General Update

Just a few points which should be of interest to members:

Relaxing video
I was sent this link by Andy R and I recommend a quiet 10 minutes with a cup of your favourite brew to see how the Australians used to keep bees. The simple, lay back commentary and the easy way the Australians move their hives is most entertaining.
Thanks Andy.

There are many more events from further afield on our “Dates For Your Diary” Page. Do have a look because there are some very interesting talks planned for next few months.

Social Evening
25th January Social Evening no Bee racing at this one.

Skep Making
1st February Saturday. This will be a one day course for those interested in the ancient skill of skep making. It is expected to be heavily oversubscribed so will be initially only available to members. For those interested ring Rich on 01305 786585

February Social
13th February Social Evening at the Colliton Club

February Talk
27th February Talk on Queen Rearing by Kevin Pope at the Colliton Club.

Membership renewal

Membership renewals are now due if you have not already done so. The membership form is here and then if you pay income tax we can claim back the gift aid portion and the form for that is here

Course for Beginners

The dates for this are now decided and we will be starting on 18th April 2020 and running for six weeks with no breaks for holidays so it will include the Early May Spring bank holiday weekend of Saturday May 9th.
The course is held in a classroom at Kingston Maurwood College and the classroom session runs from 10am to 12noon and, weather permitting, there is then an apiary session.

The Portland Hornet?

If I were to go back some 50 years and be chatting to my careers advisor at school I think I might opt for being an Asian Hornet coordinator. Not that such roles existed in those days.

I know you are really keen to know why.

Well on Monday night I received an email to say there had been a possible sighting of an Asian Hornet on Portland. Now I did walk right round Portland the other day from the Merchant’s Incline right round to Fortuneswell. All the time I was looking for pale brown football shapes high in trees or large flying insects. I saw neither but in that wind it was not likely anything would be flying – well not through choice.

Ever one to step up to the mark I said I would go down on Tuesday and have a look – I had already checked the weather forecast!

I made my way to the area that had been described and there I sought out a suitable patch of ivy. The ivy is going over now but there are areas where it is still flowering. I found a suitable dry spot in the sun and settled myself down for a long wait – having got out my sandwiches and flask – I was well prepared.

It is amazing what you see if you just sit still and look. In the space of an hour or so I saw lots of Ivy Bees, three species of butterfly, a Hornet Hoverfly, several lizards and a Red Kite. The Red Kite I saw when I stretched my neck to look up for a change.

There was no sign of the Asian Hornet – mixed emotion over that. A sighting would confirm its presence but then we don’t want it here. Lack of a sighting does not confirm it is not present. (Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.)

I suspect it may have been a sighting of the Hornet Hoverfly that led to the report but we are checking on that. The initial report did say “yellow legs” and the Hornet Hoverfly does not have yellow legs. There is a picture on the App which you can download for your smart phone which allows you to report suspected sightings as well as show insects which may be confused with the Asian Hornet. I have also included a picture at the bottom of the page.

After a couple of hours sitting in the sun I packed up my bag and moved on. A good day’s work.

So what can we conclude from that.

All of us have to remain alert to the threat. We should have the Asian Hornet app on our phone. The queens will soon be hibernating but absence of leaves on the trees will give us a better chance of finding nests and thus be better informed as to where we need to target our efforts next spring.
Hornet

Update

Well we found one Asian Hornet nest and then others found some more. The fear is that what we have found is just the thin end of the wedge and we may all have to up our game next spring when hibernating queens come out of hibernation. That is not good news.

It is the time of year when insects are less visible as the colder temperature takes its toll. The Asian Hornet will be one of the last to disappear as they seem to be able to tolerate lower temperatures when it comes to seeking out food. This is why it is still important to monitor your traps and keep your eyes open.

As the weather cools the leaves will fall from the trees and this will make any Asian Hornet nests more easily seen so if you are walking near trees look up. You are looking for a round nest – like a wasp nest – about the size of a football or possibly larger. If you see one let your nearest Asian Hornet coordinator know. It may be a false alarm but as someone you may call I never complain. This is a matter of such importance that any callout is worth attending.

And on a separate matter:

Time to renew your membership of the Dorchester and Weymouth Beekeepers. In a recent blog I mentioned that the Bee Disease Insurance was a useful insurance for peace of mind. I have now been informed that several members of our association have taken advantage of the insurance. Thus make certain you are covered – renew today. The membership form is here2019-2020 Membership Form and if you are fortunate/unfortunate to have to pay income tax the gift aid form is heregift-aid-declaration-form-dwbka-2019.

Catching the Asian Hornet

Well that was fascinating.
Having been advised of Asian Hornets in Dorset we were asked to help find a nest as a member of the Asian Hornet Action Team for the area.

Sounds simple – we were looking for something the size of a football hanging in a tree.

I guessed we would all form into a line like a police search team and walk along in step but instead of looking down we would be looking up. Easy!

The area we were allocated was woodland with grassy areas nearby. My first task of the day was to stand by a large ivy plant watching for the Asian Hornet. I had already been shown one nearby so I knew what I was looking for. I must say once you have seen one in flight it is not something you are likely to forget – or confuse with anything else.

Anyway the ivy was in the sun and loads of insects came and went. A very pleasant way of spending an October morning even if a little painful on the neck looking up all the time. Eventually we spotted one and with a deft flick of the wrist it was trapped in a butterfly net. Needless to say it was not I who showed such dexterity with a butterfly net.
Dish1
The beast was unmarked and so it was marked with a unique coloured dot. From there it was taken to a feeding station set up near to where we suspected the nest was situated. There it was introduced to the food – Trappit – in the hope that it would remember it was food and where it was.
Marking AH2
It was then released! Now if I had done that I would be in serious trouble releasing a non-native species into the wild but this operation was being run by those who are allowed to release them.
AH in trap4
Carefully we all tried to watch where it went. As it rose up it was easy to spot but once the trees were its background we lost it. However we did now have a general idea of the direction.

This was repeated several times using Asian Hornets with different colour spots and we now had a good idea of the direction of the nest. But how far was it away?

The next stage was to time the flight from the moment it left the feeding station to when it returned. We assumed it flew straight to the nest, disgorged the food and then flew straight back to the feeding station. Knowing the speed of flight we were able now to estimate the distance to the nest and the direction. Perhaps now we would form in a line and look into the canopy.

No it was not to be. We gathered in the area where we suspected the nest was situated and looked up. In winter it would be easy to find a nest with no leaves around but at this time of year not so easy. It took us about half an hour and at least eight of us looking up the tree till one of us spotted the nest. Once found we trained binoculars on it and could see the Asian Hornets going in and out.

And that was job done as far as I was concerned. It now remained for the specialist teams to get in there and remove the nest – preferably after dark when they have all returned. Once that was done we will have to monitor the area. It will not be declared clear until we have had five consecutive days with no sitings either of flying Asian Hornets or Asian Hornets in traps.