Today was Somerset BKA’s annual Lecture Day. This year it was held at Somerton, a bit closer to home than the usual Cheddar. It’s well into the Somerset Levels as, looking around the area from outside the Hall, everything in sight was horizontal with no hill visible. This time Liz Rescorla and I did the green thing and travelled together in her car. She doesn’t have a gps and I was impressed by her old fashioned method of using memory and written notes.
We got there very early, about 8.30, so had time to browse the stalls, drink coffee and eat biscuits before it got started an hour later. Jerry Burbidge of Northern Bee Books was there with masses of bee books on tables. He’s sold out of Getting the Best from Your Bees! I hope he gets some more. He kindly gave me a first edition of a new magazine: Natural Bee Husbandry. I’ve skimmed it and it looks interesting I shall probably blog about it when I’ve had time to read it properly.
The first lecture was by Michael Maunsell of FIBKA on the subject of THE DRONE. He started with their history, from Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) who wrote that the leader of the hive was king, and then progressed through the advice of Virgil, Butler, Swammerdam, Huber and Oertel. His talk was very interesting but I wasn’t able to keep up with legible note taking. Perhaps I should take a tip from the lady sat next to me who was recording all the talks on her portable telephone.
Michael over-ran and so we had to hurry over more coffee and biscuits (I’ve never before eaten so many chocolate biscuits, especially Jaffa cakes, in one day!) and then resume our seats for the second lecture THE QUEEN by Margaret Murdin NDB, current queen of the BBKA. This was another excellent lecture from which I made a full page of illegible notes.
She finished on time, giving us a more relaxed break for coffee and biscuits and to visit the stalls. Fera had a stall and I picked up the updated booklets from them and APHA on Foulbrood, Tropilaelaps and Managing Varroa.
Next came Nigel Semmence who used to be the Regional Bee Inspector but is now the NBU’s Contingency Planning and Science Officer. He first brought us up to date on Small Hive Beetle with annual maps of their distribution in the toe of Italy and Sicily. It’s worrying that, annually, we import about 12,000 queens, nuclei and packages but bees come in other ways also and he showed us a photo of a swarm of bees in the tail fin of a plane in a hanger at Bournemouth airport that had arrived from South Africa! He says there’s a video about SHB on Bee Base, which I have yet to view.
Next he went on to the Asian Hornet, waving a large model of one in his hand as he spoke, so we’re all now well acquainted with the colour scheme if not the size. Apparently each colony will produce about 200 queens, 95% of which won’t survive the winter, but the survivors might travel up to 20 km (my mental arithmetic reckons that to be 12.5 miles) to set up a new home.
Now is the time to set traps for the queens. There are various recipes for bait: shrimp or fish mashed up to make a 25% mix with water; dark beer with added sugar; sweetened apple juice. In France they lose up to half of their hives to the hornets unless they trap heavily early in the year. The traps don’t need to be close to your bees, so you can have one in your back garden to monitor daily.
Next it was lunch break. I had brought a couple of 30p supermarket pasties which I consumed and then topped up with coffee and biscuits. It was good to mingle and natter with others. Apimondia is happening again this year and several people I spoke to would like to go but don’t fancy the hassle of organising the transport and accommodation etc. I mentioned this to Margaret Murdin in the hope that the BBKA will do something and she told me that John Hendrie might be organising something and I should contact him. Does anybody have his contact details?
After lunch there was first the presentation of certificates, first to Ann Rowberry (if I got her name right) who has passed all the exams and is now a Master (Mistress surely!) Beekeeper and then a chap who has been a beekeeper for 60 years – he started very young.
The first post prandial lecture was Michael Maunsell again on THE WORKER DEFENDER giving details of how and why worker bees act to preserve the safety of their colonies. He went into great detail on the effects of stinging and how people react to them and what, if any, first aid should be applied.
Then it was time for tea (and Jaffa cakes) followed by the draw for raffle prizes. They drew lots of numbers, all of them wrong!
The final lecture was Margaret Murdin on BECOMING A PROFICIENT BEEKEEPER. She reckons we’re novices for the first couple of years, an improver for 2 – 4 years, possibly becoming proficient (depending on your definition) in 4 – 6 years. Between 45% and 75% of beekeepers are in their first 4 years and about 5,000 beekeepers join and as many leave the BBKA each year. Only about 10% have been at it for more than 10 years, many of whom are elderly, inactive or out of date.
She urged branches to run lots of courses for beekeepers of all stages and to get the best information. I was pleased that she mentioned my late friend, Dave Cushman’s, website as being the best in the world! Roger Patterson runs it nowadays and there may be a link from the BBKA site.
The day finished at 5pm, excellent value at £20 (including coffee/tea and biscuits)!