Today there was a very interesting session of DARG (Devon Apicultural Research Group) at Yelverton, on the far side of Dartmoor. I arrived a little later than intended having first gone to Sarah at Tatworth as she was going to drive us, but she wasn’t there! Eventually she turned up and explained that one of her lambs was in trouble and unable to feed properly so she was having to take care of it rather than come to DARG. Glyn Davies told me later that she was the second person today to use that excuse!
People were sat around the table in the Village Hall, chatting, supping tea and snacking so I wasn’t too late and the main speaker Dr Declan Schroeder had yet to arrive. Glyn Davies produced a couple of spermathecae in fluid in little flasks which were passed around.It’s the first time I have seen this organ, in which the queen stores up to 5 years’ worth of sperm.
Declan arrived and with his colleague Gideon Mordecai, who is about to complete his third year of study for a PhD, they spoke of new insights into the honey bee pathogen, Deformed Wing Virus. The virus has been found in a wide range of hosts, not just honeybees, but mainly hymenoptera.
There are currently three known variants: Type A which causes the well-known symptoms of deformed wings in bees and may, partly, be associated with Colony Collapse Disorder; Type B found in Ron Hoskins’ bees at Swindon, which appears to cause no problems to his bees and Type C, which has recently been discovered in Glyn Davies’ apiary! This may be associated with winter losses.
The talk was more like a chat around a table than a formal lecture, with printed notes and diagrams that had been handed around. This is much better than the ‘orrible powerpoint during which lights and eyelids go down, you can’t see to take notes and can’t interact with the lecturer.
Declan’s project is sponsored by the BBKA, the C.B.Dennis Trust, the University of Reading and the Marine Biological Association. He is keen to disseminate the knowledge that he and Gideon have acquired and is also considering starting a company that will enable beekeepers to get samples analysed at an affordable price. If anybody reading this is an officer of a BKA looking for speakers to fill gaps in their programme I suggest that they contact Declan at: DSCH@MBA.AC.UK .
When I was studying biology at school, I was told that brown eye colour is dominant over blue and so it was to be expected that a majority of people would have brown eyes, it requiring both parents to be blue eyed to produce children with blue eyes. Of the 14 beekeepers there this afternoon, all but one had blue eyes! Why? Are blue eyed people more inclined than the brown-eyed to become beekeepers? If you are a beekeeper reading this, why not reply telling us your eye colour? This might show whether today’s blue eyed clump was a local oddity or whether it is general.