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Northern Lights

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

JUNE 2005

Chairman’s Letter:

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Now comes the season for you to test everything you have learned, whether you have had fifty years experience, or just a few weeks.  Beekeeping is always going to present you with something challenging.  It is a time of huge anticipation, anything can happen, and probably will, but I wish you great happiness in handling your bees. Gentleness and consideration must be your first aim.

Horestone Apiary is in top condition.  The colonies are now forging ahead, having had a large field of Oil Seed Rape and all the spring blossom to back them up.  Kay Thomas has split her strong colony into six nucs - plus another nuc with the original queen.  Well done Kay.  A small Apidea section is being set up at the back of the main areas, and should be in queen production within two or three weeks.  Kevin Stach is beavering away in the "Honey House", that means converting the middle hut into a honey processing unit.  There is no stopping this man!

Meanwhile, the Devon County Show opens - with all that entails for beekeeping throughout Devon. Over the next year, I hope you will consider how our Branch can take a stronger part in the running of the beekeeping marquee.

Whoops, that’s enough for June!  


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I am delighted to report yet more advancement in our Apiary.  So much has changed, not only the layout, the new equipment, the designated mininuc queen raising project to be headed by Beryl, but also the near finished "state of the art" honey processing room.  Thanks to the valiant effort and all the extra hours work put in by Kevin.    Kay’s queen rearing group, with luck and fair weather, already have six nuc’s awaiting successful emergence and mating of queens.  Chris and Beryl’s teaching area where students have begun their weekly "hands on" training is now in full swing.  Last, but by no means least, Michael’s fast growing honey producing section where the largest group of beekeepers can be found every Tuesday.  The last couple of weeks they have been frightening themselves silly marking queens and clipping wings.

The biggest change is group enthusiasm, and peoples willingness to accept change.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who comes to Horestone weekly.   For their dedication to the craft of beekeeping, to share their many and varied skills, for their goodwill, hard work and robust sense of humour. Many thanks.


Open Afternoon:

All North Devon beekeepers and their partners are invited to Elizabeth's garden from 2.30pm onwards on Sunday 12th June.  One aim is to enable members to view and choose books from the bee-keeping library (not to look at the bees).  The other is to raise money for Kay's appeal for Sri Lankan beekeepers affected by the tsunami.  Any remaining plants from the stand at the County Show will be on sale. There will also be bring-and-buy plant and bric-a-brac/home-produce stalls.  Please give your support.  As usual for Sunday meetings, there will be a 'bring and share' tea.

Be warned - overflow parking, if required, will be in a paddock just up the road.  It's a bit rough!

Librarian's Notes:
Please take the above opportunity to bring back any books that you have had on loan for some time.  Also, there is now a red plastic box in the store room of the Apiary Hut for BOOK RETURNS ONLY! Elizabeth Reynolds
Disease Liaison Course Full:

We have a full dozen members who have put their name forward for this course on 4th June.  If anyone else would like to be included let Chris Utting have your name and another course will be organised in a few months.
Chris: 01237 474500

June Diary:

4 June Disease Liaison Course

12 June Open Afternoon at Elizabeth’s

19 June Horestone Apiary Open Day

DBKA Executive Council Meeting - Buckfast

23rd April 2005

Informal report from Beryl Smailes for the North Devon Branch - with apologies to protocol.

Well folks, this meeting was finally headed by a new Chairman, and it was like a breeze of fresh air through a stuffy closed room. Bill Finnemore took control of the Officers and Delegates in his genial, good-humoured way and discipline (please note) was excellent throughout. -  Unlike you talkative lot, I wonder who YOUR Chairman is!   DBKA also has a new Treasurer, Richard Howes from Tavistock Branch.   The job of Treasurer is vital, so everyone is thankful it has been filled.

Usual procedure was followed of course. Peter Donavan had been presented with decanter and glasses, total so far for the Tsunami Fund reported around 1000.  Here your very own Chris Utting was given a special slot to put your case for having written reports for DBKA EC Minutes, and the whole lot circulated in time for our own committee to make decisions.  So skilfully was this laid before them that it was carried just about unanimously. (Please, guys, make every effort now to pay attention and present some new, radical, and inspiring initiatives to put forward).  The DBKA Video, "Vanquishing Varroa", about which we still have grave reservations, was selling OK, more copies had been ordered.  The Treasurer had received the Spring Levies; he reminded Branch Treasurers that two signatures were often needed for larger sums. Subscription, 24, BDI 1.80. Capitation will go to 600 if the ADM agrees.

At the County Show, Terry Clarke will be showing his Bee Chamber, for which he was commended by Glyn Davies. There was a shortage of honey for sale, and more competition entries would be welcome still, especially photographs. Tony Wright is going to be Steward to the Honey Judge! (Who is this Tony Wright?!) Chief Steward Chris Utting had almost enough stewards, and was going to ask for more free tickets. (I hope Chris manages his tea-making better this year, and gets the cups of tea round to the stewards while it is still warm). Bob Ogden said that both Beekeeping Magazine and the Summer Conference had made a profit. Roger Lacey said that he needed more Basic students to take the Assessment. He also wished to have all subscriptions in on time. (If only that were possible).  Brian Gant reported that all plans were in order for the Buckfast Bee Day on 29th October. (Remember that date folks, it's an interesting Autumn Day Out). Henry Morris was STILL waiting for a proper membership list of names and correct addresses from BBKA HQ. Glyn Davies explained that as there is no Secretary now, chaos reigned, but he would enquire.  Henry also mentioned that DBKA website had been updated.  Yawn.  He needed lists of classes for September.

Chris Utting showed a sample BBKA Joining Pack, a glossy effort full of information for newly-joined members, paid for by its advertising.  He asked whether DBKA might produce a similar but more simple pack for would-be beekeepers, those who are enquiring how to become a beekeeper.  This idea was accepted, provided Chris himself did the feasibility study!  Child Protection Act: The ruling was that children could be welcomed into live bee handling sessions at shows, or in to apiaries, only providing that a parent or guardian or certificated supervisor was in attendance at all times.  Our own Branch Microscopist Brian Marchant has had to resign from being County Microscopist because of sting reaction.  His place is to be taken by Mick Street.  Finally, Glyn Davies told us that monks no longer work as beekeepers at Buckfast.  The beekeeping there is now solely for sale-able hive products. Honey, mead etc.  So there goes another dream!  Next meeting, 24th September.

NB A "Proper" Report will be sent to your Branch Committee Beryl Smailes

Brian’s Microscope Corner:

EYEPIECE - also known as the 'oculars' the lens, or system of lenses, nearest the observer’s eye which magnifies the image formed by the objective.

EXIT PUPIL - the back focal plane of the eyepiece i.e. the point at which the observers eye should be located. With certain exceptions microscopes can be set up to enable spectacles to be dispensed with when using the instrument but there are certain defects of the eye which cannot be accommodated, under these circumstances eyepieces with an high exit pupil must be used which allows enough room for spectacles to be worn

Did You Know? That the first recorded diagrams of bee activity are among cave paintings in Spain from circa 6000 years ago!
Crop Spraying:

Crop spraying is already well advanced for certain crops in some areas and the co-operation of farmers and contractors alike is to no avail if I don't know where your bees are!!

I'm currently working off existing records which in some cases are 3 yrs old so I am about to start a new record. It is in your interest to register the location of your hives with me - if for any reason you do not and a farmer within your bees forage range decides to spray chemicals harmful to your bees, although he might have given the required warning, I shall not be in a position to warn you of the intended spraying.  It costs you nothing to register other than the time it takes to determine the grid reference of your hives (NGR) and forward this information to me even if you have done so in the past - remember I am starting a new register.  For anyone used to map reading it is straightforward, if you are new to this it is not difficult and if you don't have the O.S sheet for your area you will find one in your local library among other places. 

When reading the Ordinance Survey map to ascertain the coordinates for your hive location, read the Eastings first followed by the Northings.  The Easting is the position on the map showing the ordinate on the east/west (horizontal axis).   Likewise, the Northing is the coordinate on the north/south (vertical axis).   As an example the Horestone apiary is 591(E) and 257(N) because it is located about 100 metres east of the 59 line on the horizontal axis, and about 700 metres north of the 25 line on the vertical axis.  The distance between each line e.g. 59 and 60 is 1000 metres.  The NGR would normally be shown as 591257 proceeded by the Sheet code (in our case - SS) i.e. SS591257.

Notice is normally given 24 hrs before spraying.  If there is a chance that you will not be around when warning comes through I will need an alternative contact phone number.  I'll do my best to reach you but I cannot search high and low!! 

Brian Marchant

Phone Brian on 01237 477000 or Email:

Basic Assessment Revision Day:

We have enough people to run the Revision Day on 17th July but there are still a few places left.  Let Chris Utting know on 01237 474500 if you want to join us.  We have Brian Gant and Di Askwith-Ellis coming up on 24th July as BBKA Assessors to do the business.

Stoneleigh: April 2005 Part 1

Tales of their Stoneleigh experience from some of our regular contributors…

1   Chris Utting:

Wow! What a day. Outstanding. The biggest and the best one-day bee event in the whole world (or so they claimed).

But it really started the day before. I have been going to Stoneleigh for many years and it is so popular it is spreading into the Friday! There is an all day skep making course and a choice of six lectures or demonstrations between 2.40 and 6.30 including Bee History, Fungal Control of the Mite, Pollination, Honey Judging Explained - and that is all before the Show actually starts.

It is not until 9.00 am on Saturday that the stalls open and as there are so many bargains on the big Thorne's Stall the long queue at the entrance winds back several hundred yards as expectant beekeepers wait patiently for the doors to open. One newcomer asked me why are there so many people with sack trucks? At 9.00 prompt the doors are flung open and those of us with prepaid tickets pour through and dash down through the halls to Thorne's. The sight is unbelievable.  Hundreds of very polite beekeepers are climbing over piles of equipment and each other.  Many elderly people with bulging eyes and red faces are staggering around carrying piles of flat pack frames, supers, brood boxes, roofs etc.  There are four tills and long queues.  Examples of the prices for a National hive – roof 12.50, brood box 11.50, super 8.50, 50 shallow frames 20.00, 50 brood frames 23.00 which is why people bring sack trucks.

After an hour the frenzy dies down leaving a few remnants of frames that nobody wants and a few shavings scattered on the floor the only evidence of the existence of the piles of equipment.  They say that last year Thorne's sold 250,000 frames in one day which is evidence that beekeeping is far from declining.

Having stocked my car with all this bargain priced wood, there is time to calm down and start to enjoy the rest of the Fair.   A look through the program reveals that there are 19 talks or demonstrations available in five areas between 9.30 and 4.30 covering every beekeeping subject with some for the beginner and some for the more advanced.  I am spoiled for choice.

I pick Brenda Ball in the Wolfson Theatre on ‘Investigating Exotic Diseases’. Brenda is the world’s foremost authority on honeybee viruses and carries out much research work at Rothamstead. Her talk covers the latest work on the Kashmir Bee Virus that has recently been discovered in the Hull area. She puts my mind at rest as this variety of the virus has been found to be of no concern to beekeepers. Now to stroll around the stalls. This is not easy as it is so crowded. The word is that about 2,000 tickets have been sold.

The biggest area is the Warwick Hall with eighteen stalls selling microscopes, Varroa treatments, bee books, bee veils, queen rearing equipment, wax foundation and lots of equipment. Onwards to the Stareton Hall with seventeen stalls offering cosmetics, bee research, bee disease insurance, bee magazines, overseas bee development, several European equipment stalls, a honey co-operative, BBKA services and more bee books. Down to the Granary Hall to find twenty two stalls dealing with historic hives, a bat group, DARG, bee farmers, hedgehog care, butterfly conservation, bees abroad, bee research and many more.

A welcome refreshment break in the ample Avon Suite which offers an array of temptations but the prices are very high so next time a packed lunch etc. must be considered. Up again and off to hear David Charles of Somerset talk about moving bees to the heather. Made a note to try and book him for the North Devon Winter programme again as his talk is so interesting and well presented. Then around the crowded stalls again meeting old friends and seeking out more interesting bee things.

By late afternoon the crowds are thinning and it is time to start the long tiring journey homewards – only 190 miles to go.

2   Mike Canham:

For various reasons, I was able to spend two days at the BBKA’s Spring Convention this year – Members’ Day on the Friday and the full Spring Convention the following day.

This was only my second visit – I was last there in 1999 – so I didn’t have many preconceived ideas.  In the event, I wasn’t disappointed – it was a memorable experience; but to immerse yourself in beekeeping for two days requires stamina.

Members’ Day on the Friday was cloudy and chilly and the huge Stoneleigh site – venue for the Royal Show etc – was windswept and desolate – strangely reminiscent of Hiroshima – a scatter of permanent buildings across a deserted landscape of concrete, grass and asphalt.

Members’ Day programme included a skep- making session (I had a peep – not as good as ours but they were twisting the straw rope), and a series of talks and demonstrations on" presenting your hive products". Not being much of an exhibitionist, I made for the Wolfson Theatre – very well-equipped – for talks on topics closer to my heart – bee welfare. David Charles talked about the last 150 years of beekeeping with such enthusiasm that he overshot his one hour allocation and left the stage reluctantly, still talking.

Brenda Ball from Rothamsted Research gave an authoritative account of her recent research into developing fungal spores to attack Varroa mites; she used an excellent PowerPoint presentation and clearly knows her stuff. There is hope – see an account of parallel research in May/June Beekeeping. Dr Dewey C Caron has a head start as a communicator – he is an extrovert, a practised teacher and an enthusiast; he also runs a very sophisticated PowerPoint! He hails from the University of Delaware and has a strong East Coast accent – entertaining but on occasions subtitles would have been helpful. He talked on Pollination – theory and practice; definitely one for our next season’s talks programme though he may prove rather expensive.

Spring Convention proper opened the following day and by 9am the site was heaving.   I have an abiding memory of lorries unloaded by forklifts, carrying mountains of frame and hive parts in through the back door while a stream of triumphant beekeepers poured out of the front door with their loot piled high on carts and trolleys; the prices of woodwork and wax foundation were very tempting – which of course is why many people go ( with a pickup or trailer!)

There was a total of 9 lectures during the day and an introductory "hands on" session (no bees though) for absolute beginners. In addition a whole series of demonstrations on mead making, painting with beeswax and "preparing for the Show"

Predictably, I went to hear Brenda Ball telling us about her researches into the more exotic honeybee diseases e.g. Kashmir Bee Virus etc.

Fascinating – but I just hope none of them get near my bees; the inimitable Dr Dewey Caron from Delaware told us with his usual enthusiasm about aspects of queen behaviour and the natural and artificial processes by which she can be replaced; Margaret Thomas, an experienced bee farmer from Essex was a very popular speaker on swarming though I was disappointed by her approach using the Socratic method – putting questions to the audience but receiving some answers which were plainly wrong. I am sticking to Snelgrove.

Between lectures there was almost too much to see and do in the three exhibition halls. All the big names were out in force – Thornes, National Bee Supplies, Sherriffs, Maisemore, Northern Bee Books, BBN and O, National Bee Unit and three German and one Danish equipment suppliers – some interesting stuff, well-made but quite expensive.

For me, it was the smaller exhibitors who provided the interest though:

"Sniffer" bees – developed by a private offshoot of Rothamsted Research and trained to detect the minutest traces of specific chemicals e.g. over-ripe tomatoes, semtex etc

"Historic" hives ( Beekeeping, April, p81) crying out to be restored

Bright red plastic frames – easy to clean and sterilise – but why red?

Apimondia and the Irish Beekeepers – providing a lively musical background – I expected Riverdance to appear at any moment

Robin Dartington – as enthusiastic as ever – demonstrating his modified Long Deep Hive – will I ever get around to building one myself?

and then that patient queue of men in anoraks with huge cheeses of recovered wax, waiting to exchange it for foundation

Well worth the journey to the midlands and for a tenner you get two days of non-stop entertainment. There are few things more fascinating than beekeepers in the mass – all shapes and sizes but stretching right across the British social spectrum; and then there’s the lectures and the gear and the welcome sight of old friends....

Beryl Smailes:

There's something evocative about the name Stoneleigh. I know that leigh means place, and stone means - stone. OK, for me I am usually Stony Broke when I come away, having had a hilarious, exciting day in the thick of England's most determined beekeepers.  This year it was quite a shock to arrive 15 minutes before the doors opened at 9.00am, to find a queue three deep and 2 - 300 meters long, in a biting cold wind.  All in this queue were so keen to get in they did not seem to feel the cold.  When we finally reached the entrance and surged into the enormous hall full of beekeeping goodies, and best of all, BARGAINS, the excitement was palpable.

For the scrum around Thorne's area of "Today's Bargains", it pays to work in pairs.  One crashes off to collect the shopping list of frames, boards, boxes etc, the other guards the growing pile from marauding equipment-seekers who can't find what they are looking for.  The business of paying, and getting the loot out to your car is reasonably speedy. After that the lectures begin, and there are always good lectures to choose from.  Or you can just tour round the show, meet old friends, and see what the firms are offering this year.

There is a huge catering hall, where you can buy any level of refreshment, or you can take your own picnic and sit outside in the sun, if there is sun. I went to Brenda Ball's lecture on Investigating Exotic Honeybee Diseases.  I thought it was a marvellous lecture, very scientific, modestly put over with absolute clarity.  Brenda explained that research around the world is limited to wherever there are scientists with the interest and facilities to carry it out.  So the well- known Kashmir Bee Virus does not necessarily come from Kashmir.  In fact different strains of it (not all lethal) could be common anywhere.  Rothampsted has been working with the New Zealand HortLink

A second lecture I attended was given by the American Dr Dewey Caron, University of Delaware. He gave us a very good talk, all about queen behaviour and replacement. I thought that for beekeepers at the beginning of their hobby it was a great help, logical, practised, complete. Apart from the lecture programme there are many practical demonstrations going on, including computer instruction.

By 4.00pm the crowds have thinned, it is time to start the long journey home. Think about Stoneleigh 2006!!

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Time to grab those bargains !

100+ Club Numbers Update:

20 winner: Beryl Smailes
Free 100+ club membership: Mike Canham

Apiary Site And Equipment Available:

Grania and Simon Phillips farm 600 acres at Colleton Manor in Chulmleigh.  They have hives available in an orchard but not enough time to do beekeeping.   They are looking for a beekeeper who can set up an apiary and share the crop.
Quiz Question for June: Who said "Beekeeping is a sweet subsidy that has been ripping off taxpayers for years."

The answer to May’s question was Young’s.

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

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