Shropshire Beekeepers' Association

Newsletter : November 2004


1. Editorial

In item 3 below, there is a reference to the possibility of a much reduced service to beekeepers from the Bee Inspectorate (Regional and Seasonal). The issue was discussed in some detail at the BBKA forum meeting in October. Apparently it stems from the government's plan to reduce the number of civil servants by 200,000 over the next two years or so. This may affect anyone working within a government funded agency including, through DEFRA, the Central Science Laboratory and the National Bee Unit. All these agencies have been required to submit plans showing how they will reduce their workforce to specified target levels.

At the BBKA Forum considerable concern was expressed about the impact of this and the related decision that European Foul Brood should no longer be a notifiable disease. Representatives from the southern counties (who apparently experience EFB much more than we do) were particularly agitated, especially since EFB is quite difficult to diagnose in the field and therefore might spread rapidly if the monitoring provided by Inspectors is withdrawn. A further worrying implication is that without this external expert confirmation of brood diseases in an apiary, it may be much more difficult to make insurance claims for the costs of replacing equipment and restocking colonies that have had to be destroyed. The BBKA Executive was asked to make further representations about the issue at the highest level.

Another topic raised was the lack of detailed guidance available about alternative treatments for varroa. The New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) published a document in 2001* giving precise instructions for using a wide variety of chemical, biochemical and physical controls, both licensed and unlicensed. There was a widespread feeling in the meeting that our own authorities ought to make something similar available here, especially with the advent of pyrethroid resistant varroa and the fact that support in the field is no longer being provided for treatment.

The new honey labelling regulations were also discussed in the hope that a nationally acceptable format might be established. Unfortunately it appears that this is unlikely at the moment because individual Trading Standards Officers are apparently free to make their own interpretations of the requirements. Both these issues will be pursued further.

*Members can access the document by clicking here


2. Next Meeting

Our next meeting is on 10th November and will consist of a talk by Terry Ashley, who will be talking about bee diseases. It is seeming increasingly likely that the support we have been able to rely on in the past from our Regional and Seasonal Bee Inspectors will be considerably reduced over the next two or three years (see inside for further comment). If this is so, we may all need to become more adept at recognising (and treating) the many diseases that can afflict our bees. This talk could be a first practical step to making us more aware of the significance of the symptoms we may encounter. The venue will be the Rosa Room at Radbrook College (starting at 7.30 p.m.)

The meeting on December 8th will focus on the seasonal activity of candle making as well as offering an opportunity for enjoying some food and wine with our beekeeping friends.


3. October Meeting Report

Last month was our AGM and the usual business was conducted, as listed in the Agenda published previously. Graham Roberson and Tony Little (Chair and Vice-Chair respectively) had stated that they did not wish to be re-elected to office. The grateful thanks of the Association for all their work was appropriately expressed. Ray Green was elected Chair in Graham's place. Two new members were elected to the Committee (Chris Perkins & John Perkins) with the latter also being nominated as Vice-Chair in Tony Little's place. Other previous officers were re-elected but Penny Mungeam (secretary) and Roger Evans (treasurer) both indicated that they would not want to continue in their present posts beyond the coming year. Roger gave his financial report, which showed a healthy surplus of income (4210) over expenditure (3370). He stressed the value of members using the 'Gift Aid' (tax recoverable) route for paying their subscriptions and invited any member not currently doing this to contact him for further information. There was a discussion about creating a new Vice-President post (or posts) to be granted to members who have given long service to the Association. This would require some changes to the current Constitution so the Committee will discuss it further and come back to the membership with further proposals in due course.

Robin Hall (RBI) drew our attention to the news detailed in the Editorial about the future structure of the Inspectorship. While this is not happening immediately, and members should continue to contact Robin or Dave Sutton (Seasonal BDI) whenever they need to discuss a concern about their bees, the longer term view is certainly worrying. [Robin also provided a copy of the season's summary of the CSL Western Region Foul Brood notifications (one case in Shropshire). I hope to include the paper in the next edition - Ed.]

The remainder of the meeting, for which we were joined by the members of Brian's 'Beekeeping Beginners' class, consisted of a talk by Clive Hewitt from Exomite Apis. He gave us a clear and informative account of the development of this additional approach to controlling varroa. Like Apiguard it is thymol based and aims to reduce the number of mites in a colony by interfering with their abiltity to cling on to the bees. Because this is a physical rather than a chemical treatment, the issue of resistance does not arise. In addition this particular method for distributing the active ingredient throughout the hive does not require the relatively high ambient temperature (15 C) of some other treatments. Used in conjunction with other controls as part of an IPM approach to dealing with varroa, this should prove a useful addition to the armoury.


4. In My Apiary - Tony Little

The news across Shropshire is that many colonies that were wintered last year failed to survive this year. Disease, mites or starvation were often the cause but I wonder if many colonies failed to survive simply because they were not strong enough. The changing climate seems to be encouraging colonies to be active for much more of the winter now but, as sources of forage are scarce, the energy output of the colony is greater than that which can be recouped and the unsettled bees winter less well. Instead of having a strong population of winter bees, pollen fed and with plenty of fat reserves, the bees are prematurely aged, thus preventing the stock from having a good 'flying start' in spring.

An important factor, too, is the age of the queen, especially when the colony becomes stressed. A vigorous, young queen is the key to a productive stock, yet for many beekeepers queen replacement is a haphazard affair. Indeed I suspect that many beekeepers hardly ever see their queens. While this is not essential during most inspections (as long as there are signs of her presence that is enough), nevertheless there are times when the queen does need to be found. For example, those who use the Jenter (or similar) kits for queen rearing must be able to trap the queen for a short time. Similarly most methods of swarm control need the queen to be found and, of course, if a colony needs to be requeened, the queen must be located before she can be destroyed. Re-queening a colony is especially important when a colony is bad tempered but as the bees are usually so nasty when being handled, many beekeepers shy away from this task thus perpetuating a nasty strain.

How do I find the queen if the bees are a bad strain? When dealing with a difficult colony I move the brood box that needs to be examined a few metres from its original site so that the flying bees return to the supers that are left there. The fewer bees there are on the comb, the easier the task. An alternative is to move the whole hive a few metres from its original stand. Replace it with a floorboard plus an empty super. On this place a brood box containing just three drawn empty combs. Now go to the original hive, take out the first brood comb, shake the bees off it into the prepared brood box on the original stand, then put the now 'bee-less' brood comb into a separate brood box. Do this for all the remaining brood combs in turn. Having completed this task, place a queen excluder over the brood box containing the shaken bees and on top of this put the brood chamber that now contains the original 'bee-less' brood frames. Finally return the supers to the top of this newly constructed hive. Leave it for 24 hours. The following day go to the hive and remove the supers. The upper brood box will now contain the brood and a majority of the original bees, which will have migrated through the queen excluder to attend to and feed the young brood. The queen meanwhile will be in the bottom brood box, probably on the middle of the three drawn frames that were put there. She should be relatively easy to find now because only a few bees will have stayed behind with her.
(To be continued..................)


5. Head well above the parapet - Steve Watkins

I have heard many beekeepers express there problem with wasps this season. I was asked by my landowner at the apiary to destroy 3 BIG wasps nests earlier this year which I did but still they kept coming and I would frequently see wasps at the entrance and in the hive. I have used jam jars in the past and they work well but they are a smelly mess. This year I was a bit lazy and left some wax cappings to one side of the apiary in an open covered bucket. Tut, tut I hear you say. But I am sure some of our own personal practices trials and experiments would make some beekeepers tilt there heads forward and peer over their spectacles at us!

When I returned a few weeks later the cappings bucket was full of wasps happily scratching about but they had not made a huge impression on the honey below. Funny too was the fact that there were only one or two bees amongst them. When I inspected the hives - even the weaker ones has no sign of wasps.

I know that this method of leaving food out might be frowned upon by many but it does appear that wasps prefer to go for easily available food and this bucket was proving much too tempting. This cost me very little and up to now the wasps have been so consumed in ferreting amongst the cappings that they appear to have paid no attention to my hives. I do have a reservation, in that, by feeding the wasps I may be prolonging their life and if they are still coming back by mid December I will let you know!!


6. Round and About

Ludlow & District BKA:Final Event of the Year: Saturday 12th November - Annual Dinner. (Contact the treasurer for details: 01584 890830). Next Meeting will be the AGM in February 2005

North Shropshire BKA:AGM: Tuesday November 16th at The Raven, Tilley. (No meeting in December)


7. A Horrible Year - Selby Martin

You invite us to write in with our experiences of beekeeping this summer. So I overcome my sense of shame and failure to recount my worst ever year in beekeeping, hoping that others may learn from my mistakes.

I have but four hives. One had died out and the others all swarmed with a long wet spring followed by a burst of fine weather. One hive, however, produced a super of honey and I happily spun the combs - until I noticed that honey was spreading out across the floor. Lesson: always check that the honey tap is turned off.

This was my first season with two Dartington long hives, using 14" x 12" deep frames and I had expected to do well with them. One duly produced a super of honey and from the other I took two brood frames with which to try out the tangential grills that I had specially obtained for the purpose. I put these in my bee shed at the bottom of the garden and as bees were still emerging, I left the door open so that these could find their way back to their hives as darkness fell. Two days later I found the door still open, more bees than ever inside and the super had been emptied. Lesson: never leave full supers where the bees can get at them.

I still had the two brood frames intact and the next day took them to the extracting room. The problem here was wasps; I have never experienced so many - they were streaming in under the door and hundreds were buzzing around the lights. I turned these off and opened the door, took a broom and tried to sweep out the many that were crawling around on the floor. As I was wearing sandals, it is hardly surprising that one stung me on the foot, and another on the hand. Lesson: don't let wasps get into your extracting room.

By now I was clad in veil, suit and boots and set about extracting the two deep brood frames. To my annoyance, they would not fit, so I scraped off as much honey as I could and put the frames back in the carrying box. Only in the middle of the night did I awake to the realisation that I had been putting them in the wrong way round. Lesson: test new sized frames empty before trying to extract full ones.

A couple of days later, my wife and I were driving along somewhere when she remarked: "What a nice smell of honey". Oh, no! The carrying box was still in the back. I had forgotten that there was a hole in the bottom and honey was now spread over the inside of the car.Lesson: replace wet frames in the hive at once.

I am now preparing the hives for winter, feeding them where necessary after a poor summer, and looking forward to next year - it could hardly be any worse!


8. Members Notices

John Hill is disposing of an unusual "double-double-walled" hive to help promote the Julia Polak Research Trust into Lung Transplantation and Tissue Regeneration. The hive is approximately 3 feet in length and bears a plate on the front with the name 'Chas. Renshaw, Wigston, Leicester'. Does anyone have any information about this design of hive or the manufacturer?


From Steve Watkins
Unfortunately, the response to last months appeal was very poor so the Association will be purchasing some made-up ekes from Brian Norris. OK, we may have forgotten but I confess to being disappointed that our membership could not raise together 10 old brood boxes for such an important resource as the teaching apiary.


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