Lipkin

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Fondant Recipes

Microwave recipe (feeds 1 or 2 colonies)

  1. In a 1-quart or larger microwave dish, thoroughly mix 1½ 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-by-6-inch pieces)

  1. Mix 5 pounds granulated sugar, 1 pint corn syrup, 11/3 cups of water in a large pot.
  2. Hold over medium heat to 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. VERY IMPORTANT TO HOLD THE 240°.
  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 quarter-inch thick.
  8. Cool and slice into patties.

Mountain camp feeding – from Kelley Bee News (Nov 2011)

  • Use 1- or 2-inch spacer placed directly on top of brood box.
  • Add two sheets of newspaper directly on frames (leave one-third of frames exposed).
  • Mist paper with water spray or sugar syrup.
  • Dump 1 to 2 pounds 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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Bee Movie
The club has recently acquired a new film called “Bee People” featuring Gregg McMahan, aka “the Bee Guru,” described by the film’s promoters as “one part rock star, one part bee evangelist.” “His dissertations on all-things-bees are mesmerizing, entertaining and highly educational,” they say. We’re not so sure this is anything more than a bridge from the uninitiated into the fascinating world of bees, but … we’ll just let that bee for now. The film speaks for itself. Anyone interested may obtain the film through the CLAMS system or at Whelden Memorial Library.

—BCBA Board of Directors

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Deadly Serious Honey
Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner reports that the daisies being pushed up by the 65,000 buried at the famous Historic Congressional Cemetery, resting place to John Philip Sousa and J. Edgar Hoover, are supplying nectar for hundreds of thousands of honey bees housed on the 35-acre site. And now the honey made from those flowers and trees in and around the Capitol Hill graveyard is being collected and offered under the appropriate label name of “Rest in Bees.” Claire Desilets

—Claire Desilets

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Bit of Trivia
Hey, did you ever look at a frame of brood with glistening, pearly-white larva looking up at you and notice the position each is in? Well, I have, but never thought much of it. Now, I read that once those eggs hatch and the larvae are fed and expand, they move in the cell. The larva actually rotates in the cell, moving forward. In the October issue of American Bee Journal, author Wyatt Mangum, PhD, notes that a 3-day-old larva, in just over 100 minutes, rotates twice. It does not crawl, but moves head-first as the folds in its exoskeleton expand and contract.

We know the nurse bees feed the larva during this six-day stage, but it was noted that the nurse bee digests the food prior to the feeding. This is necessary, as the larva is just a big gut with no “exit organ” and thus cannot defecate. As for the queen larva, she is fed copious amounts of royal jelly during her larval stage. She is literally floating in it, and receives one last feeding just before the cell is capped. The worker’s food reserve in the capped cell is minimal compared with the queen’s food supply once the cell is capped and the cocoon spinning begins.

It was interesting to read that as the queen larva spins her cocoon she somersaults, and each time her head reaches the pool of royal jelly in the base of the cell, she eats for up to 10 minutes. Research shows she might somersault from 40 to 80 times, and each turn takes 22 to 43 minutes. And the spun cocoon never covers the pool of royal jelly. Fascinating stuff, huh? You can read more in Mark Winston’s “The Biology of the Honey Bee.”

—Claire Desilets

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Handle with Kid Gloves
Here’s a way to revivify your bee gloves after a grueling season of beekeeping (yes, those very same beautiful once-white gloves that are now dappled in bee poop, slimed with propolis, spattered with thorax parts and bedecked with random stingers and legs). This comes to us from Claire D., courtesy of the Rhode Island Beekeepers Association.
  1. Wash gloves thoroughly with Lava soap (or similar). Rinse thoroughly and wring dry.
  2. Put gloves on; apply Tincture of Green Soap (available from drugstores … may have to be ordered) and rub vigorously, as if washing hands.
  3. Don’t rinse off tincture, but remove gloves and lay out flat to dry. If the gloves are not pliable when dried, not enough green soap was used. Wet them and repeat step 2.

—Julie Lipkin

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Holiday Sale
Looking ahead, the December meeting (Tuesday, Dec. 9) will be our annual holiday sale. This is an opportunity for all club members to showcase their creativity and sell their locally made products. Local honey, lip balm, hand creams, greeting cards, knitted or quilted items, candles, paintings, wood crafts – whatever your skill or passion – please plan to be part of our December meeting/sale. There is no cost for the table (that's because you need to bring your own table!) and we have plenty of interested holiday shoppers. Please contact me ( to reserve your spot!

—John Beach

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Amreican Foulbrood Battlefront
A team at Brigham Young University is experimenting with an organic approach to treating American Foulbrood (AFB), the most widespread and destructive of the bee brood diseases. Antibiotic use, as in humans, is becoming less effective as bacteria morph to develop greater resistance. The BYU researchers are using phages – viruses that, as noted in this YouTube video, are the “most abundant life form on Earth – to attack the AFB bacteria. Watch the video: It’s really encouraging. Courtesy of Bee Culture magazine

—Courtesy of Bee Culture magazine

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Hive Design Improvement Committee Update
Many of you will remember the presentation last spring by board member Mark Simonitsch about the Slovenian Alberti-Znidersic (AZ) hive he has had occasion to become familiar with on his many trips to visit family in Slovenia. Mark is also part of a BCBA focus group investigating potential improvements in hive design. In a recent email he related to fellow focus group members what he’d gleaned from his latest trip to Slovenia. Here is an excerpt: “While in Slovenia in September and October … I met with a number of professional Slovenian bee people on numerous occasions regarding the introduction of the Slovenian hive into America. These meetings included Slovenia’s best beekeepers, a manufacturer of the Slovenian hive/home, the ApiTour Director and Professor Janko Bozic – Ljubljana University – whose specialty is the honey bee and who did his PhD work at Louisiana University, Baton Rouge, and who was also a Fulbright scholar in the U.S. to study bees.

“The important fact for all of you to know is that we are very seriously engaged … in a very sincere effort to import somewhere between 50 and 100 Slovenian bee homes (we call them hives) to the U.S. for distribution to New England beekeepers in the beginning of April 2015.”

AZ hives, in side-by-side comparisons with Langstroths, have mortality rates estimated at 10 percent less and produce honey with 2 percent less water moisture than that from Langstroths, he reports. He also says an English-language manual for keeping bees in AZ hives is now in production, with an estimated publication date of January. At this time he is trying to get a handle on the cost of importing AZ hives to the U.S., in hopes that he can interest beekeepers – and in particular BCBA members – in purchasing some.

“I am very positive that something good can occur to our bees and to American beekeeping from using these Slovenian hives,” he writes. “I met members of the U.S. Embassy staff from Ljubljana. As a consequence the American Ambassador to Slovenia has expressed his enthusiastic interest and support of efforts for U.S. beekeepers to exchange technology (the Slovenian bee home) and knowledge with Europe’s most expert beekeepers …. the Slovenians.” Stay tuned for updates.

—Julie Lipkin

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Looking Ahead to 2015
The UMass Extension is planning a spring conference on pollinator protection and health for agricultural producers and the green industry, including landscapers and lawn care professionals. “UMass Extension Symposium: Pollinator Health for Agriculture and Landscapes” is planned for March 26, 2015, at the Campus Center Auditorium, University of Massachusetts Amherst. The full-day program is designed for all sectors of the agriculture and landscape communities, including agricultural producers and grounds management professionals. University and national experts on pollinating insects, protection of pollinators and pesticides will share the latest scientific research on factors affecting the health of honeybees and other pollinators, best practices for sustaining populations, and minimizing negative impacts with responsible production and land management strategies. Mark your calendars.

—Kalliope Egloff

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The doctor will see you know
Very cool story about the apian medical profession (bees wearing stethoscopes?) here.

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Recipe of the Month
Spicy Honey-Glazed Bacon*
1 pound thick-cut bacon
2 Tbsp. honey
¼ tsp. ground coriander
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 375°. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Arrange the bacon slices on the paper in a single layer. In a small skillet, combine the honey, coriander and cayenne and cook over high heat until melted, about 1 minute. Brush the spiced honey on one side of the bacon and bake for 10 minutes. Sprinkle lightly with sesame seeds and bake for 5 to 10 minutes longer, depending on the thickness and fattiness of the bacon, until sizzling and browned. Transfer the bacon to paper towels, glazed side up, to drain and cool slightly. Serve right away.

* Recipe reprinted from

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