Shropshire Beekeepers' Association



Newsletter : April 2007


1.      Editor's Notes

The fine spell at the beginning of April has allowed me to do a first quick check on the colonies. Of the 6 that went into the winter 5 have survived and are looking well at the moment, with stores, brood and pollen all in evidence. The survivors all have fresh floors, the top bars of the frames have been cleaned up and each now has a super under the queen excluder to give additional laying space for the queen.

Last month there was a brief reference to what is now being called ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’ where bees have apparently deserted their hives for no obvious reason. This has been reported very widely in the United States where a few professional beekeepers have suffered massive losses. As yet no clear reason has been found though there is extensive research going. One theory is that it may be a multi-factor effect with chemicals used in both the hive and the environment playing a part. I note that BBKA, in its recent advice about using oxalic acid, has recommended that bees are only exposed to such a treatment once in a season. Robert Swallow’s reports in the last two Newsletters demonstrated that repeated treatments can trigger additional mite drop, but there may be unknown side effects from doing this. It could be argued that trying to rid the bees entirely of varroa might inhibit them from developing a natural immunity to this pest, which in the long run should be our goal. Control rather than elimination perhaps?


2.      Last Meeting

John Perkins intrigued us all with the title of his talk, which was: Honeymoon Flats for Little Princesses. What followed was a description of his approach to queen rearing using mini-nucs. John raises about 70 queens during the course of each season, so his method is based on a great deal of experience. The basic essentials are :

Because of the need to have a plentiful supply of drones, queen rearing is best done between late April and July. After this time wasps can cause problems because they can easily overcome a mini-nuc and destroy the bees.

The method John uses is to collect young bees from a number of colonies by pulling a frame of brood out of each, spraying the bees with water to calm them down and then bumping them into a suitable box. The box is closed up and the bees are put into a cool place overnight. Next day, by which time the bees have realised that they are queenless, a ‘scoop-ful’ (e.g. washing powder size) is dropped into a mini-nuc which is already loaded with frames of drawn comb and a syrup feed. A virgin queen or a ripe queen-cell from the chosen colony is introduced to the mini-nuc and the entrance fitted with a queen excluder. The nuc. boxes are placed well away from the flight paths of any other colonies. After 5 days the queen excluder can be removed and after ten more days the queen should be in lay. The queens raised by this method are used to re-queen existing colonies to ensure that they are always headed by young queens, which in turn will help to reduce the incidence of swarming and the consequent lost honey crop.

There may be an opportunity, later this season, to demonstrate this technique for queen rearing in an apiary outing. Watch this space.


3.      Next Meeting

April Meeting (Wednesday 11th. 7.30 p.m. at Shirehall)

We welcome John Hendrie, who will be talking to us about ‘A Driving Licence for Beekeepers’ i.e. why beekeepers should consider obtaining some form of beekeeping qualification. John has run beekeeping courses at Hadlow College and Adult Education Centres and has lectured and demonstrated on beekeeping for thirty years. He is currently serving as an elected member on the BBKA Examinations Board. He is on the BeeCraft Board of Directors, is Secretary of BIBBA and General Secretary of Kent Beekeepers' Association.


4.      Finding and Marking the Queen

The words “First find the queen” must be among the most depressing that face new beekeepers when they are trying to undertake an activity like swarm-contol for the first time. Even the most experienced apiarists can be frustrated when trying to do this at times. However, there are techniques which help and, for the sake of convenient reference, some of them are listed below.