It took me over 4 hours to drive up to Edgmond, in Shropshire, on Friday for the BBKA Spring Convention, including a very long time sat in traffic jams around Birmingham. The location and traffic problems are probably the reason that I see far fewer faces that I know from the SW counties than was the case when it was based at Stoneleigh. The lecture theatres were less packed this year than last and so were the trade halls, in fact the traders packed up and left hours before the programme said they would.
The lectures themselves were very high quality apart from the usual dependence on Powerpoint which means the lights are lowered, making it difficult to take notes and for the speaker to interact visually with the audience. I shall attempt, over the next few days, to read my scrawls and pass on to you the meat and my comments.
The drive back took much longer, deliberately, as cities and motorways were avoided in favour of views of unfamiliar countryside in the Forest of Dean including two short ventures into Wales. The road sign as one leaves Wales at the Severn Bridges welcomes you to Logren (or similar: I was too busy driving to make an exact note), which reminded me that I ought, after 40+ years to find my copy of Taliesin in Logres to read it at leisure (what’s ‘leisure’?).
I arrived too late for the start of the lectures so the first I attended was Sue Cobey speaking on ‘Germoplasm Preservation: a tool for breeding.’ I know Sue from when she spent a week lecturing at Gormanston a few years ago and we are ‘Facebook friends’. I reminded her of the occasion when we opened a hive of Irish black bees without smoke, veils or stings and she demonstrated how to ‘pop’a drone so that his reproductive organs emerge to enable her to obtain his sperm for artificial insemination of queens. Sue has been doing this with her famous New World Carniolans for nearly 35 years, enabling bee-farmers over there to make a good living.
Sue’s lecture was very informative giving lots of detail but Malcolm Blake commented to me afterwards that she was better when responding to questions than when sticking to the script, and I wouldn’t disagree. There were lots of anatomical pictures, for instance of the queen’s valve fold, which needs to be hooked back in order to squirt the semen in with a syringe.
There is the difficulty in balancing uniformity (my side note reads CONTROL FREAK!) with diversity and, as honeybees aren’t native to America, their gene pool depends on ancient imports and is somewhat limited, although Sue has recently obtained permission from USDA (United States’ Department of Agriculture) to import Carniolan sperm to help ameliorate the situation. Sue did stress the importance of diversity, especially in a period of climate change.
There was lots of detailed technical information, for instance cryopreservation of sperm at -196 degrees C, which I doubt was of any practical importance to anybody in the audience.
After the lecture I posted on Facebook about meeting Sue in Ireland and received a reply from Jim Fischer that “She demonstrated similar things here in the USA, and I said “Sue, I bet you get that reaction from ALL the boys!” People kept giggling for the rest of the presentation. But her NWCs paid for my entire farm, put two boys through college, and kept me in parts for MGs and Jags.”