I was asked this afternoon by my unrelated namesake, Jim Slade, to test and evaluate some novel beekeeping apparatus he has invented. I agreed and he will send me some. I can’t describe it in detail as he hasn’t yet got it patented. I doubt if he’ll make his fortune as tight fisted beekeepers will make their own versions once word gets around. It might hit the big boys a little though.
Most of a gorgeous beekeeping day was spent at a meeting of DARG, the Devon Apicultural Research Group, talking about bees rather than playing with them. I wasn’t the only foreigner there as a newcomer from Somerset also attended.
I learned, with regret, that Brian Gant had died. He’s been fairly helpless for quite a while, with Parkinson’s I think, but his brain was still good and he was writing excellent articles. He will be missed.
Glyn Davies explained some research going on in Devon with regard to the increasing incidence of drone laying queens. Of course, all queens lay drones, but more nowadays seem to lay only drones. The textbook standard answer that ‘she’s run out of sperm’ is doubted and will be tested if enough people submit such queens to Glyn or to Reg Godwin. Find them via the Devon BKA website.
Our Chairman, Richard Ball, lately the National Bee Inspector, told us (via powerpoint) of a trial of using predatory mites, Hypoaspis Miles, against Varroa. They occur naturally in the UK and live in the soil, preying on other tiny creatures. They are much smaller than Varroa, only half a millimetre long, and so aren’t likely to be seen without a magnifying glass. They are already bred for use in horticulture and the plan is to introduce them into beehives in little packages of dried peat containing about 2,500 of the creatures. We did speculate that the mite might find bee brood easier meat than Varroa.
Richard made another presentation on brood stimulation; whether it is a good idea or not and what method to use; extra water, sugar or pollen. Native or locally adapted bees shouldn’t need such stimulation for normal purposes, but if the beekeeper needs full hives for an early pollination contract for example, then such stimulation might be useful. I learned that bees forage for water, pollen, propolis and nectar in that order.
We discussed our Autumn seminar, to be held on 16th September. Tentative plans are that the subject should be pollen and there would be workshops and lectures on pollination, forensic use of pollen, pollen on plants and pollen in honey. We hope that Dorset’s expert, Mervyn Bown, will be able to demonstrate how to retrieve pollen from honey and identify it.
Although it was an afternoon well-spent, I wish I could have heard the patter of raindrops while spending it!