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For those of you who are just thinking about becoming beekeepers I can highly recommend the Dorchester and Weymouth Beekeepers Beginners Course starting in February. But then of course I would recommend it as I am one of the speakers! It is a course we have run before and feedback has always been good.

For those looking for something else then there is the Somerset Annual Lecture Day. There will be a packed programme of talks, workshops and a trade hall aimed at beekeepers at all levels.

The programme at present includes:


Beekeeping techniques for the better beekeeper: Gerry Collins NDB
Understanding the evolution of natural Varroa-tolerance mechanisms in various beekeeping populations: Professor Stephen Martin
Catch it if you can! Gerry Collins NDB
Bees and how we care for them - translating bee research into real world conservation: Professor Juliet Osborne

Workshops: - choose one workshop in the morning and one in the afternoon.

a Microscopy: Bridget Knutson
b How to keep bees in poor weather - and survive: Geoff Blay
c Morning only! Beekeeping with Asian hornets: Richard Noel - Brittany beefarmer
c Afternoon only! Making Asian hornet traps: Colin Lodge
d Morning only! Integrated Pest Management Meghan Seymour, SW Bee Inspector & team
d Afternoon only! What is most likely to kill my bees apart from Asian Hornets? Meghan Seymour, SW Bee Inspector & team
You need to have purchased a ticket to attend the workshops;

Then there is the BBKA Beekeepers Convention. This will be held in Shropshire from April 12th to 14th. This is always a well attended show - well it is organised by beekeepers for beekeepers. There is a very full programme of events - far too many for me to describe here. Why not head over to the BBKA site and find out more. All of the lectures are popular - but some are fully booked sooner than others - so better get your bookings in as soon as they open at noon on Monday January 29th - that is next Monday.

Well I hope that gives you a good range of possible places to go to find out more about beekeeping.

Quite a storm last night but my hive survived. I cannot speak for the bees inside it as it is too cold to open it up. It is tempting to just lift the lid and have a look but it is not a good idea.

If they are all well in there and in a state of dormancy then me lifting the lid will alert them to a threat and they will wake from dormancy and this takes energy and disrupts them. Best not to.

If they are not well in there then what is the point of lifting the lid apart from worrying me as to what I did wrong and why all is not well. Best leave it as it is.

So the conclusion I come to is that I will leave it alone and just hope all is well.

Landing board in winter
One bee is returning from a cleansing flight and a couple have died.

What I have noticed is that there are a few dead bees outside the hive. This is not something that alarms me. Over the winter the winter workers will die off a few at a time and the housekeeping bees will remove them from the hive. Seeing a few dead bees outside the hive indicates to me that the housekeeping is still going on. The picture shows one bee returning from a cleansing flight and a couple of dead workers. All quite normal.

It never fails to fascinate me as to how the bees form such a well organised social colony. If you want to learn about bees then we do still have a few places on our Bee Beginners Course starting in February. You can do the course even if you do not wish to keep bees.

Whilst I have your attention - and if you have read this far then I guess you are interested - what about the Asian Hornet?

Well this is not a problem that has gone away. Also this is not just a problem for beekeepers. When the Asian Hornet has eaten our bees it will go for other flying insects. Already in Spain there are signs that the number of flying insects is decreasing and this is affecting the insectivorous bird population.

Aware of this we are organising an Asian Hornet Awareness Session at Sunninghill School in Dorchester on Sunday 18th February from 2:00 to 5:00pm. Mark White will be updating us on where we are now and what preparations we should be making for the new year. Then after a refreshment break we have Pollenize talking to us about new technological approaches to combating the Asian Hornet. This is an ideal opportunity to update your knowledge on the threat and also to meet up with others of a like mind.

This event is not just for beekeepers - it is for anyone who has an interest in the countryside - whether at play or at work.

It is another New Year and this one has certainly blown in with a vengeance. So any plans or resolutions for the New Year? I certainly have plans:

  • Firstly I am going up the garden to check that the hive is still upright. I have recently moved and now have a garden big enough for a hive at the far end. In fact we may even put two hives up there but that is still under negotiation.
  • Whilst checking the hive I will also "heft" it. For those new to beekeeping "to heft" is to lift one side of the hive and assess its weight. If you do this regularly through the winter you can get some idea of the stores available for the bees.
  • But the weather is too wet and too windy for anything else out doors so this is a time to learn more about bees. For me part of the fascination of keeping bees is to understand more about them - particularly the organisation of the colony.
  • Later this week the weather is expected to dry up but become colder. That is when I will get out to the shed and see what repairs need to be done to equipment. What better way of keeping warm outside than scorching the inside of hives!
  • Prepare for the possible incursion of Asian Hornets. 2023 was a close call but hopefully we caught it in time Each nest which we destroyed can produce 350 gynes - that is females that can go on to produce a new nest next in the Spring. Did we find all the nests? Did we destroy all the gynes? Time will tell.
  • As part of my preparation for the Asian Hornet I will be attending the Asian Hornet Conference organised by Somerset Beekeepers this weekend. I will report back on that next week.
  • Also don't forget YouTube. I used to think it was just videos of teenagers falling of skate boards but in fact there is so much more. I am currently working through the Honey Show videos to be found at (221) National Honey Show - YouTube. They are well worth watching.
  • If this interests you then why not join the Dorchester and Weymouth Beekeepers and go on their Beginners' Course. Even if you never want to keep bees it is well worth attending to increase your knowledge of the natural world.

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