Lovely sunny day, hardly a cloud in the sky and just a day to get out and apply that first spray to the crops – but what about the bees?
There are all sorts of reasons that bees suffer from colony collapse or fail to do what we expect them to and one of the reasons that is often suggested is crop spraying.
In towns where many of us keep bees this is not a problem as there is very little spraying which is likely to drift far from the intended plants. However in the countryside it can be a far more serious problem.
It is for this reason I was intrigued to see a web site that helps around this problem. The site is beeconnected.co.uk and aims to advise bee keepers when there is going to be spraying in the vicinity of their hives.
The way it works is that farmers who are registered place a pin on the map where they are going to spray and show what is being sprayed. As beekeepers we also place a pin on the map to show where we keep hives. It is not necessary to have a post code for a hive which is probably as well.
The farmer will notify beeconnected when they are going to spray and an email is then sent to the owners of the registered apiaries in the area which is being sprayed. Bee keepers can decide how big a radius they want to cover and the software allows them to choose up to 5km which is about as far as the bees are likely to go to forage.
In this area – around Dorchester – there are 15 farmers registered and 47 beekeepers. Fifteen farmers may not sound like a lot but with the size of many farms these days this could cover a lot of land.
So if you are a beekeeper it is a good idea to register.
But what do you do if you get notification that there will be spraying in your area? One suggestion is to move your bees to a new location but for those who have ever done this then you have some idea what a problem this can be.
A more practical suggestion is to cover the hive very loosely with wet sacking – more like a tent with the hive in it than a well wrapped parcel. Allow the bees space to move out of the hive and cluster by the entrance if it is too hot inside. The sacking should be kept wet to avoid the hive overheating and at the same time it may absorb some of the drift. It is not ideal but there seem to be no sure-fire ways to protect bees.
Well I am sorry to say that if you were not there you missed it! Was it worth going to? Well I will let you decide.
There was a complete National Hive there with two supers, a brood, crown board, roof and legs and that went for £76 and then another one for £95. Now you don’t have to look far in some well known catalogues to realise these were bargains.
For those of you interested in microscopy then this was your chance to pick up a good looking microscope for £40 – another bargain.
National Supers were going for about £10 each.
Not everything was sold and a manual spinner with settling tank did not reach its reserve of £100 but for many things there was brisk and enthusiastic bidding.
This year I don’t need anything but next year could be different and I will certainly be putting the auction on my calendar.
Well at last it is auction day and for those who have not yet got down to the auction at Sunninghill Community Hall at Sunninghill Prep School, South Walks Road, Dorchester DT1 1EB here is some of what you are missing.
If you have anything to sell then bring it down between 11:00 and 13:00 to book it in and the auction itself will start at 14:00. How long it goes on for depends on how much we have to sell and how keen the bidding.
There is plenty of parking.
I have just been down to watch the setting up and there is a lot going on. Below are pictures I took of some of the items which will be for sale this afternoon.
If you are a new beekeeper then this is your chance to pick up a complete kit for a bargain price – and there are plenty of experts there to help you choose.
If you are an old beekeeper then here is a chance to replace the things that have worn out – though there are no new backbones for those of us who think Supers have got heavier.
Not long now to the auction and it looks like we will have a very good selection of equipment for sale. As an example here are some pictures of items that will be there:
The “accumulated equipment” , which is not displayed at its best, could be assembled to make three good complete national hives.
The same vendor will also be selling a stainless extractor, some Sheriff bee jackets + various smokers and hive tools.
That lot alone should attract considerable interest and I am sure there is much more out there. It should be an exciting day and hopefully the weather will be in our favour – and even if it isn’t it will be indoors this year.
Yes at the time of writing it is just 20 days to the auction. There has been a flyer put out describing it but for those who do not read attachments I will summarise.
The auction is at Sunninghill Community Hall at Sunninghill Prep School, South Walks Road, Dorchester DT1 1EB
If you want to sell something then lots can be booked in from 11:00 to 13:00 on the day. All equipment should be clean. We cannot take frames with comb since, like coughs and sneezes, they can spread diseases.
For those wishing to buy there is preview from 13:00 onwards.
The selling starts at 14:00 and will be an auction of beekeeping equipment and associated paraphenalia.
But that’s not all. We have Diane Sleigh there who is a Thorne’s stockist from the the Bee Depot and she will be happy to take pre-orders. She will also be running Thorne’s wax conversion/exchange. All the wax should be clean but does not need to be filtered. Any pre-orders she can take at diane.sleigh@thebeedepot.
There is car parking on site and there will be refreshments available.
Now that should have told you all I can. I can’t tell you what items will fetch but what I can say is that at the previous auction there were some real bargains. If you still want more information then Andy Ranson is the person to contact on 01305 770730.
And here are some photos from last year’s auction.
OK it’s not about bees and I have been looking at bees long enough to know the difference but I have been sent some interesting pictures of the inside of a wasp nest so I thought I would share them with you. Anyway it is always good to be able to sum up the opposition and in autumn the wasps are certainly the opposition when they go hive robbing.
The nest was found by one of our members inside a hive cover box on the ground – hence dispelling the myth that they are always built high up.
They passed the almost empty nest to Liz who dissected it and has sent us these photos.
This first shows the size of the nest.
And here is a close up of the cut side and layers. The nest is made from strips of wood which the queen peels from untreated fences and sheds. This is then chewed to make a sort of papier mache and shaped into the nest.
And this is a view that is familiar to all beekeepers but this time wasps. Just as in the beehive the cells are all hexagonal.
With a shot here of an adult ready to emerge.
And here are the adults – in his case Vespula germanica. It is typical of this species – the German or European wasp – to build a nest that resembles a large hanging football.
And here is a view of the top side of the nest.
And in comparison here is a photo of the inside of the nest of the English or Common Wasp Vespula Vulgaris
Though there are many similarities between the wasp nest and the hive there is one major difference in that the wasp nest is never again used by wasps though it may become the home for hover flies.
Starting a new hobby can be exciting, but with beekeeping I’m not sure that exciting is the right expression. I started my beekeeping with trepidation, apprehension and anxiety to name just a few states of mind. My husband regularly reminds me – this is supposed to be fun! And yet some of us are mad enough to do it. Why? Because not only do you have an immense sense of wellbeing when you are with your bees, but they are the most intelligent and fascinating creatures alive, who could teach us many things about being better people. Well, that’s my humble opinion anyway.
I am just starting my third year of beekeeping and have taken my Basic bee exam, but I have only just scratched the surface of beekeeping. Many of the club members will tell you that they have been keeping bees for more than 10 or 20 years and are still learning. This isn’t false modesty, really it does take a lifetime and more to understand the amazing little insects and their way of life.
We must be on the lookout for this invasive predator of honey bees. Control will depend to a large extent on early identification and destruction of nests. Being able to identify the Asian Hornet, and particularly being able to distinguish it from the native European Hornet which is not a serious predator of honey bees, will be key factors in control.
Information is still coming in on the best way to deal with the Asian Hornet, so at the moment we can only advise members to be vigilant around their apiaries, use Monitoring traps with discretion, report any sightings [see below] and most importantly sign up with BeeBase and keep checking for the latest information.
The body is almost completely dark brown or black, with a distinctive yellow band on the 4th segment of the abdomen, and the lower legs are yellow.
There is an excellent ‘Asian Hornet Watch’ app available to download from the Apple and Android app stores which can be used for identification and reporting.
The Great Britain Non-native Species Secretariat is a joint venture between Defra, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government to tackle the threat of invasive species. More information can be found on their website.
Despite the unpredictable weather this summer, we have had some excellent apiary meetings.
The first one on 23 July was at Osmington on a site owned by Heritage Seeds. They supply wildflower mixes for Amenity and Agricultural biodiversity projects and these vary from back garden wild flower patches through pipeline restoration to the covering of closed landfill sites. These seeds are either grown on the adjoining fields or “harvested” from various sites including the banks of the cutting through Ridgeway and flowers meadows, around Salisbury Plain, Stonehenge and as far north as Gloucester.
Nineteen members braved the very inclement weather to turn up for the meeting. It was still raining when we had all arrived so we dealt with the tea and cakes first in an adjoining poly tunnel. Twenty minutes later the rain stopped and we were able to look at the hives. After we had finished looking at the bees the owner, Gerard, gave us a guided tour of the harvesting machines (including mini combine) and cleaning equipment. The numerous barns and poly tunnels are used for drying and cleaning of wild flower seed. He explained how the different flower seeds varied considerably in weight, size and shape so each needed a different cleaning process. Having a look around at these workshops and equipment and learning more about how they collect the wildflower seeds was certainly an added bonus to the apiary meeting. We then had a weekend of events. The first, on Saturday 12 August, was an Extraction Afternoon at Stinsford, the honey having come off some of the hives at the Stinsford Apiary, which is the site we have been using for our Saturday afternoon apiary sessions. Although this event was mainly for beginners we had some experienced beekeepers turn up as we were showing how to use both of the Association’s extractors (9-frame radial & 4-frame tangential), as well as the refractometer and how to get cut comb. Everyone who turned up had a go at extracting from removing the cappings to filtering the honey. So everyone got slightly sticky and sweaty in the nicest possible way. The afternoon finished with tea and lovely home-made cakes.
The second was an Apiary meeting on Sunday 13th at Furzebrook Farm, Weymouth. This is a lovely site near Littlesea Holiday Park. The owner, who uses the land for a riding school/stables, has a small orchard tucked away where she wanted some bees so three lucky members now use it as an apiary site. The weather was wonderful so we were able to look at all their hives without rushing, including a poly hive. We managed to find two queens which had been very elusive and used the refractometer on a super that was almost ready to come off. As the reading came to 19.3, it was decided to leave it for a while longer. The meeting finished with tea and bread & honey. This nearly didn’t happen as the site owner has 2 goats which wander around, one of which found the bread and started chomping away. Luckily one of the members noticed this so all hands on deck to push the reluctant goat off the site. After this excitement it was back to inspecting the hives before partaking of the lovely honey and bread and sitting around chatting about bees.
Our last meeting of the season was on Saturday 19th August at a site off the Weymouth to Wool road near Winfrith. This apiary meeting was specifically to show how to extract honey from a flow hive. Consequently there was a lot of interest in this and the meeting came up to expectations. I have attached a separate write-up on this meeting. I would like to thank all the members who hosted these apiary meetings. Without their support and willingness to offer up their sites we would not have had this wonderful programme of meetings, all of which were different and all very successful.
This was held on Sunday 26th February. We had about 27 people turn up for the Event, including a group from West Dorset.
Liz Rescorla gave a quick summary on how to make it and, with no more ado, we set to. There was a fair amount of sharing information and watching others. It seemed a lot easier to make something in a group rather than try to follow instructions on your own.
In the end, everyone managed to make a trap and, having made one, it will be a lot easier to make others.
It was suggested that we should keep an eye on the Bee Base website on the Asian Hornet Trap (Monitoring) page as the instructions have already been amended and adaptations are coming forward all the time.
After the workshop tea and cake were enjoyed by all.