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Northern Lights

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


Chairman’s Notes:

I'm using this opportunity to tell you about the branch Bitz4Bees Shop as there appears to be some confusion about how to use it, what and where it is and what stock is carried. 

Fundamentally, it's a mail-order or catalogue shop.   However, as the full catalogue isn't ready yet, please see the Summary Product Listing that's being sent to you with this issue of Northern Lights.   You can also choose any products from the Thorne's catalogue.

How to order?  Phone Dave Morris on 01237 475705 or email him at with your order, using Thorne's reference and page numbers or the latest Summary Product Listing.

Relatively little stock will be carried so you need to order in rather the same way as you would from any other catalogue.   The only difference is that the prices will be lower and it's unlikely to include any carriage charge. 

Goods can be collected from Horestone Apiary on Tuesdays or from members of the apiary group who live in your area - details to be arranged when ordering Dave Morris will also explain method of payment when you phone in your first order.

In the future we plan to have agency agreements with other beekeeping suppliers with the aim of ensuring that prices are as low as possible and the quality as high as possible.  See the monthly newsletter for specific bargains.

 If you have any other queries, feel free to call Dave Morris, Kevin Stach O79681150l9 or me, Chris Tozer, on 01237 471928.

Now is an excellent time to check out your equipment and replace any kit ready for the season ahead - and have you sufficient frames and foundation?  No?  Well, pick up the phone and try out our new enterprise.

Take care.    Chris Tozer

Apiary Manager’s Report:News_2_2006_a.jpg (30470 bytes)

As stated in last months report there has been a subtle change in the management structure. We now have a small Apiary sub-committee, elected at the January 3rd meeting, comprising the three project heads, Michael Duncan (honey production) Kay Thomas (queen rearing) Chris Utting (education) Chris Tozer (groundsman and planning) and myself as chair.

I would like to formally thank Sue Tait for her support as assistant apiary manager last year, and further for agreeing to collate and edit the Code Of Best Practice.

Once again we see change within the apiary we will have another hive stand for the honey section, four more are being laid for queen rearing and still more for the teaching section.

The honey processing room awaits its new stainless steel working surfaces; we even have new rainwater guttering on the main meeting room.

A site has been identified as suitable for the instrumented hive project, and work will begin as soon as possible so that we are ready to hive the bees by mid-February.

The top item on my personal wish list still hasn’t been granted - that of having two Tuesdays in each week, if only…………



Amongst those New Year Resolutions, what's left of them, I hope there is this one: "I resolve to take my bees to the heather this summer". Now is the time to make your plans and preparations. I list some considerations from one of my favourite bee books, Sixty Years with Bees, by Donald Sims, which I highly recommend to you.

Ling heather honey, the one with the thixotropic properties, is much in demand and commands a high price.  Timing of the crop is uncertain but on Exmoor it is usually mid July.  But get local advice, and keep your eye on the flowering situation.   Choose a site with at least a hundred acres of heather.  Locality, aspect, soil type and elevation can all affect quality and quantity of the honey.  At lower elevations you can expect mixed flora, giving a blend of honeys.  Higher elevations may have lower temperatures and strong winds.  Slopes with more than one aspect should prolong the flow.  Nearby water is advisable and young heather (regularly burned) yields more than old.  Select a sheltered site, one you can get to by car to minimise carrying.  Prepare the site and level the stands beforehand.  Don't set hives in a row, rather in groups facing different directions.  Beware of shooting parties, walkers and picnic people.

The colonies must be really strong with bees, have brood of all ages and a young queen bred this spring. An adequate supply of stores, e.g. 15lb will be necessary.  Build up your colony ahead of time using double brood box, confine the queen to the lower box three or four weeks before moving.  The top box with some stores can be kept secure until you return later. In the lower brood box, have the young brood on the outside frames, and the sealed brood in the centre.  That way the outside combs will be occupied longer, thus preventing storing of honey in the brood box.

When you travel, make a very early start.  Block the bees in securely at dawn, and fix a mesh screen over the top of the box.  Make sure the hives are secure, use a method where you add the supers on arrival at the moor.  Don't travel at night.   On arrival at the site, set the hives level, open the entrance just one space, then go and have your picnic breakfast.  After that open fully, and let the bees fly.   The bees will need plenty of room.  Use two supers of very thin unwired foundation, (consider using Manly frames) the bottom super partly drawn if possible. The top super could have just starter strips if you prefer.

Visit your colonies regularly.  They might need full supers removing, more space, or one might have been blown over.  They might even be starving.  Give the bees a feed when you return, the queen might have stopped laying and you may add a little Fumidil B to the syrup to combat Nosema.

Well, go to it dear friends.  Team up with one or two mates, make your plan of action.  Find your site and get the owner's permission. I have never been lucky enough to take my bees to the heather, but I know a man who has.  He will be speaking to you on Monday, 10th April. Have your questions ready.


Diary Dates:

FEB 14 Tuesday Peter Little visits Horestone Apiary,    afternoon

FEB 17 Friday Malcolm Blake (Somerset Beekeepers)  will give a talk on frame management. The title is "The Answer Lies in the Frame".  Castle Centre Barnstaple 7.30pm.  Bring and Share Supper, raffle

FEB 18 Saturday Somerset Lecture Day at Drayton Memorial Hall near Cheddar    

MAR 17 Friday Talk by Kay Thomas   "Floral Biology"    Castle Centre  7.30  Bring and Share Supper,   raffle

MAR 18 Saturday  DBKA President's Day AGM  and Lectures  from 9.30.Peter Chalk Building,  Exeter University.  Also BBKA Written Examinations, same time, same place.

Please come along to our events and support your wonderful Branch!! 

IPM Course:

Anne Bentham, Secretary of Holsworthy Branch  (Phone   01409 261 152) is organising a one-day course on Saturday March 25th at Chilsworthy Village Hall, on Integrated Pest Management, with Richard Ball and Peter Auger.  As they have not quite enough members wanting to register for it, she is asking whether our members would like to join the course.   Times are 10.00am - 4.00pm, fees about £8 to cover the cost of the hall and teas, coffees, and a ploughman’s lunch. Contact Anne direct if you wish to attend.

Brian’s Microscope Corner:

Lens - Transparent refractive medium, usually glass, with curved surfaces.  They are classified according to their surface profile as bi-convex, bi-concave, plano-convex etc.

Librarian’s Notes:

I would like to offer my apologies as I will not be at the February meeting at the Castle Centre so there will not be the opportunity to return or borrow books then.  Please remember that members are welcome to call at my home as there is an extensive and under-used library awaiting them there.  Just give me a call on 01271 882940 to make arrangements.

I recommend a newly published book to the more romantic and less scientific members.   It is 'Honey and Dust' by Piers Moore Ede - a travel book really but very entertaining.  We do not have it in the branch library but it is available from the County Library - just ask at your local branch.

Elizabeth Reynolds

Have You Any Spare Beeswax?

On my way to London recently I dropped into Thorne's at Windsor. I have been saving up beeswax recovered from cappings, brood wax from shook swarms, sacrificial drone brood etc. and   I exchanged my 20.24 lb lumps of beeswax and for a handling charge of only £29.31 I staggered away with 162 sheets of first quality wired National brood. This works out at only 18p per sheet compared to 83p per sheet at the normal price.

I have since had a chat with Tony Wright and we agreed that if members can bring a donation of their wax cappings etc. in sealed plastic bags (to eliminate the risk of bringing disease) to Horestone I will collect it and put it through my steam wax extractor and exchange it on behalf of the branch when I (or somebody else) next go near to Thorne's in London (or Wragby / or Tayport).                                        

Chris Utting

100+ Club Results:
December 2005:

1st Peter Woolard (£20)

2nd Michael Duncan (Free membership)

January 2006:

1st Michael Charters (£20)

2nd Judith Westcott (Free membership)

Cooking With Honey:

Honey Lemon Chicken Wings

16 free-range chicken wings, tips removed and jointed
1½ tsp sea salt
125ml/4½fl oz lemon juice
1-5 clove garlic, crushed (to taste!)
90g/3¼oz honey
To serve
lemon wedges

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
2. Place the chicken wings in a baking dish, sprinkle with the salt then roast for 30 minutes.
3. Place the lemon juice, garlic and honey in a small bowl and stir until the honey has dissolved. Pour over the chicken wings and stir until well coated.
4. Cook for another 20 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

Honey Mustard Green Beans:

8 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound green beans
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Few strips pimiento, red bell pepper or red onion


1. Combine water and salt in a saucepan and bring to a rolling boil.

2. Meanwhile, stem and rinse the green beans, then cut them in half crosswise to yield about 4 cups. Blanch or steam the beans in the boiling water for about 5 minutes.

3. While the beans cook, whisk together the lemon juice, oil, honey and mustard. Drain the beans and place in a serving bowl. Pour dressing over and toss well. Add salt and pepper.

4. Serve hot or cold with pimiento, bell pepper or onion as garnish.

Spotted Online:

Women who battle menopausal symptoms will be interested in the results of a study conducted in Denmark. There, they gave Melbrosia (royal jelly mixed with bee and flower pollen) to women going through menopause, and 1/3 of the women who participated reported relief of their symptoms. It seems to work as a form of natural hormone replacement therapy and as a way to prevent osteoporosis. Apparently men can also benefit – it’s good for prostate problems too.


Included with the newsletter this month is the very first product listing for Bitz4Bees which hopefully is self explanatory.  Do support B4B, you will find prices to be competitive compared with other suppliers and there will also be products only available from this source. If you want any more information or if there is something that you wish to order contact Dave Morris (contact info with product listing).

Members and their friends will also shortly be able to help play their part in making Bitz4Bees successful in delivering value and quality for all of us, through a further share subscription. Over a dozen members have so far contributed initial preference working share capital, but more is needed to get the company off to a flying start.  Dave James is preparing an investment solicitation and this will be mailed out very soon.  

Watch this space!

Honey Bees Recognise People:

Don't be too proud of never forgetting a face: It turns out even a humble honey bee can distinguish and recall different human faces, says an international team of researchers.
Dr Adrian Dyer, of La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia and Cambridge University in the UK, and colleagues, report their findings online in the Journal of Experimental Biology.
The researchers have found that honey bees show a remarkable ability to spot the same human face even days after training.

The training consisted of showing the bees the very same series of black-and-white pictures of faces that are used to test human memory. The bees got tasty or sour rewards for choosing correctly and incorrectly.   The newfound bee ability is likely connected to their ability to recognise different flowers, says Dyer.

On the other hand, the discovery is one of a long string over the last decade about various animals which all point to one startling revelation: It doesn't take a huge human brain or even a mammalian brain to recognise individual human faces or do a lot of other complex tasks.   "The more we study these creatures, the more we find they have abilities like ours," says insect vision researcher Professor Mandyam Srinivasan of Australian National University in Canberra.

From bees to wasps, spiders and even sheep, other animals have proven they can not only recognise our faces, but they navigate mazes, match objects and shapes and even associate smells with previous experiences.

"Sometimes I wonder what we are doing with two-kilogram brains," muses Srinivasan.

Bees, for their part, have brains about 20,000 times less massive than the human brain.

From Discovery News Online Larry O'Hanlon

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

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