Today’s meeting of DARG, the Devon Apicultural Research Group, was at the Buckfast Abbey bee shed. There were 15 of us, more than usual so things are looking up, but I reckon that I’m in the youngest third so we could do with some fresh haemolymph. The first thing we did was to grant honorary membership to Bob Ogden who, in his 80s, has given up the Treasurership and emigrated to Lancashire. 8 of us were follically challenged, 6 bearded and 3 (not bearded!) were ladies.
We were asked to complete forms required by the Data Protection Act, which I don’t really understand. We have 18 paid-up members + 4 here today, hopefully with money in their pockets. We have a reasonable pot of money in the bank that might help finance more research.
We were told that a chemical has been invented/developed that mimics the Asian Hornet queen pheromone, which is very effective at attracting hornet drones into traps which might reduce the chance of hornet queens getting mated effectively. There’s a link about it on the DARGbee website.
For the past few years we have been concentrating on drone laying queens and the hypothesis that their disrupted spermathecae were the problem and caused by a virus. No correlation was found after testing/scanning the samples we had. Ged Marshall, a bee farmer, had donated some ageing healthy bees and they also had disrupted spermathecae so it seems as if that symptom is age related and not connected with a virus. So, after all our efforts, the answer is: don’t know. We have yet to consider whether we’ll pursue the question further in a different direction.
The main subject of the day was our hostess, Clare Densley’s research into chronic bee paralysis virus (CBPV). With the advice and assistance from Declan Schroeder, Clare had monitored 6 hives from 2 apiaries. The hives were kept isolated and, so as not to transfer virus between them, different suits were worn etc. when working them.
Besides CBPV, about 5 different strains of virus were found. All Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) was Type B, except one having types A and B. At the end of the season no virus was to be found. No deformed wings were seen although some colonies had lots of Varroa.
CBPV is becoming much more common, particularly among bee farmers (not them but their bees!) and is very contagious between colonies. The main transmission route is via damaged exo-skeletons/ hairs caused by overcrowding within the hive. The answer is to give them plenty of room and to remove the dead bees.
Clare has produced a 7 page handout going into much more detail than I have summarised and it will soon be available on the DARGbee website.
Clare is the successor to Brother Adam who developed the famous/notorious (depending whether or not you are a fan or vendor) hybrid bee named after the Abbey, but she doesn’t use them, preferring local mongrels. We had a peep at an observation hive tucked away under a blanket and, while the great majority of the bees were black, I could see a few yellow striped ones.
Besides being a skilled beekeeper, Clare is also good in the kitchen! She had plates of cake for us to chomp while were chatting and her banana bread was far too close to me! As a result I haven’t bothered to eat a dinner this evening.