GORMANSTON 2019 – Part 3

Monday morning. I got up at 6.30, the morning sun rising over the distant sea.  I went down and outside briefly.  I tried to use my tablet computer and mobile phone to catch up with facebook and emails without success.

Then it was breakfast time. There was no hot water so I couldn’t have a hot drink as I haven’t had a caffeinated drink since leaving Gormanston last year.  The meal was porage topped with muesli and yoghurt, a banana and toast and marmalade.

Then I went back to the room and fetched the file and programme and then sat in the entrance hall writing up these notes.  I wandered through the trade stalls, bearing in mind that I was almost up to the limit of luggage weight. I noticed that Ben Harden still had a few copies of Bees vs People for sale.

I went to the main lecture room for the first senior lecture: Colony Defence by Michael Maunsell. I sat in the front row and Lynn Ingram, who had organised our trip to Morocco sat next to me and we chatted about apitherapy.  The room wasn’t very full, but it’s a very big room.

Because it was a Powerpoint presentation they turned the lights out so I couldn’t keep legible notes although I wrote afterwards that he knows his stuff.  I wish people would do as I did when I gave Powerpoint talks at work: print out the notes as hand outs with room on the page to make notes.  Otherwise maybe FIBKA could do as the BBKA does at the National Honey Show: video the lectures and put them on line later.

Coffee break: no decaffeinated so I had orange juice instead.

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GORMANSTON 2019 – Part 2

After dinner, I needed some exercise so I strolled around the grounds, first checking that the bees were still flying from the Castle wall, then going down the yew ‘tunnel’.  I walked towards the Stamullen road, pausing to photograph and hug what I have been told is the oldest tree in Ireland.  I don’t think that’s correct as it’s a sycamore, not a native species, so there must be older yews for example. Nevertheless it’s a really massive tree and I have been trying without success to upload the photograph I took.

The official opening was due to start at 7pm and I was a minute late, having walked up the road for a mile or so, but I was not last and joined the queue for a glass of red wine. The Minister of Agriculture made a speech to open the event.  There may be EU money for beekeeping!

I had 2 more glasses of wine while chatting with people. Honey Queen Lynn Fitzpatrick reminded me that she’d knighted me last year!

We then headed for the pub but first I went to my room to empty the case and put a jacket on. I found John Gowar in bed and asleep already.

In the Huntsman there was about a score of us and we joined tables together. I was sat next to Ettamarie’s husband, Ray. Maraid was close by and several of the Americans. Ettamarie reminded them that they were there as a result of reading my poetry book! I’d brought some with me again and hoped to sell a few.

Lynn Fitzpatrick apologised for not having rung me as she’d lost my card. I gave her another one. She says she’ll come and stay!  She gave a very interesting talk about the history of Malta and beekeeping there.

I left at about 10.30 and was in bed by 11.  The Map my Walk app on my phone told me that I’d walked 5 miles during the day.

Strange bed syndrome: I didn’t sleep a wink all night although Roger and John weren’t snoring much.

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GORMANSTON 2019 -Part 1

On Friday, 11th August the alarm got me up at 6. I had already packed and prepared breakfast and so was on the road at 7.45 to get to Jan Stuart’s at Colaton Raleigh, arriving at 8.55. The weather was much better than it had been; still breezy but no rain.

Chris Utting arrived about the same time as me. We left our car keys with Jan and she drove us to the Exeter airport.  She’s taking a year off from Gormanston this year and is working instead.  She’s a caterer.

Chris and I went through the booking-in routine without mishap and took seats in the waiting room. Then we saw on the screen that our flight had been delayed. At 11.30 we moved to the departure lounge and onto the plane at noon. The flight was quicker than usual, only 3/4 of an hour. I was in seat 11B so had no view from the windows.  I was the only one who applauded the girls when they did their well rehearsed elfinsafety demonstration.

After landing we traipsed through the airport maze until we found the baggage area where Chris had to wait for his. While we were there we were greeted by Helen Tworkowski from Devon, whom I hadn’t seen for years.

We went to the bus stop and, at 2pm, boarded the bus no 101. The fare was 8 euros, up 30 cents from last year and a euro from 2017.  The journey was uneventful and we could look at the countryside.  We got off at The Huntsman and went in for a drink and a bowl of soup.  A pint of draught Guinness was 4.75 euros!  They didn’t have bottled.

We walked down the new pavement to the College. Chris had read on line that it is no longer a school but a conference centre etc but the notices etc around the place still look school-like.

We booked in.  I was in room 63B, sharing with John Patterson and John Gowar.  I was first there and bagged the pair of bunks nearest the window. There are 3 double bunks and a loo and shower.

Then it was time for dinner at 5pm.  I met Ettamarie Peterson from California on the way there and was greeted with a hug. There were later hugs from Maraid Dineen and Lynn Fitzpatrick, past and current Honey Queens.

Dinner was a pork steak on a bed of mashed potato with broccoli and chips, preceded by soup and followed by chocolate cake.

During the meal Ben Harden came to me and said that he’d recently been to the funeral of Tom Barratt who had, almost 20 years ago, started the Irish Beekeepers’ Yahoo Group which had kept many of us in touch throughout the years. It was very helpful but has nowadays been largely superseded by Facebook.

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The first was of Ray Mitchell whom I first met at a folk music session at The Chequers (now Tom Brown’s) in Dorchester in 1964 and at various others sessions since then.  We both worked at County Hall and lived in Fordington so often we’d be walking and nattering to or from work.  He was born on 19th December 1934 and so was several years older than the priest at the service, the Rev’d Dr Hugh Willis.  Hugh and his wife Lynn used to keep bees in their garden but gave up when their neighbours had young children who might be at risk of getting stung.

After the service at Weymouth Crematorium we headed for the Colliton Club in Dorchester  for food and a music session. Unfortunately there was triffic traffic so it was a long time before we were all assembled. The food was still unwrapped and only the first few notes were being played when I had to leave and head for the next funeral.

This was of Helen Perris who had been 9 months older than Ray.  Although I had met her a few times, principally I was there as a member of the Choir, of which her husband, John, is also a member.

After the service we went round to the graveyard to watch the ashes being interred.  I noticed that bees were flying from the eaves of the Church again as they had been some years ago. They had been destroyed/removed to allow for repairs and decoration to be done in the Church. I mentioned their presence to John and Helen’s daughter, Rosie, who said she’d have a protest demo if there was any talk of getting rid of them again!

I first met Rosie several years ago through a swarm call.  The swarm was overhead in a bush in her garden.  Without veil or glove I gently inserted my hand into the swarm: all warm and tickly like a nest of kittens.  Rosie immediately copied me and was instantly addicted!  I took her on as an apprentice and helped her get set up as a beekeeper.

We walked down to the Village Hall where a feast had been laid on.  They had catered for 150 but there were only about half that many there, so there were doggy bags!  I came away with those high spots of English cuisine: cold sausages and apple cake!

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About 80 members of the Dorset BKA gathered at Shillingstone Village Hall for a 6 hour session with 4 Bee Inspectors who, between them, brought us up to date with bee pests and diseases and what to do about them.

Much of the time was spent concerning the Asian Hornet (more black than yellow we were told repeatedly).  There aren’t nearly enough people having and monitoring Asian Hornet traps.  I don’t visit my bees every day so I have a trap in my back garden that I inspect every day before breakfast.  We were encouraged to download the App to our mobile phones so we can take a photo of any Asian Hornet we see and post it to the National Bee Unit who won’t act unless they have evidence.  I got somebody more technically skilled than I am to download it for me at lunchtime.

Last year, 2018, 6 single Asian Hornets were found, in Boston (on an imported French cabbage), Poole (on the Cherbourg ferry), Liskeard, Cornwall, Hull, Guildford and Dungeness.  4 nests were also found along the south coast.

There’s not a lot of AFB nowadays, thanks to the destruction policy, but there’s lots more EFB, there being 4 sites in Dorset. The first time I saw the ‘matchstick test’ producing a ‘rope’ was in the early 80s at a BKA site visit.  I was standing behind Mervyn Bown when he took the photo that appears in Hooper & Morse’s Encyclopaedia of Beekeeping published in 1985. The second time was at an apiary belonging to Kevin Pope, now one of the Bee Inspectors with us today. The third time was a couple of years ago when I did it myself in one of my hives.

We don’t have Small Hive Beetle yet although we’re still importing bees from Italy where they do have it.  Tropilaelaps isn’t here yet either.

Braula are making a come back. They were largely eliminated in the 1990s as Bayvarol was far more effective against them than against Varroa.  The last time I saw a Braula was in Ireland in 2000 in one of Brian o’Dochartai’s hives.

Varroa is the biggest bee killer world wide. People who don’t treat get more losses than those who do although some hives are more tolerant than others.

After an early lunch we were split into 3 groups, taking it in turns to play with combs containing AFB and EFB (with proper precautions against taking infection away with us!);  playing with bees in the apiary next door with demonstration as to how to check for foul brood; a slide show and quiz about Asian Hornets.

THEN THERE WAS CAKE! The plates were far too small, only about 6″ in diameter, so I had to stack 2 layers and go round again.  For the final session somehow I was sat next to the table and the remaining cakes were in reach. It would have been rude not to make use of the opportunity!

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Today was another DARG (Devon Apicultural Research Group) meeting, this time at East Devon BKA’s luxurious bee shed near Axminster (they’ve even got a toilet now, much to the relief of one of the ladies who has had trouble with nettles in the past). There weren’t as many as usual, only ten and a half, probably because it clashed with several sporting events; however the ages ranged over about 70 years.  It’s good that we’re getting some younger blood.

In the preamble we learned that Professor Francis Ratnieks (whom I first met at Gormanston in 2000) is likely to be the guest speaker at our AGM, and that our new revised version of A Case of Hives is now in the hands of Jeremy Burbidge of Northern Bee Books.

The main business of the day was whether we, in conjunction with East Devon and other BKAs, should start a ‘citizens’ science’ project studying drone congregation areas.  It’s a bit late for this year but if we can spend the next few months working on ways and means we should get it up and running next year.  A container of 9ODA, the pheromone that virgin queens emit to attract drones, has already been obtained at some expense, so participants who use it will be expected to help cover the cost.  I think I may have a phial from a previous go tucked away in my fridge.  I’d better get it out and use it soon.

Then we went out to play.  We car shared as our destination, Musbury Castle, an ancient hill fort a few miles away has little parking space.  We had 3 ‘fishing rods’ , 2  with a queen sized twig that had been dipped the 9ODA solution and one with a virgin queen, and elevated them as soon as we entered the large field next to the road.

Drones were there in seconds!  There were dozens of them and they moved from ‘queen’ to ‘queen’, paying at least as much attention to the artificial bait as to the 3 day old virgin in a cage.  Gradually as we made our way a quarter of  a mile across the field and through some scrub they lost interest, or ran out of fuel so there were few left as we approached the hill fort.  Then it began again with masses of drones.

Time was passing by and some of us had other things to do so we made our way back to the cars, half expecting to meet the first lot of drones again but it was not  to be. It was 5 o’clock by then and they’d evidently packed up for the day and so did we.

I was given the virgin queen which I introduced surreptitiously in the back of a queenless colony.  I’ll leave it for a week or so to see if she’s present and mated as she’s rather young.

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You see that slogan all over the island and also on car windscreen stickers.  There’s a reason for it: weird things do happen there (besides some of the natives having tails).

Yesterday, on a tour of some of my apiaries with the Bee Inspector as a routine follow up to my case of AFB a couple of years ago, we visited my apiary on Portland.  First I had to get the key from the owner of the site, a private nature reserve backing on to an old quarry.  Unfortunately Kevin, the Inspector, doesn’t carry secateurs with him which I always need there as the vegetation grows so rapidly over the pathway into my nook, so I had to make do with my Swiss Army hive tool.

I was a bit worried about this hive, thinking it might possibly have EFB as, although there was a laying queen, they were hardly building up at all.  There were a lot more bees flying yesterday, but from under the roof, not the entrance.

THERE’S TWO COLONIES IN ONE HIVE!  The lower colony is chugging along and is still very small but Kevin couldn’t see any disease.  We saw the queen. They’re occupying a super at the bottom of the hive and not using the brood box above them.  The box at the top of the hive has a prosperous looking swarm in it, finding their way in under the roof via the hole in the crown board.  The roof was askew because I had put some plastic foam as insulation under it.

We removed the queen excluder and will allow the two colonies to sort it out for themselves, possibly uniting if the queens don’t fight.



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