Summer 2014

The BeeHolder, Summer 2014

Bee Cage at Coed y Dinas Spring Fair

MBKA makes a splash at the Coed y Dinas Spring Fair

(despite the rain)

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The BeeHolder, Summer 2014

The production of the BeeHolder isn't quite keeping up with the precession of the equinoxes, and so it appears to be coming out An early swarmlater each quarter. Publication of this issue should have been around 21 June (actually the slippage is a result of other demands on my time, I can't really blame the defugalties of the solar system).

Swarms, swarms, swarms! Like buses, you don't see any for ages (several years, actually) and then suddenly four come along at once. It would appear that the picture (thumbnail right, full size on the web page) contributed by Joe Bidwell in last issue was strangely prophetic. Swarms have been a hot topic (as has the weather) this season and so they are mentioned quite a lot in this issue (perhaps a swarm of mentions).

In my last editorial I finished with “It was a gorgeous day today – let us hope it is an early sign of a beautiful and bountiful summer to come”. So far so good!

Chris Leech

We welcome as new members ...

The BeeHolder, Summer 2014

My apologies if you have joined recently and are not mentioned – let me know for the next edition.

Richard Carruthers (Llanfechain), Gillian Evans (Llanidloes), Clive Faulkner (Llanfair Caereinion), Ronnie Finch (Churchstoke), John and Susan Gill, Barbara Jones (Welshpool), Rachel Meade (Meifod), Steve Moss (Llanidloes), Nicholas Salt (Llawr-yr-Glyn), Stephen Rowson (Carno) and Annwyn Stockton (Montgomery).


The BeeHolder, Summer 2014

facebookFor those who aren't aware, Montybees has a facebook page.

The Web Manager is going to put a linking facebook logo on the website to save having to come to this page to click on the link!

If anyone is interested in getting involved in the facebook page (contributing to or administering it) do get in touch with the web administrator.

Chairman's Chat

The BeeHolder, Summer 2014

A swarm in May is worth a load of hay
A swarm in June is worth a silver spoon
A swarm in July isn’t worth a fly.

This old ditty is a fascinating social commentary of rural life 50, 100 and more years ago. A load of hay could keep a few cows going all winter. A load of hay (obviously depending on the size of the cart) was a matter of life or death for some families. A swarm in May would have been an enormous boon to a family lucky enough to catch one. But May swarms this year overwhelmed us. Roy Mander, our Swarm co-ordinator, gets most calls but Keith’s name and my own pop up on peoples search for contacts and there was one “Mad Monday” in Mid May when we all were overwhelmed. We all got tetchy, please bee-aware that your Swarm coordinator, Secretary and Chairman are only human. We do have fuses that blow. (we need to buy them some circuit breakers. Ed) That day Powys County Council passed onto me 6 members of the public who had “demanded” of PCC that they remove bees from their premises. In only one case was it a swarm of Honey bees. One case of Bumble bees, one of Solitary bees and 3 cases of well established honey bee colonies. Suddenly, in May, building works are planned and these colonies are deemed to be a danger to the tradesmen.

People seem genuinely amazed when told that it is not the Council’s nor local beekeepers responsibility to remove resident Honey Bee colonies. Most trades people will have come across bees and will know how to work round them or know a beekeeper who will help remove them. This is part of the job and the builder should be charging a “contingency” if he had not spotted the colony during his Quotation. To expect the local Beekeeping Association to save a householder money on their home improvements is totally unreasonable. A few years ago the Montgomeryshire County Times published a letter headlined “Be Fair to BeeKeepers” It was a request to the public not to call beekeepers out in September to deal with “swarms of bees” that were, of course Wasps. Rather than pay the £40+ call out fee from Powys County Council to deal with wasps the householder will try it on.

As a comment on the economics of Rural life in the 21st century 4 another pithy ditty ought to be written.

“want to save money, give a Beekeeper a call
But in September it won’t be bees at all.
So practice your bluster and bawl,
“of course it’s not wasps, you’ll see when you call”

Oh dear oh dear, my effort is truly pathetic. Here is a challenge to beekeepers: come up with a pithy 3 or 4 line ditty that is a social comment on the dependency culture of modern GB.

The heavy swarming season did have one benefit and that was that the number of bee colonies purchased was down on previous years, hence fewer colonies were imported. Those who have been attending Bee Teas and following articles in the Beeholder will know that one of our aims as an Association is to discourage importing bees from beyond Montgomeryshire and certainly from beyond the UK. So a reduced demand for Bees is deemed good. However I note that not all members fully appreciate the problems caused by “prolific” pure bred Central European or Mediterranean bees to the beekeeper (see article by newcomer R Carruthers, p 13). These are popular with the big commercial beekeepers who can legally turn a blind eye to the problems caused by their genes leaking into the environment. But often the Hobbyist with similar bees will find a prolific honey flow in summer is followed by colony loss in winter. It seems that we need to explain the problem better. Do come to the Llangurig show where we will be explaining to the general public why it is so important to Bring Back the Black Bee to the upper reaches of the Severn and Wye.

One Committee member snapped at me recently “you don’t have a dog and do the barking yourself Tony” I took the point. But disagreements are a healthy sign of the dynamics of an Association. Chris has TOTAL EDITORIAL CONTROL but he publishes things I profoundly disagree about. The Cloake Board Article on page 13 is a case in point. Chris (not many will know he worked for NASA) is a fanatic for gimmicks. I hate them, I believe that too few beekeepers fully understand the biology of the Bee colony. Until they do, then understanding the Cloake Board and the Snelgrove board cannot happen. Maybe people find these devices do work but that is only because they have followed the instructions to the letter. Rather like cooking by the instruction sheet in a colour supplement without understanding the principles of heat, yeast and resting actually does to the ingredients. I follow the advice of Wally and Jenny Shaw who advised us at the March meeting to keep Colony increase simple.

Tony Shaw, Chairman

Swarm Co-ordinator’s Report

The BeeHolder, Summer 2014

We don't usually have a swarm co-ordinator's report, but the swarm situation this year has been unusual. This is from the minutes of the last committee meeting, rather than a report written just for BeeHolder.  Ed

Many calls about swarms this year have not been about honey bees and many of the honey bee swarms have been inaccessible. Out of 185 calls and 11 e-mails, only 12 swarms were suitable for collection and only 5 were actually collected. One problem is that most people are out working during the day and by the time they are able to attempt collection the swarm has moved on. Another problem is that new beekeepers want swarms but often do not have the equipment ready to go out and collect them.

A new problem this year is bees attempting to access caravans through the ventilators (and then presumably head off for a short camping holiday in Cornwall. Ed).

Roy Mander, Swarm Coordinator

Collecting Swarms

The BeeHolder, Summer 2014

After the committee meeting on 23rd June, I thought about Roy's exasperation at trying to co-ordinate the collection of swarms. This has been a year of many swarms, not just in Montgoeryshire, but across Britain. Roy has been our swarm co-ordinator for a number of years now, gathering the names of members interested in collecting swarms and then taking the phone calls of the public, the police and the county council reporting swarms. Usually he can weed out the false alarms – bumblebees, wasps, solitary bees, established colonies etc – and then pass on the details to our nearest beekeeper(s) in order that they can get round to the scene and collect the bees before they move on to pastures new.

scratch headBut the system isn't perfect – too many false alarms, not enough swarms being reported through the right channels so that Roy is out of the loop and eg Tony Shaw or Keith Rimmer are the first contact, too many beekeepers who sign up for a swarm and then either are not equipped, not willing or have “already got one”. Don't forget we have to tell Roy when we want to be taken off the list, as well as when we want adding to it.

And it occurred to me that maybe there is a better way to co-ordinate this effort – which seems like a lot of work for the beekeepers and especially Roy for such a low return. Perhaps other BKAs have a better system? I couldn't find anything on WBKA or BBKA websites about how to organise swarm collection in a BKA (doesn't mean to say it isn't there - I just couldn't find it).

So I contacted all the contributing editors to the eBees (the exchange scheme for the bee kelight bulb momenteping press, sponsored by Northern Bee Books), reasoning that this would reach an informed representative of almost every BKA in the UK. I summarised our predicament and asked “Does any BKA out there have a strategy which yields greater success than this? Is it worth pooling our "best practice" to improve success across the BKAs?” I couldn't find any help on this on the WBKA and BBKA sites (doesn't mean to say it isn't there - I just couldn't find it).

I had seven responses, five of which basically said they had the same approach, the same problems and the same low percentage of success. The other two outlined a marvellous new strategy which describes not only how to tell with a single question whether it is a swarm of honeybees or some red herring, how to get exactly the right beekeeper to a swarm in a timely fashion, how to extract bees from established nests without having to destroy the parts of the building in which they are living, and also how to make money doing this...



... No, only kidding, there doesn't seem to be a silver bullet for this problem – at least not yet. But some good has come of it. There is a useful piece on the BBKA website to help the layman determine whether a group of insects is a swarm or something else The MBKA committee is going to put together a written policy on swarms in time for next year so that everyone involved in swarm collection knows what to do. Hopefully by having everyone better informed the system will work better. Thanks must go to David Teasdale and Doug Brown of BBKA for useful input and a couple of BBKA documents on swarm protocol and bees in buildings.

do you have a swarm

So we can't pretend to be perfect, but hopefully we're getting better. The orange banner above appears prominently on our web site now (not on BeeHolder pages!), so people looking for what to do with a swarm are pointed to Roy Mander and asked to check the BBKA page to see if they really have a swarm first!

Chris Leech

BIBBA Birthday Bash

The BeeHolder, Summer 2014

BIBBA (Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders Association) are pleased to announce their 50th Anniversary Conference, in bibba logocollaboration with SICAMM (Societas Internationalis pro Conservatione Apis Melliferae Melliferae), their European Partners (EP). It will be held at The Pavillion, Llangollen, N Wales and hosted by South Clwyd BKA.

The focus is on bee improvement, bee breeding, queen rearing and the management of native and near native honey bees.

Attendees will learn about improving their own stocks of honey bees, whilst enjoying an excellent and varied social programme.

It is a packed schedule of three simultaneous streams of lectures, seminars etc by a wide range of well known and respected speakers.

There is much more information on their web site.

Reports on meetings

The BeeHolder, Summer 2014

These are the meetings since the last BeeHolder ...

Apr 19th & 20th - Bees and Beetles

The BeeHolder, Summer 2014

MarqueeOur new three bay marquee was put up within an hour and a half by a team of six volunteers on the Friday afternoon. With a bit of gaffer tape the structure was sound, more boxes were brought out and the WBKA expanding double height stand stood proudly in the tent adorned with posters, photographs and information leaflets. The picture was completed by two hives standing at the entrance, observation hive inside and the new MBKA banners inviting the public into the tent.

Catching solitary beesThe weather on Saturday was good - the sun was out and the grounds were busy, loads of children with clipboards and enthusiastic parents following around the bunny trail. One of the bunny locations was close to the gated entrance at the top of the Apiary and some inquisitive families stood and watched as the yellow clad apiary teams split a double brood into 4. A couple of families moved into the Oak observation hide and asked lots of questions.

During the afternoon the wonders of the solitary bee were explained, with lots of exhibits in small perspex boxes, we then went of in pursuit of lone bees with Nigel Jones and his net on a pole swishing about and catching them.

Sunday was a dismal old day, but it didn't stop a few visitors to the stand and a hardy group strolled down to the large pond to have a look for beetles with Dr Schaefer. But the rain came down The Beetles fan club?heavier and entomology had to be abandoned. The stands were dismantled that afternoon and well done the team that took down the marquee the following day.

Keith Rimmer


May 11th Apiary Training Day

The BeeHolder, Summer 2014

Swarm control and making increase. This meeting had to be postponed till 25th because of poor forecasts and then cancelled … because of rain. Really? We had that much rain, that recently? Seems unlikely in our new arid climate!

May 18th Open Hives Bishops Castle

The BeeHolder, Summer 2014

What a fantastic afternoon we had... fair dos, the weather was great and the company was even better, some good oldMeeting at the Wintles bee-keepers doing their thing at an open hive day at The Wintles in Bishops Castle.

Well done Pat, it was a lovely afternoon. It must have been a lot of work and you did us all proud.

For those of you who missed it, we'll see you at the next one. There was loads of grub and a good old chin wag with Roy Mander, Joe Bidden, Tony Shaw, Fran Blockley, and the Prust family. Meanwhile all the children donned suits and were in the apiary.

May 24th & 25th Coed y Dinas Spring Fair

The BeeHolder, Summer 2014

This was the second outing for the new marquee and banners as we set out our stand at the Coed y Dinas Spring Fair. The weather was disappointingly wet, but the public still come along. It was a very family oriented event and the children really enjoyed having a look at the observation hive to spot the queen scampering around the comb.

Punters at the fairIn spite of the rain showers - some light, some heavy - both days were relatively well attended and thanks to all those who came along to help out and man the stand – committee and members alike. The petition to put bees back into the schools was well subscribed with over 300 signatures added over the two days.

The was a gap in the rain on Sunday which meant we could perform the bee cage demonstration. The crowd all stood at a safe distance, but still close enough to witness the young bee keepers (the Malton/Cass family from Machynlleth), go into the cage, open the hive and examine the bees.

In the cageRunning commentary was provided by our chairman, Tony Shaw, who told the crowd exactly what was going on. It was a great pity that only one session in the cage was possible.

The staff at Coed Y Dinas, led by Kate Hamer, were a pleasure to work with, and it was a great environment to get the message about bees over to a public which seemed interested and enthusiastic. Let us just hope for better weather next year.

Manning the stand was a lot of fun, and I can heartily recommend getting involved at the next event where MBKA is having a stand (Llangurig Show, August 9). Note that Debbie Francis will be “flying the flag” for us at Trefeglwys Show on August 2nd, so if you think you can give her a hand – or just some moral support – you can get in touch via any of the committee.

LC Cheshire

June 21st A Midsummer Night's Bees

The BeeHolder, Summer 2014

Last year we had our first midsummer night's hives, inspired by the Shakespeare play, “The Tempest”. It was well received, the idea was repeated and again success! We had a great evening at the Kuipers Family home, the hives being a few minutes walk away under some trees in a quiet lane. They are a mixture of traditional wood and polystyrene hives, and Henk talked about his experiences trying the new polystyrene approach.

We had a couple of potential new bee keepers (with their families) and they quickly got involved holding frames and asking questions. Henk went through a series of frame manipulations and showed the plastic foundation frames from his polystyrene hives which he had waxed up ready for the bees.

Henk's daughter Gwen (8 years old) also opened up a hive in front of a group of beekeepers, a brave thing to do with all the onlookers! She did very well and it shows that confidence with bees can start at a young age given the right encouragement.

July 13th Open Hives Caersws

The BeeHolder, Summer 2014

What an afternoon!!!! I hope those that came enjoyed their visit, we are already looking forward to next year... really.... it was that good for us as hosts!

Opening hivesWhat a great bunch of people that came along, we had absolutely stacks of grub and plenty of tables set out.

We also had a children's area that really worked well. They played, then donned the bee suits, visited the bees, handled the bees and one young lady (Zoe Rowson from Carno) even released a queen from a queen cell placed it in a queen retaining cage and sealed it temporally with a small slice of comb to keep her under control. The children then came back to the play area and carried on having loads of fun. They all played for hours.

We did 5 separate queen release activities on the bounce, even the older members of the association commented that they had never seen ONE done before.... never mind FIVE new queens! Zoe took hers with her and it should now be safely in a hive in Carno!!

a full houseSpecial thanks to the busy Sian who did some amazing stuff in the background, and also to Trish, Helen, and Tony who spread the numbers of suited and booted beekeepers out amongst the hives enabling us all to do different activities on the day.

Keith Rimmer

A beginner's perspective

The BeeHolder, Summer 2014

I am new to beekeeping. Before the Open Hive Days with Henk and Keith I had never been anywhere close to a hive. So it's been a process of discovery.

For experienced apiarists what I have learned might not be what you would immediately think of. And for everything I've discovered more questions have been raised. I now know that when beekeepers have a pool tea they eat well - homemade bread and butter, elderflower champagne, roast chicken, cakes. Trisha Marlow who was a big part of the Open Hive Day at Keith's was introduced as "almost a commercial beekeeper, but an ethical beekeeper."

So who are unethical beekeepers? Where are they? Some bees are favoured. Some are less favoured. Italian bees are productive but flighty and slightly frowned on. Native black bees are mild mannered and stoic. But I still don't know how to get black bees. And I don't know what happened to the queen bees that Keith and Trisha were liberating from their cells at an apparent record rate. As far as I know they just disappeared into pockets.

Where are they now? I've learned that keeping bees is a real reminder of what is immediately around you - or your bees, that beekeeping is not a solitary activity but one that depends on mentoring and contact, and that like marriage "is by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly". Thank you Henk and Hannah, Keith and Sian for two wonderful experiences.

Richard Carruthers

Queen Rearing using the Cloake Board

The BeeHolder, Summer 2014

I have heard quite a a lot of talk about queen rearing this season. This device for queen rearing was invented by a New Zealand beekeeper named Harry Cloake (probably a good thing he wasn't called Harry Ironing Ed).

Step 1: A double brood colony is selected and the bottom box with the queen is put back onto the floor reversed, so that the entrance is at the opposite side of the hive. This entrance is then closed. The Cloake board is placed on top of the lower brood box without the slide in place. It acts as a queen excluder, confining the queen to the bottom box. The bees from both boxes now use the upper entrance.

Step 2: The floor slide is slid into the board separating the two brood boxes. The lower rear entrance is opened. This causes all the flying bees to return to and populate the upper box. The upper box is left for 24 hours so they can determine that they are queenless and prepare to raise new queen. A gap is left in the centre between the frames ready to accept the grafted larvae. The queen in the lower chamber can be used with a Jenter or Cupkit frame to supply eggs of known age for the next step.

Step 3: Grafted larvae (20 or more depending on the strength of the colony) are installed in the upper box in the gap between the frames, which will now be filled with young bees. DO NOT USE SMOKE. Any emergency queen cells are removed. Within 24 hours the grafted larvae are “started” as queen cells and are then built up.

A Cloake BoardStep 4: The colony is then reunited into a “finisher” colony by removing the floor slider from the Cloake board. The queen excluder will prevent the queen from interfering with the new queen cells. Once the bees have started the queen cells they will continue to maturity even in a queen-right colony. The queen cells can be removed to an incubator when they are sealed. If they are left in the “finisher” colony they must be removed into nuc boxes two days before they are due to emerge. If they emerge in the colony the first out will probably destroy the others or the virgin queens will fight. Hair roller type cages can be put over the cells to contain the new queens.

Important points:

• The larvae used should be as young as possible i.e. 24 hours old. Using the Jenter or Cupkit system means that the age of the larvae is known. If grafting by other methods then use the smallest larvae possible.

• Timing is very important. A timetable needs to be drawn up to allow the beekeeper to plan when the cells need to be transferred to the mating nucs. There is a timetable that can be downloaded from the BIBBA website,“ Tom’s Table”.

• The “starter” situation is a box crammed full of bees and no queen.

• The “finisher” colony is a queen-right colony that has an abundance of bees and food.

• Use a nice tempered, well fed colony both for the grafts and for the Cloake board colony.

See also this site.

Reproduced courtesy of Nottinghamshire BKA and eBees

Apiary Report

The BeeHolder, Summer 2014

Roy Norris is currently writing an apiary report which will include requirements for equipment into next year. The apiary is currently being looked after by 2 teams of 2 beekeepers which is working pretty well.

Four nucs have been made and one* has been sold. There should be enough colonies to produce the required number of nucs next year.

Roger Stone presents the nuc to the Davies'Apiary training days have been well attended and feedback has been good. It is planned to have some basic bee handling sessions next year for new members.

* as of 23 June, one nuc had been sold.

Apiary team

The apiary team are doing a great job and have exciting plans for the apiary next year. Ed.

Obituary - John Derek Humphreys - Nov 1931 – Jun 2014

The BeeHolder, Summer 2014

Long time MBKA member John Derek Humphreys died very suddenly in June. He was active with his friends and garden till the previous day.

There is no doubt Derek was a family man of vision, affable and enthusiastic about all matters to do with natural life.

Driven by his deep love and fascination of farming he was not afraid of having a go at developing new enterprises in addition to his successful flock of sheep and the beef herd. His barn based museum of farming tools and implements is famous. It was a surprise for such a busy farmer to keep a garden so rich in vegetables and flowers.

He deeply cared for his large bee enterprise with minimum fuss and intervention allowing them to “get on with it”. He was overjoyed in a good year and philosophical when the bees suffered from the weather or disease. Unassuming and modest – his knowledge of beekeeping was profound. Derek was always happy to share this knowledge with other beekeepers and recognised as a good role model.

Training Update

The BeeHolder, Summer 2014

Congratulations to the five candidates that took their Basic Beekeeping Assessment on 14 June in the apiary at Gregynog. All five have passed: Dave Yaffey, Nicole Aarons, Eifion Thomas, Keith Rimmer and Tony Shaw. Huge thanks to the assessor, Lynfa Davies, for managing to complete 5 assessments in one day, and also to Roy Norris who managed the day at the apiary.

The feedback from the day has been really good, with candidates feeling that it was an excellent practical experience and worth all the swotting. Lots was learnt on the day, and it has also made the Committee think about how we might be able to incorporate more hands on training for new beekeepers into future apiary meetings.

More congratulations to Ruth Stafford who has passed her Module 2 Exam with credit (Honey Bee Products and Forage).

We are going to have an “Introduction to Beekeeping” day at Gregynog on Saturday Aug 30th. This is a one day course run by MBKA from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. It is aimed at the new/novice beekeeeper (and those that don’t yet have bees). Roy Norris, our Apiary Manager, will take a session in the classroom in the morning, covering the basics of what you need to know when starting beekeeping, and then in the afternoon there will be a practical session in the apiary. With the help of the apiary team it is intended to ensure that all attendees get a chance to handle some bees and hopefully see in practice what they have read about in the books. The plan is to end the day back in the classroom to answer any questions from the practical session.

This is the first time that MBKA have run this course and we are hoping that we can pitch it right for you – but do let us know if there are subjects that you particularly want us to cover. We hope that this course is a great way to get a flying start to your beekeeping career.

The course fees include coffee and tea & biscuits, but please bring along lunch (or use the Gregynog cafe).

The course represents great value at £35. Note that the courses are subsidised by MBKA and hence are available to members only. Please fill in an application form (download it from the web-site or contact me) and send it, together with a cheque made out to MBKA, to the address given on the form. For more information, phone me or send an e-mail.

Julie Pearce

Wired for action

The BeeHolder, Summer 2014

Instead of buying pre-wired foundation, you can ‘pre-wire’ the frame. Three widths of fishing line, 0.45mm or 9Kg breaking strain, is a reasonable size, but it can be smaller or larger.

A strung frame

This technique makes the comb more secure in the frame and it can be held horizontally, (still over the brood box) with more confidence. When you clean the frame, cut out the line and put in more, clean line. Cheap and very effective. Check Dave Cushman’s web site for more details.

Courtesy Bournemouth and Dorset South BKA & eBees. Photo Joy Wilkins.