Chairman's Chat

The BeeHolder, Winter 2012

At this year’s (2012) National Honey Show two American Professors of entomology were arguing, in a polite stylised way, about bee genetics and the possibility of inheriting hygienic behaviour. Their lectures alternated over three days and produced some heated discussions at coffee between lectures. Most go to the NHS for the lectures and coffee discussions. If you care about bees it is good to learn more and if you’ve ever been to university it is good to get involved again in an academic hot house.

One of the great innovations at this year’s National Honey Show was a day of research lectures where there was an opportunity to listen to reports of research in progress and perhaps to spot the academic stars of the future. I particularly enjoyed Jenny Hawkins’ “Apothecary Bees, using the honey bee as a tool for drug discovery”. BBC Wales News has already featured the research and is going to film regular 6 monthly follow-ups. Jenny Hawkins will be the main speaker at our AGM on 19th February.

All very exciting stuff in sharp contrast to reports of what is happening to British bees and beekeeping this year. Everywhere was doom and gloom. The worst year in living memory seemed the general consensus and the only comfort I found was that our own problems in Mid-Wales are not unique. Bees not taking down the feed, and if they do the stores remaining uncapped, bad mating and unpredictable swarming ...all the signs of trouble! The boss-man of Thornes remarked that sales were very slow with people holding back because they did not know whether they would have any colonies next year. “What other branch of agriculture goes into winter not knowing if they will have any stock in spring?” I must have quoted his remark a hundred times since October. OK we should expect big loses over this winter but we must not give up being beekeepers. We must restock and the MBKA has decided to offer subsidised Nucs again to members. We will cut the price further if we can because we want to discourage importing queens and nucs from outside our area. I have been phoning round to check on the nucs that we sold this year and one thing stood out: Those who had been to either of Brian Goodwin’s training courses were coping much better than those who had not. Many had already put on fondant rather than wait till January and many, on Brian’s advice, had bought the fondant well ahead of the winter. We are repeating Brian’s Courses during February and March 2012. Book soon to avoid disappointment (see Forthcoming Events elsewhere on the web site for sign up details).

And finally a very happy Festive Season to you all and I hope that I’ll see you at the annual dinner on Friday 25th January (see Forthcoming Events elsewhere on the web site for sign up details).

Tony Shaw, Chairman MBKA, December 2012