Shropshire Beekeepers' Association



Newsletter : January 2007


1.      Editor's Notes

A happy new year to all our members. Mine is starting in an unsatisfactory way because once again I have a problem to report with communications. Having got my computer up and running again with a newly refreshed database of members, I am now suffering from a breakdown on the telephone line. We have been ‘off’ for a week now and, at the time of writing, BT is saying that it will be at least Monday 8th January before the line will be restored. I have therefore decided again to send a print version of the Newsletter to all members, since I cannot access the website to post it there for those who have chosen the electronic service. Apologies for this. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

The other notable activity, apart from checking the colonies for stores, is the BBKA annual delegates’ meeting, which takes place at Stoneleigh on Saturday 13th January. I will be attending on your behalf. As well as electing officers and receiving reports about the various activities of BBKA at a national level, the main focus of the meeting will be about the proposed new constitution. This failed to be adopted last year and has been extensively revised since, with regional meetings to receive feedback about the latest proposals (see September 2006 Newsletter). The omens for success this year look much better.


2.      Last Meeting

At the December meeting we concluded the business deferred from the October AGM, i.e. the election of the Committee. Fortunately this time all the necessary nominations were in place and the following members were elected:

Brian Goodwin Ray Green Penny Carkeet-James
Peter Hampson Tony Little Maxie Sinclair
Robert Higginson Joan Higginson Steve Jones
Peter Woodcock Peter Bound Robert Swallow
Michael Heath John Perkins Glyn Williams


Brian Goodwin was again elected President but there were no nominations for treasurer (Roger Evans having relinquished the post) so Ray Green proposed that the nominations for the remaining officers be considered by the committee at its first meeting and be reported to members for subsequent confirmation. This was agreed.


3.      Next Meeting

January Meeting: Wed. 10th. 7.30p.m. - Shirehall, Abbey Foregate.
Speaker: Brian Goodwin
Topic: Making up Nuclei as part of swarm control


4.      Flower Show Committee Report

Tony Davis has sent in the following edited ‘highlights’ of the last show committee meeting:


5.      Western Region Annual Report (Part 1)

Dave Sutton, Regional Bee Inspector

Last year (2006) was a very busy one for Bee Inspectors in the Western Regional Team. Following my appointment to full time Regional Inspector for the area, I was assisted during the season, April till September, by 3 part time Seasonal Inspectors, one of whom wasn’t in place till the end of May. He had then to go through his preliminary field training at York, and with me, to achieve basic recognised GLP (Good Laboratory Practice) CSL National Bee Unit standards, in his inspection work, before being able to take up his post in the southern part of the region – South Glos, Bristol, Avon and North Somerset - where he rapidly became accepted and grew in usefulness and experience. However we were still short of one Inspector throughout the season, which meant that we were all somewhat stretched and not able to cover as much ground as we would have liked, particularly in your own immediate area. Added to this was the long period of record breaking very hot weather, which made apiary visits during the middle part of the day too demanding in a bee suit! Frequently we chose to work later in the evening, sometimes up until dusk. Often this is a really good time to examine colonies in comfort. Although most of the bees are ‘at home’ and not out foraging, they are nearly always so completely engaged in dealing with masses of unprocessed nectar that they have gathered during the day, that they seem to be almost unaware of someone pulling their homes to bits! As the hot weather wore on however, nectar sources began to dry up and soon colonies began to turn their attention to searching for and collecting water. Then they became a little more fractious in the absence of a nectar flow. Hundreds of extra bees were recruited and switched into the task of searching out and collecting water.

We were able to inspect 431 apiaries and 2279 individual colonies of bees throughout the Western Region. Of these, 28 Apiaries were found to contain colonies infected with EFB (European Foul Brood) disease. These stocks were dealt with by the Shook Swarm method where possible, or reluctantly, but only where necessary, by treatment with antibiotics - increasingly we’re moving away from dosing with drugs. We were thus able to save the bees and most of the equipment for the beekeepers concerned. Colonies in 12 apiaries were too weakened by the disease for us to be able to save them. Because they were posing a risk to neighbouring apiaries, very sadly they had to be destroyed.

Locally, EFB was found in South Shropshire, Cheshire and Staffordshire. This year incidences were greater in Gloucestershire than elsewhere - 9% of colonies examined - a high percentage. 2 cases of AFB (American Foul Brood) were also found there and these were dealt with promptly. In all cases of disease, every contact colony and apiary in the area was inspected, and all possible links to distant places were followed up, happily without further discoveries. Nationally, colleagues report a greater number of EFB finds in the country than in previous years, which included areas that had been apparently free of the problem until now.

This year, some of us have been involved in a SID’s (Science in Defra) Trial. This involves ongoing sampling of both adult bees and larvae from EFB infected colonies and apiaries, and from colonies and apiaries which have been shaken or treated, as well as from apparently disease free colonies and apiaries. This is to try to establish the progression of EFB in infected colonies and also to try to determine whether the organism is present in apparently healthy colonies but at sub clinical levels. Some early data are beginning to emerge which looks interesting and I hope to be able to tell you about this when the trial is complete and the results have been validated. Remember though, that the Foulbroods are natural diseases of bees and have been around forever (Aristotle was writing about them in 300BC and others long before him) - there is no disgrace in having them – only in not doing anything about it - so please seek help if you are at all unsure.

So far, this winter has again been extremely mild and open. Bees have been flying freely on any number of days, using energy and consuming their stores, when normally they should be in tight cluster and quite torpid. Brood rearing will now begin to increase rapidly with the coming of longer days and then they will be making even bigger inroads into their reserves. Keep an eye on your colonies and try to assess the food situation. If your stocks feel light, fondant can be fed in an emergency but avoid syrup until warmer weather, perhaps in March. Remember that more colonies die from starvation in late February and March than at any other time of the year.

My best regards and very sincere thanks go to all local beekeeping communities for the co-operation and friendship which me and my team always receive from you. Thank you all.
(The second part of Dave’s report will appear next month - Ed.)


6.      Mite Populations And The Late Onset Of Winter

Robert Swallow.

Towards the close of the 2006 season I believed that I would have insufficient time to use Apiguard due to my mistaken belief that temperatures would drop below that specified for its use before the treatment was complete. I thought I would have to use Apistan or Bayverol yet again, as checks as the daily drop rate showed that infestation was above the safe daily drop rate. [using the guidelines given in the DEFRA guide to Varroa]. The drop rate increased after inserting the strips and showed little sign of tapering off following their removal, so I decided to use a more drastic method to reduce mite numbers thinking this could be due to resistance. My original intention had been to use Oxalic acid trickling, which needed little in the way of equipment, but I finally decided to use the sublimation method and so avoid having to open up the hives.

The drop rate following this treatment was astounding, circumstances had prevented me from checking the inserts until after three days had elapsed, but all colonies checked had counts of several hundred, one of them being over fifteen hundred! As I worked through the apiary I gave up counting mites and just swept the sample floors clean, returning to the first one inspected and cleaned I found that another six mites had fallen in less than an hour.

Since starting to gather my own experiences, the Winter edition of Cheshire Beekeeper has published an article by Bob Parsonage from the South Cheshire Branch on this subject, where he experienced a considerable mite drop using the oxalic acid trickling method, despite having correctly applied the strips in August. His conclusion was that the heavy drop from the oxalic acid was probably due to the unusually warm autumn at the time the strips were used, and not resistance. His opinion is that many mites were protected from contact with the Apistan because they were in the cells, not on the bees, thereby considerably reducing the effectiveness of the treatment.

I decided to use the vapouriser method and I bought one from a source in Canada that I found using the Internet. Their recommendation was to use 2 grams of Oxalic acid per treatment and to repeat treat the treatment three or four times at five to seven day intervals. The thought had crossed my mind that the Canadians probably used either Langstroth or Dadant hives which have a substantially larger volume than the National so I might have overdosed having used 2 grams and I subsequently used 1 gram for the most recent (as I write, the second) application. It was eleven days since I first treated, nine days since I cleared the sample trays, when checked again, I found that the lowest drop was 93 and the highest 375, convincing me that I would be correct in treating again, this time with 1 gram.

Bob Parsonage considers that we currently have two dangers to face, with which I heartily agree. First, that the strips have not been effective in reducing mite populations in August and secondly, the possibility of starvation due to the bees staying active - both events being a result of the unusually extended 2006 summer season. He has also suggested that this prolonged egg-laying might result in the early failure of older queens early next season, purely by those queens running out of eggs and possibly sperm. Additionally, the extended season will result in there being a much higher population of bees needing to over-winter resulting in an increased demand on stores.

I would suggest that the present situation requires urgent action by all if we are not to experience severe colony losses. I urge members to take prompt and decisive action with regard to both these problems and to honour and respect the creatures in their care. These issues will in my opinion become a matter of survival for the bees and the resolution of it is entirely in our hands. The events described also illustrate the need to manage our bees in a way that is appropriate to the season. Increasingly we need to take our own view of trends in the weather as they happen and act accordingly rather than slavishly rely on the calendar and the timetables published in beekeeping books.

Perhaps our editor might reprint the recipe for candy printed in January 2006 (see here - Ed), which would help mitigate one danger. Another easy method for emergency feeding is to make a slit in the side of a 1 kilogram bag of sugar, add a cup of water and place this over the hole in the crown board having removed the Porter bee escape.


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