What mixed weather. One day we are sitting in the garden entertaining under our new freedoms and then a week later we are checking to see if the bees have enough feed for the cold spell. Blame it on Global Warming or Climate Change or Sod’s Law it is a time to keep your eye on things.
January 1st brought a whole new approach to the UK’s ability to make its own rules and move to a greener more environmentally friendly set of rules. Well that is what Michael Gove told us. In fact this is the same Michael Gove who advocated tough restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids in 2017.
So why my concern? Well what has really brought this to the attention of the beekeepers is that less than two weeks into the new “Green Brexit” the Government has granted emergency permission for farmers to use a neonicotinoid on sugar beet.
Are they harmful? Well the EU felt they were sufficiently damaging to the environment that they have restricted their use though many countries in the EU have granted “Emergency Authorisation ” for the use of thiamethoxam, which is a neonicotinoid, on Sugar Beet. They are sufficiently concerned about the Emergency Authorisations that they have asked for further details from the countries involved.
This mainly affects East Anglia and the Government has limited its use and applied several conditions to what other crops may be grown in the same area but that is not the point. The full set of restrictions can be seen here.
This, as far as we know, is the first such application this year and it has been granted. DEFRA have written a blog to explain their case. They also put out a statement explaining the reasoning behind their decision.
The reason for granting the licence is to reduce the number of Aphids which carry Beet Yellows Virus. The effect of the virus is to reduce crop yields so there will be less sugar produced. But surely with the obesity epidemic that the government is trying to stop should we not be reducing the amount of sugar we are producing? If the virus is that damaging perhaps it is time to move from producing sugar to producing another crop which has more nutritional value and does not require the application of this dangerous insecticide.
If you feel that our bees are worth saving and that there has to be a better way then why not sign one of the several petitions that are out there. 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.
No the picture is not me on the way to my apiary but who knows what weather the next month will bring. There are indications that we could be in for a spell of very severe weather later this month and into next. This could mean it gets very cold and it could mean we have a lot of snow. None of this is certain which is why it is not yet on the Met Office site. If this were simply “Arctic Blast To Paralyse Britain” on one of the red top papers then I would not be concerned but this story seems to have a much more scientific basis. If you want a far fuller explanation ask Google to find articles on “Sudden Stratospheric Warming 2021”.
So what can we do? By now you should have your hives strapped down and secure. In addition you should have made certain that there is enough fondant for them. This is a good time to check the fondant as the temperature is just a bit warmer. However do not disturb your bees any more than you need to. Every time they are disturbed the cluster is upset and it takes a lot of energy to wake the guard bees and then reform the cluster. If they do need more fondant the recipes for are here.
If we get heavy snow then the entrance to the hive may become blocked. Running on a mesh floor this is not a problem as there will plenty of ventilation to let carbon dioxide out and oxygen in. If it is really cold the bees need for ventilation is considerably reduced as they are so inactive.
In previous years I have made certain that the hive entrance is clear of snow but this year I won’t bother. There is a risk that bees will see the bright light reflected off the snow outside and mistakenly assume it is spring and the sun ins shining. A trip out for a cleansing flight under these conditions could well be their last. If you leave the snow blocking the entrance then only when it has melted will they be able to leave the hive – and then they might not want to.
Hopefully the winter will not be that bad but it is as well to be prepared. Much easier to get out there and check your bees before we get any snow.
Whilst you are here can I draw your attention to a recent government announcement on neonicotinoids.
If you are looking for Zoom lectures to watch then I will draw your attention to our “Diary Dates” page
I have caught up with myself after having my attention somewhat diverted. Now is the time to look forward to the new year and all that it may bring.
Last year I seemed to spend months just writing about events that were cancelled. Not a week went by without me having to put lines through events. I enjoy keeping bees as much for the social aspects of beekeeping as for the fascination of how the bees organise themselves. To have no events to attend was a little disheartening.
However I have since taken on the Zoom culture and am enjoying it. No longer restricted to meetings in the South West of the UK I can now “travel” all over the country -and further afield if I so wish.
Below is a list of lectures from Somerset and Cambridge. In addition there are many lectures by BIBBA – in fact too many for me to list here! I suggest you have a look and book your place on some. We may be locked down but we need not be locked out.
January 2021 Thursday January 7th at 7:00pm Somerset Beekeepers have a lecture by Jo Widdicombe on “Black Bees – our past or our future?” Tickets are available on Eventbrite.