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Buzz Words - September 2014

September Meeting
IMPORTANT! Please note our next meeting will be on the THIRD Tuesday of the month, not the usual second, as a consequence of the primaries requiring the meeting hall for polling. We’ll gather at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 16, at the West Barnstable Community Building. We will review the 2014 beekeeping season, have a Q&A and discuss overwintering techniques.

—Julie Lipkin

From the Board
The Osterville Garden Club has brought it to my attention that not all bees pollinate equally. In fact, the mason bee has begun to assist and even replace the honeybee as the chosen source of pollination of commercial fruit crops. These bees are the party animal of the bee world, as they demonstrate by flopping about and exhibiting tumultuous behavior on visiting a flower. This behavior is responsible for efficiency of pollination that these bees display. The mason bee is a solitary bee that is nonaggressive and immune from varroa mites.

These bees like to build their nests in hollow reeds and twigs by using clay and mud to make partitions filled with pollen and eggs. Variations in size due to sex or type of specie exist, consequently making bamboo an excellent choice of reed for making nests for cultivating these helpful bees.

To make your own nest merely collect some bamboo and cut it into equal 3-inch pieces, bundle them together, and hang. I like to use a frame or woven basket material to encase the reeds. Now, with the pressure off the honeybee to maintain the human food industry, they can stop being so stressed out.

—Farrah DiPietro

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Check Out Club Member Blogs

Julie Lipkin -

BCBA discussion group -

Tamar Haspel -

Facebook page -

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A Little Bit of History
History was my least favorite subject throughout school, but sprinkle in a little bit of beekeeping and I will delve in.

Are you aware of the role beekeeping played during World War II? The August 2014 issue of the American Bee Journal tells it all. (This issue is now available through CLAMS.) Karen Neilsen Lorence, in her article “Beekeeping and Its Impact on World War II,” begins by reminding us of the rationing of sugar during the war. This, of course, increased the demand for honey. Imagine beekeepers were allowed 15 pounds of sugar per hive to feed their bees?

Would you believe beeswax played any part or need during the war? Apparently, there were over 350 uses “in wartime military operations and industries.” Between 800,000 and 1 million pounds were used annually. Beekeepers found themselves scraping and collecting every bit of burr comb, drone comb and cappings to sell to the government.

And just how was all this beeswax used? Airplanes, shells and drills were all coated with beeswax. Pulleys, cables, and tips of tap and die sets all needed protection from dampness to prevent rusting. Think of all the tents and awnings used in the camps. Well, much of the thread was coated for waterproofing and strength. The author relates that a single war machine contained 10 pounds of beeswax. Its benefit is that it did not expand in desert heat nor did it crack in the deep cold weather.

Included in the article is a recipe for a beeswax polish using turpentine and linseed oil which was used on planes and as a boot polish again for waterproofing.

Check out this article and note the slogans used to encourage beekeepers to participate. “Let your Beeswax Ride to the Battlefront.”

—Claire Desilets

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Help Needed for Scallop Fest
We have been invited to open our building during the Scallop Fest, which has moved from Buzzards Bay to the Cape Cod Fairgrounds on Route 151 in Falmouth. Dates are Friday, Sept. 19, to Sunday, Sept. 21. The hours we would be open are noon to 6 p.m. – two three-hour shifts, with a minimum of two people per shift. This would be the same operation as the county fair: selling our latest harvests of honey at $10/pound along with products from the hive, and the remainder of the honey sticks, and sharing our interest, information and excitement about bees.

I have two people bringing in their honey harvest, which totals about 50 pounds. If there are any more of you interested, please let me know. Staffing is still needed for the Friday 3-6 p.m. shift and the Sunday noon-3 p.m. shift, at the minimum, with volunteers welcome for the other shifts. Please contact me with two options just in case someone has already signed up. As usual, let me know if this is your first time volunteering in the booth so I can make sure to assign a veteran along with you. I will be receiving the admission and parking tickets this week if ready. Please send me your mailing addresses as well as phone/emails by emailing me at or phoning me at 508-274-8754. Thanks for helping.

—Marte Ayers

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Seasonal Musings
What did you take away from this summer? It was a terrific summer on the Outer Cape, as experienced by a marvelous swim at Ballston ocean beach today at the end of the first week of September. The water temperature didn’t even take my breath away! So to the end of the flowering from my tomato and zucchini plants signaling the time when I should be well into fall management with my honey bee colonies. Two-to-one sugar syrup feeding started several weeks ago with my colonies that are not within reach of much-desired goldenrod, September aster, smooth sumac, fall clematis and other various invasive species found in marshy areas of the Outer Cape. Today, on one of my colonies which had three honey supers, I broke it down to one honey super, since there were enough frames laden with goldenrod and other nectar to let the bees finish out one super in a week or two before retiring. The rest of the frames and supers went to outside storage, where rogue honey bees cleaned out any excess bits of nectar.

What did I learn from this summer? The colonies that were closest to marsh, ponds, rivers and lakes did the best and were producers of honey. My colonies that thrive on Shank Painter and Clapp’s Ponds in Provincetown seem to have endless supplies of nectar and food. They’ve given me the most delicious honey this season. Colonies bordering the Pamet River in Truro Center or the Herring River in South Truro give yet another delicious, thick honey. These colonies seem to really thrive near water, as I do, and appear to be the healthiest there, too. Once it gets a bit cooler, into early November, I’ve got my eyes on yet another marshy area for a site near Fox Island in Wellfleet. Fall weather allows for a perfect time to move those colonies that perhaps could benefit from a location change if one arises. Little by little, when available, I’ll move all of my colonies close to a water supply – either a pond, river or marshy area where forage prevails. For the next six weeks I’ll be feeding a two-to-one syrup laced with about a cup per gallon of mega bee powder, with a few teaspoons of Honey Bee Healthy mixed in. Feed fast and early so the bees have time convert it before the colder weather sets in. For those of you newbees lucky enough to have harvested honey on your first or second year of beekeeping, make sure your bees have plenty of food stores by the end of October, make sure your queen is healthy and perhaps provide a windbreak or piece of insulation inside your outer cover. You’ll be going into winter giving your bees a fighting chance in order to make it until April, when you’ll begin feeding one-to-one sugar syrup again. Until then, enjoy this glorious weather and use the last few weeks available to inspect the colony and take some notes on what you see.

—Rebecca Matarazzi

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Tips for Autumn
Reiterating the concerns from the August newsletter, hive stores and feeding are most important at this time. Many veterans are in crisis mode this late summer. Why? Because their beehives have little to no stores or honey packed into their top deep hive bodies. Ideally, leading into winter, the hive should have the top deep filling with capped honey and nectar. Or we are hoping there is 60 to 80 pounds of honey in the hive for winter use.

Keep in mind that the foragers need carbs every time they leave the hive and search for food. If there is no nectar, honey or stored sugar syrup, how do they have the energy to bring in more nectar or pollen once the goldenrod and aster are in full bloom?

It would be ideal if we never had to feed our bees, but that does not seem possible here on Cape Cod. Winter survival depends on supplemental feeding. Thus, many of us have begun feeding our hives. We are using a two-to-one sugar syrup (5 pounds of sugar with 2½ pints of water) and/or adding the mountain-camp sugar sheets on top of the frames with a shim. Come to the September meeting to see just how it is done. REMOVE ALL HONEY SHALLOWS WHEN FEEDING!

Mice are looking for a new warm home as the weather cools, so put on those mouse guards or hardware cloth closures.

Combining weak hives with stronger ones might be a benefit to all, because 1) weak hives will not survive, and 2) strong hives can forage more and increase winter stores. When coming through the winter strong, one can always split the hive back into two come next spring.

And now is the time to plan your winter reading. Oodles of good authors have penned some informative books on beekeeping.

—Claire Desilets

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The Bookish Beekeeper
(Thanks for that fortuitous segue, Claire!) … A friend, knowing I like to hang about bees in my free time, wanted to recommend a beekeeping novel she’d read whose title she couldn’t summon to mind. She said it was about an old beekeeper and an assistant, and took place somewhere in Europe during the French Revolution. Well, God bless Google, that was enough information to discover that the book is “The Beekeeper’s Pupil,” by Sara George, which I’ve since ordered from Amazon. But the link that took me there, originally printed in the American Bee Journal, is a wonderful compendium of fictional works figuring bees and beekeeping. Here it is … enjoy!
Winter Reading-Fiction About Bees And Beekeepers

—Julie Lipkin

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Looking for a used smoker for a new beekeeper. Contact Rachael Crook at 508-494-1889.

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Did you know?
A mild antiseptic, honey can be used to treat wounds and minor burns, keeping them clean and infection-free. Honey absorbs moisture and discourages the growth of bacteria and other harmful microorganisms around a skin lesion. It is also used to keep dressings from drying out on a wound, allowing the skin to heal faster and with less scarring.

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Honey Recipe of the Month
Beeswax crayons*

These pastel crayons are perfect for young children, as the pigment is nontoxic food-coloring paste, available from cake-decorating suppliers. Makes 1-2 small crayons.

  • Aluminum foil
  • ½ tsp. cooking oil, to grease molds
  • 2 Tbsp. grated beeswax
  • 2 Tbsp. grated soap
  • ½-1 tsp. food-coloring paste, color of choice

Prepare 1 to 2 molds by shaping aluminum foil into small, rectangular block molds and lubricating them with oil.

Melt the beeswax in a double boiler over low heat. Add the soap and melt, keeping the heat low and stirring until the mixture is smooth.

Add the food-coloring paste and stir thoroughly to combine.

Pour the mixture into the molds and let cool. The crayon(s) may be melted again after testing if more coloring is required.

* Recipe reprinted from The Beekeepers Bible by Richard Jones and Sharon Sweeney-Lynch.

back to top Last updated 9/9/14