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Northern Lights

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

JULY 2005

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Chairman’s Letter:

Dear Beekeepers,

This seems to be a strange season for our bees.  We hear stories of colonies absconding from their hives, even leaving young brood behind. We hear of an apiary full of colonies doing really well, forging ahead, then all suddenly deciding to replace their queens, thus setting them back just before the main honey flow. Maybe we can't blame it all on the weather, it is certainly puzzling.  Of course there is good news too; many colonies are bringing in the nectar and pollen just as the books say they should.  And how are YOUR bees behaving?  Do tell us your story. There is a lot of chalk brood this year, which can be very troublesome for the bees to cope with.   If your bees are affected try to re-queen if you can, any treatment such as spraying with a Thymol solution is unlikely to have a lasting affect. Get the bees onto clean comb or foundation, and feed if necessary

 Don't forget to take your camera with you when you set off for your apiary.   We will need some interesting bee photos for our Honey Show in November. The way one of our members caught a swarm last week would make a comic strip on its own. How about sharing some of your adventures?


From the Apiary:

This month the apiary is looking at its best, all the many hours of hard work put in by our gardeners and groundsman are indeed paying dividends.  The stocks of bees are at last doing well, the consolidation programme is on track, we now have almost three times the number of colonies we had after over-wintering.

Kay’s queen rearing section has raised seven nuclei, all but one seems to be prospering, a new queen will be brought in ready for next years rearing programme.

Chris and Beryl’s teaching section has just completed its students’ hands-on training programme and is now looking forward to building up its colonies from two to four, which includes bringing in two new queens to strengthen and improve the apiaries gene pool.

Michael’s honey production team is forging ahead now that the early oil seed rape honey has been processed. All colonies are building up and perhaps some will produce a main crop.

Beryl’s apidea programme has as yet failed to materialise because all queens reared within the apiary have been required for the consolidation of stocks, however, the apiary teams did vote that queens, and cupfuls of bees could, on this occasion be brought in from tested stocks - Chris (Utting) to start this programme. Thanks Chris!

Thanks again to Chris for his perseverance in collecting, medicating, and re-queening of collected swarms to sell to this years student members. All ten students who put their names down will have colonies.

Tony and Sue

A GCSE Project – Solar Wax Extractor:News_7_2005_d.jpg (29788 bytes)

I am a 16 year old Beekeeper and have just sat my G.C.S.E. Exams at Grenville College. I did my English Language talk on Beekeeping in my full beekeepers outfit! Another subject I studied was ‘Design & Technology – Resistant Materials’. This course helps you to understand the design and the manufacture of products we use everyday.

At the beginning of the course we had to think about what we would like to design and build. As a beekeeper I decided to build a Solar Wax Extractor. Throughout the course we learnt how to generate ideas, develop and investigate them, practice construction methods i.e. woodwork and welding, produce pencil and computer aided drawings, models, and the final piece priced and tested.

My first idea was to produce a Solar Wax Extractor to hang frames in, but with the help of questionnaires filled in by members on the last Apiary meeting of 2004 and further investigation, I realised that it would not work.  It would be too deep to let heat permeate enough to melt the wax totally.   So, I decided on a more ‘traditional’ design but with 2 areas to melt capping wax and any other wax, enabling me to keep the capping wax separate and therefore hopefully cleaner. ‘Why?’ I hear you ask, well, as we all know we can buy Solar Wax Extractors but for our exam we have to produce something different and as far as I know you can’t buy a ‘double melter’.   I designed my extractor to be large enough to take wax from many frames and high enough to be seen and not tripped over.  It has a well fitted lid and is painted black inside and out to absorb maximum heat.

After the planning I had to get the wood, cut it to size and assemble it, everything has to be documented in our Design Folders.   If possible, we should not use pre-manufactured items, so where as most beekeepers go to their local recycling centre and find a double glazed unit to make their lid,  I had to design and document how I made mine from 2 sheets of Acrylic.   The internal trays are made from Litho-plate donated by a printing company, the filtering is News_7_2005_e.jpg (19939 bytes)through mesh with a final filter through 2 layers of Nan’s old washed tights stretched across the openings ( I left these off for the final exhibition - I couldn’t face trying to explain that one!!)  The collection units are 2lb bread tins.

I am very pleased with my extractor, it works very well, but the hardest thing was getting non beekeepers to understand what it is for. ‘Where’s the honey?’ and ‘What does it do exactly?’ were the usual questions.   I was fed up of explaining.  Most understood after a quick demonstration though.  ‘It’s very good Luke’ my tutor said, ‘but where do the bees go again?’ 


I hope the examiner is a Beekeeper!!

Luke ‘ZZUB ZZUB’ Baker

Devon County Show:
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Valiant team work triumphed!    Sales were slow the first two days, but we shifted an enormous amount on the Saturday, due to slashed prices and high pressure sales techniques!  The Great British public obviously love a bargain.  Due to extra costs this year, such as van hire, we have less to contribute to Northern Branch's coffers.   Even so, after the DBKA 20% levy,  we have been able to give Kevin a cheque for the princely sum of 110.80.   We also felt we made some small steps in educating the public as to the likes and dislikes of bees, and providing them with the wherewithal to please our favourite insects.  Many thanks to all who helped us and contributed plants.  

Judith Westcott

Hive Assembly And Repair Course:

What type of nails should you use and which hammer is best?  Should it be screwed and glued? Which glue to use? What clamps do the best job.  How do you get it square?   How do you get the bee space right?    Is it top bee space or bottom bee space?   Can this super be repaired or should it be thrown away.  Why is cedar better than pine? 

Tony Wright assisted by Chris Tozer and Kevin Stack are holding a special one day course at Horestone Apiary on Sunday 4th September starting at 10.30 to 4.00. Bring along your flat pack hive parts for assembly. Also bring a packed lunch and some food to share for afternoon tea.  No charge to members but limited to 10 - first come first served.  Phone Chris Utting on 01237 474 500 to reserve a place.

Did You Know:   It only takes one infected honeybee, attracted into an apiary from outside, to contaminate the lot with foulbrood.   Don’t leave exposed honey, wax, old unclean frames or boxes lying around or you may live to regret it!!
Stoneleigh Part 2:

I have to say that getting up at 3.3Oam to leave  at 4.3Oam made me question my sanity but by the time we'd picked up Kay Thomas and Tony Wright, my spirits had revived and I was really looking forward to my first trip to Stoneleigh.

I wasn't sure what to expect but when we arrived it was a bit like the January Sales with everyone dashing about looking for bargains.   The regulars had brought trolleys which were piled alarmingly high with frames, boxes, foundation - anything that was reduced.   Queues were long at some of the stands, particularly Thornes where the show prices were staggeringly low for some beekeeping kit.

As some of you know, our new approach to hygiene at the branch apiary now means that no-one brings beekeeping equipment from home any longer due to the risk of cross contamination.   This day out to Stoneleigh was our chance to stock up so that the apiary has its own hive tools, smokers, drone uncapping forks and so forth.

Another stand that occupied a lot of our time was Bee Equipped where they were selling apidea - mini nukes which need only a queen cell and a couple of hundred bees to start a colony.   With the expense and shortage of colonies for new bee keepers, this could give beginners the chance to start with bees in a small way and build up over the season.  It's such a neat idea and only l0 each at the show.

I'm embarrassed to admit that we didn't attend any lectures.    You have to get to the lecture venue really early - well before the start time - as people are turned away as soon as the room fills. 

Perhaps next year we'll be better organised!

Sue Tait

Forthcoming Events Diary:

10 July Horestone Apiary Open Day

17 July Basic Assessment Revision Day

24 July Basic Assessments

3 Aug North Devon Show

6/7 Aug Rosemoor Family Weekend

14 Aug Apiary Open Day (NB: Date altered)

22/23 Oct Eggesford Apple Weekened

6/7 Nov Branch Honey Show

Honey Lemon Curd:

4 lemons  

113g  (4oz) butter

454g  (1lb) clear honey               

4 eggs and 2 yolks

Grate lemon rinds and squeeze and strain juice. Put into a double saucepan with the butter and honey. Beat eggs and egg yolks and strain them into the mixture. Cook and stir over a gentle heat until thick and creamy. Pour into hot jars and seal well then keep cool. (It is better to make small quantities and use fresh). 

Beeswax Polish for Furniture and Floors:

454g  (1lb) beeswax     

2272ml  (4 pints) water

1136ml  (2 pints) turpentine         

85g  (3oz) potassium bicarbonate

Small cake of Castile soap   

Shred the beeswax and soap and dissolve in the water with the potassium bicarb. over a gentle heat in a stainless steel saucepan. Pour mixture into a large basin and add the turpentine, stirring continuously until almost cold when the mixture will become as a cream. Pour into suitable containers.

Thanks to Cornish Beekeepers for recipes
NBU Disease Liaison Course – 4 June 2005:

How do you tell the difference between AFB and EFB ? What disease can you suspect just by the particular behaviour of the bees outside the hive ? What is the ropiness test ?

Well, ten intrepid beekeepers turned up on Saturday 4th June at North Devon College to find out the answers to these questions, and become expert bee disease analysts – well not quite !! Some of the ten were old hands, but we can all do with a refresher from time to time.

The session was hosted by Richard Ball, NBU National Bee Inspector, together with Peter Auger, NBU Inspector for Devon & Cornwall.

Richard outlined the implications of the government budget cuts on the NBU, due to be implemented in three year’s time. This would mean that current government funded bee inspection programme would need to be halved and beekeepers themselves would therefore have to become more self reliant on disease identification and control and he hoped that a course like this one would help in developing that strategy.

Just to make sure we weren’t dropping off to sleep at this stage, he surprised us with a little picture quiz of brood diseases. Apart from chalk brood, the rest of my answers were pure guesses, so I was glad that we did not have to declare our scores !  Peter then ran through a number of ways to diagnose problems with your bees, including quite basic observation of behaviour, both inside and outside the hive, and brood patterns, which were a good indicator of healthy or problematic colonies.  He then moved on to specific diseases and he used colour slides to demonstrate various diseases and problems such as Sac Brood, Chalk Brood, EFB, AFB, Parasitic Mite, Wax Moths, Varroa etc. - to the point that I began to wonder if there was a healthy colony left in the country.  Personally, I found the various diseases difficult to assess on the projected slides (not helped by the college fire alarm testing programme) and began to wonder if I was wasting my time.  Not to worry though, he had brought along some real live examples which we were going to examine later.

Richard concluded with some advice and suggestions on quarantining, to keep down the spread of disease – ideally between colonies, but at least between apiaries.    Disinfected tools, clean flamed hive equipment, and minimal transfer of frames between hives seemed to be the basic message.

Finally, the really interesting hands-on bit - 5 frames of infected brood, and we had to diagnose the diseases present in each. On with the gloves, and armed with some EFB and AFB detection kits, we sallied forth.    Diagnosis proved easier, thank goodness, with the real thing, than with looking at slides, even without the rather expensive diagnostic kits, and most of us managed some pretty good recognition on this, although we were still fooled by some of the examples which had more than one problem.    By now, I wanted to go back and redo the quiz we had completed at the beginning, as I am sure I would have scored much better.

After a quick summary of the day’s proceedings, we all set off to Horestone Apiary for lunch and the afternoon session, opening hives and assessing their health. 

Fortified with tea, sandwiches and cakes, we donned the gear and set off for the hives. The weather was beginning to look a little uncertain, so there was no time to waste.  We split off into two groups, Richard taking one and Peter the other, and they then dNews_7_2005_i.jpg (9244 bytes)emonstrated how to be aware of potential problems when opening hives and examining the frames.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) apart from chalk brood, there were few problems to poor over so, as the weather deteriorated, we returned to the meeting hut for more refreshments.  A lively discussion on diseases and prevention ensued, before we headed home much wiser on the key factors to look out for when examining our colonies for problems.

An excellent day, which has given me a much greater understanding of diseases – and I now feel that I stand a much better chance of spotting them at an early stage, or at least realising when there is something significantly wrong.    Our thanks must go to Richard and Peter for their advice and information, and also to Chris and Beryl for organising the day, supplying the refreshments at the college, and generally keeping us on the straight and narrow.

If you did not go on this course, then I recommend that you put your name down for the next one.  Whether you just want to keep your own colonies healthy, or help others identify diseases in theirs, this is great opportunity to improve your skills.

Kevin Tricker

Stewards Required:

We need stewards for the North Devon Show on 3 August and the Rosemoor Family Weekend on 6/7 August, both of which events we will be running stalls.  You only have to commit to half a day and you will get free entrance to the events themselves.  If you think you can help then contact the editor (details at end of newsletter).  We will be selling branch and member’s honey and hive products at both events – can members wishing to sell anything please make sure that their products conform to the new labeling laws.

Branch Honey Show:

It may only be July, but it isn’t too early to start thinking about the Branch Honey Show, which this year is on 6 & 7 November and is, as usual, at St John’s Garden Centre.  The schedules will be published on the branch website and also copies sent in the post to all members in the next few months.  Do think about entering this year even if you have never entered before.  Novices should take heart from last year where the winning novice jar of honey was also awarded the Blue Ribbon.  Even if you are not competitive think of it as a celebration of your bees.  Show off what they and you have done!  The closing date for entries is as usual a few days before the show (so at the moment you have plenty of time) and will be published soon.  Note that no entries will be accepted on the morning of the show itself (even if they have been at previous shows).  So don’t do it at the last minute – plan ahead and we will have a display we can all be proud of!

Strange Happenings Afoot!

Our chairman isn’t the first to point out that the bees are behaving oddly this year.   Northern Lights has heard of a hive smothering the queen in a ‘ball of bees’, swarms taking off at strange times, entire hives absconding for no apparent reason, queens going off lay during a honey flow & hot spell and perhaps most worrying of all, colonies suddenly becoming aggressive and over- defensive.   Please share with us your bee stories because if we can pool our experiences and spot a pattern then maybe some of our more experienced beekeepers can make some sense of it all.   This is only going to work if we have enough data so please if you have anything to share let us know.   Any thoughts, stories or photos can be sent to the editor – details end of newsletter.

Open Day Date Change:

The August open day at Horestone Apiary has been changed from 7 to 14 August because of branch commitments to the North Devon Show and Rosemoor Family Weekend. The next open day is on the 10 July. If you haven’t yet been this season then it’s worth making the effort to see all of the new facilities that the team have been working on. And the bees of course!

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Hive tool boxes – big enough for all your day to day hive equipment and tall & sturdy enough to hang your smoker from. A bargain at 10 each. All proceeds to apiary funds.

Contact Apiary Manager Tony Wright on 01271 865516 or any of the apiary team.

Brian’s Microscope Corner:

FIELD LENS - the lower lnw of an eyepiece which magnifies the primary image produced by the objective and gives a virtual image for viewing.
FIELD DIAPHRAGM - An iris diaphragm which controls the area of the specimen which is illuminated.
FLOURITE OBJECTIVE - An objective lens using fluorite in its construction.
Such lenses have better corrections of chromatic and spherical aberration and higher numerical apertures than achromatic lenses.

An Appeal:

There are a number of new beekeepers who have been studying with Chris Utting and Kay Thomas. Most need equipment to get them started. We all know how expensive buying everything from new can be so if any members have old or unwanted equipment to sell at a reasonable price please contact the editor. Better still if anyone has equipment that they would like to donate and any monies received used for apiary funds.

Logo Competition:

There is still time to vote (up to the next committee meeting on 20 July) Results in the next newsletter.


Wanted.... a frame or two of brood for the 'Pick a Pupa' display at the forthcoming North Devon
Show - sacrificial drone frames would be suitable. Can you help? Contact Brian Marchant on 01237 477000

An Apology:

Your July newsletter is late because of last week's storm which wrecked the Editor's PC and surge protector !   Hopefully (please !!) it won't happen again.

The Hive: The Story of the Honeybee and Us.
Author: Bee Wilson ISBN 0-7195-6409-3
Publisher: John Murray
Reviewer: Kevin Stach

This book by Bee (Beatrice) Wilson who readily confesses that she is not a beekeeper, due to a small city garden and two young children; but mainly she says cowardice, writes about man's relationship with the honeybees, his attempts to master them understand them and copy them.    Broken down into 6 convenient chapters; Work, Sex, Politics, Food and Drink, Life and Death and the Beekeeper, Bee Wilson takes you on a journey starting some 10,000 years ago when man had begun to hunt for honey in Palaeolithic times, well before man had discovered how to produce bread or milk and continues the journey through to Tolstoy the beekeeper, and his use of the beehive to illustrate the limits of human knowledge before nature.  

I thoroughly enjoyed this book especially the food and drink section with its interesting named recipes such as Thunder & Lightning' and 'Breakfast of the Gods', and would highly recommend this book as an excellent addition to the beekeepers library.

For SaleNational hive equipment. Supers, brood boxes etc. Marwood area. Call James Bracher
Next month... a review of the garden party which raised monies for the tsunami appeal.
Quiz Question for July: Who wrote "Such is their toil and such their pain;  As is the bees' in their flowery plain... All with united force combine to drive, the lazy drones from the laborious hive...."

The answer to June’s question was former US Vice President Dan Quayle.

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

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