Chairman's Chat

The BeeHolder, Autumn 2012

I’m glad Dave Bennett asked me to help out at the Apiary Training Session on September 30th. Some of his regular helpers could not turn up and he was short of group leaders to open the hives. Graham Winchester was another stand-in mentor that day. We both thoroughly enjoyed the experience. However we do need more experienced beekeepers to sign up with David to be on-call to help out with the novices.

Inspection at GregynogMentoring helps one to get ones own beekeeping in perspective and encourages (I should say “forces”) one to reappraise how one handles one own bees. Both Graham and myself were fascinated that so many were experiencing the same difficulties as we were in our own apiaries; queens going off lay, super frames full but uncapped for prolonged periods and unexpected swarming. In the September inspection many of the hives at Gregynog  seemed queenless, no brood, no eggs, couldn’t see the queen but they were nice and calm and from the behaviour I would have guessed queenright. Just from the numbers of bees I would have said they were healthy colonies. In some of the hives the queen was seen sometimes with health brood sometimes with no brood nor eggs. In a normal late September I would have united a suspected queenless hive with an obvious queen-right one. But this year, the most peculiar in my 12 years of beekeeping and, I’m told, the worst in the last 30 years, well I’m risking doing nothing; not uniting unless the colony is obviously weak. Beekeeping is about weighing up risks. That is usually easy but this season there is no clear-cut solution to a hive without brood and eggs. I have had 4 hives this year that have gone up to 8 weeks without any signs of brood or eggs.  Putting in a test frame with eggs has merely resulted in healthy capped brood without any production of queen cells. I can repeat the test with the same results. So I have held my nerve and not succumbed to the temptation to add a spare queen or united with a queen-right colony.  And sure enough  suddenly the queen is in lay and I see her marked and frisky. To those who phone worried (or even complaining) about  queenlessness I have been saying that they should hold their nerve for a few weeks. In most cases this has been sound advice and the queens have come back in lay.

Do come to the talk by Dinah Sweet about queens. As an expert from South Wales she will be able to give some dispassionate comments on a very worrying situation.

All is not worry and doom. Our scheme for introducing locally produced quite bees seems to have been a great success. In all 35 Nucs were sold. I’m pleased to say that most purchasers had been to Brian Goodwin’s introduction course. And whether novice or experienced beekeepers, most expressed extreme satisfaction with the nucs. 6 frames in the nuc were guaranteed, some had 7 some 8 and one lucky person got 9 frames in his nuc. We had recommended that each person should buy two nucs. Most did not take that advice but wished they had. Certainly for those of us who give advice over the 'phone it is easier if a novice has two hives. One can then ask the difference between hive A and B and come to some deduction about what is happening. A test frame of eggs cannot be introduced if there is not a second hive close by!

Just one thing before I sign off....will you please NOT phone me during EastEnders, have some respect for this cultural icon.

Tony Shaw, Chairman MBKA, July 2012