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Northern Lights

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

MARCH 2006


Chairman’s Notes:

Winter or not, the branch is still remarkably busy.   There's much work to be done producing merchandise for the new shop.   I've just returned from Kevin Stach's factory where we've been making frame feeders, which are soon to be available at extraordinarily low prices (advertisement over).

There's also been much discussion about what shape holes to cut into the crown boards we're making.   Should the hole/s accommodate porter bee escapes, Canadian bee escapes or some other alternative?   If you have any views on this, do let us know.

We're also in the process of re-thinking the library and how to make it more accessible to members.   Consequently, if you've been holding on to any of the library books, please return them within the next two weeks either to the apiary or to any Tuesday Group regular so that we can carry out a full stock-take.   If you have any problems returning books, please phone me on 01237 471928.    Take care

Chris Tozer

Apiary Managers Report:
Work at the apiary is progressing on a number of fronts, the new hive bases are now finished waiting for the hives, The power cable is laid to the now completed instrumented hive facility.   Everyone is busy preparing for this new honey and queen rearing season.  The bees look well and are flying on all warm dry days.

Section Leaders are trying out new (to us) Varroa treatments as part of I.P.M. Things are looking hopeful but we will see…(For further information on these treatments contact Kevin Stach.)

Stimulative feeding starts now to encourage colonies to increase ready for an early crop of oil seed rape, and build up of colonies ready for drone and queen rearing.

The shop is already trading so if you want any kind of equipment, clothing, medication, tools, or information give David Morris a call.


Our esteemed Treasurer shows off his new Spring 2006 Beekeeping Outfit

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We have had, and will have many more, visitors to Horestone. All are very impressed, not only with our beautiful tranquil Apiary, our sometimes innovative practices and equipment but very much with the way everyone works, laughs, supports and pulls together to get the best out of the beekeeping experience.   


The Answer Lies In The Frame (Or Frame Management):

Malcolm Blake traveled from near Yeovil to give a very interesting talk.  Unfortunately he was greeted with only a dozen members to receive his talk.  This was discouraging for the organisers.

Malcolm explained that to get a good crop of honey the beekeeper obviously needs as many foraging bees as possible at the right time.  Too many beekeepers allow the colony to operate with unsatisfactory brood combs.  These combs can be poor in several ways. If the foundation is poorly inserted into the frame it can distort from the flat plane resulting in comb where the cells are too shallow for the larvae to develop and this will be ignored by the queen. 

The comb cells can also be filled with crystallized honey or old pollen that will also restrict the available brood area.  Too many drone cells will also restrict the production of workers as will misshapen cells.  Often there is a substantial gap between the bottom of the comb and the bottom rails. With worker cells numbering an about 25 to the square inch several poor brood frames can result in a reduced worker population.   Malcolm will reject a brood frame if an area of about 10% is unsatisfactory. The bottom rail gap can be eliminated by first putting the brood box of new comb above the queen excluder.  The workers will then develop the full area of the sheets of foundation. Malcolm demonstrated several examples of problem comb.  This subject provoked an interesting discussion and he answered many questions.   

Chris Utting

Librarian's Notes:

I shall be at the Castle Centre meeting on the 17th March.  Please take the opportunity to return and borrow books.  Look forward to seeing you there.


Brian’s Microscope Corner:

Magnifying Power: the product of the magnifying power of the objective x that of the eyepiece (occular) provided the tube length is matched against the objective, that there is no intermediate lens and no binocular-head magnification to take into account.  The tube length is the distance between the shoulder of the objective and the top of the tube where the occular is inserted - usually 160mm.  Objectives are at their optimum when the total magnification is 1000 x the numerical aperture e.g. if the objective is x 100 and its n.a. is 1.2 then a x 12 occular will give a total magnification of x 1200.

Be(e) Aware:

In February’s Which? Magazine there was a worrying report about the problems of antibiotics in the honey that is on sale in England. Last October the Food Standards Agency notified Trading Standards Officers of a problem of honey sold in Hull. Tests indicated that there were residues of antibiotics. The Consumer Organisation conducted a survey and several samples were discovered containing antibiotics.

The monitoring of honey for unwanted residues in England has been increased.  So be aware that bee medicines and Varroa control substances should be used according to the manufacturers’ instructions i.e. not when there is honey on the hive that is going to be sold.

Chris Utting

Forthcoming Events:

Friday 17th March at the Castle Centre Barnstaple, 7.30pm.  Talk by Kay Thomas on Floral Biology.  Shared supper & raffle. 

Saturday 18th  March DBKA President's Day    Peter Chalk Building Exeter University from 9.30.  DBKA Lectures and AGM.    Also BBKA written Examinations, same place, same time. Lunches available or bring your own.

Saturday 25th  March Course at Chilsworthy organised by  Holsworthy Branch on Varroa Management       

Saturday 1st April    Train the Trainers Course,  Southpark Centre Buckfast   From 9.00

Sunday 2nd April Beekeepers' Auction,  Ruishton near Taunton.   SBKA Goods in, 10.30 on.  Sale begins 2.00

Monday 10th April Talk by David Charles  "Going to the Heather"   Castle Centre Barnstaple  7.30.  Shared supper & raffle

Friday  21st  April Members' Day  Stoneleigh Convention

Saturday 22nd  April Beekeepers'  Convention from 9.00   Stoneleigh

Saturday 29th  April DBKA EC and Show Committees from 10.00

Members' support at these events is much valued.   Please come along!     Beryl

Thailand Bees:

News_3_2006_c.jpg (26438 bytes)A few weeks ago I went to Thailand on a family holiday. It was the middle of their winter too. But there was no rain and and no frost as the average temperature was only 30C. The air conditioning was very welcome. Luckily I had a local beekeeping contact. Peter Auger had a colleague who worked at the National Bee Unit at York for a few months last year doing her PhD. Dr. Panuwan Chanterwannakul was now working at Chiang Mai University teaching bacteriology. Thai people generally do not use their surnames - only the first name and then they usually have a nickname.

News_3_2006_d.jpg (26089 bytes)I sent an email to ‘Nu’ and she replied immediately. So on arrival in the Thailand second city I gave her a call and next day she picked me up in her car and together with two of her students we went to National Bee Centre No.1. There are five such centres in Thailand and this was the main one. I was introduced to the Manager. He explained that 90% of the population of 60 million people work on the land and although there were a lot of beekeepers in the country there was no major commercial production of honey. In fact I discovered that the honey available in the hotel where I was staying was produced in Switzerland.

News_3_2006_f.jpg (28230 bytes)The Centre was very modern and had a fine display of hive products. Although the Thai natural honey producing bee is the Eastern Honeybee (Apis ceraneae) Nu had recently led a debate at the Asian Bee Conference where it had been decided that our European bee was preferred as it produces much more honey.

A tour of the site revealed that there were extensive grounds and hundreds of hives all painted white and sited in the shade of trees to keep cool. The Langstroth hive was used as well as small half frame nuc boxes

News_3_2006_e.jpg (25462 bytes)The first hive that was opened gave me my first sighting of a live Tropilaelaps mite. I was surprised how quickly it could run across the comb. We opened several other hives as the students wanted to take some samples. All this was done with the minimum of smoke and no gloves or even a veil. Not one sting nor even a nibble from the stingless bees was received.

There were several varieties of stingless bees being managed at the Centre. These were Trigona pagdeni and some Tetragona species bred for their pollination value. Although they were kept in nuc boxes the entrances were not used. Instead the bees constructed a long wax tube about 25 mm across that extended up around the outside of the nuc box to the roof.  

After a delightful morning at the Bee Centre I treated Nu and her students to a slap up lunch which cost me less than 5. Things are very cheap in Thailand.       

Chris Utting

Honey Fudge Sauce:

115g raisins
4 tbsp rum
55g butter
85g caster sugar & 85g muscovado sugar
115g honey
100ml evaporated milk

1. Soak the raisins in the rum for at least 24 hours. If you have time, soak them in enough rum to cover in a sealed jar for a month or two.

2. Put the butter into a heavy-bottomed saucepan with the caster sugar, muscovado sugar and honey. Stir over a low heat, until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved and everything is evenly mixed.

3. Stir for about 4 minutes, always over a low heat. Stir in the evaporated milk, a little at a time, and then stir in the drained raisins. Bring back to the boil, still stirring, and then draw off the heat and stir for a minute or two more.

4. If not using immediately, spoon into a hot sterilised jam jar, seal tightly and leave to cool. Once opened, store in the fridge where it will keep for up to two weeks.

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

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