There was a meeting of DARG, the Devon Apicultural Research Group today. We came, not just from Devon, but also Dorset, Somerset and Cambridge so, if you’re interested, don’t be put off coming to join us just because you aren’t in Devon. We did have a new person, John, today and he, like the rest of us (10), was blue or green eyed as I’ve noted before.
Winter must be on its way as the wood burning stove was lit for us in Newton Abbott BKA’s off-grid establishment in a field near a quarry in Clay Lane.
As usual, there was random bee-chatter before the main subject: observations at the hive entrance. Richard Ball said that there was a starvation warning from the National Bee Unit. Yields of honey are generally about 25% of what’s considered normal and several people had experienced losses in queen rearing or observation hives.
There was concern about the vast number of packages of bees, 1,500, imported from Italy where Small Hive Beetle is rife, and only about half of them had been properly inspected. That led on to the lack of action by the BBKA which, opinion has it, is poorly managed and ineffective nowadays. Their ‘Technical Committee’ has only one member! It is possible (although maybe not very likely) that there may be a motion or two at the next Annual Delegates’ Meeting seeking to ameliorate the situation.
It was also mentioned that the SWCJCC (South West Counties Joint Consultative Committee) has far less influence than it used to and that their most recent meeting spent far more time discussing tweaks to their constitution than beekeeping.
There are problems with Chronic Paralysis Virus near Buckfast in Devon and also North Somerset and this may perhaps be associated with imports from Greece. Deformed Wing Virus has three non-lethal strains and one lethal one so possibly a form of innoculation could be devised.
Eventually we got onto the subject of the hive entrance. Apparently Bristol University has been using web-cams in front of hives. Does anybody know whether the film is available on-line?
Chris Utting, who is a BBKA Examiner, commented that most exam candidates don’t look at what’s happening at the entrance before opening the hive. Someone mentioned that bees at the entrance, before they take to the air, pause to clean their antennae with their fore limbs. Why do they do this? Is it like polishing your spectacles as you leave the house? Does it clear away the in-hive scents and pheromones, making the bees more sensitive to the problems and opportunities outside? One more thing we don’t know!
There was talk about using modern technology not only to count the number of bees leaving and entering the hive, but also their gender (drones going out/returning from mating flights), timing, and the proportion of workers with pollen loads.
Somebody mentioned all the debris thrown out of hives, which is very noticeable if you keep your hives on a concrete area. That gave me the idea that I should use my currently unused seed trays by placing them in front of hive entrances to see what they collect. It might be better, visually, to have a sheet of white plastic material lining the trays, but the rainy (rainier) season is upon us and it would block the drain holes. I shall have to experiment.