It was meant to be our AGM but our Chairman, Richard Ball, and one or two others couldn’t be there so we just settled for a good 3 course lunch at the Furzeleigh Mill Hotel, Buckfastleigh and a talk by Dr Giles Budge, Research Coordinator at FERA. There were only about a dozen of us there, but, amazingly, among them was Peter Donovan whom I mentioned only a blog or two ago! I haven’t clapped eyes on him for a decade or two. In conversation, he told me that he had been playing with Brother Adam and his bees in the year I was born! Unusually, I wasn’t the youngest one there, which was encouraging.
Giles gave us an update on the research going on at the NBU and, once again, I’m regretting my inability to take legible notes! He told us there’s a lot of research going on, some by students. He told us FERA has about 70 Inspectors in the field with a dozen support staff at York who, among other things, run the database, BeeBase. The lab was first formed in the 1950s following the foulbrood legislation.
They deal with apiary inspections and diagnostics: diseases and exotic imports. They run 200 colonies of their own and get a good honey crop, which they sell. They consult/are consulted on policy matters; undertake training; attend to food safety eg chemicals in honey; vetinerary medicines.
Bee imports (the ones that they know about!) are horrendous. In 2009 5618 queens were imported from the EU; 300 from Australia; 740 from New Zealand and 4812 from Hawaii. Lots of complete colonies were also brought in.
Giles spoke about Nosema ceranae. In some countries: Spain, Portugal, Greece and Vietnam it is reckoned to be a major problem. In others: Canada, Italy, France and Germany it is present but not a great problem. By looking at old samples from the freezer and applying modern techniques it seems that it has been here since at least 2005. I mentioned the Isle d’Ouessant of the Britanny coast where, thanks to an effective quarantine, they don’t yet have Varroa and yet they do have Nosema ceranae. There is Nc at the NBU apiary but it isn’t causing colony losses (yet).
Following the recent Random Apiary Survey, 53% of the colonies sampled were free from Nosema. Of those with it, 39% had Nosema apis only; 34% Nosema ceranae only and 26% both. Giles displayed a bar chart which indicated that the incidence of Nosema drops off in the summer months following a peak in May/June, but there were no figures for the winter months, presumably because the Seasonal Bee Inspectors’ contracts had ended. He didn’t go into reasons for the summer reduction but my assumption is that the bees can shit outside the hive at this time, there are plenty of bees to do the cleaning up after those that didn’t make it outside, and brood rearing is being reduced so those who feed them aren’t as stretched.
I do have further notes but they are totally illegible! Maybe I’d better learn how to record lectures.