Last month I said that the winter had been so mild so far that I would be feeding my bees with fondant in the next couple of weeks, as they would be working through their winter stores and possibly be on the verge of running out of food – and they’d then starve to death! Within a couple of days of submitting my report to Roseland Online, the National Bee Unit sent out an email to all registered beekeepers saying “Warning of starvation!”, explaining exactly what I had outlined in my report! How timely!
I was, at that point, in the throes of making up my fondant and had already placed some on my hives at home, with just the hives at my out-apiaries to feed. None of my home hives appeared to have a problem at that time, so I was hopeful that this would be the case with my remote hives and this turned out to be the case, but the timing of the National Bee Unit’s email was spooky! I wonder if our fame has spread and they’ve been reading Roseland Online?! Anyway, all hives now have a “fall-back” of fondant stores in case they run short of what they collected in the autumn, so I can breathe easily again for a few weeks.
I’ve talked about the Asian Hornet’s arrival in the UK in earlier reports and asked you all to keep an eye open for the nests, or even the insects themselves. To make it easier for everyone, there is a seminar being held on Saturday 11th February at St Newlyn East Community Hall entitled “Asian Hornet Day”. Everybody is welcome, as this is intended for members of the public as well as beekeepers and brings together a number of speakers with knowledge of, and methods of controlling, Asian Hornets.
In the morning, aimed at beekeepers, Nigel Semmence from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) will talk about Contingency Planning and the Small Hive Beetle, which, though not yet in the UK, is another “exotic pest” for whose arrival we need to prepare. His talk will be followed by a demonstration of the ApiShield floor, by Jeremy Owen from Vita UK. This new device traps Asian Hornets that have entered a hive and isolates them from the bees so that they can do no harm – a lot easier to control the hornets that way than to be climbing tall trees to destroy their nests, in my view (though admittedly the latter is done by professionals and it is not expected that beekeepers or members of the public should be so foolhardy!).
After lunch (12.00-13.00, BYO!), members of the public are invited to join beekeepers in attending a talk on The Asian Hornet (Nigel Semmence again). Nigel will elaborate on the experiences of the APHA team after the discovery of the Asian Hornet in Gloucestershire last year and give beekeepers and members of the public alike advice on what can be done to combat this threat to our wildlife. This will be followed by a demonstration of how to make an Asian Hornet trap from a recycled plastic lemonade bottle, something we should all be doing in readiness for the season ahead and the emergence of the over-wintered hornet queens in the Spring.
The day is free of charge. Tea, coffee and soft drinks will be available throughout the day and in summary the details are:
ASIAN HORNET DAY
Saturday 11th February
St Newlyn East Community Hall, Neeham Road, St Newlyn East TR8 5LE
(NOT Newlyn, Penzance, by the way!).
It would be good to see a large turn-out from members of the public as well as what should be a three-line whip on all beekeepers.
So what about my bees? Well, not a lot to report again – another typical January in the apiary. I have fed fondant, the bees are flying on the dry, milder days, but thankfully we are now getting some colder weather and that is keeping the bees indoors. The colder weather will also hopefully kill off some of those nasties which tend to delight in mild, damp circumstances – nasties that affect wildlife as well as ourselves. Whatever happened to our typical winter weather that once was both cold and predictable? We can’t be singing carols in shirt sleeves and shorts, for Goodness Sake!
I am currently melting down and bottling ivy honey ready for the resurgence in demand (it’s strange, but after the Christmas orders had been met, things went very quiet for a whole month. Then all my customers came through within the space of a week, all wanting top-ups to their supplies, so I was working my socks off satisfying their requests). In anticipation of the next surge, I am trying to get ahead of things now! I am also preparing for my queen rearing by cleaning equipment and planning how I will go about it this year – and when, and which hives I will be using. This all takes time but if I get it right it will save a lot of time during the busy season. I always enjoy this time of year because it reminds me that it won’t be long before I’m back into the hives and becoming at one with the bees again.
Colin Rees – 01872 501313 – firstname.lastname@example.org