Although we are titled the Devon Apicultural Research Group, over 28% of us at today’s meeting came from adjoining counties, namely Somerset and Dorset. I reckon that I was the second youngest of all of us, which suggests that we could do with some fresh blood! If my apprentice, Sarah, had been able to come she would have lowered the average age considerably but she was too busy building a house today (she’s very practical!).
We met in the Village Hall at Uplowman near Tiverton in east Devon where, after chat, sandwiches and coffee, Glyn Davies led the discussion on queen rearing. I was slightly disappointed that he was concentrating more on nuts and bolts than on selection, but he did hand out a sample record form that would assist in assessment. I mentioned Roger Patterson’s suggestion that people use their assessments to divide their hives into groups A and B with the latter being re-queened from the former in order to achieve general improvement without reducing the gene pool too much.
Glyn set up his magic lantern to illustrate some of the points he was making. He favours the Miller method of raising queen cells as grafting requires younger eyes! Whether to use standard nuclei or mini-nucs really depends on how many queens you intend to rear. Mini nucs use far fewer bees but they can rapidly get congested and/or over heated. Standard nuclei can easily have their frames transferred to full sized hives.
If several nuclei are used on the same site then there is a strong chance of a queen entering the wrong box on her return from her mating flight, so they should be coloured differently and aligned in different directions.
Glyn showed a slide of one of the mini-nucs at an association apiary with the lid marked with the letters: QC, V, Q+, Q-, LW and DL with a coloured pin to be stuck into the lid against the appropriate letters to indicate queen cell, virgin, queenright, queenless, laying workers or drone layer.
The discussion lasted for a couple of hours and it was getting on for 4pm by the time we broke up. Instead of heading for home by the shortest route, I diverted via Lambert’s Castle, an Iron Age hill fort on the Dorset/Devon boundary where I hoped to meet colleagues from the County Boundary Research Group who had been invited to join the Dorset Diggers archaeologists who were visiting the site. Unfortunately I was too late as there was no sign of them.
On the drive down country roads I noticed that the hawthorn (May) flowers were coming into bloom. They’re pretty well on time as they have traditionally come out on May Day. By the time you read this it will be the old May Day, now 11th May. This is because, back in 1752, the government removed 10 days from the calendar to bring us into line with the EU (or its predecessor!). This sparked off much protest at the time, both from the peasants who thought their lives would be reduced by that amount and from the moneyed class who thought they’d have to pay their taxes earlier.
Those poor peasants are all dead now, but the taxpayers were successful as the end of the tax yearwas changed from Lady Day (25th March) to 5th April where it has remained ever since. The Government didn’t manage to change the progress of nature either, not only with May blossom but also with the advancement of spring growth. This must be why, almost a century ago, my grandparents, then farming near Sherborne, were allowed to let their cattle graze Lenthay Common from 11th May.
After several years of spring getting earlier and earlier, this year has reverted to the status quo ante and dandelion wine time was about what it was when I last made it about 30 years ago and I was able to eat St George’s Mushrooms on St George’s Day. This doesn’t mean that global warming has come to a permanent end but is probably a result of a prolonged absence of sun spots. This doesn’t happen very often and the previous occasions coincided with mini ice ages when people were able to skate or barbeque on the Thames.