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January 2018 BBKA News highlights
We welcome a new regular column writer this month, who will be helping us to keep on top of things in the apiary and giving us the benefit of her experience and hard-earned tips as a beekeeper. Lynfa Davies, Master Beekeeper, is taking up the baton this year, and she begins writing The Apiary in January on page 7. As Lynfa says, this is a quiet time for us all in the apiary, with our bees tightly clustered to conserve heat during these cold days and nights. She highlights the fact that the cluster needs to move periodically, to keep contact with the food stores. This can be a risky business for the bees; if they do become separated from the food stores or if they have insufficient stores they can starve. She advises us to heft our hives and if they feel a little light to offer the bees fondant. You can do this when you go to check that the winter weather and wildlife pests have not caused any damage, and harsh winds have not blown the hives over.
As it is a quiet month, Graham Royle can offer you a little ‘craft therapy’ on page 11. As promised, this month he shows us how to make some tools and equipment that will be so useful for extracting pollen grains and making pollen slides for examination under a microscope. You wouldn’t believe the things you can make with a lamp bulb and a thin sheet of metal - truly amazing!
If you are thinking ahead about what forage you can provide for your bees next season, don’t miss our fascinating Botany for Beekeepers article on floral and extra-floral nectaries by Tony Harris on page 13. Tony tells us where plants get their nectar from, how they let bees know where to collect nectar from and how they tell bees the nectaries have already been visited; what clever plant-to-bee signalling. Next month, Tony will give us some tips on creating a bee-friendly garden.
Did you manage to get to the National Honey Show in October 2017? If not, Sue Carter, Fiona Matheson and Val Rhenius visited the show and have a full report for us on page 16. Many people show their hive products, such as honey, wax polish, lip balms, candles and much more. Others show their inventions, like Fred Howard, who displayed his beautifully crafted and intelligently constructed bait hive elevator. You will not fail to be inspired to visit next year’s show when you read their account.
A similarly carefully considered invention is the Flow Hive, which has been met with mixed reactions by beekeepers. Adrian Dwyer, became a beekeeper when he purchased a Flow Hive. He has, therefore, had to learn how to use it optimally, to harvest his honey and to keep his bees happy all in one season. It has not always been easy, but, as he describes on page 17, it has certainly been interesting - and he is one very proud owner of a Flow Hive. So, if you have wondered what they are like to use, turn to page 17 and find out. Another invention from a beekeeper that you might find useful is the ‘National DonDor’, invented by Don Honey. Don’s invention is an easy-to-fit unit that creates an all-in-one landing board, porch and adjustable entrance for National brood boxes, which you can read more about on page 31.
We all aim to have healthy and robust colonies, and many of us try to improve the characteristics of our bees by, for example, replacing queens from ‘tetchy’ colonies with queens from calm colonies. Bee improvement programmes all rely upon selecting bees with desirable characteristics over those with less desirable characteristics, but it is not always easy to know how to go about doing this. John Whitaker has experience and knowledge of bee improvement through breeding and he explains that selecting bees relies upon careful objective assessment. On page 20 John shares his methods of assessment, which you can use or adapt to formulate your own assessment scheme. Reading John’s article will certainly make you think about your bees’ characteristics and, if you decide to follow his methodology, you could make significant ‘improvements’ in your stock.
Colony health and robustness is, as we know, affected by the level of varroa present, and we are urged to keep these mite levels as low as possible throughout the year, preferably through integrated pest management. But what can we do in the winter months? It is often said that you can treat your colonies to control varroa in late December/early January with oxalic acid if you monitor the mite drop and find it to be above threshold levels. However, it is also emphasised that we should not open hives in the cold winter months. This, for many, is an imponderable conundrum. If you are one of those beekeepers wondering whether it is safe to open your hive to carry out varroa control with oxalic acid turn to page 29, where Wally Shaw considers just this problem in answer to a worried reader.
As you all will know, in 2013 the European Union introduced a moratorium on the use of neonicotinoids to protect bees from risk of exposure to insecticide residues in pollen and nectar. You will also know that Michael Gove, in November 2017, announced that the UK Government will support a continuation of these EU restrictions post-Brexit. The moratorium has been somewhat of a controversial topic with some authors voicing concerns that it might have negative consequences. On page 25, John Hoar, having sifted through available data on the subject, questions the claims that the moratorium on neonicotinoid use as seed treatment on oilseed rape has negative consequences for bees and beekeepers. He presents the published evidence to substantiate his conclusions on page 25 for all those beekeepers who have been confused by such reports of concern. Neonicotinoid use was certainly one of the top concerns of beekeepers who completed the BBKA 2017 annual honey survey, more details of which are given on page 24, so I am sure this will be of wide appeal.
Also in this issue are the 2017 practical examination results on page 32 - congratulations to all successful candidates. Back by popular demand is the ‘What is’ series, beginning this month on page 27 with What is IBRA for those who do not know this organisation. And our favourite clifftop beekeeping allotmenteer, Rowland Molony, gives us another instalment of his ‘life at the cliff edge’ on page 28.
We wish you all a Happy New Year and a good beekeeping season ahead.