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Buzz Words - October 2010

Next Meeting – Tuesday, OCTOBER 12th, 7:30 p.m., West Barnstable Community Building, Route 149, West Barnstable. The topic this month is Previous Seasons Encountered Problems, and the How-to's. We need members to send us their problems, with digital photos if at all possible, to be used as learning tools.

From the President
In lieu of the President's message (Jan is out of town), we thought we would forward the following information. Claire and Paul traveled to the Big E in Springfield recently to attend a meeting with members of other county beekeeping associations. This meeting was called by the Mass. Agricultural Promotions Board, which advises MDAR (Mass Dept of Agricultural Resources) on current issues of concern from all (48) agricultural entities in the state.

At issue currently is the lack of statewide seasonal bee inspectors. We have a state Apiary Inspector who wears many other hats and a seasonal inspector in Worcester County. The need is evident for the seasonal inspectors, however, each season they are cut from the state budget. This group will be drafting a letter for all beekeepers to sign and send on to our state representatives and senators. It was also suggested that we invite local legislators to our monthly county meetings.

The inspectors present were asked what the status was of hives inspected in recent months. It was reported that as the season wanes, many hives are "crashing" due to heavy loads of Varroa mites. This was not true of 2010 packages, but of overwintered (2009) packages as the mites have had time to multiply over two seasons.

Ken Warchol, seasonal bee inspector in Worcester County, reported on two ongoing research projects that he is involved in. The first is being funded by the USDA and is the result of the Asian Long-Horned Beetle invasion in the Worcester area. Forty hives were established in 4 locations (10 each) in Worcester and Framingham (control hives). They are in the immediate area where trees injected with imidacloprid have been, or will be blooming. Visits are scheduled every 5 weeks and include recording hive vitality, especially brood pattern and size.

Interestingly, at each of the four sites one hive sits upon an $800 scale which stores the daily weight, temperature and weather conditions. They are also connected with the current NASA program. (See Paul Lefebvre or John Portnoy for more info on this program.)

The second research project is sponsored by Harvard University and directed by Alex Lu, PhD. Dr Lu will be reporting some of his early findings at the Mass Beekeepers Annual Meeting on October 2nd. The project includes 20 hives (new in 2010) in the Worcester area. The approach here is to rule out the use of imidacloprid as a cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). The hives are being fed HFCS laced with varying percentages of the pesticide. This is an attempt to simulate the levels of the product that the bees might be exposed to when foraging in areas where this product is used.

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We Need Your Help
B.C.B.A. is a 37 year old beekeeping organization with over 250 members spread across Cape Cod and environs, and we can use your knowledge. Our mentor list is rather anemic with but a handful of beekeepers to lend a hand to newbees.

Here is what we need: a solid list of mentors willing to take a newbee under their wing. No resume is required, but we need folks with a few years of beekeeping experience. You should have seen eggs, larva, a good brood pattern, stored honey and pollen, perhaps a Varroa or two along with some Small Hive Beetle (and their larvae). That is perfect knowledge for assisting a newbee.

No one expects handholding; just an email, quick phone call, or let them visit YOUR hive when next going in for an inspection. Remember, it is a learning experience EVERY season for EVERY beekeeper.

So, what do you think? Will you lend a hand? Contact any member of the BCBA Board or Officers.

Thanks to those that have come forward to date!

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4-H Beekeepers Club
The 4-H Bee Club wishes to thank the Board of Directors and Members of the Barnstable County Beekeepers Association for their support. The club meets the first Monday of the month, at the county fairgrounds, at 5:30pm. If you would like to help out with the club, your support is most welcome. The club builds their hives, frames, and foundation, rolls candles, makes honey cupcakes and provides Community Service throughout the 4-H year. Please call Chris St. Pierre, in the 4-H office, at 508-375-6690, for information on how to participate. The 4-H Bee Club participated at the Truro Agricultural Fair and boy was that fun! Lots and lots of people stopped by our table, to pick up brochures, recipes, and newsletters and to visit the club's demonstration hive. There was a good showing of other beekeepers and tons of interest! You should go next year.

Ask the Beekeeper
The board decided to utilize the first 10 to 15 minutes of each meeting to answer queries from the membership. Come prepared, to ask, or answer.

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Club Member Blogs

Julie Lipkin @

Mark Marinaccio @

Tamar Haspel @

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Timely Tips of the Season
Depressing a thought as it may be, thinking of winter preparation is in order. Critical issues to consider are:

  1. How old is the queen and how is her brood pattern?
  2. Are the frames all drawn? If not, move them into populated areas.
  3. Stores – are there frames of honey in the brood area? If not, consider feeding sugar syrup until the next nectar flow. BUT, be aware of robbing if there are other hives in the area.

The following from an article on feeding for winter preparation by Jennifer Berry: 5 gallons of a 2:1 solution of sugar syrup will yield 35 pounds of stored food (equivalent to a full medium super).

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Grant Update
For all practical purposes, the queen rearing project has been put to bed for the winter. The committee met late September to discuss their successes and failures, and to plan for 2011. Although the season was short, we do have 10 to 12 queens residing in hives for evaluation, thanks to John in Wellfleet. And, thanks to member's purchases and donations, we have $565 to expand the program in 2011.

It is our plan (weather permitting) to begin rearing queens in late May and continue into July depending upon nectar flows. With a bit of luck, we all should be able to split our overwintered hives in late May, making a nucleus colony headed by a Cape Cod Queen. This approach will help keep swarming to a minimum and help the committee in evaluating the offspring of the Vermont Russian breeder queens.

The fall and winter meetings will provide nibbles of how-to workshops. Come May and June, hands-on workshops will be scheduled. Locally made 5-frame nuc boxes will be for sale this winter.

Somewhere in our readings, we came across the following website, which may be of interest to some of our membership . We wonder how many of us can meet these requirements, a very worthy goal.

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Treatment-Free Beekeeping
Claire asked that I write a few words about the Treatment-Free Beekeeping Conference that I attended in Leominster last month. In its second year running, it is organized by Dan Stiglitz and Laurie Herboldsheimer (The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beekeeping), (

I have been a treatment-free beekeeper since starting beekeeping four years ago, so it was such a treat to hear new ideas from greats like Dee Lusby (family of beekeepers since the 1800's, Tucson, Arizona), Eric Osterlund (Sweden), Kirk Webster and Michael Palmer (both from Vermont). They have all been doing treatment-free beekeeping on their 300+ hives since around 2005 when their apiaries were being severely affected by colony collapse disorder (CCD). Dee was able to overcome the devastation of CCD by slowly transitioning her hives to smaller cell size (4.9 mm). She found that the smaller cell size made for smaller bees and thus the mites were unable to "fit" or get into the bees' "suit of armor". Also of interest, Dee came to realize that the smaller the bees became, the thicker and richer was the harvested honey. Another fascinating possibility is that smaller bees are better able to forage on the smaller, medicinal plants (big bees can't forage on small plants as easily), thus increasing the medicinal value of their propolis and honey.

Corwin Bell spoke of "the Bee Guardian program" that he helped develop in Boulder, Colorado. The program uses top bar hives (very similar to the ones Sam Comfort spoke of at one BCBA meeting) as a way of introducing beekeeping to "newbees". The Bee Guardian program has evolved into a massive interconnected network of beekeepers that provides a treatment-free and genetically diverse safe haven for bees. We were all amazed to hear that one of Corwin's hives is eleven years old and has never had to be re-queened. The primary focus of the Bee Guardian program is to help protect the genetic diversity of the honey bee.

Kirk Webster of Vermont shared his ideas about overwintering nucs (nucleus hives) as a way of providing New England with an alternative to purchasing nucs from "down south". He found that hives that are started from overwintered nucs appeared to be more disease resistant than his honey production hives that had managed to overwinter. Kirk has designed a special nuc box (available at that houses two nucleus hives, which he places on top of his Langstroth hives through the winter (above the snowline and heated by the hive below!). Stay tuned, as I am trying to overwinter two nucleus hives in this type of box despite my late start. (Thanks, Marty, for your loan of the Kirk Webster box). Another gem that Kirk shared with us is that his Russian queens and their offspring appear to better "coexist" with those destructive Varroa mites.

Successfully overwintering these locally produced nucleus hives will allow the New England region to overcome its dependence on bees from outside the region (Georgia). Locally produced nucs also help overcome monoculturing of bees, which makes the bees more susceptible to disease by reducing their genetic diversity. By developing sources of local bees, those bees become more tuned to the local conditions (such as weather and food), so that, as the local conditions change or as a new pest is introduced, like the Varroa in the last five years, the bees in the region have enough genetic variation to survive (recall how the chestnut and elm trees were unable to survive the introduction of new diseases). To quote from Dean and Laurie's book, "Allow the bees to do what they do best, which is to ... adapt their behavior in response to conditions in the world around them."

Overall, the consensus at the conference appeared to be that there is no way to totally eliminate the pesky mites and viruses that are contributing to the honey bees' demise. It is best to do all we can to strengthen the bees, using the various methods mentioned above (decrease cell size, decrease or eliminate the poisons that we use in treating the honey bee hive, and increase the bees' genetic diversity). Raise local. Buy local. It helps strengthen your honey bees.

Susan Houghton,

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Do you have honey to extract? Do you want to market it? Give it away to family, friends, neighbors? Are you going to use old pickle jars, jelly tubs, canning jars, or are you going to give your product the look of a professional beekeeper?

For Classic Honey Jars, contact Ed Osmun at (508) 802-0509 to place your order and receive your pickup date.

Thinking of adding another hive next season? Need to replace foundation? Need more shallows? Want a nuc? Want to buy a queen excluder? The club stocks all of the aforementioned, as well as hive tools, bottling pails, deeps, supers, frames, foundation for deeps, shallows and mediums. Just call or email Paul with your needs, as the club usually maintains enough equipment to build 5 hives. At this time of year, we increase foundation quantities in order for folks to replace. Brushy Mountain prices, and no freight charges.

Negotiations are underway with a senior member to build nuc boxes, so that members can have the equipment needed in order to utilize our local queens next season. We will have more info on that program in the next newsletter.

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