The Coronavirus (COVID-19) – message from Anne Rowberry, BBKA Chair

Dear Member

The impact of the Coronavirus could not have been foreseen but the BBKA is working hard to support members. We regret that all the BBKA training courses at Stoneleigh have been cancelled, this includes the Healthy Hive training, General Husbandry and Advanced husbandry training. The Exam Board have cancelled the Module Exams, the Assessor Training and will be publishing information on the Healthy Hive and Basic Exams.

We are suggesting that Beginners courses and other Branch or Association organised training courses are postponed. It is important to keep the health of members at the front of our minds. It may be possible to deliver some aspects of these courses online. I would welcome suggestions as to the best way this could be achieved ; possibly some Associations have information that they would be prepared to share. We can post some ideas on our website so please share any that you think may help.

I am sure younger members of groups will support older members or those confined through association with family etc who have the virus by offering to check hives in out apiaries, making sure they are upright, have food and the bees are flying could be very helpful. Please follow the Government guidelines, we are asked to avoid social contact and unnecessary travel. This will mean considering carefully the swarm collection service and applying appropriate safeguards.

I have contacted Defra for advice on the position of beekeepers visiting their bees if the country moves into a more intensive ‘lock down’. At the moment bees will be considered as livestock and can be tended accordingly but we are following Government advice and need to address possible future directions. I have also been in contact with Alpha and the All Party Parliamentary Group and I am writing to the Minister of Environment asking about the position of beekeepers visiting bees I have also suggested that should there be a sugar shortage beekeepers have an allowance ( as I believe they had in the war). This may seem extreme but we need to be thinking now, just in case.

There are actions that the beekeeper can take to give their bees the best chance of survival and the most important is to feed them. Ensure they have plenty of food for any inclement weather, we can have snow in May and cold wet weather at any time may mean they starve. If you are concerned about visiting your bees put fondant above your supers, the bees will use it if they need it. If you do not have fondant then use syrup even if you have one or two supers on. They may move it to the supers which would mean you can’t sell it as honey but you will still have your bees and also food for the Autumn/Winter. We do not know how long this severe situation will last.

We will endeavour to give more information through our website and BBKA social media. Beebase will also be posting information.

I hope this situation passes quickly and is not as severe as is now being portrayed.

Anne Rowberry
BBKA Chair
anne.rowberrry@bbka.org.uk

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2020 CBKA AGM cancelled

In the light of the latest advice from the Government, the decision has been made to cancel the CBKA AGM on the 28th March until further notice.

The CBKA Officers listed below are willing to stand in their current positions for another year or until the current situation is resolved, so the day to day running of the CBKA and any Council business can continue as necessary.

President        – Mary Trace

Chairman         – Henry Kendall

Vice Chair       – Rosemarie Lane

Secretary        – Mary Hardman

Treasurer        – Vanessa Tyler

Editor           – Geoff Hardman

Publicity        – Anne Ramsden

ADM representative – Mark Hoult

Eric James has asked me to pass this on to you:

“I will be starting my inspection work from April. If anyone is at all concerned/have any questions they can phone or email me (with pictures) and I will discuss their concerns and/or visit them. I would rather speak to them and put their mind at rest than have them worrying. My Contact details are below – Eric James”

email eric.james@apha.gov.uk
phone 07979 119369

The Bee Disease Day which was to be held on the 27th June has also been cancelled.

We will keep you informed regarding events planned for later in the year through our magazine, Gwenyn Kernow.

Mary Hardman
Honorary Secretary CBKA
17 March 2020

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BBKA 2020 Spring Convention cancelled

It is with great regret that we have to advise that the BBKA 2020 Spring Convention – scheduled to take place at Harper Adams University 3-5 April – has been cancelled. The Spring Convention Committee and the BBKA Executive Committee reviewed the situation over the weekend and took the decision to cancel. Given the age of many attendees is over 60, the aim is to minimise the risk of COVID19 among participants, traders, staff of BBKA and staff and students of Harper Adams.

A full refund will be made for all bookings made via the BBKA.

Leigh Sidaway

General Manager

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Honey Streets documentary

The CBKA has been contacted by a film maker running a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for making a documentary on beekeeping in Malta:

“My name is Mitoshka Alkova and I am a currently making a documentary ‘Honey Streets’ with the Arts University Bournemouth focusing on Malta and its endemic bee sub-species. The documentary is exploring the threat of species loss on the island of Malta due to the rise of urbanisation and its effect on their small beekeeping community.  

You may be wondering why we are making this film in Malta and contacting you, but this is because we want to focus on a beekeeping community in a place where it is less preserved, such as Malta. Also, islands are small ecosystems where the effects of change are seen far more quickly, what is happening there right now is going to happen everywhere in the future. Malta is amongst the largest air polluters in Europe, and the rise of urbanisation and tourism in recent years has left the island stripped of agricultural land, a vital habitat for the local sub-species of Maltese bee. We intend to go to Malta and document the rapid species loss on the island, what the contributing factors leading to this are, and why there seems to be a lack of preservation action amongst the Maltese community. With the loss of land also comes the loss of Maltese identity and their connection to nature, which is why we are focusing on the local people who are trying to make a change.

We have launched a crowdfunder campaign to raise the funds necessary to fly out to Malta and make this documentary. We see that your work in Bee conservation is also related to our topic and we hope that you can support us with a small donation in helping create this film and make future projects possible. Even a donation of £5 will go a long way, and with your help we should be able to reach our target goal and do our bit in helping the bees.

We have a list of rewards that you can receive in thanks for your donations, these include locally sourced products from Malta, zero waste and bee related products, and promotional material from the film. 

I have linked our social media below if you are interested to see what we are getting up to.”

Instagram: honeystreetsfilm/

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Swarming from the bees’ perspective

My notes from a second brilliant talk by Scottish bee farmer Tony Harris at our Cornwall Beekeepers Association/West Cornwall Beekeepers Association ‘Bit of a Do’ conference this September.

“What’s the earliest swarm you’ve had?” Tony asked the audience. The winner was: 23rd March! According to research by swarm expert Tom Seeley, most wild colonies swarm once in spring, but 40% of those swarms will swarm again before the end of the summer. Seeley’s studies indicate that the average survival rate of wild swarms may be low, with around 80% of swarms moving into natural cavities failing to survive their first winter.

Swarming countdown

Below is a photo I took of one of Tony’s slides, showing the timings leading up to a swarm, which I thought was quite helpful. Bee maths! He showed us some videos of behaviour such as the Dorsoventral abdominal vibration (DVAV) shaking dance, which can be done up to 300 times an hour on the old queen as the first queen cell is sealed. The workers grab hold of the queen and rapidly vibrate her. As a result, her egg laying behaviour is inhibited – she’s being harassed too much to have time to lay! The DVAV dances stop a few hours before the swarm departs. The workers will also do dances on sealed queen cells – communicating with the virgin queen inside.

Swarming countdown chart

Swarming countdown chart

Composition of a swarm

  • 70% of workers less than ten days old leave with the swarm.
  • Drones make up less than 1% of the swarm population

Choosing a new home

Once the swarm leaves, they will temporarily settle in a spot (such as an inconveniently high tree – or, for some lucky beekeepers, a low bush!). The swarm sends out a small number of scout bees, who will explore an area of up to 30 square miles in their search for an ideal home. Below is one of Tony’s slides summarising what a perfect bee home looks like, based on research by Winston and Seeley & Morse. Although bees are supposed to prefer high-up locations, Tony noted that he’s had more success with bait hives placed on the ground!

Swarm site selection criteria

Swarm site selection criteria

Meanwhile the swarm hangs clustered together. They can maintain their temperature at 35C in their core and 17C for the outside bees, regardless of the ambient temperature that day. The scout bees return to the cluster and carry out waggle dances for the best location they’ve discovered. If it happens to rain, the waggle dances will be paused!

Gradually, a consensus will be reached once all the scout bees are dancing for the same location.  When that happens, the cluster will soon take off and head for their new home. If you need to buy yourself some time while you get equipment ready to collect a swarm, Tony suggested gently spraying the hanging swarm with cold water (please don’t train a hose on them!). The reason behind this is that all the bees need to warm their flight muscles up to 35C to be ready to fly.

Virgin queens

Back in the old parent colony, the first virgin to emerge from her cell will often seek out any ‘quacking’ virgins still in their cells. The quacking noise is produced by the virgins vibrating their flight muscles, pressing their thorax against the comb as they do so. The emerged virgin’s sting is long enough to reach her rival queens and kill them before they hatch.

If two virgins emerge at the same time, they may fight, using their mandibles to grasp each other. Another possibility is that a virgin will leave with a secondary ‘cast’ swarm, taking a smaller number of bees off with her.

Aren’t swarms wonderful? As long as they’re not in your chimney, of course.

Emily Scott, CBKA member

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Neonicotinoid pesticides and bees

Dr Ben Woodcock, from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH),was the second speaker on ‘Neonicotinoid pesticides and bees at our annual Cornwall Beekeepers Association/West Cornwall Beekeepers Association ‘Bit of a Do’ conference this September.

Ben is an Ecological Entomologist in the Community Ecology Group at CEH. He began his talk with a bit of background on how bees are doing in the UK, and why neonics may have contributed to the decline of some species. At the moment honey bees can only deliver about 34% of pollination demand in the UK, so farmers do need wild solitary and bumble bees for pollination too. There are a few species which have done really well under modern agriculture – for example, the Ashy mining bee. But there are plenty of others doing really badly.

The issue with neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics) is that they stay inside the pollen and nectar of treated plants over a long period of time (but at a low concentration). Typically test studies into the toxicity of neonics are just short-term studies carried out over about ten days, whereas in real life neonics affect honey bee colonies over periods of months.

Ben mainly discussed two studies he’s worked on which investigated the effect of neonics on bees. The first was:

Impacts of neonicotinoid use on long-term population changes in wild bees in England (Nature Communications, 2016; 7: 12459.)

Ben and his fellow researchers divided 62 species of wild bees into two groups:

  • 34 known to forage on oilseed rape (OSR)
  • 28 not known to forage on OSR.

The study found that wild bee species which forage on OSR were 3x more negatively affected by neonics than non-foragers. Ben stressed that neonics are just one factor affecting bees. However, the research indicates that they add detrimental extra pressure on wild bee species.

Bumble on blackberry bramble

The second study Ben mentioned was one he worked on, a big pan-European study across three countries, the UK, Hungary and Germany:

Country-specific effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on honey bees and wild bees (Science 30 Jun 2017: Vol. 356, Issue 6345, pp. 1393-1395)

He acknowledged that the funding for this was controversial, as the pesticide giants Bayer and Syngenta contributed £3m towards it. To ensure that the research remained impartial, the results were peer-reviewed and all emails associated with the research were recorded.

In the study 36 farms across the three countries were each allocated to a treatment: no neonics (control), Modesto (Clothianidin) or Cruiser (Thiamethoxam) – Modesto and Cruiser are big neonic products. There was an average of 60 hectares of sown OSR surrounding the farms. Six honey bee hives, twelve buff-tailed bumble colonies and a number of red-mason bee nests were put at each site. The study looked at the resulting overwintering success, colony strength and forager mortality of the bees.

With the honey bee hives, the honey bees exposed to Clothianidin in Hungary and the UK suffered higher mortality over the following winter. The neonics appeared to have less of an effect on the German honey bees. Ben said this may be because the bees relied more on OSR in the UK and Hungary, plus the OSR happened to flower later at the German sites, so the German bees had a more varied diet. At the beginning of the study the German honey bee bee hives were also less diseased, with lower varroa levels. Whereas the UK hives sourced for the study happened to be quite small and diseased – hives in a poor environment with a lower variety of forage crops are more vulnerable to disease to begin with.

For the wild mason and bumble bees, the higher the concentration of neonics found in their nests, the more their reproductive potential (measured in new queen or egg cell numbers) declined.

Ben then went on to talk about neonic residues in honey, which he studied in Woodcock et al (2018)  ‘Neonicotinoid residues in UK honey despite European Union moratorium‘. Neonic residues were identified in the honey samples, even for honey harvested after the moratorium in 2014. However, the concentrations were typically low and the likelihood of honey containing neonicotinoid residues was higher before the moratorium than after it. There’s a National Honey Monitoring Scheme run by CEH which UK beekeepers can get involved with – donate honey and they do analysis on it to identify the mix of pollens collected by the bees. The samples are also being archived for research in the future. If you’re into Twitter you can follow the scheme at @CEH Honey.

Following the neonics ban, farmers haven’t all switched to organic methods and stopped treating their oil seed rape. Instead, they’re using pyrethroid insecticides more – but some of the main species of aphids and beetles that feed on OSR have developed pyrethroid resistance. As a result, Ben suggested that OSR may stop being an economically viable crop in some parts of the UK. Unfortunately there is no obvious big alternative crop which is bee friendly. Soya is likely to expand in the UK, but it doesn’t require insect pollination.

Emily Scott, CBKA member

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Maximising your honey crop – tips from Tony Harris

Tony Harris, a Scottish bee farmer, gave two talks at our annual Cornwall Beekeepers Association/West Cornwall Beekeepers Association ‘Bit of a Do’ conference this September.

Obviously Scotland is a long way up from Cornwall, so Tony reckons his hives in the Moray Firth are about two months behind ours. After going up to 150 hives last summer and nearly killing himself running around after them all, this summer he’s reduced his operations down to 70 hives. Here are my notes from his first talk, which had plenty of jokes along with great tips.

  1. You need a plan – write it down
  2. You need the right bees – young queen, strong colony. More than 1 queen per hive helps!
  3. Rigorous management – regular inspections
  4. Swarm prevention and control (more on that later)
  5. Apiary location – know your forage! And think about the numbers of hives, not just in your apiary but locally.

Some general tips

  • Keep strong colonies – build up large colonies before the main summer flow
  • Check stores in winter
  • Replace 1/3 of your brood combs per year – consider the ‘shook swarm’ method to do all your brood combs in one go in spring
  • Cull poor queens
  • Carry out integrated pest management for varroa all season, monitor!
  • After you’ve dealt with swarming and have seen the new queen is laying, relax inspections. Let them get on with it.
  • Build up a store of drawn comb for supers. You can keep using super comb for years and years.
  • Tony doesn’t mark his queens the year they emerge, as he’s had them balled by the bees if he marks too early. Instead he waits for the following spring – easier then too, as there’s less bees in the colony come spring.

Tips for finding queen

  • Use minimal smoke
  • Do not be distracted, have a one-track mind on finding her
  • Go straight to the middle brood frames and examine the ‘dark side’ of frames first as you lift them out.
  • Last resort – use the wine method! (This would be when you phone up your best beekeeping buddy and offer them a bottle in return for them finding her majesty).

Getting foundation drawn

  • Tony does a lot of ‘chimneying’. This involves putting an empty large poly brood box full of foundation over a colony in a poly nucleus, and feeding. He will quickly have a box full of drawn out foundation.

Tony’s main honey crops

  • Oilseed rape (OSR) – harvest May/June
  • Main summer – harvest August
  • Ling heather – harvest September

He takes colonies to OSR in mid-April, puts three supers on at once, then goes on holiday for a week. Then comes the hard part – “If you’ve got a nice job you enjoy don’t even think about being a bee farmer”. After returning from holiday he extracts the oil seed rape honey fast, as otherwise it sets like rock extremely quickly. He will extract 10 supers a day, in 16 hour shifts. Starting in the early morning, working through to 10pm at night, having a shower, then starting again the next morning. His wife is involved in the business too, as she cleans the extraction room up each day.

Part of the skill of being a bee farmer is keeping strong colonies, which means avoiding having swarms. Tony uses a much more proactive form of swarm control than me, which I was intrigued by. He’s found that making up nucleuses is the easiest method for him. He removes 1,2,3 or 4 frames from a colony in spring to delay its swarm preparations. He then puts foundation in the middle of the boxes the frames are taken from – as he noted, contrary to what beekeeping books will tell you! The removed frames are used to make up 5-frame nucs: 2 frames of honey/pollen, at both ends, 2 frames of eggs/larvae, 1 frame foundation, plus bees shaken in.

Emily Scott
CBKA member

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Bit of a Do 2019 – 21 September 2019

An exciting opportunity to hear the best speakers on beekeeping right here in Cornwall!

Saturday 21 September 2019
10.00-17.00
Fal Building, Truro College TR1 3XX

This annual event is your chance to hear excellent speakers and meet other beekeepers and traders without leaving Cornwall!  The event has been in its present format since 2009.

This year, bring a jar of your own honey (any size or type) for a tasting event and/or a gadget that you have made and found useful for your beekeeping ( for a competition).

You can book now and pre-order a pasty lunch (or bring your own food).  The speakers will be there to answer your questions at the end of the day – submit them before 1pm to have them included.  Book today and encourage your friends. Without support these events cannot run.  The joint committee from CBKA/WCBKA look forward to seeing you there.

– Mary Trace

Speakers:

Bit of a Do 2019 Programme

Tony Harris, NDB: “Maximising your honey crop”, and “Swarming from the bees perspective”.
Tony is a bee farmer based on the Moray coast in Scotland, where he manages 150 colonies for honey production. He is an assessor for the Scottish Beekeepers’ Association, a Scottish Honey Judge, a BBKA Correspondence Course tutor and a regular contributor to beekeeping publications in the UK.

Dr Ben Woodcock, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology will be speaking on “Neonicotinoid pesticides and bees”.
Ben is an Ecological Entomologist in the Community Ecology Group at CEH Wallingford. He is involved in research that develops applied management solutions to enhancing ecosystems service delivery and biodiversity within arable and grassland ecosystems. 

Victoria Buswell
Victoria will provide an update on her research into investigating the phenotypic and genomic basis of local adaptation in the UK native honey bee Apis mellifera mellifera. Victoria studies at the School of Biological and Marine Science within the Ecology and Evolution research group. Currently she is working towards her MPhil/Ph.D. investigating the phenotypic and genomic basis of local adaptation in the UK native honey bee Apis mellifera mellifera.

As well as the speakers, there will be trade stands, a gadget competition and local Bee Inspectors to answer all your questions.

Bookings:

Tickets and pasties can be booked after 1st July by sending the booking form to:

Heather Williams, heather@quillet.org.uk

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