Shropshire Beekeepers' Association



Newsletter : June 2004


1.      Editorial

I've just been looking back at the editorial in the June issue last year and I could almost copy it word for word. I was ob serving then that this is the time of year when everything in nature runs riot and it is very difficult to keep up. So the reason for the late arrival of this Newsletter is that I have been too busy beekeeping to write! As always, swarms have beaten me, though I did pre-empt some during May by splitting colonies. I have come to the conclusion that it's the price I have to pay for using WBCs. The brood body is relatively small for a vigorous colony and since I find working on a brood-and-a-half cumbersome, it is inevitable that some colonies will outgrow their accommodation (even if kept well supplied with supers). In fact my first swarm, which fortunately I caught, came out only a few days after an inspection. On re-examination, although there were some queen cells, they were not more than five days old so the queen was jumping the gun.

It is also fascinating to see where the bees are foraging. We have quite a lot of hawthorn and holly bushes near our hives and this year the bees were working the flowers with incredible enthusiasm, though in some years they almost ignore them. Another attraction to them this year was a rowan tree which I have never noticed in the past, though this may be because it is still a young tree and has not flowered so vigorously before. It's going to be interesting to see what they find during the 'June gap'. Unless we get a poor second half to the season I have high hopes for the honey harvest in August.

For various reasons I have not been able to attend any of the apiary meetings this season so far. I would welcome brief reports about these events for inclusion in the Newsletter. Is there a volunteer out there? Perhaps one of our new members?


2.      Forthcoming Meetings

This month's apiary meeting is at Mrs. Hodgson's apiary at her Lavender Farm near Astley Abbotts, Bridgnorth. It lies just off the B4373 road from Broseley to Bridgnorth. Approaching from Broseley turn left off this road when you see the Astley Abbotts sign. The apiary is on the edge of the lavender fields, which you will see on your right hand side a little way down this road. Our annual visit to Mrs. Hodgson's apiary is always a particular treat. If you have not been before it really is worth a special effort to be there. Date - 19th June, time : 2.30 p.m.

On 26th/27th June SBKA will have a stand in the Shropshire Education tent at the West Mids Show. If you are visiting, call in to see us.

Advance notice: the July meeting is at our vice-chairman's apiary near Market Drayton and in August, of course, we have an opportunity to make a major contribution to the Shrewsbury Flower show. Further details of both these events will be given in next month's Newsletter.


3.      Committee Meeting

The Committee last met on 26th April. We reviewed the BBKA draft constitution that was presented at the delegates meeting in January, with a request for comments by the end of this month. Two items concerned us. One is the fact that any association wishing to join BBKA must pay a minimum subscription equivalent to the charge for 100 members. This could be off-putting to small associations. The second is that each association has one vote in the annual meeting, regardless of the size of the association. So an area with, say, 30 members has the same voting power as one with 300. We will query these points in our response.

The committee had agreed previously to offer some financial support to the Flower Show Committee towards the purchase of a computer to help with the administration of the annual show. It was reported that this had been gratefully received by that Committee.

A member had written asking us to consider the bulk purchase of Thorne's bee-syrup for autumn feeding as a service to members. This was discussed at some length but it was felt that the practical problems associated with handling bulk containers, arranging for individual distribution and managing the financial and other administrative tasks made it a difficult project. Also, experience in the bulk purchase of Bayverol strips in the past demonstrated how easy it is to become trapped in an expensive undertaking when members find better ways of servicing their needs.

Two other items resulted in a decision to appeal to members for support. The first is that it would be very helpful to have an 'Events Co-ordinator' who would handle requests from such bodies as The National Trust for SBKA to attend their various events and would organise our response. This does not mean having to attend all such activities yourself - but rather making sure that someone is deputed to do it on our Association's behalf with whatever support is necessary. A second appeal is for members to put their names forward if they would be prepared to offer practical support to new beekeepers. This might involve, for example, helping them to establish a colony, showing them what to look for in an inspection, assisting with swarm prevention strategies - or letting them observe you at work in your own apiary - and so on. If you would like to talk over either of these possibilities, please contact Brian Goodwin (Tel: 01743 884524).


4.      Alternative to Viagra?

Some Bulgarian beekeepers have launched a thistle honey, which they claim to be a cheap alternative to Viagra. The trade fair where it was introduced had to be extended because of the demand for the product.
(Reported in Cambridge BKA Newsletter, courtesy BEES)


5.      Swarm Sizes?

The early swarms I have seen this year are particularly small. I have seen prime swarms with a mated queen that are smaller than a house brick. Why is this? In fact the most recent swarm had a marked queen in it. Surely if they are this small it was not worth swarming at all. Do bees who would ordinarily go with the swarm get cold feet in inclement weather and stay back in the hive? I have to confess, this year I have seen swarms earlier than ever so is it just natural that these swarms will be smaller due to lack of build-up time? I would be interested to hear what our experienced beekeepers think

Steve Watkins


6.      Varroa Control: Another Approach

The Devon Beekeepers Newsletter of October/November 2003 carried this description of 'sugar dusting' as another way of tackling varroa. Members there were asked to let Richard Ball, the RBI for the South Western Region, know how successful they found it as he was collecting evidence for research purposes. Although we do not have the recording sheet he offered, I am sure he would be interested to hear of other trials. He can be contacted on 01395 567990 or email

Dusting with Icing Sugar and other fine powders has been a method of control suggested and used by some as a means of controlling the Varroa mite in bee colonies. The principle behind it is that the fine dust particles adhere to the feet of the mites, preventing them from clinging on to their host, thus losing their grip and falling away- hopefully never to return to the bees. Scientific work has been carried out in several institutes to determine the efficacy of this control method, but it seems to have been limited to identification, monitoring and treatment of bees off the brood frames.

Many beekeepers are now using open mesh floors as part of their integrated pest management in Varroa infestations. It is already known that many mites naturally fall off bees. With conventional floors they can climb back or jump on to a passing bee. A combination of an open mesh floor and dusting bees would appear to be a logical part of an integrated pest management system in the control of Varroa. This control method is experimental, but its purpose is to demonstrate how effective it may be in reducing mite populations within honeybee colonies.

Equipment needed
1.  Bee colonies in hives equipped with open mesh floors.
2.  A means of monitoring mite populations before and after dusting.
3.  Icing sugar and a suitable applicator, such as an icing sugar shaker or dredger, as used by chefs and pastrycooks.

Firstly assess the mite population in the selected hive(s) by calculating the natural mortality rate, Count the mite drop over the period and divide the total mites counted by the number of days. Multiply this figure by 466 from November to February, by 36 from May to August and by 100 during March, April, September and October to arrive at the mite population. Alternatively, the infestation level can also be calculated by using the following formula. Divide the number of sealed drone cells infested by the number of drone cells sampled then multiply this number by the total number of sealed drone cells in the colony, multiplying this total by 10.

The hive is then examined as for a normal brood examination, frame by frame. Each brood frame is removed and the bees on each side are dusted with icing sugar, using the chosen applicator, and then returned to the brood chamber. A total of 15 grams of icing sugar should be used for dusting each colony. With double brood chambers and larger hives, such as Dadant or Jumbo Langstroth, a total of 25 grams of icing sugar should be used.

NB. If the weather is wet or humid, delay application as the fine particles cling together and the technique is less effective.

Dusting is repeated for a further two applications at intervals of about three days. Three days after the final application, assess the mite population again.

(Article courtesy BEES)


7.      Bees Clean Up

[Michael Hopkins : Ethology 110, 1 - 10 (2004)]

Honeybees need to keep themselves clean - not least because their wings can become clogged by dirt, which hampers flying. But as anyone who has had a troublesome itch knows, some areas are more difficult to reach than others. Benjamin B. Land and Thomas D. Seeley have carried out a detailed investigation of the 'grooming invitation dance', by which one bee solicits a helping hand from another. This behaviour is distinct from the 'waggle dance' used to point fellow workers towards food.

Land and Seeley's first approach was to film bees n the hive. In the grooming dance, they found, a worker vibrates her body from side to side about four times a second, sometimes stopping to groom herself with her legs. In two-thirds of cases, another worker sprang to the grubby bee's aid and began grooming her. Such helpful behaviour was always preceded by the dance and workers always touched the dancer with their antennae before beginning to groom, suggesting that the signal is transmitted by touch.

Bees can't reach the bases of their own wings. Is this the reason for the dance? To find out, Land and Seeley puffed chalk dust onto the wing bases of workers! Sure enough, dusty bees produced more dances than control workers puffed with air

Reported in Scottish Beekeeper April 2004 (courtesy BEES)


Return to Newsletters Menu