This is the time of year when there may be visitors to this site who have read about bees, possibly bought some honey at the local market, and now they are thinking "Shall I keep bees?"
Deciding to keep bees is not a decision to take lightly. It is not just puting a hive in the garden and taking off honey when ever you need it. There is a lot more involved than that and it is a lot more rewarding.
If you are thinking of keeping bees then I have written a new page on this site which explains some of the points you have to consider such as where to keep the extra equipment.
Anyone who knows beekeepers will know that every beekeeper has a different answer to the same question so there will be things on the page which others think are not important and there are things missed out. Read it and let me know what you think.
Just got back from a well known discount store with the offers for next week. There are some really good offers but amongst them is one that really caught my eye. A jar of honey - a 454 gram or 1 lb jar is reduced from 89p to 69p. Now I don't know about you but I am certain my bees would go out on a swarm if that is all I were getting for all their hard work. In fact in my cases the jars cost nearly that much.
Whilst I am on the subject of honey sales I was in the market of a Somerset city recently and there was honey on sale. The label advised me it was "Honey from Romania" and that was all it told me. I know for a fact that my bees would not be happy if I were not to say on my labels where the bees were and who looks after them.
What I do know is that those people who have tasted my honey - well actually the honey from my bees - have been amazed at the depth of flavour. Perhaps the bees and I are doing it right.
This week is Asian Hornet Week in the UK. Thus it is a time when we can raise public awareness of the threat which the "Yellow Legged Hornet" poses to the UK. This is a threat to pollinating insects which fly not just our bees.
We tend to think of the Asian Hornet as a predator on our bees. As the picture below shows they are also keen on rotten apples . If you see any ripe fruit look carefully. Are they wasps or is it an Asian Hornet?
The BBKA have a whole page of links to YouTube videos. They bring us up to date with some of the latest research. and are well worth having a look at. The National Bee Unit also has some interesting data, links and videos on their Asian Hornet page.
In addition the BBC has run an item on BBC1 "The One Show". This is available on BBC iPlayer and will be available for about 30 days. The item is well worth watching and for those not keen on the rest of the show then you will find the item from 25 minutes to 30 minutes.
Just because we have not seen them so far this does not mean we will not be seeing them soon. I suspect that this summer the lack of tourist traffic from the South of France crossing the Channel has been one of the reason why we have not been troubled. It may also be the fact that much of the wind has blown from a Northerly direction or t may be that it has just been too cold. We do not know. What we can say is that the Asian Hornet is a serious threat and it is as far North as the Channel coast. This is not a time to relax.
This is always a busy time for bees and the last few months seem to have been really busy all round. However the good news is that as the pandemic seems to be taking a back seat we can start reserving front seats.
It is for this reason I am adding a new post to the web site. Two events have been brought to my attention
The National Honey Show 21st to 23rd of October - not just any honey show but the 90th. Things are a bit different this year and only pre-booked tickets will let you into the show. This is an excellent opportunity to meet up with old friends and also new friends. I have had a look at the lecture programme and it looks very interesting. For those who cannot get to the show there will be tickets available to watch all the lectures on line. Who knows what we we will be facing come October but the organisers have confidence and so should we.
Royal Bath and West Show has been cancelled - but it is not all bad news. In its place there is a Country Festival from Friday 27th - Sunday 29th August. Not only a Country Festival but a Honey Competition so if you have ever thought of entering your honey at the Royal Bath and West Show then now is your chance. Schedule, Regulations and Entry Form are now live on the Bath and West Show website.
OK so you do not think your honey is good enough - well think again. There are classes for many other products of our bee keeping. You could enter a bottle of Mead or a bottle of Methaglin or even a bottle of Melomel. If that is not something you can turn your hand to then there are photographic class or for the inventors amongst us there is a class for new or innovative equipment. Download the schedule and see what you could bring to the show.
To encourage you for this year only there are no entry fees - it does mean there are no cash prizes but there are prize cards and be honest it was always about the taking part rather than the cash prize.
What are we to make of this weather? Last week I was in North Wales freezing cold in the wind and baking in the sun. The only way to stay comfortable was to rotate slowly like meat on a spit - and for a vegetarian that does not come easily!
This week we have more of the same except that as the week progresses the weather, for a time, will get colder. Cold weather means bees have less energy to gather food but the longer days and shelter in the hive mean the Queen could be busy laying. Do check your hives and see that there are enough stores. It may be necessary to top up the reserves.
Another problem with this weather is the lack of rainfall. April has not been a month of showers - in fact some areas have had almost no precipitation all month and what they have had was snow! Bees need water. Make certain that there is water available near the hive. National Bee Supplies do a fancy water trough or you could make your own with a plant pot tray with some pebbles in it and then some means to support a bottle upside down.
From the 21st April we, as bee keepers, are required to notify DEFRA if we have varroa in our apiary. DEFRA see Varroa as a serious threat to bee keeping in this country and now require us to supply information so that they can monitor the problem. The reporting process is very simple - a tick box on the BeeBase web site. At the moment this is not in place but I expect it to be up by April 21st. For those who resist putting their details on BeeBase there will be an alternative method of notifying the presence of varroa in your apiary.
Beebase If you are not aware of Beebase then now is the time to become aware of it. It is run by Animal and Plant Health Agency and contains a wealth of information on bee keeping. It is also where you register your apiaries so that the Bee Inspector can keep you informed of problems in your area. It also includes a record keeping section where you can enter your own records of apiary visits. I know that there are some out there who see any registration of their hobby as an intrusion on their privacy. If the hobby were painting toy soldiers or lace-making I could understand the reluctance to register. In the case of bee keeping it is important to register. If my bees were to get A.F.B. or E.F.B. then I can call on the bee inspector to advise me. If the bee inspectors know of other colonies close by they can easily notify them of the problem. If you are not on BeeBase then the Bee Inspector has no way of contacting you.
And for those of you who do not a varroa mite - this is what it looks like though much enlarged. For more details then do look on BeeBase.
Not a nice day out there again today. Certainly not warm enough to be opening up the hive. Anyway it has given me an opportunity to file all the emails or act on them - or even delete them. However amongst the emails I have come across a survey for the government's Healthy Bee Plan. The survey is available on this link and has to be completed by 21st April. It only takes a few minutes to fill in and if we all fill it in then the government will be able to make informed decisions.
In addition I have been looking at the BIBBA lectures on YouTube. Excellent material. If you subscribe then you will receive notifications when there is a new lecture released.
My attention has also been drawn to a calendar of bee events in the UK. This is to be found at bee events.
It seems that the government has had second thoughts. The permission to use neonicotinoids on sugar beet this year has been withdrawn. The official reason is that the recent cold snap has affected the aphids. The number of aphids has fallen below a critical level and as a result the government has decided that neonicotinoids are not to be used this year. It is good to see that government policy is being "driven by the data not the dates."
However it is possible that next year the aphid population may not be affected by the cold and government decisions may not be driven by Honey Bee data. We must, for the sake of the bees and all the other pollinators under threat, make certain that permission to use neonicotinoids is not granted in Spring 2022.
But reading is not enough. We have to make certain that any decisions the government make are well informed. It is for this reason I am drawing your attention to the draft National Action Plan on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides. There are download links on the page and it is asking for our response - and our deadline for response is February 26th.
The document raises several questions for us to think about including, on page 21, asking us how DEFRA could increase transparency to explain the decisions they have come to. This is an important issue as can be seen by the lack of information available regarding the evidence for the recent Sugar Beet/Neonicotinoid derogation.
I ask you all to download and read the document and pass back your comments by February 26th
On a lighter note - the other night we watched "Mr Holmes" on the BBCiPlayer. It is partly about Sherlock Holmes - which is why we chose to watch it - but bees and bee keeping play a very important element in the story. It stars Ian McKellen and is an interesting plot beautifully acted. It is on iPlayer until the end of the month or you can rent it from Amazon.
Lockdown or not there is plenty to do this week - it could be busy. I have been doing some digging - on the net rather than in the garden- and come up with the following links which may be of interest to bee keepers:
Asian Hornet : This has not gone away and when the weather warms up we will have to be as prepared as we have been in previous years. The BBKA have an interesting paper on dealing with an Asian Hornet incursion. The paper is actually an extract from the blog by Peter Davies which can be found here. In addition there are some interesting papers on Nature's web site including one by Peter Kennedy on his work on tracking Asian Hornets. There is also a paper on predicting the spread of the Asian Hornet and another on dealing with the possible Asian Hornet incursion. If you want an excellent video on the effect of Asian Hornets on a bee hive then this video on the BBKA site is worth watching.
Neonicotinoids: Whilst I was on the Nature web site I did a search for Neonicotinoids. It produces some interesting papers which helped me broaden my understanding of this insecticide. It is not just about the bees! There are several petitions regarding Neonicotinoids. There is one asking the government to overturn this decision. So far South Dorset has submitted 61 signatures and West Dorset 95 signatures! or write to your MP – or even both. There is also a similar petition to continue the ban on neonocotinoids.
Lectures: I have updated the Diary Dates page to show more Zoom lectures and there are plenty of possibilities there. My attention has also been drawn to podcasts. These I find useful as I can put them onto my MP3 player and listen to them on my daily walk. Of these my favourite is the Norfolk Honey Company talk. Stewart Spink has such a relaxed manner and yet explains it all so well. There are also more podcasts from Beekeeping Today, the Hive Jive, Beekeeper Confidential and from New Zealand's Kiwimana.
Tasks: Couple of things for you to do: BBKA have included a reader survey page in the latest magazine. I keep my magazines intact and am thus loathe to cut out a page. Fear not there is an online reader survey here. If you are a BBKA member - and we all should be if we are UK based - then this is feedback which is needed to determine the future of the magazine. The other task is to sign one or both of the petitions mentioned above. regarding Neonicotinoids and contact your MP expressing your concern.
Well that is it for now. This week is going to be a stormy week in the UK with a lot of wind and rain. If your hives are all strapped down then sit back, relax and catch up with your reading - it is what I am going to do.