Chairman's Chat

The BeeHolder, Summer 2013

Every day last week I received between two and four phone calls from members telling me about their lost colonies and asking about replacement stock. It was emotionally exhausting. I could tell some were on the point of tears. I myself was devastated when I found the colonies in my top apiary were dead. In 11 years I had only lost one colony when the mouse guard fell off and mice entered to escape the bitter cold in what is Wales highest apiary at 1350 ft (410m). The road was blocked by snow for several days, but when I got to the hives on a sunny day I was delighted to see the bees flying over the snow beside the hives to a clump of crocuses. I hefted the hives and noted a healthy weight I inspected again 12 days later at a time when the bees at my home apiary were all busy bringing in pollen. There were dead bees scattered all over the frames, but still plenty of stores. In between inspections it had been warm then a sudden very wet, cold spell. The bees had not clustered for warmth. I was devastated, but my bees did not die in vain because I was able to better empathise with those who phoned with similar stories.

Unless we notice some glaring mistake we have made, we should not blame ourselves if we have lost colonies. 2012 was a dreadful summer many queens were poorly mated and many of these have already turned to being drone layers. The winter was long, cold and and we had a strange false spring and then a very late spring. Bee losses in England are reported to be about 38% on average. The average for Wales is about 45% according to Beebase. However most of those who have phoned about losses have not reported them. I suspect the losses in Montgomeryshire were very much higher, maybe 60%. I hope those who have lost all their colonies will restock. Some of those on the phone had already ordered the Montgomeryshire bred Nucs that the Association is offering. I am able to report that these Nucs are doing OK, but will be later than promised, about mid July. I urged everybody to hold their nerve and not buy imported stock or queens.

The problem of poorly mated queens is something that has been plaguing West Montgomeryshire for many years. I suffer from this myself (and we can't afford a poorly mated chairman - Ed) and am convinced that the only reason I still have bees is that I put queen cells into mini-nucs to be mated in the Newtown Area. There is only one other local beekeeper who has any bees left. My neighbouring beekeepers used to say that losing colonies did not worry them as the hives were always recolonised by a swarm. This is no longer happening and the area of beeless-ness is spreading.

Can we afford a beeless Montgomeryshire? Some of our members think not and have formed a group to actively breed bees better adapted to our wet wet area. I urge you to read the article “Bringing back the Indigenous bee”, which I will include in the next issue. Please contact Dave Bennett or Noel Eaton if you think that you want to help this important work.

The Antiques Road Show is coming to Gregynog on Thursday 4th July from 10am till 5pm. About 3000 people are expected and undoubtedly a large number will stroll down to the apiary to inspect it. We need volunteers to explain things to the public, and we will have an observation hive set up in the Apiary viewing hut. Contact me if you are interested in volunteering.

Tony Shaw, Chairman MBKA, June 2013