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Northern Lights

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


Chairman's Notes:

Summer surely is "I'cumen In" at last, and the meadows and verges are thick with meadowsweet.  St Swithin's Day, 15th Jluly, came and went without a drop of rain.   "St Swithin's Day an it be fair, for forty days t'will rain nae mair".   We'll see about that I guess.  Meanwhile, the nectar pours in. Remember to put a couple of your very best super frames of honey in a safe place for the Honey Show.

This year we have had quite a spate of courses for the Branch, all greeted with enthusiasm I am pleased to say. That spate is still in full flow, amazingly, with Tony Wright lining up some of his carpentry wizards to show us all the best way to make and repair our own equipment. This is a tremendously useful skill for a beekeeper to acquire, even to give hope for someone as hopeless as I am, always hitting my thumb instead of the nail. 

Now for something entirely different.  We will be offering a course on Food Hygiene, date and place yet to be decided. You can easily imagine how important that is for honey producers.  A beautiful new Honey House is being prepared at Horestone by Kevin Stach.     We will be proud to support Kevin with a good knowledge of best hygienic practice.

Finally, my friends, I would recommend that you attend Devon's bi-ennial Buckfast Bee Day on 29th October. To have such a program of lectures, at such a low cost, in such a setting, on your doorstep, is indeed a big asset.  Brian Gant suggests you apply to our Social Secretary Chris to make a block booking, so Chris can co-ordinate transport. Alternatively, book your own ticket through the Beekeeping Magazine application forms.

Could we have some of your observations, experiments, particular beekeeping experiences which interested you, for the Newsletter please?  Go on - have a go! Beryl  

From the Apiary:

The apiary is looking its summer best. It is a garden of tranquility, a place of refuge from the noise and dust of the holiday traffic. Lots of new bee friendly plants are blooming and the limes are well in bloom.

With one or two exceptions the colonies are all doing well. Thanks to queen rearing and colony division we now have twenty one units all working.

Three new queens were brought in from outside to widen the gene pool, two donated by Beryl and one bought by the branch. Unfortunately the latter failed to prosper so will need replacing.

Despite a massive demand for nuc’s, brood boxes, supers and countless frames to be made up, not to mention shopping and wax processing our quartermaster and his assistants have done us proud and kept everyone happy (must be a first).

This year it was thought prudent to manage the apideas away from Horestone. Beryl has this in hand. I look forward to next season when all the various activities will take place within the Apiary,

Should you see a pale looking person wandering around blinking at the bright sunlight, that will be Kevin Stach. He has spent so much time refurbishing the honey processing room he must have missed most of the sun, but wait till you see the rewards of his labour, a fantastic facility. So hygienic, so clean, so white, so different to what we had, and he assures me that "we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet". Thanks Kevin.

The last open day was a success with plenty of activities going on for people to take part in.

Finally I would like to say thanks to all the new members we have had turning up on a regular basis. Despite the parking problems we do need you; it’s you who make the difference.

Tony & Sue

The next Horestone Apiary Open Day is 14th August. Please note that this date has altered since the original dates for open days were published at the beginning of the year.
Garden Party:

I would like to thank all people who came to Elizabeth and Paul's Garden Party and spent their money. It was a lovely day weatherwise and what a beautiful garden. I do hope the Committee will be able to persuade them to repeat it next year.

Special thanks to Diane Goodacre and Peter Woolard for plants, Judith Westcott for her Linocuts - which are still selling - Chris and Jill Utting for books and everyone who helped backstage. Kay

Garden Party 2:

Think of an English Country Garden, full of flowers and sloping to the sun. A hum of insects, a buzz of beekeepers, plenty of birds and their broods.  On Sunday 12th June Paul and Elizabeth Reynolds opened their wonderful garden at Kentisbury, in aid of the Tsunami Appeal organised by Kay Thomas, in liaison with  "Bees for Development".  Around the upper part of the garden were a few stalls, with plants, books, home produce, bric-a-brac, all kindly donated by some of our members and friends.  It was a lovely afternoon, with a delicious tea provided by Elizabeth and her helpers. As a result, a total of 344.15 was raised.for this good cause, and a happy afternoon was enjoyed by all who came along.   Many thanks to Paul and Elizabeth, and to all who contributed.  Bery

A Message From Our Librarian:

Despite my best intentions, I'm afraid I won't be able to bring a small collection of books to either the August or the September Apiary meetings.
Please continue to put any returns in the red box in the apiary store-room. If you wish to borrow a book or have a copy of the book list, please call me on 01271 882940.   This is not the number listed in the current year book.
Elizabeth Reynolds

Brian’s Microscope Corner:

GLARE - Light scattered by the object which does not contribute to the formation of the image reducing its quality and contrast.

GRATICULES - discs marked with scales or patterns which locate into the ocular at its field limiting diaphragm and used variously for measuring and/or determining three dimensional information from a two dimension image.

Honey Recipes:
Chocolate Honey Almond Truffles

113g (4oz) plain chocolate
2 tbsp thick honey
2 tsp rum        
vermicelli for coating
56g (2oz) very finely chopped blanched almonds 

Melt the chocolate, add the honey and rum and allow to cool until the mixture becomes slightly sticky. Add the blanched almonds and mix thoroughly. Form into approximately 30 small balls and coat with vermicelli.

Note:  Always pack or present your honey sweets in an attractive way if you are making a gift, or an entry into a show.  The receiver or the Honey Judge will be impressed with your care.   


1.8kg(4lbs)  honey
Juice of 3 lemons
Wine yeast and Nutrient
1 Camden Tablet
Approx. 1 pint fresh orange juice OR grape juice

Make up the yeast starter with a little juice and the nutrient.    Bring honey to the boil with 5 pints of water and skim off any impurities.    Cool, then add the fruit juices and the activated yeast.  Put into a jar and fill with boiled cooled water to shoulder.   Fit air lock and ferment at 64F /18C.   Rack off when finished into a clean jar, add 1 Camden tablet and fill up again to 1" below the cork.   Store until clear in a cool place. 

Thanks for recipes go to the Cornish Beekeepers
Courses & Assessments:

There are still some vacancies for this course to be held on 4th September - details in last month’s Newsletter. Phone Chris Utting on 01237 474 500 to reserve a place.

Unfortunately the colonies at Horestone Apiary were not strong enough to hold the assessments last month as we need at least four colonies with sufficient bees to cover eight brood frames. So the Assessment and Revision Days have been put off for a month to enable the colonies to build up.  The Revision Day will now be on Thursday 11th August and the Assessment Day is on Monday 15th August. We all wish the seven candidates the best of luck.
Chris & Beryl

Kay Thomas will also be starting her annual beekeeping course next January in Braunton. Details can be obtained from local libraries and more information will be provided in a forthcoming newsletter nearer the time.

Diary of Forthcoming Events:
3 Aug North Devon Show
6/7 Aug Rosemoor Family Weekend
11  Aug Basic Assessment revision day
14 Aug Apiary Open Day (NB: Date altered)
15 Aug Basic Assessments
4 Sept Hive Assembly & Repair Course
22/23 Oct Eggesford Apple Weekend
6/7 Nov Branch Honey Show
Instow Village Show:

The Branch was represented at this Show which was held in the village hall and surrounding area on Saturday 16th July.   The stall was organised by Beryl, assisted by Jean and David Morris.    The show was attended by hundreds of villagers and holidaymakers and many leaflets and lots of information about bees was given out.
Me and EFB:

This is the story of my first and only experience with EFB. Also known as Melissococcus pluton, EFB is a rare occurrence in North Devon. I have only heard of half a dozen cases. I have been keeping bees now for over 20 years and have attended all the training courses on bee diseases that have been available. On the courses you do see the brood frames showing signs of EFB but it is not the same as the real live, hot under your nose, heaving and breathing EFB.

I have an apiary at Annery Kiln at Weare Gifford. At the beginning of the year I only had three colonies in this apiary although there was room for a lot more. So I volunteered for it to be used as a quarantine apiary to take swarms collected during the summer for the Branch. The idea was to keep them under observation for at least a worker brood cycle to establish that no disease was present.  The swarms were to be re-queened for the branch to sell to beginners at a reasonable price. We had a waiting list of a dozen people.

Things were coming along fine and the swarms were developing beautifully. I was about to go away for a few days holiday and thought that I had better just check through the colonies to see that they were in good order. All were in fine condition. But when I removed the roof of the first large colony, I was confronted with a strange and unpleasant smell.  The smell can only be described as dog poo!  My first reaction was of annoyance.  Who could have done such an unpleasant thing as to contaminate a hive on this way?  The apiary site is near to the Tarka Trail and it is just possible that some evil doer could have …….but then the training clicked in and I realised that this was a symptom of EFB.  Off with the supers and an examination of the unsealed brood revealed the twisted and discoloured larvae. Peter Auger, the Seasonal Bee Inspector was on sick leave but as he lives very near me I phoned and arranged to take a sample for him to examine.  One look and a sniff from the expert agreed with my suspicions.  A larvae sample was then subjected to the EFB testing kit and the lateral flow device soon produced the second blue line.  It was EFB!!  By this time it was late on Friday evening and I was off on holiday the following morning so there was little that could be done.

On returning from my holiday Peter checked the other colonies and swarms and I was relieved to find that there were only two of the original colonies infected.  A shook swarm treatment was successfully applied and all the frames and comb were burned.  The hive woodwork was scorched.  Now I have to wait for six weeks which expires in the middle of August.  This is the period for two brood cycles to be absolutely sure that EFB is no longer present.  So I am keeping my fingers crossed.  In the meantime I have received a Standstill Notice which means that no bees or equipment can be moved from the site on penalty of a maximum fine of 5,000.   My bee disease insurance claim has been sent off and I am now waiting for the cheque to arrive.

I feel sorry for the beginners who now have to wait so long for their first bees.   But the good news is that the by using a quarantine apiary, the disease is contained and my main apiary at Buckleigh with fifteen full size colonies has been protected and is producing a healthy crop of bees and honey.

Chris Utting

"Sometimes The Bees Don’t Read The Same Books That We Do…"
Words of wisdom from Chris Utting for the dozen students on the September 03 Beekeeping for Beginners Course.

Thanks Chris! Well 18 months and some actual beekeeping later he wasn’t wrong!  Last year (our first) was by most if not all accounts the worst year on record.  This year has seen better prospects for a decent crop of honey but all manner of strange behaviour by the bees.  One of the problems experienced, it would seem by more than a few beekeepers, is colonies becoming aggressive for no discernable reason (presumably the bees know why…) I resolved the issue in one of my own colonies by re-queening but when one of Tony Wright’s colonies ‘turned’ we knew we had to act fast as it was located in the grounds of an Ilfracombe hotel and the people being stung were guests, not beekeepers!

News_8_2005_a.jpg (11914 bytes)The colony, which was on a brood and a half, had always been susceptible to the weather but was in a secluded corner away from people and we had leant to keep well away if a storm was in the air.  However when the swimming pool pump was turned on for the summer the bees emerged angrily and several of the bathers suffered stings.  Not good PR!  The following night, having enlisted the assistance of Michael Duncan, Tony attempted to move the hive at midnight (it had to be late as we were only just past the longest day).  In the pitch black the bees boiled out of the hive in their thousands, resisting any attempt to shut them in.   A hasty retreat was called for, together with reinforcements and Tony, Michael, Tony’s wife Joan and myself returned a day later in the light. News_8_2005_b.jpg (11937 bytes)

Swathed in double layers of clothing with so many gloves we could barely move our fingers and with any gaps wound around with gaffa tape - we did look a sight!    Even for a brood and a half there were a lot of bees; they had obviously thrived in their spot, even if they couldn’t stay there.  

First the hive was sealed, then screwed together with scraps of wood and moved down to the lawn.   So far so good but there were so many flying bees returning to the site that a travel box with a frame from the hive was set to catch the stragglers. Thank goodness for the extra clothing as I had dead bees hanging in dozens from my wrists News_8_2005_d.jpg (22845 bytes)and hands where they were trying to sting – smoking had absolutely no effect.  We then loaded the whole package into Michael’s trailer (nobody wanted them inside a car) and VERY VERY SLOWLY drove in convoy to one of Tony’s out apiaries on a farm a few miles away.  The rest was comparativelyNews_8_2005_c.jpg (12837 bytes) easy as we were able to drive right into the field which was their new home and move the whole hive onto a stand which had already be set up in preparation.

A successful operation in which none of us suffered a sting (it wasn’t for the bees not trying!) but a bitter-sweet one nonetheless as the colony itself had thrived at the hotel, had never swarmed (in fact hardly ever even produced queen cells) and even last year produced honey in saleable quantities.

We are closely monitoring this colony and will report on how successful was the relocation, not just for the beekeepers but for the bees themselves! Marnie Quy

Off On Their Hols!

Extracting some honey recently with a visitor from Yorkshire who was interested to hear more we explained that in order to make a pound of honey, a bee has to fly the equivalent of twice around the world. "Oh", she exclaimed! "I hadn’t realised they left the country…"
Tony Wright

Quiz Question for August: OK July’s answer was Virgil which was a bit dull! On a sweeter note for August, who said "Good friends are as sweet as honey".
Edited by Marnie Quy.     Email:     
All contributions welcome, copy by 19th of month for publication in following month’s newsletter.

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