Chairman's Chat

The BeeHolder, Spring 2013

More important than reading the BeeHolder is to go and check the stores that are in your hives. This is the time when colony losses occure, just when we relax and think winter is finished. Stores are at their lowest and the few hours of warm weather in a day can mean lots of active bees burning up much more energy than they are able to take in from any nectar that they find. It is best to play safe and place a scoop of fondant over the feeding hole of the crown board. The fondant can be in a small plastic tub or merely covered by some cling film. Liquid feed during this very cold weather can cause diarrhoea*. Do remember to put a quilt or similar insulation over the fondant before replacing the roof. Cold in itself does not kill bees but condensation can collect on a cold spot on a crown board and drip onto a cluster. A quilt (I use carpet underlay) can mould itself over the fondant keeping condensation away from the top of the hive. *(it is better to risk a bit of diarrhoea than starvation!)

What a great AGM, about 75 people attended and most stayed for our excellent speaker, Jenny Hawkins who agreed to return for our 2014 AGM with updates from her research into bactericidal honeys. The AGM business was dealt with with respectful brevity, but we have jazzed up the committee with four new faces all of whom have already taken leading roles in the running of the Association. At our first committee meeting we recognised that during the last year many of our MBKA plans fell by the wayside because key players had experienced changes in personal circumstances which took priority over Association business. To ensure that this doesn’t happen again we have re-organised so that all jobs overlap and are effectively covered by two committee members. Julie Pearce writes in this issue of BeeHolder about taking charge of training and exams. Secretary Maggie Armstrong and Noel Eaton will dedicate themselves to finding mentors for those who need them. And Gareth Lloyd- Edwards will make sure we have a high profile in schools as well as looking after the needs of new members. For 11 years the committee has benefitted from the wisdom of Ex-Treasurer Roy Norris. We have not lost him entirely because he has agreed to be part of the Apiary Management team. Last week Roy was elected the Chairman of the Welsh BeeKeepers Association. I expect that Association to benefit, as we have, from Roy’s insistence on discipline.

Let us not dwell on the awful 2012. The tragedy is not the number of colonies that have, and will die in the next few months, but the number of beekeepers who will give up the craft. Bees need beekeepers to survive and beekeepers need a sympathetic public. If you have lost all your bees, and if you feel too disheartened to restock, I suggest that you still keep an interest in bees. Stay a member of the Association. Talk bees to others. Talk about the heartbreak of losing your stock: in doing so you will bring a strong emotional message to the public that bees and beekeepers do need help. Our hope is that through the comradeship of the Association and attending meetings and Apiary visits you will gain the confidence to start again as a beekeeper or help bees in other ways. I’ll point out here that not all our committee members are beekeepers themselves. (See here for details of how to restock)

The Apiary Management has now been increased to recognise the big work-load and the improvements we have planned for 2013. We should be especially pleased that the National Botanical Garden of Wales has expressed interest in our project to transmit live data links from the Gregynog Apiary. Our intention is to monitor the hives from a distance and to enable all members to receive data from the hives on their phones or through the internet. Whether you just want to watch the bees flying from a particular hive or follow the temperature, humidity, sound and weight of a hive, you will be able to tune in and follow the progress of the apiary. The more people watch the more collectively we will learn and the more likely we are to spot problems before they become serious.

Watch out for an article about the Apiary project in the Next BeeHolder.

Good luck with your 2013 beekeeping

Tony Shaw, Chairman MBKA, March 2013