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.
You can report also report sightings by email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a photo or on the Non-native Species Secretariat website.
Details on the appearance of an Asian hornet can be found on Bee Base guide or the non-native species identification guide.
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.
Next year the auction will have a change of venue away from Nordale Farm, where we have been for years, to an indoor site at Sunninghill School in Dorchester. Put a note into your diary to put a note in next year’s diary that it will be on Saturday 13th March 2018.
We shall be running a 2018 Spring Course for new beekeepers. If you’re interested please contact Sally Leslie on Sallyfrances86@hotmail.com or 01305 823043.
There was an Introduction to Beekeeping session on Saturday 16th September. This was about starting beekeeping, the equipment necessary, information on our Beginners’ Course and included a practical apiary session. Contact Sally (details above) for further information if you’re interested in a future course.
Liz Rescorla: 01305 889916 email@example.com
Chris Slade: 01300 320777 – CSlade777@aol.com
Richard Norman 01305 786585 – Richard@wykeregis19.plus.com
Chris Slade is a long term beekeeper and President of Dorchester and Weymouth Beekeepers’ Association. He is also an author and blogger, to check out his blog use this link.
Dorset Beekeepers Association have a useful calendar outlining beekeeping jobs for the month and dates for your diary of key beekeeping events. You can find it at:
There are 2 extractors available for hire to members. A nine frame & a four frame. For the nine frame please contact Nicky Payne on 01305 822609/ 07875 588906 or for the four frame contact Chris Jenkins on 07825 299321.