© 2014 East Devon Beekeepers
A Branch of the Devon
UK Registered Charity No. 270675
Queen marking colour for 2017 - YELLOW
The 2016 AGM was held on 3rd November, a cold and damp evening, but this did not deter 48 members from turning out to take part in the activities.
The first part of the evening was taken up with the AGM reports, election of officers and committee members.
Notably, Richard Simpson stepped down as Chairman after 5 years service. Hilary Kirkcaldie, President, gave an amusing address describing Richard’s qualities alphabetically starting with good Administrator and ending with Zest for beekeeping, taking in Enthusiastic, Generous, Motivational, Swarm collector, and Team builder.
Val Bone, Secretary, then presented Richard with a gift to show the members’ appreciation of all he has done for the group over the last five years.
John Badley was elected as the new Chairman. Keith Bone stays as Treasurer and Val Bone remains as Secretary. After all the other officers had been elected the meeting concluded with the presentation of Basic Exam certificates. Ollie Adams (not present) and Barbara McKinna (right) were both successful, with Ollie winning the Craythorne Cup, awarded for the candidate with the highest points in the Basic Exam.
After the AGM the assembled company were requested to taste-test samples of honey cookery provided by members of East Devon branch. It is hoped that the recipes judged the best will be put before the Honiton Show committee for consideration as new items in the cookery classes.
According to the voting, (in reverse order), the top five baking entries were:
Apple, honey, cinnamon and nut cake.
Devonshire Honey Cake
Orange and Honey Drizzle Cake
Honey Carrot cake Muffins
Apricot, Pistachio and Honey Flapjacks, being the runaway winner.
Finally, Peter West was on hand to present information concerning the expected invasion by the Asian Hornet. The National Bee Unit has already put out posters and instructions for making hornet traps and these were on display.
There was an enthusiastic response from members with many saying they wished to be prepared and making simple traps was an easy way to help protect their bees. Plans can also be found on the website front page and over the coming months the committee will be putting together more information to ensure East Devon members are fully aware of the potential threat to their colonies.
The reports discussed at the AGM show the branch has a full programme of activities and financially has managed to break even over the past year.
The Beginners Course was well attended in the classroom sessions and continued to attract good attendance at the practical apiary sessions.
The teaching apiary is now back up to strength after a poor start thanks to the work of David Shale, Andy Legg and helpers. The strimming team were also thanked for their efforts to keep the grass under control.
This year 5 candidates prepared for the Basic Assessment and took the exam with 5 passes, 2 with credit.
Four of the successful candidates with
Hilary Kirkcaldie, President
The Craythorne cup for the Basic candidate with the highest marks in East Devon went to Nick Silver. Congratulations to all of them.
Voting took place for Committee members. Chairman -John Badley, Secretary and Membership - Val Bone, Treasurer - Keith Bone, Committee - Andy Legg, Sue Babey, Mary Boulton, Alasdair Bruce, Ralph Cox, Rosemary Maggs, Colin Osbourne and Richard Simpson.
After refreshments, Ruth and Ian Homer gave a fascinating talk on the 8th International Meeting of Young Beekeepers event, largely organised by them, that was held at Marlborough College in July of this year.
Planning was well under way 1½ years before the event and, as Ian and Ruth explained, there were many hurdles to overcome. In the end IMYB 2017 was attended by 19 teams speaking 13 different languages!
All the participants were divided up into small international teams, each team identified by their own coloured baseball cap. The tasks included activities such as frame making, grafting larvae, inspection and handling bees to show the competitors basic skills. Other tasks required problem solving with discussion and team working.
The assessments took place in the mornings. On the first afternoon the competitors were treated to a tour of Stonehenge and on the second afternoon they all departed for a DCA hunt on nearby Marlborough Downs. This proved to be the highlight of the event for some of the competitors as they had never witnessed the phenomenon before.
The accompanying adults were treated to tours of Stonehenge, Bath and Salibury.
In conclusion, the weather was perfect, the bees behaved perfectly and the competitors and accompanying adults voted IMYB 2017 as the best yet.
It is now up to us to encourage more young beekeepers into the craft.
Peter went on a Wildlife tour to see the mountain gorillas in Uganda. We were treated to some of the stunning pictures he took, including close-ups of the gorillas, leopards and impala.
While on tour he became aware of the Hives Save Lives-Africa organisation which is the brainchild of Richard Unwin, an international businessman who was interested in finding ways of combating rural poverty in Africa.
Richard was searching for a form of aid that would be delivered directly to those most in need without engendering further aid dependency.
Apiculture or beekeeping was the solution.
Beekeeping has a long tradition in Africa, but not as a commercial activity because of lack of resources and training.
In many African countries ‘honey hunting’ rather than bee farming is the norm, whereby natural colonies or traditional log hives are often destroyed to collect the honey, with little consideration given to sustainable management or the potential for income generation.
By introducing better equipment and training, beekeeping can provide a viable income for people who, in many areas, are living on less than 60p a day.
Peter joined the Charity and is now the current Chairman.
One group had sufficient surplus income to build their own school house in the village, thereby avoiding the need to walk 15km each day to their previous school.
Additional income from the sale of honey and hive products also enables some of the poorest in the community to send their children to school.
The hives used in Uganda are a mixture of a modified Langstroth design and top bar hives similar to the Kenya top bar design. All use local materials and are manufactured by local enterprises.
Two major sub species - Apis mellifera scutellata and Apis mellifera monticola - are found in Uganda. They have a reputation for being tetchy! Obtaining bees does not appear to be a problem. Just put an empty hive out and sooner or later a swarm will move in!
By introducing movable frame hives and centrifugal extractors the quality of honey products has improved to the point where export to places such as Europe has become a possibility. Improved quality brings with it improved income.
Wax is also a valuable hive product with many end uses. We also heard that bee venom commands a good price and being easy to collect, it gives the Ugandan beekeeper another source of income derived from the bees.
HSLA’s work in Uganda
Hives Save Lives Africa create opportunities for self-sufficiency and income generation through beekeeping – helping people to help themselves.
The Charity is currently working in Uganda, where they manufacture the hives that have been specifically designed for local conditions. Protective clothing and equipment, such as smokers, are also made in Uganda, providing more employment.
The aim is to provide a package of hives, training and equipment to projects, followed by ongoing support, from colonising the hives to assisting with the marketing of the honey and other hive products.
Providing practical support as above, delivered directly to those who need it most, ensures the involvement of the beneficiaries. Once the project is profitable the local beekeeping network decide how surplus income should be used.
Are they successful?
Judging by the projects that have been completed so far the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’.
Natalie is Senior Lecturer in Neuroethology at Exeter University working in the Psychology Department.She is also a beekeeper. She studies how bees learn colours, patterns and odours of flower displays, how they use sensory information to locate and choose individual flowers and flower patches, and the bees’ learning methods on initial flights.
The Psychology Department carry out behavioural research using insects, commonly fruit flies, honeybees or cockroaches.
The honeybee brain is approximately 1mm3 in volume and consists of 106 neurons, so is minute when compared to the human brain. Nevertheless, the honeybee was the first non-human animal for which colour vision was convincingly illustrated.
Lubbock, in 1882, reported that foraging honeybees repeatedly visited coloured cards when rewarded with drops of honey. Trained bees, and the bees they recruited, quickly learnt to distinguish a rewarded colour from several alternatives.
The experiments of Karl von Frisch in 1914 were the most significant, proving beyond doubt the existence of colour vision in honeybees. He first of all trained bees to a coloured card by rewarding them with sucrose (sugar) solution.
In subsequent unrewarded tests with the trained bees the coloured card was presented together with grey
cards of different intensities. He reasoned that if an animal relied on the intensity of a stimulus one of the grey cards would match subjective intensity of a coloured stimulus and the animal would not be able to discriminate a particular shade of grey from the colour card.
These experiments were repeated and extended by other workers to reveal that the honeybee has three-colour vision like humans except that the visual range is shifted towards the shorter wavelengths. Essentially, this means that bees can see beyond blue into the ultra violet part of the spectrum but have difficulty differentiating colour at the red end of the spectrum.
The three types of photoreceptor in the compound eye of the bee have peak performance in the UV, blue and green parts of the spectrum. What does all this mean in terms of flower recognition?
To make efficient foraging decisions bees use colour vision in conjunction with smell/taste, and the information imparted by scout bees during the recruiting ‘dance’ on the comb, to fly from the hive and locate the source of the nectar or pollen. Vision can only start to influence foraging when the bees arrive near the flowers and the diagram shows how human perception differs from that of bees.
The figure shows (left to right), human colours, computer derived ‘bee colour’ images and the flower displays projected onto the bee’s eye lattice.
Bees tend to detect flowers much better if they have concentric patterns which exhibit a high-contrast outer ring. This makes them visible from further away and is one way in which small flowers have evolved to compete for pollinators against larger sized flowers.
Image courtesy of Natalie d’Ibarra, Exeter University
The flowers shown are (top to bottom), Aquilegia, Medlar, Flax, Vella spinosa, Nonea lutea and Dandelion.
Leading on from these ideas there are some important points for beekeepers to recognise.
A well insulated hive mimicking a tree nest will enable the colony to achieve a higher temperature more easily AND maintain the higher temperature. Lower ventilation will result in higher humidity. Overall the winter stores will be consumed more slowly promoting colony survival.
Photo courtesy of Derek Mitchell
The sweet spot for temperature and humidity in a bees’ nest is 35-36°C / 90%RH. These conditions have been shown to enhance egg survival, reduce varroa mite viability, suppress nosema and chalk brood, avoid damp and mouldy conditions plus reduce mortality due to chilled brood.
Elaine is the beekeeper and Derek is the mathematician. Between them they have completed research concerning hive temperature and humidity and the impact on the colony and have submitted their paper for publication.
Much of the original work on hive ventilation was done more than 50 years ago when none of the modern hive materials such as polystyrene were available. Thin walled wooden hives were cold, leading to condensation, so ventilation was essential to avoid mould growth. Putting match sticks under the crown board was standard winter preparation in those days.
Studying the thermal properties and ventilation of the bees nest in hollow trees lead Derek to conclude that we, as beekeepers, could do a lot better. They tested 8 hive types, 12 hives in total, against a natural tree cavity. The temperature rise for a standard 20 watt input was recorded for each hive.
Bearing in mind that the tree cavity could be surrounded by 6” of solid wood with only a small hole for ventilation it is not surprising this came top of the list. Interestingly a skep covered with cow dung gave a result similar to modern day polystyrene hives, probably because the cluster fits the shape well with no dead space to waste heat.
At the bottom of the performance list were wooden National hives. The message is that a well insulated cavity allows the colony to heat and ventilate their home the way they want to with minimal use of stores.
Elaine described her beekeeping with well insulated National-style hives. She no longer finds it necessary to treat her colonies for varroa. Checks for mites show low numbers that do not seem to cause any problems.
These low numbers may partly be due to the high temperature/humidity conditions allowing the bees to remain unclustered for much of the winter which in turn enhances grooming and varroa control. It was also mentioned that under these conditions brood rearing may be delayed until later thereby increasing the brood break, leading to further reduction in varroa breeding.
Counter intuitively, high insulation could be more important in summer than in winter as bees need far more energy for foraging and nectar ripening than they do for winter survival. To ripen nectar and turn it into honey stores large quantities of moisture have to be removed before the honey can be capped.
This moisture can be removed more efficiently at higher air temperatures. Thus energy saved by insulation can be more usefully employed in honey making.
Bees in modern polystyrene hives have been shown to produce more honey than bees in equivalent thin-walled wooden hives and many bee farmers in the UK and on the Continent use them.
Improving insulation further, Elaine showed examples of her hives made with modern house insulation sheet material. The only ventilation was the front entrance and there was no varroa mesh floor. The insides of these hives were kept in almost immaculate condition over winter due to the bees being able to move around in the high temperature conditions.
Simon, a beekeeper with 30 years experience, works for the National Bee Unit (NBU) based at Sand Hutton near York. The NBU delivers the Bee Health Programmes on behalf of Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). There are currently 8 Regional Bee Inspectors and 60 Seasonal Bee Inspectors in England and Wales.
The 10 year Healthy Bees Plan was published in 2009 and sets out a plan for Government, beekeepers and other parties to work together effectively against pest and disease threats and ensure sustainable and productive beekeeping in England and Wales.
Risk based inspections for notifiable diseases have proved effective for EFB and AFB and as there is a high prevalence of these diseases in the South West, Simon urged East Devon members to sign up to BeeBase, the NBU’s flagship website.
Knowing the distribution of beekeepers and their apiaries across the country helps the NBU to effectively monitor and control the spread of serious honey bee pests and diseases, as well as provide up-to-date information to keep your bees healthy and productive.
Another strategy which is proving effective is the setting up of sentinel apiaries near ‘risk points’. These include airports, shipping ports, container
storage areas, garden centres and other places where imported goods are unloaded. Beekeepers whose apiaries have been selected are trained to spot the invasive species and once alerted the NBU have contingency plans in place to deal with the threat.
Simon related the extraordinary incident where a live colony of African bees was found in the tail of an aircraft at a UK airport, having taken off in central Africa and travelled to the UK via Nigeria and Germany.
African bees in the tail of the aircraft at Bournemouth airport. Courtesy of the NBU.
Contingency exercises have been held here in the South West for the arrival of pests such as the small hive beetle. In 2016 the contingency plans were challenged by the arrival of the Asian hornet in Tetbury and the Mendips. Time will tell whether they have been successful in eliminating the threat.
Local Disease Control Centre for the Small Hive Beetle contingency exercise around Exeter Airport. Courtesy of the NBU.
Another incident that Simon was involved in concerned a dead Asian hornet found on the stair landing floor at a house in Bath. It turned out that the house hold had been on a camping trip to France and the hornet had hitched a lift back concealed in the camping equipment! This shows how easy it is for non-native species to move around.
Other areas that the NBU are involved in are the inspection of imports and exports, wild life incidents such as poisoning, honey sampling for contamination issues plus the provision of education and training.
The Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA) runs 150 – 300 colonies of bees in and around Sand Hutton. The NBU has access to these colonies for their beekeeper and inspector training courses referred to above. All the stocks are kept in Smith hives on double brood boxes.
as cane and beet sugar made other forms of alcohol cheaper.
Now mead is enjoying a comeback, being seen as trendy and providing choice to the consumer.
Michael’s description of making mead sounds deceptively simple:
The full story is different! LBW have invested in modern stainless steel equipment, such as vats and cross-flow filters, to automate the processes and ensure a consistently high quality product.
At present there is no “aging” process, as with some fortified wines and spirits, but this stage of manufacture could form the basis of new products in the future.
Lyme Bay Winery have a range of five mead varieties (see picture opposite). We were treated to tasting samples of each one during the talk, accompanied by a description of their ingredients and tasting notes.
Michael also mentioned a new, innovative mead
Michael Heighway from the Quality Control department of The Lyme Bay Winery gave us an illustrated talk about the origins of the company, the origins of mead and an overview of the company’s mead products with tasting samples.
The company started in 1992 as Lyme Bay Cider Company Ltd, still the official name, trading as LBW. They initially made Cider and Liqueurs then, in 1999, started to produce their own Fruit Wines followed by Sparkling Wines in 2007. The latest launch in 2014 is of award-winning English Wines.
Mead is a honey based wine or liqueur with little legislative control, hence a wide variety of processes and products have been developed.
It is thought to have originated in Africa 20,000 years ago and has been well known in Europe, India and China for centuries. However, it’s popularity declined
product called Yore.
Low alcohol (4% compared to 10 - 15% for their other meads) and carbonation bring it more in line with lagers and fruit ciders.
Extra English honey is blended in after fermentation to add flavour, sweetness and body. This makes a pleasant “quaffable” drink.
Anyone familiar with home wine making will recognise the equipment and processes involved:
Use a blend of honey and water. 10% honey would be a good starting point. Add granulated sugar for higher alcohol content.
Ferment with a wine yeast to a specific gravity of ideally <0.998 (no sugar left). Yeast nutrients, sulphites and possibly citric acid will be needed to encourage yeast growth and discourage bacteria.
After racking you can experiment with blending, flavouring, aging - anything you like. You have Mead.
Attendees had an opportunity to buy LBW’s mead products. Visit https://www.lymebaywinery.co.uk/.
Our thanks to Michael, his assistant Jo, and all members who provided food for the social gathering afterwards. We look forward to seeing you all at the January winter meeting when Simon Jones, RBI, will be telling us about his work and an update on the Asian Hornet.
Treatment around Christmas / beginning of January aims to catch the Varroa when there is no brood for Varroa to hide in. Note: Api-Bioxal solution may have a slight brown tinge. Nothing to worry about.
The solution should not be too cold, nearer blood heat would be good. The day can be frosty with the bees well clustered.
Ideally draw up 50ml solution in a syringe.
Have a lit smoker handy (but should not be needed if crown board removed very carefully).
Between the brood frames are 'seams' of bees. Use 5ml for each seam of bees. Only treat the bees, do not put the solution down empty seams/gaps. So if there are only 4 seams of bees only use 20 ml.
Practice with water beforehand so that you know how to deliver 5 ml along each seam. I find that 5 ml is a continuous series of little drops.
If you have a super on top of the brood box and you know the cluster is below it, you can remove the super gently to treat the bees.
Best wishes for a Happy Christmas and a Productive New Beekeeping Year! Peter