Shropshire Beekeepers' Association



Newsletter : July-August 2004


1.      Editorial

Apologies again for the delay in this Newsletter. My printer is poorly and the spare part promised me a week ago has yet to arrive. As many of you will be aware I have tried to get a reminder out via email about the apiary visit on 10th July. Unfortunately a number of the addresses now seem to be out-of-date and the emails have been returned. Can you please keep Roger Evans informed of any changes to your email address so that out database is as current as possible. On occasions like this present one it is an extremely useful way to communicate with members at short notice.

The major event in August is the Flower Show. Keith Newman has included a message about it in this Newsletter. I remember Geoff Critchley, who gave the May talk, saying that being able to say that your honey was "Prize Winning" gave it extra pulling power in the sales stakes. So, take note of Keith's invitation and have a go!

Steve Watkins, who is one of the stars when it comes to sending in contributions, has posed another question this month. Unfortunately responses to articles are rare. Please help to make to this Newsletter more relevant by penning your thoughts on this, or any other matter of interest.


2.      Next Meeting

I have to apologise for the fact that problems with my computer have caused such delays with the Newsletter this month that you will probably not receive it until after the July apiary visit (10th July) has taken place. However I hope you will have seen it in your programme card or in the advance announcement in the last Newsletter. Just for the record it is at Tony Little's apiary near Market Drayton. Members should aim for the car-park of the 'Four Crosses' public house on the A41 at Hinstock. The apiary is a few hundred yards from there and there will be signposts to point the way. The meeting starts at 2.30 p.m. These events are a good opportunity for new members to meet experienced beekeepers and learn more about the craft, so come along and share your knowledge.

There is no apiary outing in August because the major event in the Association's calendar then is the SHREWSBURY FLOWER SHOW on 13th/14th August. There is still time to become involved: as a steward, as an exhibitor or both. All members should have received a schedule for the show under separate cover that gave further details. There is also additional advice inside from Keith Newman, the Honey & Wine Stewarding Secretary.


3.      The Shrewsbury Flower Show

An invitation from the Honey & Wine Stewarding Secretary

Have you removed your honey supers yet? Perhaps you have extracted and the table is creaking with plastic buckets waiting for the jars to arrive to bottle. This is the time to reflect, "Have I filtered enough? Is the taste as good as the one we sampled at that meeting early on this year? How clear will it be in the jar?" These and many other questions will clutter your mind and you will probably finish up with a great deal of uncertainty about the quality of your honey. There is only one way to find out. Enter some in the Flower Show! Try! There are many classes to choose from, so try!

In the past Shropshire Beekeepers used to exhibit at all the top honey shows in England and Wales with a fair degree of success and it would appear to be only in the last few years that beekeepers from other parts of the country have been claiming the major trophies at our show. This is something that we should all consider. Does this reflect well on our Association? One of our late members was always to be seen early on the Friday morning of the show with his dog-eared diary muttering and musing on why a certain one of his honeys had not won or been placed by the judges in the show, yet it had, according to him, won at various other shows. Yes, some members took, and still do take the competition seriously but it does not have to be a matter of life and death! Just remember, Shropshire honey is equal in quality to any other U.K. honey, so while you are cleaning those newly bottled jars, have a good look. Which one is the show winner? It is so easy to enter so don't be afraid!

Talking about the Show, it just slipped out - I know you will want to be reminded about stewarding and all the other little jobs you would hate to miss out on during the two 'fun days'. So, please leave a message on my answer phone as to when and/or how you could help. You will be most welcome.

If I were asked if our Association had any weaknesses I would have to say that I think there are too few doing too much. There are many members gifted in many ways. It could be that they are nervous or shy about making suggestions or offering opinions. They may just want to remain in the background. That's O.K. but please remember that you do not have to be a committee member to help. Neither do you have to give a large commitment of your time. Your thoughts and efforts will be so much appreciated and welcomed. So don't forget, the 13th and 14th of August are our days. Please help! We look forward to seeing you.

Keith Newman


4.      The Laws of Beekeeping

For those of you who are comparatively new to beekeeping I have selected the following pearls of wisdom which were "doing the rounds" 10 years ago.

  1. Beekeeping Equipment has a mind of its own.
    • The tendency of the smoker to go out is directly proportional to the aggressiveness of the bees.
    • Stingproof gloves aren't.
    • The probability of forgetting a vital piece of equipment is directly proportional to the distance of the apiary from home.
    • The likelihood of damaging a piece of equipment is in direct proportion to its cost.
    • When in the apiary, interchangeable parts aren't.

  2. The Clerk of the weather dislikes beekeepers
    • There is a greater probability of rain on the day that you plan to go to the apiary than on any other day that week.
    • Whatever meteorologists may think, thunderstorms are a direct consequence of putting on a veil and lighting a smoker.

  3. Swarming cannot be managed
    • The incidence of swarming can only be reduced by keeping your eyes on the ground when approaching an apiary.
    • Only other peoples bees swarm on to low branches.
    • A Queen can be found easily only when there is no need to find her.
    • The difficulty of introducing a new queen directly increases with her cost
    • Swarming can only be prevented by keeping hens instead of bees.

  4. Beekeeping cannot be taught
    • However many times it works on trial, it will fail in the demonstration. Something else will go wrong.
    • Any explanation of a manipulation, which is presented so clearly that it cannot be misunderstood, will be.
    • What you know you don't know about beekeeping increases exponentially with what you do know.
    • When you finally understand bees, they change

  5. Abandon hope all ye who enter beekeeping
    • A honeybee colony under the most carefully controlled conditions will do exactly as it pleases.
    • The joy of beekeeping is maximum among those whose expectations are minimum

Len Heath, Surrey Beekeepers Association, April 2004 (via BEES)


5.      Correspondence

Is it possible to have an apiary on a site that somehow makes the bees aggressive? I have re-queened nasty colonies but at present this seems hopeless. I have taken bees which have been mild natured to this site and they have become very nasty within a week. I have even made a nuc and found them just as aggressive but when I have brought it home into the garden (in full sun) it has settled down. It took around 3 days for the temperament to change.

My bees are in partial shade with plenty of forage. They are also beneath an electric post with a transformer on it. Could this have any bearing? I have an excellent site for honey and the bees do very well but the bees have become so unmanageable, if the site is the issue, I shall have to move them in the winter - They are now so bad that I would pack it in if it meant I had to put up with being attacked like this every time. It used to be a source of amusement and experience to have to deal with a "NASTY" colony or two but it is not funny or beneficial any longer. I would be glad of any feedback or experience of this from other beekeepers.

Steve Watkins


6.      Honey Herbs and Bee Balms

Margaret Lear
(Reprinted from The Scottish Beekeeper: June 2004 : Courtesy BEES)

Think of traditional mediaeval herb gardens and you see rows of straw skeps, maybe set into the walls. Beds and borders murmur with contented bees, and the honey they produce tastes of heaven. Is this an idealised portrait, or is the marriage of herbs and bees based on science? Well, bees are attracted to plants mainly by scent and colour - and the characteristics of some plant families help too.

Most herbs are aromatic, but essential oils may be more concentrated in leaves than flowers. Bees want flowers for nectar and pollen, not leaves! But while dry weather causes flowers to lose scent, in leaves it becomes more concentrated. In those circumstances aromatic foliage could continue attract pollinators. The sweetest flowers have little colour - all their power is in scent! You'll notice many herbs have insignificant, pale, but scented flowers. A good example is Lemon Balm also known as the Honey Herb (Melissa officinalis). Gerard observed in 1636 that "the hives of Bees being rubbed with the leaves of Bawme, causeth the Bees to keep together, and causeth others to come unto them." Such a straightforward method of swarm control sounds too good to be true, but I'm inclined to give it a try!

Many herbs bear blue, mauve or pink flowers. Blue is the bees' favourite colour. Blue flowers may not need scent to get the bees' attention - but Lavender has the perfect colour and smell! Working among thousands of little ginger bees on a lavender hedge in Tuscany is a treasured memory for me. And lavender oil is as good first aid as any for stings! It's also recommended as an insect repellent. Could it become a gentle alternative to smoke or would it just annoy bees? I'm not sure. Perhaps someone's tried?

The rich blue of Hyssop, the purple of Sage (which good beekeepers will allow to flower freely), and the subtle mauves and pinks of marjoram, thymes, mints (especially native water mint), and Bergamot (Monarda didyma), bring bees to the garden for valuable forage. Not for nothing is the latter (a native of North America adding an Earl Grey flavour to teas) known as Bee Balm! Its close relative Horsemint (Monarda fistulosa) created a stir among my garden bees last summer when it flowered - profusely - for the first time.

All the herbs mentioned so far are in the family Labiatae - named for its specialised two-lipped flowers ideally accessible for bee pollination. Another family for which bees have an affinity is Boraginaceae - herbs with tubular flowers, suited to pollination by longer-tongued insects. All bees benefit from the early nectar of Lungwort (Pulmonaria) and Comfrey (Symphytum).

Herbs from the Compositae (daisy and thistle) family are worth growing, as the tiny florets opening over a long period make excellent foraging. Bees would love us to grow thistles, but for some reason (!) we desist. As an excellent alternative, my favourite perennial for late nectar bee forage is the Blue Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro), whose showy heads may each carry a dozen bees, of various species, at any one time. Not strictly an herb, but definitely a plant-with-purpose for beekeepers, and a star in the Beekeepers' Collection at my nursery. Given the proven medicinal value of bee products themselves, it seems to me tfiat the mediaeval herbalists were wiser than we give them credit when it comes to the concept of "complementary medicine" - for bees and herbs together have the capacity to bring both happiness and healing.


7.      Committee Report

The Committee met on 28th June and confirmed its response to the BBKA draft Constitution that will be debated later this year. Also received was advice from the BBKA about the new Honey Labeling regulations (any differences from previous notes on this subject will be included in the next Newsletter). Robin Hall (RBI) sent a summary of his Western Region Foulbrood Update, which recorded no outbreaks of AFB in the region this year, but 1 incident of EFB, at Shifnal, in Shropshire. Most of the other areas bordering our county also had minor outbreaks of this disease.

The Committee also recorded its thanks to John King, a member from Church Stretton, who has volunteered to be SBKA's 'Events Coordinator' as advertised in the last Newsletter. John will work on this task for the next twelve months in the first instance.


8.      Millions of Bees in Traffic Accident

In Claycomo, Missouri, a tractor trailer slid off a ramp linking two interstate highways. It was carrying 520 beehives from Oklahome to Wisconsin, where they were going to be used for pollinating cranberries. The trailer overturned spilling the hives and breaking them open. The driver, police and firefighters responding to the incident were all stung repeatedly. Reuben Johnson, from a bee farm in Kansas, was walking on a layer of live bees two inches deep during the clean up operation. Most of the bees were retrieved and firefighters hosed down those remaining to kill them and avoid problems with local residents

(From nytimes .com, June 2003)


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