Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Monsanto Boycott...

This morning, I received a link in my email from Tom Flebotte, with the subject "Fox in the Beehouse", knowing that would not be a link to good news, I clicked through to the following...

 GMO AND THE DEVASTATION OF BEE COLONIES: Blamed for Bee Collapse, Monsanto Buys Leading Bee Research Firm by Anthony Gucciardi

I was amazed and disgusted as I know many of you were from the feedback I received when I forwarded this article. What can we do? Well, new HCBA member, Laura Martin has an answer! Here is an excerpt from Laura's email to me...

...I read it and it makes me very worried for the future of bees.
It also made me angry.
So, I did some research to find out what companies Monsanto owns or has a hand in. I'd like to boycott all things Monsanto. But after reading this article, I discovered that Monsanto's reach is so vast that it's very difficult to completely boycott them and all that they produce. However, I'm still going to try to boycott as many of Monsanto's products as I possibly can. I've included the link to the article I read, "A Month Without Monsanto"

To make boycotting Monsanto a bit more manageable for folks, here's a link that lists some specific products made by Monsanto that you can avoid buying.

Every little bit can make a difference, so if you feel like Laura does, she's already done the research for you. Now get to the boycotting! A big thank you to Laura for sharing this information. If anyone has anything to add, please comment below.

Just a Working Girl...

I captured this photo with my iPhone on a quick trip out to my hive the other day. Just had to share.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bee-ing a Member of HCBA Has Many Benefits...

I just received this email from HCBA new member Laura Martin. Laura's email is a great example of how the support of a club can be so helpful to beekeepers seasoned and new! Plus, her excitement about her new bees is contagious! As you read, you can remember how exciting it was the first time YOU saw eggs and larvae! I know all beekeepers can relate to that, regardless of your experience level. Thanks to Laura for letting me share, and to Sue Goddard for setting such a good example for the HCBA!

And now here's Laura's email...
I'm so excited! ....I have eggs! .....I have larvae! ....I even have some developing prepupa!

A big, Thank You!, to Sue Godard who kindly visited my hive with me and viewed the frames for signs of laying. She showed me how to tilt the frame, just so, in order to see those tiny, tiny, little white "sticks" that are the bee eggs. I had brought a magnifying glass with me, just in case, but I didn't end up needing it.

Sue also gave me some helpful tips: I need to get my hive up higher off the ground than it currently is (it's on top of two very large white 5" thick bricks). She said it should ideally be about 18" off the ground. So, today, I'm off to look for something that will accomplish this.

She also pointed out that, for rain, the top should be slid all the way toward the front of the hive (where the bee opening is) so the rain won't get in through the bee door.

She helped me to cut off the excess comb that the bees were building out from the frames and explained that keeping the frames tightly together will help keep the bees from this excess building. She told me to keep the wax for candle making later. In a little bit of the trimmed comb there was some uncured honey - extremely pale in color and made from sugar water but still yummy and honey-tasting! I did not expect this. It was very little; probably around 1/8 of a teaspoon in total.

I asked her some questions regarding beekeeping - various little things that have cropped up since starting this new hobby. She was very knowledgeable and interesting to listen to.
I think this is one of the best things in having a bee mentor to help out first-timers like myself - there always seems to be new questions I have and it's equally helpful to have someone there to show me how to apply the information we've learned in bee school to the practical, real-life experiences of beekeeping. We learn by doing.
I'm so grateful to Sue for her help and assistance!

Laura Martin

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Protecting Our Bees from Pesticides...

Some of you may have recieved the email link I sent out this morning...

The article prompted a great question from a new HCBA member, Roxie Pin. Roxie asked "Is there a list of pesticides somewhere that we should be avoiding? If we know a neighbor is going to spray ~ how are we to protect our bees again? We close up the hive for the day?"

I have very little experience with or knowlegde of pesticides. It was my understanding that if you know someone neighboring your hives is going to spray pesticides that you should screen your bees in the night before and keep them screened in until about 2 hours after the pesticides have been sprayed. Can anyone dispute or confirm this? Let's hear the club weigh in on pesticides and our experiences with them.

I also found this LIST on Wikipedia of some pesticides and their level of toxicity to bees.

Let's get a discussion going in the comment section of this post.

*UPDATE* 4/19/12
In response to this post I received a couple of related links via email. Here they are...


This NATURALNEWS.COM seems like another good online resource.

April Meeting #2...

Hampden County Beekeepers April Meeting #2

When: Thursday, April 26th at 7pm

Where: Willimanset Heights Improvement League (WHIL)
118 Mount Vernon Rd.
Chicopee, MA 01013

This is meeting is part of our 2012 bee school session. Please arrive before 7:00pm as class will start promptly at 7:00pm.

Topic 1: Beewax Products & First Aid
w/speakers Tom Flebotte, HCBA Director and Kim Dermeski

Topic 2: Q&A, Certificate distribution, and raffle*


Monday, April 16, 2012

Inner Covers and Notches...

I've been watching a hive that belongs to one of our new members whose vacation coincided with our bee package delivery. This was my first time working with someone else's set up, so it was nice to see some of the differences in hive set- up, from major to subtle. One of the things I noticed was the absence of a notch in the inner cover. My bees use their inner cover notches quite regularly as second exits/entrances, so I thought this was important enough to mention to the vacationing beekeeper. I'm glad I did. Because this is his first hive, he did not immediately notice the notch was missing, and it was not intentional. Upon discussing this with some other new members in class last week, it turns out there were a few other people who received notch-less inner covers. The offending covers came from multiple sources, beekeeping supply companies and local woodworkers. So to make this long story short... New beekeepers, check your inner covers. If your inner cover does not have a notch like the one pictured here, you may want to make one, or have one made. They provide for better ventilation and act as an upper entrance/escape for the bees.

Made by Hand No. 3...

Made by Hand / No 3 The Beekeeper from Made by Hand on Vimeo.

A project from, Made by Hand is a new short film series celebrating the people who make things by hand—sustainably, locally, and with a love for their craft.

Local farmer Megan Paska has witnessed beekeeping as it morphed from an illegal (and possibly crazy) habit to a sustainable, community-supported skill. Mirroring beekeeping’s own ascendance, she found more than just a living: “This is the first time in my life when I’ve just felt absolutely on the right path.”

A non-beekeeping friend of mine stumbled upon this video on a journey through the world wide web. He forwarded it to me, and though I thought it was a little long and maybe a little boring, I've decided to share it with you all here. It was my first time seeing anyone use a top bar hive on video, and I was shocked to see her just cut away half of a comb and jar it up.

Any top bar hive users in the club? Any stories or experiences to share? Please comment on this post, or send them to me via email.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Lee's Honey-B-Healthy...

HCBA member, Lee Duquette has developed his own version of Honey-B-Heathly. Those of you who attended last night's meeting may have seen or even purchased some. I did, and I can't wait to try it out in my hives on Saturday.
HONEY-B-HEALTHY: is a honeybee feeding stimulant composed of lemongrass and spearmint oil concentrate. HONEY-B-HEALTHY helps promote healthy vigorous hives when used as a feeding stimulant. Use as a feeding stimulant for late winter, early spring, and during dearth's of nectar. Also add to your feeding mix to help build up packages, nucs and swarms. (taken from

Honey-B-Healthy sells for a minimum of $24.95 on the beekeeping supply websites. I've even seen it priced as high as $26.50, for 16oz. Lee's price is only $12.00! You can't beat that!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Got Smoke?

HCBA Member Mike Feeney sent this photo in to show us what happens to him when his smoker goes out and his bees aren't in the mood to be worked. Thank goodness for protective clothing! Bee suit anyone?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Tom's Follow Up for Your New Bee Packages...

hi all
hope everyone's install went feed feed feed ...don't bother them until sometime this afternoon or Tuesday open up ,check the queen cage to see if she is out ...if she is take it out push the frames together and get out .....leave them until next week then check for eggs then they should have some comb drawn and the queen should bee laying eggs.........don't bother them too much inspect them once a week make sure she is laying ..if you see eggs you know she is there........ you do not have to see the queen to know she is at the entrance, if the bees are bringing in pollen..that is a good sign she is laying .........once you see capped brood it should bee flat not protruding like a bullet ..though there might bee some protruding capping's around the corners and bottom ...these are the drones...again keep feeding them sugar syrup 2 parts sugar to 1 part warm water...they need this to draw out the comb...

Mine are all in and going to town... Those Russians, they like the vodka...Special thanks to my two copilots, John and Fred...

any questions or problems call or email me ....413-883-9399
thanks, tom

New Member Install Reports...

We had a few emails and blog comments come in from some of our new bee school students who did their first hive installations this passed Saturday. I'd like to share a few...

A great big thank you to Tom for his long hual bee trucking to GA! Hope he gets a good nights sleep tonight! My installation was certainly not textbook, but a step or two above the 3 Stooges! I am banking on what Ken said about bees being very resilient! Did anyone else push the cork into the queen cage besides me?!? I am hoping the worker bees can get her out and/or that I have not damaged her....if she appears OK tomorrow I think I am going to have to manually release her from the cage..wish me luck!
~Jen Cushman

Hello Fellow Beekeepers,

Big thank you to Tom for journeying down to Georgia and bringing back all those packages of bees for those us who ordered bees from him! Great job!

It was a very exciting day - now that I've successfully installed my first package of bees into my first hive, I feel like I'm now an Official Beekeeper.
Everything went pretty smoothly, despite my nervousness. The knowledge that there were 10,000 bees in that box (Tom had told me this when I picked up my bees from him), was at the forefront of my mind the whole time.
I too had a little trouble getting the cork out of the Queens's cage and I ended up (very, very carefully!) using a small nail to "scoop" out pieces of the cork until all that was left was the candy plug. Into this candy plug I (once again, very carefully!) put a hole through to the Queen's side of the cage. Then I hung the cage between two frames, just like I'd seen in the last 10 or more YouTube videos that I've been watching for the past few days.

The "Big Moment", that moment when things get REAL and there you are; a box full of 10,000 bees, open and buzzing like mad, arrived and I smoked them once more, took a deep breath and dumped them into the hive! What an exhilarating experience! I couldn't believe I'd actually done it!

There were some stragglers left in the bee-box so, after I fed my bees and put the tops back on, I placed the almost-empty bee-box near the opening of the hive in the hope that they'd find their way into the hive on their own, perhaps being drawn in by the scent of syrup or of the Queen inside.

My daughter videotaped the whole thing. I wanted to have something to remember this special day.

On the way home, we spotted a large black bear roaming around the neighborhood - how funny to have just installed bees and then right after see a bear not 1 mile away. This reminded me that I now have to get going on figuring out how to install a solar-powered electric fence around my hive.

Hope everyone who installed bees for the first time today had a good experience too!

~Laura Martin

Many, many thanks to Tom for making the trip. I hope you all had successful installations!

I had trouble getting one of the queen cage plugs out (I had two packages and this was the first one). I went back to the house twice in search of a tool to assist with the challenge. In the end, a seam ripper worked the best. The seam ripper (standard tool in most sewing boxes) just plucked the second one out in an instant. My other surprise is that the queens were no where near the size I had imagined they would bee. Also, despite knocking over one of my hive top feeders, including all the 1-1 syrup that was in it, I somehow managed to not even get stung once!

Again, great thanks and appreciation to Tom for the transportation and thanks to the the club for all the guidance. This has been a very exciting day!!


I'd like to thank our newest beekeepers for sharing their experiences here. Does anyone else have an install story to share? Please feel free to share it in the comments section below, or email it to me, and I'll be happy to post it here on our blog. Does anyone have photos to share? Email them in!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Installation and Feeding Videos for our Newbees...

Thanks to new member Laura Martin for sending links to these videos to share with our new bee school class. A lot of you have your first bees arriving Saturday, so the information in these videos should be a helpful reminder of all the things you'll have to do!

I hope everyone in the HCBA that will be installing new bees this weekend has a great experience doing it. Congratulations to our newest members who will be doing this for the first time. Remember, you're not officially a beekeeper until you've had your first sting! I'm kidding of course, but there is something about that first sting that sort of seals the deal.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

April Meeting #1...

Hampden County Beekeepers April Meeting #1

When: Thursday, April 12th at 7pm

Where: Willimanset Heights Improvement League (WHIL)
118 Mount Vernon Rd.
Chicopee, MA 01013

This is meeting is part of our 2012 bee school session. The night's topics will be covered by chapters 6 & 7 in your books. Please arrive before 7:00pm as class will start promptly at 7:00pm.

Topic 1: Fall and Winter Management
w/speaker Jeff Rys, HCBA Vice President

Topic 2: Extracting Honey
w/speaker Len Elie, HCBA Member