Reports on meetings

The BeeHolder, Winter 2013

Here is the low down on what went on over the last three months. Many thanks to those who contributed these reports. Next time you are at a meeting, don't be shy, volunteer to write a report (or be volunteered, if somebody asks!).

September 14 - Dual Members' Apiary Meeting

The BeeHolder, Winter 2013

This was a meeting spread over 2 members' apiaries, Bill & Carol Gough's and Roger Stone's apiaries in Aberhafesp – a first for MBKA. I wasn't able to make it myself, but by all accounts it was a good day out. The weather was fine, and the bio-security measures developed by Ian Hubbuck for the Gregynog apiary were deployed “in the field” and very ably policed by Noel Eaton. It is a credit to Ian's design skills that they were so easily adapted to an alien location. Perhaps there is a business opportunity here – Apiary Bio-Security Limited?

But a picture paints a thousand words, so here is a further 3,000 words :

Apiary meeting 14 September

Apiary meeting 14 September

... and the caption competition :

Caption Competition

Choose from :

a) Yes, beekeeping isn't all hard work.
b) Sometimes you get a chance to relax and have a chat.
c) Wow, is that the Acme supersmoker RB211d?
d) What! You keep wasps????

or think of your own.

September 22 – Apiary training at Gregynog

The BeeHolder, Winter 2014

It was a pleasant Sunday in September when I suggested to my weekend house guest, Rosy, that she might like to come on a drive up into the hills above Newtown (to go to Gregynog) so I could go to the Apiary Training morning. Luckily she agreed and said she’d be quite interested to listen in, even though she’s not a bee keeper!

We were slightly early and were welcomed into the group of mentors who were deciding how to run the session and discussing Tony’s ideas for inserting insulation on top of the crown board, but still allowing a rapid feeder to be in place (Autumn use). Our mentors were: Apiary Manager Dave Bennett, Roy Norris, Noel Eaton and Bill Gough. Also there was David Morris who, at a previous meeting, had inadvertently revealed himself as a beekeeper of 45 years experience and was inveigled out of retirement to be a mentor, and then there was first time mentor, Netty Batty, who was a new beekeeper in 2012 but having taken a temporary summer job with a commercial ‘bee farm’ she had had a steep learning curve in handling bees. When all the ‘trainees’ had arrived and disinfected their boots and put on over-gloves, we were split up into small groups and allocated a mentor. My group went with David Morris who was at pains to show that if you treat your bees gently and quietly they will remain calm (generally speaking) and be far less disturbed by anything that the bee keeper is doing. Of the two hives we were inspecting we decided that one was queen-less and that we hadn’t managed to catch sight of the queen in the other hive but that there was evidence of her presence. Later in the session when there was a group chat it transpired that none of the queens had been spotted so we didn’t feel quite so inept! Montybees are experimenting this season with ‘Varroa sticks’ as a way of treating the bees. Previously Apiguard had been used but for that you need to apply while the temperature is above 15 degrees so that the Thymol can sublimate and the whole treatment can take up to six weeks and also the bees may be put off feeding. The ‘sticks’ are organic and are called BeeVital Hive Treatment Stick or BeeVital Hive Clean and come in handy 15ml sealed tubes, each of which is sufficient for one hive. The contents are dribbled along the seams of bees between the frames, much the same as when doing oxalic acid treatment. The advantage of the sticks over Apiguard is that you can treat the hive at any time as it doesn’t taint the honey or wax. Varroa floors were slid into place under the mesh bases to aid in the counting of the mite drop. Hive ventilation and Nosema were other subjects covered. Before closing up the hives each one was fed an autumn strength syrup using a variety of feeder types ranging from Miller ‘trough’ feeders to bucket ‘contact’ feeders.

Rosy and I then went to have a cup of tea and were later joined by Netty, Tony, Helen Woodruff and latterly by Dave Bennett. This gave us another opportunity to have an informal chat and to exchange bee experiences! We then set off for a walk around the lovely gardens – something I’ve never had time to do on previous visits and it was well worth it.

And here is Rosy’s ‘take’ on the session:

Visiting the Gregynog apiary as a non bee-keeper was a fascinating experience. I was really pleased to have the opportunity to see the bees at work without having to wear protective gear. I knew a few things about bees, but the excellent observatory, set within the apiary was a mine of information about the bees themselves, the make up of a hive and what was on view. I found myself spending the whole time of the training session watching whilst the mentors went through the hives and showing me the frames of bees and explaining how the hives were being prepared for the winter. It was reassuring to be watching from behind the safety of the mesh walls! I wasn’t the only visitor to the observatory that morning as another family with their children came along to watch as well. (see picture on front cover).

Carol Whatley, Wintles Apiary, Bishop’s Castle

October 9 - MBKA Meeting Double Bill

The BeeHolder, Winter 2014

This was a meeting with talks on two topics at Plas Dolerw, Newtown. Fristly Noel Eaton gave an overview of the in house project “Bringing Back the Black Bee” followed by a talk by Emma Guy, Powys Biodiversity Officer, entitled “On the verge – 40 years and counting”.

As most of you probably know, Noel, Dave Bennett and Roy Norris were impressed by a talk from Steve Rose about trying to re-establish the black bee that they took him up on an offer to go and see how to set about doing it. After a lesson on grafting queen cells, they got 6 out of seven to take giving them two each. Only one survived – a nice healthy black queen – but unfortunately she must have mated badly by the look of her progeny. Dave and Roy both had two perfectly formed dead queens – this mishap was put down to the cells having been inadequately incubated during the transportation from N Wales. That was a lesson learned, but there is clearly going to be a difficulty getting queens mated with black drones.

There are a few candidate areas in west Powys in which it may be possible to saturate the mating range of one apiary with black drones. If all the surrounding beekeepers cull their mongrel drones and substitute with pure black ones supplied from outside, then the black queen(s) from the target apiary MUST mate with black drones. This needs lots of beekeepers involved as a bee will fly up to seven miles to satisfy its urges. It also needs an apiary where we can rear the black queens (Gregynog?).

The Stiperstones project in West Shropshire may be a useful ally in seeing this project through. We will try and keep members informed on developments through the BeeHolder and the web site.

Every spring people complain to Powys CC that their verge outside their house HAS or HAS NOT been cut. There are reports about verge management from 40 years ago and it is still contentious now. Powys has 5,492km of roads 2,536 of which are in Montgomeryshire (268 km of trunk and A roads, 1,018 km of unclassified). The verges of these make up a lot of semi-natural habitat with diverse topology, underlying geology and so on. For wildlife they offer a species rich habitat, good structural diversity and a long season pollinator foraging habitat. Opinion varies as to how valuable they are as wildlife corridors, but common sense dictates that they must be of some advantage.

However the verges must be managed to serve other functions such as fit in the landscape, as a refuge for pedestrians and horses in the absence of footpaths, aid surface drainage, somewhere to dump cleared snow, emergency stopping places and amenity value. Verges must be cut in order to maximise these benefits as well as to ensure adequate visibility, control harmful weeds, reduce fire risk and aid maintenance work on the highway/drains.

In the old days farmers and landowners maintained the road verges by making hay on them. When agriculture was intensified after the war, there was a loss of meadowland and verges were left as remnants. 90% of meadows have gone since WWII and are still going due to neglect and poor management.

Verge management now has to be targeted as the work to do far exceeds the man-power available. The verges are managed to conserve the best examples at the expense of inferior ones. The Living Highway project went from 2000 to 2008 and Powys is still doing similar things (see here). There are 103 Road Verge Nature Reserves (RVNRs) across Powys with over 30 further candidates. Most are designated for floral diversity. They are still supported by wildlife trusts and volunteers, or they would not be possible. The management is usually different for each site, experts are needed to identify the site and resources are limited. It needs more support from the public to encourage PCC to allocate a bigger budget for the task – not easy in these austere days.

So if you are concerned about a verge near you, take a look at the website above, try and gain some support from neighbours or the parish council or the WI (or anyone) and try and present a case to propose a RVNR of your own.

I did not have high expectations for this talk – I mean, how much can you say about verges and be interesting? – but Dr Emma Guy far exceeded expectations. Reading these reports in BeeHolder is a very poor second to being there and hearing the speakers talk on their subject.

LC Cheshire