Today’s meeting of DARG (Devon Apicultural Research Group) was held in the depth of that county at Newton Abbot BKA’s apiary. They have a field with lots of hives and a meeting room with a cosy fire and off-grid electricity.
A dozen of us were there in time to eat our picnic lunches and natter for a while before officially starting. The short straw had been handed to Martin Hann, the local Bee Inspector who had spent the last week being updated by his (ex FERA but I can’t remember their current name) organisers at Sand Hutton near York. I informed Martin that because FERA has been sold off by the Government I have deranged my data on Bee Base.
He was full of cheerful news, for instance, although spotting invaders is a priority, their eventual success is regarded as inevitable. Asian hornets are causing much more concern than Small Hive Beetle. Bees can live with the latter but will be wiped out by the former.
He went into some detail about how they act and how they can be trapped in fizzy drink bottle traps. Unfortunately these work best when you’ve somehow caught a hornet and put it in the trap so that it can, pheromonally, attract sisters. I write ‘sisters’ but they may be even more closely related than that as DNA test have revealed that all the (in season) millions of Asian hornets are descended from, at most, 2 queens!
With regard to the Small Hive Beetle, Martin revealed that the Italians have, so far, destroyed about 3,500 hives, but that annually tens of thousands of hives are moved in and out of that area from Austria and thereabouts, which is worrisome.
The main subject of the day was colony losses and Martin circulated summaries of the information he had obtained from Devon. The average winter loss was 13.5% and the most frequent cause was not Varroa as might be expected by queen loss/failure/drone laying.
In the discussion it was mentioned that lack of queen fecundity was a very common problem nowadays and blame was put on drones for transmitting viruses sexually.
Glyn Davies had brought along a microscope and some slides with Nosema spores. Apparently N. cerana infection doesn’t cause the bees to defecate noticeably outside the hive as does the normal N.apis.
Our Chairman,Richard Ball had brought along his portable computer on which he showed us a graph he had prepared of the daily mite drop in his home apiary alongside the daily ambient temperature. Both lines wriggled a lot but here and there a peak in temperature seemed to coincide with a peak in mite drop. I’ve never got the hang of making graphs with XL on the computer and Richard helpfully showed me how. I wonder whether I’ll remember when I get round to trying it.
There was some discussion of hive treatments and Hive Clean was mentioned with favour. Apparently it contains oxalic and lactic acids plus propolis.
The meeting was over by 3.15 which gave me time to go to Trago Mills, only 10 minutes away, where I bought a sheet of plastic imitation glass which I hope to use to make windows for the hives-to-be in my bee house.
On my way home I called in on my apprentice, Sarah, at her Bee Happy Plants nursery. I unloaded her new top bar hive that I have constructed from timber she has provided, having finished it last evening, making top bars from rescued pallet wood and using a soldering iron and lump of beeswax to mark a central guide line to encourage the bees to build comb conveniently for us. This doesn’t always work and Sarah might attach narrow strips of wood for this purpose.
As the day was cooling down and rain threatening we didn’t inspect the hives today but hope to do so during the coming week.