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.
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.