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Northern Lights

The Newsletter of the North Devon Branch of the British Beekeepers Association

February 2005

Chairman’s Letter:

Dear Beekeepers,

February: I find the ancient name of Februarius was derived from the verb februare, to purify.  Candlemas comes around on 2nd February. The lore is…

"If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight.
But if Candlemas Day be clouds and rain,
Winter is gone and will not come again"

Whatever you are doing this February, it is good to walk through the woods and see the signs of early spring all around you. Try keeping a nature diary through the year, and compare your observations with whatever 2006 brings.  I hope you have all your beekeeping equipment repaired, cleaned and ready to begin, your record cards or book at hand for the coming season.   February can be a treacherous month for your bees.  Keep a regular check on their stores of food, and don't be afraid to feed some warm syrup in a contact feeder.  The queen will be laying already.  It is very rare to have a day in February warm enough to open up your hives. Better not to disturb the bees, but on a fine day it is fascinating to watch their coming and going, and see what pollen is being brought in. Make sure there is a supply of water, not too far from the hive.  Happy beekeeping!  There is much to look forward to.

Try this delicious old fashioned recipe,  all in old fashioned measures:

Honey and Apricot Cake

4 oz butter
2 eggs  (size 2)
8 oz honey                  
2 - 3 oz  pre-soaked, dried apricots
8 oz  S.R. flour
pinch of salt

Cut the apricots into small pieces. Cream butter and honey together. Beat eggs well and add to mixture alternatively with sifted flour and salt.

Add the apricot pieces. Bake for 1 hour in a 7-inch diameter cake tin at 180C, 350F or Gas 4.  

A request for help from our beekeeper cooks.  If  any of you have a good modern recipe for honey bread; please let me know about it. 

Something for our artistic beekeepers:  Please would you think of producing something artistic for display at our Honey Show. Perhaps a painting or design, a drawing, or photograph, a model from beeswax, an exceptional candle or a piece of embroidery, even a wood carving or a pottery piece.  Whatever your choice, it must have a honeybee interest. Beryl
From the Apiary: Picture of hive at apiary

The winter maintenance schedule at the apiary continues apace. Since the New Year the team have repainted the roof of the large shed, prepped the bases for two of the new hive stands and installed a large tank to collect rain water which will be plumbed into the toilet. The gardening team have laid (should that be layered?) the hedge along the road and the ground in front of Michael’s hives has been prepped for plants attractive to the bees. After hefting some of Kay’s hives it was decided that at least one is already light and fondant has been added to the bees' stores. The team have also watched the new DBKA video on shook swarms which prompted a fair amount of discussion but on the whole was well received.   

Tony Wright  (Patrick is away)

A Beekeeping Revolution:

There was a good turnout for Glyn Davies' talk at The Castle Centre when he gave us his personal and provocative views of the opportunities, threats and solutions that apply to British beekeeping.

Clearly there is a demand for honey and hive products, not just nationally, but world wide.  With the advantage of positive help from European governments the farmers are being provided with encouragement to set aside land that will be useful to our bees.  The reform of the common agricultural policies is beneficial to our craft.  Even global warming should provide the advantage of warmer and wetter summers.  But are we prepared to meet these opportunities?  Compared to other European countries many of us have poor standards of beekeeping and product quality.   Our stocks of bees are often poor.  We may even cause public nuisance in our overcrowded islands.   This in turn involves insurance liabilities and it is increasingly difficult to get cover.  We have an ageing membership who are failing to deal with endemic diseases and the threat of exotic pests on the horizon.

We are meeting these threats with improved education and training resulting in record breaking levels of formal qualifications.  We are looking to improve our national queen rearing standards. Our status in relation to the British government and even pesticide firms has never been better.  We are investing in increased publicity and becoming more self reliant.  Over the past 100 years there have been big changes.

What of the next 100 years?     Chris Utting    

Calling all our budding horticulturalists!

Judith, Peter & Elizabeth are still collecting 'bee plants' for the stall at the county show. If you can help please let them know ASAP. Volunteers are also needed to man (& woman) the stall & it would be helpful if the plant stall stewards had an interest in the plants beloved of our bees.

Tsunami Appeal:

Following the dreadful events of Boxing Day & the tsunami which devastated parts of Asia & Indonesia I decided to do my bit and raise some funds for reconstruction & specifically to purchase bees & beekeeping equipment washed away by the floods. At fairly short notice Ken & I organised a coffee & mince pie day and had a terrific response from members. The idea was to have coffee to drink but in fact nearly everyone had tea!

We all enjoyed it and those who came at the end made a party and we visited Squires Fish & Chip to celebrate. We raised a total of 420, a grand gesture, thank you all for being so supportive. The money will go to Dr Punchihewa who is the Head of Agricultural Biology at the University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka and who trains beekeepers to care for Apis Cerana, the type of bee kept in Sri Lanka. More money is and will be needed throughout the year so fund raising will continue and we intend to hold other events later on. I will keep everyone informed via the newsletter about where the money goes, what it pays for and forthcoming events. In the meantime donations can be sent to me and cheques should be made payable to President’s Sri Lankan Fund. Thanks again.

Kay Thomas

Northern Branch Makes A Difference:

A few months ago your branch committee put forward a proposition to the Devon BKA Executive Council:

"The BBKA Executive is to carry out a feasibility study on the development of a national queen rearing registration project.  This will include consulting with other national or regional units that are already in existence in other European countries as well as the UK.  The study will include an investigation of funding, breeding objectives, quality control and record keeping.  The EC to report back to the ADM in January 2006 (estimated cost 300).

This was accepted and sent to the BBKA H/Q and duly put before the BBKA AGM on 15th January by the Devon delegate (Chris Utting) and seconded by the Wiltshire delegate.   After a full debate the 53 delegates voted 28 in favour, 15 against with 10 abstentions.

Chris Utting

Quiz question for February: Which beekeeper was also a film star, appearing in 96 films? He gave jars away to friends & colleagues with the label ‘Henry’s Honey’. Answer next month. January’s answer was of course Sherlock Holmes.

BRANCH LOGO COMPETITION:  ENTRIES CLOSE 31st MARCH. The response hasn’t been that great so far so it’s time to dig out your pens & pencils & submit entries to the newsletter address!

Edited by Marnie Quy, Email:
All contributions welcome, copy by 19th of month for publication in following month’s newsletter

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