Today the Devon Apicultural Research Group met at Newton Abbot BKA’s apiary in their lovely off-grid shed heated by a log fire and electrified by solar panels and battery. I made a brief diversion en route to call in at Trago Mills to do a bit of shopping and thought I’d arrive late but I was only the fourth there. Numbers gradually swelled to thirteen.
Business came first in which our Treasurer, Chris Utting assured us that we’re solvent with a moderate pot in the bank.
Then Chairman, Richard Ball, asked me to read a mail from the Bee-List about a newly discovered honeybee sub species: Apis Mellifera sinisxinyuan (try saying that out loud!). It’s found in the colder regions of China and is closely related to our own Apis Mellifera mellifera but is smaller, darker and has longer hair. It overwinters in small clusters but builds up rapidly in spring and is very productive of honey.
Richard then asked if we had any new projects to start. I mentioned Victoria Buswell’s hive monitoring project for her PhD at Plymouth University, in which I assume we’re all participating.
Richard then plumbed in his computer and projector and dropped the screen to show us a series of graphs of his weather recording since 1999, the daily rainfall and maximum and minimum temperatures compared with mite drops. I’ve been measuring rainfall daily since 2000 but am not clever enough to put it on my computer so it’s a graph on my kitchen wall. Maybe I should let Richard have a photocopy so he can compare and contrast.
Next the discussion was about unusual or wacky methods of Varroa control. First was the rhubarb leaf placed over the brood box. Richard showed a photo of the fresh leaf in position and then the Varroa floor after the bees had shredded it. There was so much debris on the floor that it was impossible accurately to count the mites directly but, as they are less dense than the leaf litter, Richard was able to immerse all the debris in a fluid and the mites floated to the top. There were no more than usual.
Other odd things that were mentioned were kettle de-scaler, patio cleaner, ultra sound (1,500 Hz at 90 decibels), the Bee Gym, icing sugar, talcum powder, lactic acid, thymol, heat and mini-mites that feed on Varroa.
Then came distribution of Suterra, the bait for Asian hornet traps, queens of which are likely to be around now.
Finally, Glyn Davies handed out small tomato plants as he has grown far too many, so now I have a couple in my greenhouse.