Regional Bee Inspector's Report - Western England

posted 9 Apr 2013, 08:22 by EBKA Webmaster

The annual report for 2012 can be download from:

Charles Millar

Regional Bee InspectorWestern England

News from Martyn in NZ

posted 29 Jan 2013, 06:44 by EBKA Webmaster

         Mike's notes made very interesting reading as I sat under the shelter of a grove of manuka trees in a sweltering 32 oC here in Sth island of New Zealand.  Hives here are seen every few miles in small clearings along the roadside, perhaps 20 or so, often strapped to pallets, and all apparently Langstroths. All boxes  are of the same size, i.e. deep langstroth, and while most have four of these deep supers, we have seen some with six.  According to a bee farmer I met, each super should yield 35kg of honey. Incidentally he is a Romanian and is running 500 hives for a company that has 2000 hives.
Manuka grows like birch trees on an English heath along the coast and around lakes and seems to be an understorey tree in denser forest too. It is flowering now so that the whole tree is covered in small white blossom.
  Elsewhere on mountain slopes the Rata blossom is about to open. This is a large tree with crimson flowers with very prominent stamens (a bit like a bottle brush ). It is pollinated by a bird, the Tui,which bites open the flower buds causing a shower of pollen, and then feeds on the abundant nectar,  The bee farmers are hoping that the unusually warm weather may make this a year to remember. Certainly the bees are flying very strongly.
    Varroa is a worry here, but has not had much effect in this area. They are relying on Bayvarol and Apistan and don't yet think that there are any resistant mites!!!
  The scale of beekeeping is unlike anything I've seen before, and I hope to see some of the commercial honey processing later as well as meeting some local amateur beekeepers.
                                  All the best Martyn 

News from Chris and Keni

posted 20 Jun 2012, 03:17 by Pete Steadman   [ updated 29 Jan 2013, 06:45 by EBKA Webmaster ]

Hi Martin,

Hope all are well, please pass on our regards to everyone. Just thought I’d let you know what’s happening here.

After really poor winter, our hive survived, and has been building up nicely. Quite a few English beekeepers around here, as well as French, so we all have mixtures of Dadant and Nationals!

Last night, around 7.30pm, friend called to say she’d got a swarm on her fencepost and with her 3 dogs around, was worried (for the dogs). So Chris and I gave another beek a call and Mike came over with a swarm box he’d made and we drove over to her place around 20 mins away. Got there, technical book swarm, over fencepost and smoke upwards into box, then left for tens mins (cup of tea) whilst the rest went in. Got them all, drove home and they all walked into our hive ready for them (Dadant). That was around 9.30pm. – Still light here and bees still fly at that time.

Checked our original hive this morning as I’d noticed ‘play cups’ last week. Got at least 2 sealed QC’s and several open with grubs in. Managed to do an artificial swarm with old queen (marked) and then it rained. Left for the night and tomorrow will sort out QC’s on old hive.

So in a space of 24 hours, from one to three hives – for now!

Still renovating the house though and just eating our crop of strawberries and blackcurrants. Also usual stuff like salad etc doing well. Even got a peanut plant growing and in flower at the mo!

We enjoy Graham’s blog – great to hear how all are.

Regards Chris & Keni. x

Starvation Risk - Important Message

posted 20 Jun 2012, 01:17 by Pete Steadman

Important Message About Bee Colony Food Levels:

With the continued spell of poor weather in many areas of the UK, reports are coming in from Regional and Seasonal Bee Inspectors of starving bee colonies, where the beekeeper is not aware that the bees are severely short of food, or the colony(s) have already starved to death.

Indications are that this current spell of unsettled weather will continue until the 19th June 2012 at the earliest.

Particularly at Risk:

Areas of special risk are:

  • Bee Colonies where supers of honey have been removed this season.
  • Splits / Artificial Swarms and Nucleus colonies made up this year.
  • Newly collected and hived swarms which have not been fed following 24 hours after hiving.
  • Populous stocks of bees which haven’t swarmed this year and weather has precluded them gathering sufficient food.

What should Beekeepers do Right Now?

  • Firstly - Check all colonies feed levels by ‘hefting the hive’ – lifting the hive from below the floor sufficiently to see how much it weighs (Photograph attached - Hefting a Hive) where the hive is light liquid feed should be applied, directly above the bees – so if there are empty supers above the brood box with few or no bees in them, then remove them to feed, otherwise the empty super will act as a barrier in some cases to the bees getting the food quickly.
  • Feed can be sugar and water mixed at 2:1 ratio or one of the proprietary ready mixed syrups available from Beekeeping Equipment Suppliers.
  • Fondant can be used in an emergency if nothing else is available – but liquid feed will be more appropriate at this time of the season.
  • Large starving colonies of bees will take 1 gallon (Approx 5 Litres) of syrup very quickly – smaller colonies ½ gallon (Approx 2.5 Litres) may be sufficient to keep them going, but after feeding heft hives again and check the weight – if in doubt feed some more in a few days time.

Further information and Guidance:

Further information on supplementary feeding can be found on Beebase – Best Practice Guideline Number 7 – ‘Emergency Feeding’.

Andy Wattam
National Bee Inspector.
Head of Bee Health Field Inspection Service for England & Wales.

Poor Weather Checks

posted 20 Apr 2012, 15:38 by Pete Steadman

Message from Regional Bee Inspector Dave Bonner:

With the on-going poor weather, there is a real risk of bee colonies starving. Please check for stores in the colony and if in any doubt feed your bees. You should feed with either a fondant or a thin syrup.

Further information on feeding bees can be found in Best Practice Guideline No. 7, on the Advisory Leaflets page of BeeBase (click here).

Kind regards,

National Bee Unit.

Asian Hornets

posted 20 Apr 2012, 15:31 by Pete Steadman   [ updated 20 Apr 2012, 15:37 ]

Response Plan for Dealing with the Asian Hornet Produced

Developed by the Food and Environment Research Agency (Bee Health Policy and the NBU), in consultation with Defra (Non Native Species Policy, and its Non Native Species Secretariat), the Response Plan was finalised in April 2012.

Its objectives are: Early detection, interception and prevention of establishment, nest destruction to eradicate localised outbreaks (if within a limited geographical area or areas), development of longer term management plans where eradication is no longer possible due to the extent and number of outbreaks, provision of advice to beekeepers and all other stakeholders.

Please visit the Asian hornet pages on BeeBase (click here) to read updated guidance for beekeepers, including information on early monitoring and trap design. You can also access the full Response Plan through these pages.

Kind regards,

National Bee Unit.

News from friends in France

posted 18 Nov 2011, 01:50 by Pete Steadman   [ updated 4 Jan 2012, 14:41 by EBKA Webmaster ]

Hi Martin,
enclosing a few pic of the SLAA (Syndicat Limousin Avicole et Apicole) Bee School in Couzeix, near Limoges. This is where we have continued with our training – thankfully one of the tutors speaks a little English. He is also interested in maybe exchanging ideas – his name is Christian Vigneron, he is very interested in the construction of the National hive, as he thinks it offers good insulation properties, amongst other things.
The first pic is of the Bee school itself. then there is a pic of the nuclei – the school raise these for their beekeepers – new beekeepers etc who haven’t got a hive yet or those who lose theirs. They also raise queens to re-queen when needed. The third pic is of newbees checking some of the schools’ hives. The final one is of us transferring queen cells to another ruchette, (small hive, ideal for swarms and nuclei), ready to start off a nuclei.
We hope you find these interesting. We are feeding our own bees at present, weather has turned, and there is no nectar flow at present. Our bees are quite grumpy, and even when working on the land near the hive they are always out investigating what is happening. Chris has been stung several times, so we are thinking come spring, if they are like that we might have to re-queen, which is a pity as she is a good layer.

Hope everyone is well, send them all our regards. We now have a couple of the French Dadant hives as well – these have plastic bases/floors and are easy to clean etc – they have a separate plastic tray that slides out for varroea checking.

Thank you for the information from the group. If anyone is interested in coming over anytime to see how they French  work, I will send over the timetable for next year when we receive it. Also the timetable for trainees.

All the best,

Keni & Chris Carrington

Cutting The Ribbon At The Opening Ceremony Of EBKA Branch Apiary 2010

posted 29 Sep 2010, 08:04 by Linda Halford   [ updated 7 Oct 2010, 04:18 by EBKA Webmaster ]

EBKA were delighted to welcome Ms Julia Page Vice Principle of Pershore College to cut the ribbon at the official opening of EBKA’s Branch Apiary at Pershore College on May 22nd 2010. It was a hot sunny day where there was a large turnout from Branch members. Everyone donned their suits & made their way to the Apiary to witness the cutting of the ribbon. After their return to the ‘Bee Shed’ suits were cast off where an enjoyable afternoon ensued. Members had made honey cakes, tea & coffee was served. Richard Toft donated fresh pressed juices made from fruit at  Pershore College which was cooled & made a welcome refreshing drink with the heat!

Richard Higgins’ Reports on the 1st year at the Branch Apiary

posted 29 Sep 2010, 08:04 by Linda Halford   [ updated 7 Oct 2010, 03:46 by EBKA Webmaster ]

We are fast approaching the end of another beekeeping season.  At the Branch Apiary we have started the Apiguard treatment and as soon as that is complete we will get the feeding going to ensure all of the colonies have plenty of stores for the winter. It has been a busy season at the Apiary.  We took possession of the bees from various generous members during March /April and had some very interesting and  well supported meetings during the season when we were particularly impressed by the enthusiasm of the new members. Unfortunately we were not able to commence the planned Queen Rearing programme as we did not have a colony strong enough in the short time available to make a start.  However, it will be top of the agenda for next year, particularly as we have a new member joining us well practised in the skills of Queen Rearing. The branch honey that has been extracted will be on sale at the Pershore Plum Fair. The remaining two meetings are  talking about and showing feeding and finally closing the hives down for winter. I would like to thank Richard Toft and Pershore College for their facilities and support during the year

Cheryl & Martyn Cracknell Share Their BEEginnings

posted 29 Sep 2010, 08:00 by Linda Halford   [ updated 7 Oct 2010, 03:47 by EBKA Webmaster ]

Martyn has always been interested in creepy-crawlies and entomology formed a large part of his degree course in Applied Biology. It was not until he was teaching biology in London that he got seriously interested in bees, and in 1976 he took a course in Beekeeping at Southgate Technical College.  In the spring of ’77 they got their first hive, which was put halfway down the garden of their  mid-terraced house.  It was next to the fence and facing into the garden so as not to annoy the neighbours.  Almost overnight their lives were transformed . The bees pursued anyone who opened the back door, and stung anyone who ventured up the garden. Just putting the bins out had to be done stealthily under cover of darkness, and hanging out the washing required a full suit, veil, gauntlets and wellies. Meanwhile the bees deposited excreta all over the freshly washed baby clothes. Beekeeping for them, was in the balance. Enfield Beekeepers helped them to re-queen the hive with a gentler stock and thereafter they have never tolerated bad tempered bees.  In 1979, though very inexperienced, Martyn agreed to be Evesham branch secretary as they were in danger of the branch folding up, and both have been members ever since. At that time Pershore , like many other agricultural colleges, had a county beekeeping instructor and the branch benefited greatly from Jim Crundwell and his technician Richard  Hart, as well as being a source of bee journals, research papers and bee books. The retirement of Jim and closure of the college apiary coincided with a serious slump in beekeeping. Many older members gave up, especially when varroa arrived and at one of the thinly attended meetings they turned to each other with the realisation that they were the youngest ones there. They put on  displays at various events around the county where they sold honey and also tried to interest people in beekeeping but there were no courses available to help people into the craft. In 1999 they offered a ten week Introductory course for Beginners, which was held in Worcester and have done so each year since. They are up to their fifteenth course now and nearly 250 trainees. In their own words -’It is very gratifying to see so many beekeepers throughout the county who started beekeeping following one of our courses. We continue to enjoy different aspects of beekeeping, from queen rearing to encaustic wax art and we have very much enjoyed participating in Apimondia in recent years’.

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