I think there were about 8 of us at the DARG meeting at Newton Abbot BKA’s apiary today, plus the team from the BKA who fed us on coffee and biscuits all day. There should have been more, but Liz Rescorla has a sick dog to look after and apprentice Sarah has to tend to her elderly Mum on Sundays. I don’t know where Jan got to.
The BKA has a lovely shed/meeting room that has all mod cons supplied off-grid (although I think the water may be piped in) so there was a cheerful fire going to warm us up as the day was cool at first. I’m glad I’ve been there before as my gps has packed up so I had to find my way by memory: I drove past it and had to turn back!
After the usual civilities and consuming our picnic lunch, the first event was Glyn Davies giving a magic lantern show of lots of the microscope slides of the spermathecae of queens, often revealing disrupted membranes and scattered sperm. Glyn couldn’t understand why there was a bit of flickering of the pictures. Probably the projector needs a new wick.
He pointed out that the views weren’t as good as you’d see through a microscope as they were plane whereas with a microscope, if you use your hands to adjust the focus as much as your eyes, you get a much greater depth of view.
The slides from which the pictures were taken are part of DARG’s project concerning drone laying queens and deformed wing virus. Volunteer microscopists are given slides to examine and report upon which have slices of the spermathecae of drone laying queens or of normal queens which have been laying well but have been replaced by the beekeeper as they’ve passed their second birthday. To avoid bias, the slides are numbered, but the microscopist can’t tell from the number whether the queen was a layer or not. The slides are passed around so that each one is examined at least twice, independently.
The theory (yet to be proved) is that Deformed Wing Virus, passed around by Varroa, is to blame for the recent upsurge in drone laying queens. It is known that DWV is a sexually transmitted disease so queens, who must have had good wings to fly for miles to get mated, get infected when they mate with drones carrying the virus. Does the virus affect the drones in the same way that it does workers? Has anybody seen a drone with deformed wings?
The second half of the session was led by Richard Ball on the theme of Storch’s book: At The Hive Entrance. I started reading my copy of the book a few days ago (it’s one of many bee books that I possess but haven’t got around to reading yet), then I put it down somewhere and haven’t been able to find it since! The cover of the book has a picture of a beekeeper in old fashioned garb sat watching bees flying from skeps. I wish I had the time to sit and watch bees for longer than I do as it’s very therapeutic and it’s always good watching other people work!
Richard used the magic lantern to show pictures of various activities at the hive entrance, notably a National hive covered with bees. They were a swarm that had returned home after discovering that their Mum hadn’t gone with them, due to Richard having clipped her wings.
Richard showed a series of slides with questions and answers from Storch’s book. We didn’t always agree with Storch’s interpretation but that might be because Storch was working in a continental climate with Carniolan bees. All beekeeping is local!