GORMANSTON 2018 – Part 20

Roger Patterson delivered the Dave Cushman memorial talk : The Journey to Sustainability.  To reduce several pages of notes to a sentence: Ban Imports!

At 9pm the quiz started.  I was in a team with John, Mollie and Jill. John bought a bottle of red that he shared with me.  We were useless at the quiz!

Bedtime arrived and I emptied my hip flask so I wouldn’t have to do so at the airport, which may have helped me get off to sleep.

There was no morning sun so I slept on a little longer, not getting up until 6.45 on Friday, the last day.  After ablutions and breakfast I packed my bags, including a banana and apple for provisions at the airport.  I didn’t go for a walk as there was light rain.

The first lecture was Otto Boecking on Wild Bees – the other bees.  In Germany they have one species of honeybees and more than 570 wild bees.  There are only 101 types of wild bees in Ireland and they aren’t protected.  Their value as pollinators is about 2,000,000,000 Euros per annum in Germany!  75% of their nests are underground and 25% above ground.

He showed us lots of colour slides in the dark.  There is some competition between wild bees and honeybees.

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We met this time at Uplowman village hall, near Tiverton in East Devon and had a good number of people from 3 or 4 counties.  The main subject of the day was hive hygiene but, as usual, we covered a lot of other ground and nattered. I was asked for a copy of my book of poems: Bees vs People, but unfortunately I had forgotten to bring any.

Hygiene is the colony’s natural ‘antiseptic’ against EFB, AFB, chalkbrood and varroa mites.  The standard way of testing is with pin holes on an area of brood or freeze killing.  Alan Nelson had brought along his copy of the COLOSS book which deals with the subject. It’s over an inch thick!

There was a lot of talk about the Asian hornet and one of our members had spent 3 weeks in Jersey hunting them: great fun!  Those of us who had been using the Suterra bait that has been successful there recounted our differing experiences in attracting wasps and hornets over here.

Our AGM is coming up next month on Saturday 3rd November at Furzeleigh Mill Hotel, Buckfastleigh at which Professor Keith Delaplane of the Department of Entomology at the University of Georgia will be present and chatting.

Do YOU want to come and join us?  Annual membership costs £10 and if you want to lunch with us on the day it’ll cost nearly twice that, depending on your menu choice. Visit http://www.Furzeleigh.co.uk for location and menu details.  The business part of the meeting is after lunch but the social part is more fun.

The guest speaker at our December meeting will be Victoria Buswell of Plymouth University who’s undertaking the Bee Survey in which I’m taking part.  She’s going to send instructions and a container soon so I can send her a sample of my bees for DNA testing.  The study’s going on for 3 years so there’s time for YOU to join in if you like.

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GORMANSTON 2018 – Part 19

The lecture after tea on Thursday was Honey from Blossom to Jar by John Hendrie.  It was a very technical talk full of scientific details.  I took five pages of notes, some of which I can read.  I shall just skim through the legible bits.

Definition of honey – from Apis mellifera only.  He didn’t say what the products of Apis cerana, dorsata etc are called.  Plants produce nectar through photosynthesis, using sunlight and CO2 to produce mostly glucose, which is soluble.  It’s generally about 20% sugar and 80% water.  The maximum load of a bee is about 40mg.

He then went on to the chemistry and I noted several formulae but as it’s well over half a century since I got my O level in that subject and haven’t used it since it didn’t mean a lot.

Types of nectar are basically sucrose dominant as produced by clovers and rhododendrons; equal glucose and fructrose – legumes and borage; glucose – rape; fructrose – blackberries.  He showed Dade’s diagram of the bee’s mouthparts and explained how pollen is filtered out.

There follows a page of definitions that won’t interest you unless you’re studying for an exam so I won’t attempt to decyphyer those notes.  Removal of the honey crop might be achieved in four different ways: physical by shaking and brushing; behavioural by use a Porter or rhomboid one way bee escape; chemical by using a repellant like benzaldehyde; mechanical – blowers.

He didn’t mention two methods I’ve sometimes used successfully: 1. If the bees are ‘runners’ put the super down in front of the hive and they’ll all walk home within a few minutes; 2. Put the super with bees in the back of the car, drive 100 yards by which time you won’t be able to see out of the back window. Release those bees to fly home, drive on a little way and repeat the process, turning round sometimes so as not to release them out of range of home, until they’ve (nearly) all gone.

Uncapping frames of comb: knife, fork, roller, plane, hot air blower, flame, flails.

Types of extractor: tangential, radial, parallel radial. He didn’t mention my small scale method of cutting out the prettiest comb to sell as comb honey, which fetches twice the price, then putting the rest in my fruit press to squeeze the honey out.  Some will be left in the crushed comb which can be extracted with water and yeast, producing mead.

Processing honey: it can be strained through a small mesh sieve but filtering under presure is not allowed. It goes into a settling tank for a couple of days after which it can be bottled/jarred.

Commercial bottling plants use the Dyce process which includes heating the honey to temperatures which will Pasteurise it, killing off the enzymes that distinguish ‘living’ honey from cane sugar, but makes it look clear and pretty on the supermarket shelf.

John explained how to prepare set honey and also gave details of the labelling requirements and the honey regulations.  As many of the readers of this blog aren’t in the EU they won’t necessarily apply there.

Keep your honey cool to extend the life of the enzymes.

Time for dinner: pork steak, chips and cabbage followed by cake and cream.  Afterwards I walked westward down the road and got my day’s mileage up to 4.


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GORMANSTON 2018 – Part 18

After lunch on Thursday I dropped a level to Intermediate in order to enjoy a very lively talk by Eleanor Attridge on Varroa Treatments. Eleanor is the FIBKA Bee Health Officer.  Her lecture was based on treatments currently legal in Eire and so, if you’re not there, you need to check your local laws before following her advice.

Medication is a last resort and some beekeepers have reported problems with medication.   With new products some beekeepers weren’t applying them correctly. Instructions must be followed exactly.  18% of beekeepers aren’t using medication.

MAQS (Mite Away Quick Strips) are a strong formic acid treatment. There must be 6 frames of brood in the hive when using. 2 pads per brood box at a temperature over 10C.

Oxalic acid is not licenced, only Apibioxal.

COLOSS returns are showing that unapproved medicines are being used.

Bayvarol – 4 strips for 4 weeks.  Beekeepers forget to take the treatments out and don’t rotate the treatment with others, resulting in resistance building up.

Apiguard is a thymol gel. 1 tray for 14 days followed by  a second for 4 weeks. The temperature should be at least 15C.

Apibioxal. Mix 1:1 sugar solution with the product and dribble 5cc per seam, strangely like the Oxalic acid instructions.  You can also use it for vapourising.

Varroamed is a new one.

Apivar – 2 strips per brood box.  Change the frames in the spring as it contaminates the wax.

It’s important to use a range of medications (or none) in rotation to prevent resistance building up in the mites.

Then it was tea break.  In one of the shops I bought a feeder device that fits on a water bottle.

Then the Queen knighted me!  As I bowed before her she patted me on shoulders and pate and commanded “Arise Sir Chris.”

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GORMANSTON 2018 – Part 17

The second senior lecture on Thursday morning was Otto Boecking on Pollen Needs for Honeybee Colonies.  This was a short talk and he got through it in about 20 minutes.

Bees need pollen for the amino acids.  Supply and demand means that they need to hoard it for when the supply diminishes but the demand is still there.  A hive will get through about 35.7 kg (I guesstimate that to be about 80 lb) of pollen in a year. Feeding pollen has no effect on brood rearing.

If your honey contains GMO pollen in it you have to declare it.

Never EVER use pollen from a source you don’t know!  It may contain disease eg, AFB.

Lunch was soup, quiche and spud fingers.  I sold a copy of Bees vs People, leaving me with 2. It was raining outside for a while, then came sunshine.

I went to the office and booked for next year: 11th – 16th August 2019. I showed Michael Gleeson that my pen’s getting very short of ink so he gave me 2 more!

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GORMANSTON 2018 – Part 16

The first Senior lecture on Thursday morning was Bees/Beekeepers and the Environment by Willie O’Byrne.   He explained that they are interdependent and much more so now than in historic times.

There are now more than twice as many hives as there used to be but their forage has been greatly reduced because of modern agricultural methods.  We are much more knowledgeable about bees than we used to be and have lots of new beekeepers.

There are more diseases than there used to be and the last century and a bit included Isle of Wight disease and Varroa.  He didn’t mention it but viruses were also ‘invented’ during that period.

Consequently the average honey yield per colony has been dwindling from about 60lb a century ago to 44lb in 1996 and in 2016, according to a BBKA survey, 26lb.

Forage has changed. In 1966 it was largely white clover, blueberry, knapweed, thistle and trefoil.  Bees have changed because of imports.  More land is devoted to plants of little use to bees such as maize. Farmers not only use pesticides which can’t do bees any good, but also weedkillers which eliminate lots of forage.

It was an interesting and lively lecture and I wish I could take better notes.  It’s difficult writing down what has just been said when the speaker has moved on to say something else.  I noticed that some people were using their portable telephones to record lectures.  I might try that sometime.

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GORMANSTON 2018 – Part 15

Needing some exercise, I kept walking after the others had returned to the College from the tree walk. I went down the road opposite the Stamullen road to meet the main road, left to the Huntsman where I had a half of Guinness, chatting with Roger Patterson and Brian Dennis.  Roger asked me for a poem on management techniques between native bees and imports.  I haven’t started it yet, but maybe I will as I have an idea or two rolling around at the back of my head.

Walking back to the College brought my total distance for the day up to 3.75.  I’ve been monitoring my walking and doing more than I used to as I’ve taken on a challenge to walk 1,000 miles this year, which target I passed yesterday, the 6th September.

It was the party night. There was a band which, with unnecessary amplifiers, was uncomfortably noisy: I like to listen to music rather than have it blasted at me!  Consequently I sat as far from them as possible and didn’t get up and dance, although plenty of people were dancing, including Dodie Dineen in her wheelchair!

There was wine and food aplenty. I didn’t eat much but the girl sat next to me kept topping up my wine glass.  The party finished at about 12.30 on Thursday morning and I went to bed. Jason wasn’t there and I hadn’t seen him at the party.

The sun woke me up soon after 6 and I was up (with a headache) at 6.30. I went for a walk before breakfast, down the same road as last night, to the main road, right along the main road then up the road to the locked main gate – about 2.25 miles. The sun was very bright but there was a cool breeze. The headache soon went but I could do with a powernap or two.

After the usual breakfast I found an armchair and sat to write up these notes. I noticed that the pen they had provided was getting very short of ink!

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