Gormanston – Wednesday

I was up early , 6.45, in order to be in the Chapel at 7.30.  Mass started at 7.45 instead of the advertised 8am and, from my perch at the back of the gallery, it appeared as if the choir and clergy outnumbered the congregation.  However, it gradually filled.  The Mass is for Living and Deceased Members and among the latter Dave Cushman was mentioned.  I was pleased but am not sure whether he would have been!

I had a chat with Meg Seymour at breakfast.  She is the one who found EFB in the bees at the College last year after all the experts had been using the hives for demonstrations all week!  She had been invited to come over a few days early this year in order to use her inspectorial skills in the area. She told me that she had found both EFB and AFB.

I was nearly late for the Pickard lecture on honeybee queens and had to sit at the back.  It was entertaining and informative and I made a note to send him my double sonnet on the Drone.  The queen generates variety, enabling bees to cope with a changing environment through evolution.  The worker is a modified queen.  The drones a queen mates with are not the fathers of her sons. All the sperm from one drone will be genetically identical – mitosis – direct clonal copy of sperm. AM Capensis, the Cape Bee, is a left-over from the original bees of NE  Africa. Their workers produce cloned eggs parthenogenetically.  The probability is that it restricts variety in their offspring. Two queen hives are quite common, not virgin queens though. Often there are several queens in a swarm. Drone congregation areas occur over raised mounds or at valley ends where air rises in thermals.  Food switches genes on and off. Gene -> Protein -> Enzyme -> Character.  Chromosomes are DNA packed in a bundle. Drones will fly up to 7 miles to mate.

I missed the next lecture in order to watch Jane Sellers making a skep, using purple moor grass. She had a skep there that had been used and had a full complement of comb with half a dozen reaching to the bottom.  Interested in the spacing, I measured the gaps between them and reported to Jane who only then pointed out that she had started them off with bars and starter strips!

After an early lunch and a power nap I went along to Meg Seymour’s lecture on assessing colonies for brood diseases.  It was a good lecture, to time and lively; popular also and there was standing room only.  I did ask a few questions. I knew the answers already but thought it would give Meg the chance to emphasise particular points.

My notes say that Meg recommends a full inspection for disease early in the season and again later on.  One should have a mental picture of what is normal and be alert to departures from that picture. On these inspections one should concentrate just on brood diseases and nothing else, looking out for ‘pepper pot’ brood; discoloured larvae; perforated, sunken cappings; black fixed scales.  The ‘notifiable’ diseases and pests are European Foul Brood, American Foul Brood, Small Hive Beetle and Tropilaelaps clareae.  EFB is Melissococcus plutonius and causes death usually at the larval stage. Secondary infections cause the smell.  AFB is Paenibacillus larvae and death occurs at the pupal stage and is identifiable through the ‘roping’ of the cell contents when stirred with a matchstick which is then withdrawn.  In Hooper and Morse’s fat Encyclopaedia of Beekeeping is a picture of the roping test. I was standing just behind the photographer when the picture was taken!  Meg told us about ‘entombed pollen’.  This occurs when the bees detect that the pollen they have packed is suspect through contamination with pesticides and they seal it off so that it can’t be used.  Meg recommends keeping a bucket of washing soda solution for cleaning hive tool etc between hives and sites, the recipe being 500g of soda to a gallon of water.  The standard modern treatment for EFB is the shook swarm. Meg recommends putting the queen excluder UNDER a shook swarm to prevent them absconding. That resonates with my sonnet!

I skipped the next lecture in order, after tea, to form a cluster with Meg as she examined a colony on the lawn for foul brood. I was amused that the more experienced the beekeepers present, the less they wore: newbies dressed as spacemen while I had bare arms and feet and a hat and veil.  I had my 30X pocket microscope with me and was able to watch a varroa mite scuttling around as it filled the lens.

After dinner a few of us walked around the beach, returning via The Cock. It started to rain.  When I got back to the College at 9ish there was nobody about as Congress was still in full swing so I turned round and went to the Huntsman for a jar and read the paper.


About chrissladesbeeblog

I have been keeping bees since 1978 and currently have about a dozen hives. I am a member of the BBKA where for many years I represented Dorset at the Annual Delegates' Meeting. I am the co-author (with Dave MacFawn of of S. Carolina) of "Getting the Best from Your Bees" and am working on a book of my own poems : "Bee People".
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