There were about two dozen of us at the DARG (Devon Apicultural Research Group) meeting at Uplowman, near Tiverton, today as the local BKA branch members were invited, which swelled the numbers. There was one other from Dorset, Liz Rescorla, our BKA secretary.
There was coffee and biscuits and general nattering for a while. There was also the latest version of the Asian Hornet trap to try. Advice now is to remove the bottle top entirely rather than drill a 9mm hole in it as the hornet queens don’t like squeezing through gaps. There’s uncertainty about the best bait: sweetly scented indicating a source of carbohydrate, or savoury indicating protein. It probably varies as the overwintered queen will need sugars at first for energy but protein later to feed her babies. A few small holes in the side of the bottles will help the scent get wafted out.
The speaker was Stuart Roweth and his subject was his invention, the Bee Gym, which helps bees remove Varroa through grooming. He has produced several versions with modifications suggested through experience, but basically it’s a plastic frame about 4″ square with protruding pegs linked by taut nylon thread (fishing line) leaving a gap of about 5mm for the bee to squeeze through, dislodging a mite on her back. There are also loosely protruding plastic strips, both rectangular and semi-circular, which bees can straddle to scrape their bellies.
Stuart showed graphically comparisons of mite drop of colonies with and without a bee gym. He says that Vita are interested in the product and may market it in due course. I bought a couple of his earlier version to try.
If you Google: Bee Gym you’ll find Stuart’s web site with links to film he has taken through the glass wall of a hive showing the bee gym in action. The bees seem to like it as they keep going back for more.
The meeting finished with more tea and cake. Liz and I left at the same time and spent the next hour following and overtaking each other! Next time there’s a DARG meeting we ought to get organised and do the ‘green’ thing and travel together!
Soon after I posted this, I received a message from a lady in Cattistock, a couple of miles up the road from me, saying that she has a Bee Gym in one of her hives and its mite levels are noticeably lower than in the other hives. She hasn’t done a count but will try to be more scientific this year. She tells me that the fallen mites on the tray below the mesh floor are directly below the Bee Gym.