The Newsletter of the North Devon Branch of the
British Beekeepers Association
Here is a
cautionary tale. Three weeks ago I visited one of my hives at an out apiary
near Saltrens - lots of activity but rather light and weather was too cold for an
inspection so I slipped in a frame feeder - nothing extraordinary.
Two weeks ago I inspected them and discovered no living bees and an inch thick layer of
dead bees at the bottom, which had obviously been there for a while. There was plenty of
food. The bees I had noticed earlier had clearly been robbing the dead hive.
I was interested to discover why this had happened so invited Peter Auger to
take a look. What he spotted and I had missed was bee faeces the colour
of propolis over the frames and wax. He also noticed an unpleasant smell.
Diagnosis? Nosema. This is to be confirmed by our microscopist Brian
Marchant who is examining a sample of the dead bees.
The moral of the story is that this could all have been avoided if I had arranged
for a bee sample to be taken and tested by Brian last August to diagnose nosema or any
other treatable problem. The Fumidil B could then have been administered in
sugar syrup in plenty of time to be taken down by the bees before winter set in.
This preventive action must be more cost effective than losing a whole colony,
destroying the frames and having to render down the comb. I shan't make that
Take care Chris
The apiary team have all been quietly beavering away catching up on the
many jobs still outstanding, no doubt just wishing they could get on and work with the
bees. Here we are lots of blossom on the trees and shrubs, dandelions everywhere and still
not really warm enough forthe bees to work except maybe an hour in the middle of the day.
Despite this, the honey producing colonies seem to be building up
gradually. The queen rearing team, and the education section are poised ready for the
first hint of fine weather. Production of crown boards, clearing boards and nuc boxes has
been suspended until a team can be set up to run the assembly line. The first stages of
the alterations to the main meeting room have been completed, creating a great deal more
space. Next we will be moving the kitchen area to the far end to eliminate the bottleneck
as people come in. If anyone has any white plastic patio chairs they need to dispense with
our need is greater than the recycling centres. The average number of members
sharing the Horestone experience each week is now in excess of twenty five. We must be
doing something right!
|The Dumb Beekeepers Guide to Housel
Much discussion took place at the Apiary the other week
on the Housel method of comb positioning. For those of you who missed it, and those of you
who got rather lost (or bored) in the complex theoretical discussions that ensued (and I
was one !!), here is the "Dumb Beekeepers Guide to Housel Positioning".
Whilst examining wild comb, a gent named Michael Housel made the observation that, in
wild comb, bees position cells on opposite sides of the comb in a particular way, and that
therefore in providing foundation for comb building, we beekeepers should copy that
This positioning all depends on the "Y" formation viewed at the bottom of
each cell. To understand this fully, you will need to have a sheet of foundation in front
of you (or drawn comb) then all will be revealed.
On one side of the foundation, if you look at the bottom of the indentations that will
form the new cells, the faint lines in the bottom of each cell will either show a
"Y" pattern or an inverted "Y" pattern. Have a look at the figures
below. Now turn the sheet around (sideways, dont flip it up the other way) and you
will see that, on the other side, the "Ys" are the opposite way up.
It follows therefore that since the two sides of a single
frame of foundation are basically different, then there might be a "right" and
"wrong" way to stack frames together in the brood box.
Now when Housel (and others) examined wild comb, they found that the centre of the
brood nest contained a single central comb with inverted Y cells on both sides. Then
moving out from this central comb, each successive comb had an inverted Y side (Fig 1)
facing the centre of the nest and an upright Y side (Fig 2) facing the outside of the
nest. There were several suppositions as to the reason for this too many to cover
here, but suffice it to say that Housel believed that, if that is the way the bees wanted
it, then beekeepers should follow suit. Obviously there is difficulty in reproducing the
central comb, as no commercially produced foundation is made with inverted Y cells on both
sides, but all other frames can be aligned with inverted Y cells facing inwards towards
the central comb as illustrated below.
||This, in brief, is the Housel method of comb positioning. No truly
scientific analysis of the benefits or otherwise of this approach has been undertaken and
there are both supporters and critics of the technique.
My own view however is that it
cannot do any harm, so why not give it a try. It takes little effort to mark each frame
with a symbol showing which side is which, and then positioning them (with the exception
of the centre comb) as shown here. Why not give it a go.
For those who are interested, there is lots more information and
analysis on the internet as a starter, try the following links :
Branch Open Day at Horestone Apiary. Sunday 14th May from
2pm. The theme of the afternoon will be swarm prevention. There
will be a short talk in the meeting hut, followed by any questions about this important
part of beekeeping. The practical instruction will be adjusted to the
discussion, and of course to the weather, and the state of the colonies. It
should be an interesting afternoon, helpful for the coming season. Don't miss
County Show, Westpoint Exeter. Thursday 18th to
Saturday 20th May. Great Show - we need your support before duuring and after.
contact Chris Utting.
Food & Hygiene a certificated course run by Terry
Clarke. sunday 18th June. A few places remain. Contact
One Day Microscopy Course, Hallsannery Centre, Bideford.
9:30am to 4pm. Sat 13th May. The theme of the course - form
and function of the honey bee. Will include setting up the microscope, whole
body dissection, and slide preparation. All equipment, including some
microscopes, will be provided - those of you with your own or Branch's scopes please
bring them with you to avoid sharing and if you have dissecting instruments you are used
to working with, bring them along as well. Also, don't forget to bring a packed
lunch (tea and coffee will be provided) a waste bottle (screw top honey jar containing a
twist of kitchen towel will suffice) and at least half a dozen of your own freshly killed
bees. Course notes will be provided, but you may find a quick thumb through
Dade, Snodgrass and/or Ch3 Winston's Biology of the Honey Bee advantageous.
Course fee is £12.75 and will be limited to 8 students. The Centre is located
1 mile South of Bideford on the A386 Torrington Rd and the entrance is first right after
the turn-off to Littleham. NGR SS467245. Phone or E-mail to
reserve a place.
|Testing for Adult Bee
For those of you who missed the two 'Find your
own Nosema' Saturdays, I am still providing this service as an adjunct to your Spring
Inspection at £2.50 per sample for Branch Members, £10 per sample non-Members,
notwithstanding CSL's current fee of £26.45 and BBKA Enterprises Ltd fee of £15.00 for
the same service.
|The Swarming Season is
Our Branch has five swarm liaison officers :
Albert Cannon Winkleigh/Dolton/Torrington area
Geoff Mitchell Brayford/South Molton/Umberleigh area
Kay Thomas Barnstaple/Braunton/Croyde area
Chris Utting Bideford/Instow/Clovelly/Woolsery area
Tony Wright Ilfracombe/Lynton/Exmoor area
To date, we have a waiting list of 15 people - mostly beginners - who
want a nucleus. The Apiary sub-committee has decided that the cost will be
£75 which will go towards Branch funds. If you want your name added to the
list, contact Tony Wright.
The plan is that swarms will be collected and taken to a quarantine
apiary at Weare Gifford where they will be managed by Chris Utting. The Branch
Apiary will produce mated queens and the swarms will be re-queened and sold as re-queened
Quince Honey Farm, North Devon & Torridge District Council Pest
Control Officers and the Police will be advised of this service.
OPTICAL CENTRE OF LENS - The geometric
centre of a lens through which an incident ray passes without being deviated.
OPTICAL AXIS - A line passing through the optical centre of lenses and
|Stress In The Apiary
now dear beekeepers? Ready to face another merry season with your precious bees? Another
season, with no mistakes in it yet! My admiration was caught recently with a lecture given
a few months ago by Maurice Field. It seemed so simple and wise - common sense in fact. It
was all about how to reduce stress in the Apiary - no not necessarily your stress, but
that suffered by the bees. I cannot tell you about all of it, but here is a condensed
version. Seasoned beekeepers may avert their eyes here, they have their own wisdoms. The
keeping of any livestock involves the keeper in the same considerations: adequate food and
water, protection from the weather, from predators, and from mishandling (moi?). Any
shortcomings here can show up as disease.
Too much shade and dampness often leads to chalkbrood, larvae being chilled as they are
capped. Usually noticed in spring, when there are too few nurse bees to incubate, or else
in nuclei, or colonies which have lost a swarm
Could occur in queen-rearing apiaries when colonies are queenless. A poor colony
build-up can often be traced back to a preceding summer that has been cool and wet with a
poor honey crop.
Can occur when a food source becomes scarce and the larvae are starved because EFB
bacteria are competing for the same diminishing supply.
Varroa destructor, a major problem, acting as a vector for other bacteria and
viruses, a constant irritant to individual bees.
Acarine/ tracheal mites: Again, poor summers mean workers are confined, but live
longer, allowing more time for these mites to breed.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
FORAGE: A radius of one mile around the hive covers an area of 2000 acres, and the
likely radius of three miles covers 8000 acres. But the forage needs to be adequate all
year. Pollen supplements should be given where early spring pollen is scarce. A poor
foraging area means bees are struggling to maintain their colony, let alone provide a
surplus for you. Don't overstock the area. If one colony requires four square miles, seven
colonies - if their range is three miles from the hive - would be a maximum, if there are
no other colonies in the area.. Beekeepers in towns are likely to have varied forage
sources all year round.
WATER: The average colony requirement is 1/4 pint daily, but in times of heat and
drought more like a litre daily. Provide a water source.
PROTECTION FROM THE WEATHER: We know that dampness kills bees more quickly than cold,
don't site hives under trees or in damp shady places. See that there is free air drainage.
If bees have difficulty in maintaining broodnest temperatures of 35C, stress is likely,
but a belt of trees or bushes can protect from cold winds. An ESE aspect is best.
PROTECTION FROM PREDATORS: Out apiaries cannot be monitored daily so fence off your
hives against deer (difficult perhaps) or farm stock, for woodpeckers use bird netting
draped over the hive and pegged close to the ground.
COLONIES: Raise these off the ground. Bees love to nest high, but we can compromise.
Have the level of top bars of the hive between the beekeeper's knees and waist. Use darker
colours for your hives, this makes them less conspicuous, and improves the solar heat gain
in cooler months.
COLOUR HIVE ENTRANCES: Field paints a 1" strip of colour directly above the hive
entrance; he currently favours blue, black, yellow and silver. These colours reduce the
likelihood of drifting.
OPEN HIVES ONLY WHEN NECESSARY - when there is something to do. A weekly routine
inspection of ten minutes in the active season will not disturb the colony too much.
Working each hive smoothly and purposefully, without bumping will also help minimize
MAINTAIN ADEQUATE FOOD IN THE HIVE: Generally, the bees' consumption of stores from
October to February has been estimated to be about 5kg, during March about 6kg, and during
April about 9kg. It is important not to make the bees stressed through shortage of food in
the spring when stores may be dwindling, or at other times when a large population is
confined because of inclement weather. A minimum of 5kg of food (about two BS brood frames
full) should be in the hive at all times.
MOVE BEES AT NIGHT: Darkness causes less stress. Secure the bees inside the hive at
dusk with a strip of foam rubber in the entrance, taped. Have a bee-proof mesh over or
under the hive, strap securely. Keep a water spray at hand in case of over-heating. A
spray at intervals will help keep the bees calm.
SUPER EARLY: Overcrowding stresses bees. They should be able to move up away from the
brood combs. Leave a super over a queen excluder on a National hive going into the winter,
so the workers can gain access to the space as soon as they need it in the spring.
By following these methods beekeepers can make stress-related problems less likely.
Prevention is definitely better than treatment. And the Best of British Luck!
Beekeepers Ltd. / 'Bitz4Bees'
Appeal for volunteers and solicitation for additional ordinary shares - oh, and a
The 'Bitz4Bees shop', after delays caused by the new government regulator, is now
formally registered as a private limited company rather than a community interest company
(CIC). Following several formal meetings and registration at Companies House, the
election of the initial board of directors has taken place. These are : Tony
Wright (chairman), Dave Morris (MD), Dave James (sec. and acting treasurer ), Kevin Stach
and Chris Tozer. Chris acts as non-exec. director representing the interests of the
The company is structured as if it were a CIC viz. essentially as a
not-for-profit company, and it is hoped to re-register it as such in due course.
It is formally the Community of Beekeepers Ltd. trading as 'Bitz4Bees'.
The whole aim is to help beekeepers with their needs - hive parts, foundation,
tools, miticides etc. This is NOT simply a Thorne's or similar agency
arrangement. Most any supply you need is at least 10 % lower than elsewhere,
and hives are in fact around half as much and of superior quality (in fact some
customers awaiting bees have them displayed indoors as they are as smart
as fine furniture !). 'HiveClean' for varroa treatment is also now available,
the first in the UK. But how can you help, too ?
a/ By volunteering to help us make up frame feeders, crown boards, nucleus
boxes and the like. In this way, your labours help keep our prices at the lowest -
and it's good fun, too! Training included free!
b/ By subscribing for some ordinary shares. The current
preferential shareholders have already put their money where their mouth is, but we need
another £2,000 or so subscribed as ordinary shares for more working capital. Each
share is £1 and the Offer closes 31 May '06. Please see the separate coloured sheet
('CoB Share Offer'). We already have some £350 subscribed as I write this, and the Offer
is open to all, not just NDB members.
c/ By submitting a suitable design for a logo for the Company. The
winner will receive a £25 CoB voucher to spend and £25 of free shares! Closing
date: May 31, paper or electronic form acceptable.
For a/ to c/ please contact me as below.
01769 561 002 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|Edited by Marnie Quy.
All contributions welcome, copy by 19th of month for publication in following