Chairman's Chat

The BeeHolder, Autumn 2013

Along with Noel Eaton I represent MBKA on the Council of the Welsh BeeKeepers Association. We meet four times a year and it is good to touch base with Beekeepers of other Welsh Associations. At the last Council Meeting the talk in the bar, lunch table, corridors and even men’s toilet was all about the effects of the wet 2012 and the late spring of 2013. It seems that the second very cold spell after a warm period in early March really upset colonies through Wales. The stories were too numerous to detail here but the one thing that stood out for me was that after each anecdote or observation was mentioned the speaker would always end by saying “... and I’ve never seen that before”.

At the meeting the results of the National Bee Unit survey of winter losses was given; 38% for England, 43% for Wales. But these figures were taken before the second cold snap in April which certainly, in Montgomeryshire, did kill off significant numbers of colonies. Delegates guessed the losses in their area: none gave an estimate less than the 43% and many gave a figure of over 60%. Many association apiaries had losses of over 60% as had ours in Gregynog. I think that probably 60% losses for the whole of Montgomeryshire would be nearer the mark.

I hope that there is a big attendance at the Meeting with the Biodiversity officer of Powys Dr Emma Guy. She needs feedback and ideas from the public so that the verge cutting policy of Powys Council can be improved. Remember that it wasn’t so long ago that Councils sprayed herbicide over the first 4’ of verges. Public pressure stopped that. 30 years ago my children drew a sketch of a Council verge mower that collected the cuttings in a trailer that digested the organic matter and produced methane to power the whole machine. Is that such a child’s fantasy? My own view is that the cuttings should be blown over the adjacent hedges or dumped at intervals down the road so that the verges can have areas of high and low fertility. Down the lane leading to my house there is one section of 200m that is a slight embankment. It doesn’t get fertilised by spilled manure being washed onto it. And for 40 years it has been mown and all cuttings removed. Each year the plants and grasses got more interesting. The scalped poor soil produced a wealth of lichen and mosses and a profusion of small moths and ants... I was delighted. Then came the tourists and dog walkers enjoying the profusion of wildlife. The dogs did what doggies doo and all was ruined. Great verdant patches a month after a dog visit. I have lost the lichens and many moths. “Get a life” I hear some say, but is the life of some rare lichen not as important as my own? (or even more so? Ed).

Tony Shaw (Chair MBKA) September 2013