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