Today I drove down to the Newton Abbot BKA apiary for a DARG (Devon Apicultural Research Group) meeting, the principal purpose of which was to plan a programme for next year. They have a decent sized meeting shed powered by solar panels, with batteries for dull times and a log burning stove, but the kettle was heated by bottled gas and the water was from the mains so they aren’t completely off grid.

The first thing I did was stroll around the apiary. No bees were flying, which was unsurprising as I spent quite a bit of time before leaving home scraping frost from the car. I did take a few photos of the late Ron Brown’s African style tbh, using the camera on my portable telephone; however it seems no longer to be on speaking terms with my computer so I may not be able to forward them to Ma Grizzly, my Canadian friend who wants to establish wild colonies (if that’s not a contradiction in terms).

Ten of us warmed ourselves by the fire, gathered around the tables, ate our picnics and mince pies and then commenced the business. In discusssing the programme for 2015, we decided not to hold a seminar that year as there is too much competition and too few windows of time.  Dorset and Somerset have popular  events and so, apparently, does Holsworthy in Devon.  People keep mentioning it but nobody as yet has told me anything about the Holsworthy thingy: date, subjects, speakers, booking arrangements, price etc.  (Hint!)

Rather than add to the list of seminars, we decided, more modestly, simply to invite a speaker to one of our monthly meetings, advertise it and encourage non-members to come along in the hope that some of them will join us.  The likely speaker to be invited will be Ben Jones whom we, among others, are sponsoring for his PhD studies into bee nutrition and it would be good to have an update on this important subject.

Through the year our meetings will usually be on the second Sunday of the month, but there may be flexibility.  Provisionally, in January we will be discussing a queen rearing programme; February, the use of mites to control Varroa (both Richard Ball and Clare Densley have, independently, been trying them and have reached similar conclusions). March, I can’t read my notes but discern the words Pollen and Nosema. April will be devoted to winter losses. May will be an apiary meeting at which we will play with queen rearing, possibly hands-on.  In June we will meet at Buckfast Abbey and discuss the Small Hive Beetle potential problem. In July we will discusss other organisms in the hive. August  doesn’t happen.  I didn’t note the remainder of the year so maybe somebody who was there and reading this can fill in the gaps.

Glyn Davies is updating our website and, as skills and available time develop, he will add to it downloadable versions of our pamphlets, some of which need updating.  If you google DARG + beekeeping you’ll soon find it.

Richard Ball projected onto the screen and played with Exeter University’s BEEHAVE programme which is available on line, but seemed to us not too comprehensible, but, considering our average age, that’s not surprising.

We were shown slides of the spermatheca of a drone laying queen bee with a line of collapsed cells along the side.  It is postulated that this is a result of infection by Deformed Wing Virus, possibly acquired in mating with an infected drone. Unfortunately there was no slide showing for comparison the spermatheca of a normally fertile queen as nobody was willing to donate one at the right time. maybe, when we get some queen rearing going, we’ll be able to see slides side by side.

A tip we were given when examining samples of bees for Nosema was to use whole bees rather than just the abdomens. It used to be the practice first to remove the head and thorax for Acarine checking, but that’s so rare nowadays there’s little point. Using whole bees means there’s crunchy body parts to help mash up the guts where the nosema are to be found.

We finished, as planned, at 4pm and my gps was able to guide me to Trago Mills, only a couple of miles away, where I spent an hour in the warmth looking for bargains, ending up buying umpteen packet of seeds at 40p a time but having not enough space to sow them!


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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