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.