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Northern Lights

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


Chairman's Notes:

Wonderful weather for honeybees and their keepers, long may it last.  However, now is the time to plan your action for the autumn season.  The plague of wasps we usually get in August has not shown itself so far.  If there are wasps around, check over your hives for even the smallest gap or crack where wasps could enter.  Reduce your entrances, and don't leave any feed - honey or syrup - around.  Beeswax too should never be out and available to bees. Prepare your supers with the bee escapes if you are taking off sealed honey, and remove the boxes as late in the day as possible. Give the robbers absolutely no encouragement.

The best feed for the winter is a super of the colony's own honey. If you can't manage this ideal, a colony will need about 35 lb of full strength syrup, or a mixture of the two, but you don't need to feed yet.  If there is a young queen from earlier this year, plenty of young bees, and room enough for the queen to keep laying, they should over-winter well.  Think about a brood and a half, that is, remove the queen excluder from between the brood box and the super of honey or syrup when the weather turns colder.    Have your Varroa treatment at hand to administer when the time comes.   There's loads more to consider, but it amounts to a sizeable book. 

Thanks to those who bought a bag of my Honey Fudge at the various events we have had recently, I now have enough money for the new Branch honey labels, and I hope to have some samples to show soon.

Notice that our Honey Show Schedule is enclosed with this month's Newsletter.  A big thank you is due to Kevin Tricker for the illustrations, gleaned from many sources. This early publication (don't lose it) is to allow all the members to consider which classes to enter, and maybe practice a few of the recipes, or the wax candles etc.  Alicia Normand will be giving a Wax Handling demonstration on 14th September, which marks the beginning of our winter program of talks at the Castle Centre.  Don't miss it.   Beryl

From The Apiary:

As managers, it is rewarding to see all groups happy with their achievements to date. Our teachers will soon be deciding what medicaments we will use to combat the dreaded Varroa and when we will use them.  We can then concentrate on feeding and preparing all colonies for the winter.  After that, the small matter of equipment repair and replacement along with the regular maintenance and repair of buildings etc etc.

Sue and Tony

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Kay, George & Peter at Apiary

Kay, George & Peter hard at work.

An Alternative View:

Those (like me) who have had problems with queenlessness this year & have blamed it on the weather or birds taking queens whilst mating, may be interested to read an alternative viewpoint by Roger Patterson. Those of you with internet access can go to the BBKA website and follow the links for news or to go straight to the article, click here

I am in communication with Roger and will give a more in depth view of his article next month for those without access to the net. Alternatively there is a copy at Horestone Apiary.

Select Few Required!!

Are you dissatisfied with the beekeeping tools of the trade? Do you think you could do better? I am looking for a few like minded people to join me in a new group to look at innovation in beekeeping products. You'll need to have some ideas and at least some of the skills to put those ideas into practice - between us we should have all the skills that we need to look at new products and to improve on existing equipment. Initial projects that have been suggested are a changed design for a bee-suit, an uncapper and the smoker.

Anyone interested to talk more should contact Kevin Stach either by Email: or by writing to me.  Can I also suggest that you have a look at 'Beekeeping Equipment (caveat emptor)' by J.D. Yates.   It can be obtained through Northern Bee Books.

Kevin Stach

New Branch Logo:North Devon Branch Logo

You may have noticed the new branch logo as voted for by the members from a selection presented a few months ago.  The new logo was designed by Chris Utting and his explanation of the design is as follows:

"Firstly the location of the name of the branch indicates North Devon area if the DBKA logo represents the area and shape of the county. Secondly the logo is combined with the DBKA logo so that a separate DBKA logo is not necessary."

A Motoring Icon for sale:

W Beetle 1303 saloon PBE 524M in Senegal Red with black interior. Sound and complete but ready for renovation, reupholstering and a respray. Off-road and stored in a dry garage for the last 2 years, battery charged and engine turned regularly. Must go to a good home; offers invited.

The harvest safely gathered in ……………but what about my back!!

When I first planned my out-apiary at Blagdon Manor, it was early Spring and the grass was ankle high. Consequently, I made what I thought at the time was a sensible decision to site the colonies up the top of the field, tucked into the corner of 2 hedgerows and well away from the road. So it was some 60 yards from the gate into the field and my parked car – so what?

I now know better. It is high summer and time to harvest two full supers of honey. This year, the owners had not had the field cut and the grass and assorted weeds, brambles, ferns etc. are now waist high or even higher. I had, the previous day, fitted the excluder board and the bees have virtually all left the supers. The weather is warm and sunny, the bees are well behaved. Wonderful!! All is proceeding to plan.

Being a lazy sort, I contemplate carrying both supers together to the car to save two journeys, but wisely decide that they are just a wee bit too heavy. So, I start off across the field with just one super clutched to my manly chest.

20 yards on and I realise that I have made a mistake – or more like two. I have kept on my bee suit, as well as my glasses. With my exertions to plough through the assorted foliage and the cloying insulation of the bee suit, my glasses are steaming up, and I cannot clearly see where I am going.

Brambles and weeds snag at my feet, causing me to stumble and adopt a sort of high stepping motion which brings to mind images of the horses of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna– must look really funny to any onlooker - hope there aren’t any! I have lost my original path through the grass, so I am traversing virgin "jungle".

40 yards and my arms are starting to burn with the weight and my back is aching. Progress is slow as my superheated body is producing clouds of vapour and further restricting my visibility. Do I stop and rest – but where? I resolve to carry on. Stumble, stumble, I finally reach the gate – to find my third mistake. I have conscientiously shut it, and there is no way I can open it - a brief attempt to "juggle" the super with one hand nearly results in disaster. I accept the inevitable, deposit it on the ground, open the gate, strain yet more muscles lifting a now grass-strewn super back to chest level, and finally reach the car. Lap one completed. I cannot believe how much effort that took. A brief rest is in order.

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Kevin on his Mk1 "Super-Trooper, bringing in the honey crop. It even cuts grass as well.   Unfortunately, it cannot be used at the Blagdon Manor out-apiary !

A return to the colony and I decide to ditch the suit….and glasses. Being stung has to be preferable to boiling alive. The second trip starts out better, with visibility much improved, but fatigue sets in much earlier, the back is protesting more, and my legs are reluctant to step as high.  Result - more stumbles, slower progress and more pain!!  I (and the super) finally make it back to the car, but my personal fuel tank is nearly empty – and I still have to go back a third time to replace the roof and collect my assorted bee gear.  Thank goodness I only took off two of the three supers.

At harvest time, beekeeping is a young man’s game – always remember to take one with you.  If you prefer the fairer sex, then a number of Russian shot putters spring to mind!

Kevin Tricker

100+ Club News:
Numbers spacer_lge.gif (821 bytes) Winners
80 Tony Smailes Month 20 Free Ticket
81 Mary Wilson April Chris Canham Rashid Maxwell
82 Kay Thomas May Beryl Smailes Mike Canham
83 Thea Stach June Tony Smailes Rashid Maxwell
84 Mary Wilson July Mike Canham Kevin Stach
85 Mary Wilson August Judith Westacott Thea Stach
What We Have Been Doing With The Money:

What Next?

What next is that we need more members so that we can get to the full draw. Another 15 members means that we have the 100 we need. And we also need to raise more money to complete the work begun in the apiary -. So please dig deep – buy a membership for yourself or as a gift and encourage your friends to do the same. Only 12 for a whole year’s membership which gives a better chance of winning than the lottery and adds to apiary funds at the same time. For a membership form contact Kevin Stach on 01237 478631 or email:

Honey processing shed

The middle shed at the apiary has been transformed! New flooring and dairy-board cladding on the walls means that we now have a hygienic area to process honey for sale.

Basic Beekeeping Course:

There are still a few places left on this course for complete beginners. It is held at the North Devon College at Sticklepath Hill, Barnstaple starting on Wednesday 28th September 7.00 to 9.00 pm.  It consists of at least 36 hours of instruction with six evenings in the Autumn term followed by six evenings in the Spring term and then six afternoons of practical instruction at Horestone Apiary.  The course follows the syllabus of the BBKA Basic Certificate in Apiculture. Learn about manipulation of a colony, what to do and not to do, natural history of the honeybee, equipment, bee diseases and pests and how to deal with them.  Course fee 110.
Enroll with Kimberley Palmer, Customer Services Manager, at the College on 01271 338029         

Chris and Beryl

Help Required

by the editor! Let me know what you want to see in your newsletter.   I would appreciate any input by members. Contact details at end of newsletter. Marnie

Rosemore Family Day:

What a lovely day (Sunday), the weather was ‘perfick’.

Our stand was up and ready quite early (well 9.30 is early on a Sunday morning), there were very few visitors until about 11.30 then a steady flow for the rest of the day.    The Solar Wax Extractor made by Luke Baker drew a great deal of attention. Tony found out that the temperature inside was very hot (he tested it with his fingerRosemoor Family Day).

Younger visitors showed a lot of interest, and had great fun Queen Bee spotting; the varroa slide also got their attention. Our future beekeepers!   

Everyone was fascinated by Brian’s information on Bumble Bees; thanks to him we now know a great deal more about them.  
A number of ex-beekeepers came to the stand and got an update on the present situation, some were even thinking of starting again.

The day was well worth the effort we all put in.

David & Jean Morris

North Devon Show:North Devon Show

All our plans fell neatly into place.  The tickets and car passes were handed out.  There was a little honey to sell.  The leaflets were ready.   The drapes, flowers and foliage were on hand.  Just the bees to be put into the observation hives and we were nearly ready.  So Tuesday evening was just a matter of getting the tables laid out and the observation hive in place. 

After an early night we were up with the lark and all met at 8.30 to finish the stall preparation.  A few left it a little late and paid the price of joining the traffic queues for longer than they wanted.   Just after 9.00 all was ready and the public were starting to pour into the show ground in their thousands - and at 9.00 a time!   It was easy to get lost as the Show appeared much bigger than last year and there was so much going on and lots to see.

But the public were so interested in our little stall.   They were fascinated by the 'Pick a Larvae' run by Brian Marchant that included a simple biology lesson for the children and a bit more on Varroa for the grown ups.  Luke Baker was on hand to explain his new design of a solar wax extractor.   The observation hives and the posing queens were a fascination to everybody.  The children who spotted the queen were given a sticker  'I Saw The Queen' as a reward.   By mid afternoon we had nearly sold out of everything and our shelves were nearly bare except for a few wax blocks!
Chris U

Winter Program For Your Diary:

September 14th Wednesday Talk by Alicia Normand on "Beeswax". Alicia lives in Teignmouth and will bring lots of examples of cleaning wax, making moulds, candles etc.

October 18th Tuesday Talk by Chris Utting "Apimondia in Dublin".

November 26th Saturday 6.30 p.m. Branch AGM followed by a talk by Dr. Dhafer Benham on "Bagdad Beekeeping"

December 10th Saturday Skittle Evening at The Plough Inn, Bickington
January 27th Friday Talk by Brian Marchant on "Pollen" or "Bumblebees"

February 17th Friday Talk by Malcolm Blake from Somerset "The Answer Lies in the Comb" about frame management

March 17th Friday Talk by Kay Thomas on  "Floral Biology"

April 14th Friday Talk by David Charles "Going to the Heather"

Our meetings will be held at The Castle Centre, Castle Street, Barnstaple unless otherwise described.  Raffles are to be held most evenings to help cover the costs with prizes donated by members.  Members will be invited to bring and share food.  More details on each talk nearer the time.

The first meeting will be September 14th Wednesday starting at 7.30 p.m. at The Castle Centre, Castle Street, Barnstaple. A Demonstration and Talk by Alicia Normand on"Beeswax".
Alicia is a member of Newton Abbot Branch and has won many show prizes for her beeswax candles including the National Honey Show. She is traveling all the way from Teignmouth and will bring lots of examples of her work. She will demonstrate how to clean wax, use moulds, prepare wicks, make candles etc.   Please bring and share supper and also some draw prizes.

Me And EFB - The Sequel:

Last month I told my sad story of the disease in the quarantine apiary. Now time has moved on.  My Bee Disease Insurance claim covered the brood and super frames and honey from two large colonies that had to be destroyed by burning and amounted to 140. The cheque arrived only eleven days after I sent in the claim. 

I then had to wait six weeks before the Standstill Notice could be lifted.  In the meantime the two colonies that had the EFB had a Shook Swarm and as a result both developed and filled the new foundation very quickly with nectar and the queens soon started to lay brood.  Soon they both had a super of honey. I checked all the nucs and colonies and they looked healthy but the nucs were growing fast. Soon the nuc boxes were too small and the bees had to be put into National brood boxes.  Exactly six weeks after the EFB was found I asked Peter Auger to carry out his revisit.  All were cleared!  The Nucs (now colonies) were distributed to the patient beginners.   This was the best and most satisfying part as they were so excited to get their first honeybees and to be told; "Now you are a beekeeper!"

Chris Utting

Special Offer!

Many of our members will recall the Reverend Capener, who was one of the Honey Judges at this year's DBKA Honey Show at the Devon County Show last May. This learned gentleman is also the Hon General Secretary of the National Honey Show, which will take place 20th - 22nd October at the RAF Museum, Hendon, where there is free car parking. His committee offer free admission to the NHS to all those who have joined the Association during 2005. To take advantage of this, all you have to do is contact Branch Secretary Mike Canham, give him your name as intending to go to the Show, and the list will be on the reception desk when you arrive.   In addition, all first time exhibitors and those who have not exhibited within the last ten years will not be required to pay any entry fees FOR THE FIRST FOUR CLASSES entered in this year's Show.

There is a list of inexpensive overnight accommodation situated near the museum - the museum itself is absolutely fascinating. Let me tell you that just to see the standard of presentation of exhibits at this show is worth making the journey.  Lectures are going on throughout the show.  Come on North Devon, broaden your horizons!

Maybe organise a mini bus for a day trip - say on the Friday!     


Presentation Of Exhibits:

Talking about Presentation:  Within the North Devon Branch, we have a few very competent exhibitors.  We are very proud of these members, and can only wonder at the perfection of their preparation.  On Sunday, 2nd October, at 2.00pm, Jack Mummery has agreed to give a Talk on Presentation of Exhibits.  There will be ample opportunity for discussion, for asking your questions and finding out just what lifts an ordinary jar of honey, or a block of wax, into the super grade.  The talk will take place at Horestone Apiary.  Be there.  Tea as usual.       Beryl

New Leaflets From The National Bee Unit:

Hot off the press are two new leaflets from NBU. The old edition of 'Managing Varroa' was published in 1996 and consisted of sixteen pages. The latest edition with the same title now has forty-four pages stuffed with all the latest information on IPM etc.  Another parasitic mite of honeybees is approaching the UK from Asia and a sixteen page leaflet on 'Tropilaelaps' has been published. Don't be downhearted as this is a mite which is a lot easier to control than Varroa. Its weakness is that it cannot survive outside sealed brood for more than a few days.  This can be exploited by the beekeeper.  The problem is that together with an A4 envelope these leaflets weigh about 278g.   If you would like a set send an addressed envelope with a 71p stamp to Chris Utting, Alternatively, you can pick them up at Horestone apiary on a Tuesday afternoon.

Bad Bees!

Last month I reported on a particularly aggressive colony and the measures taken to remove it to a place of safety. Several beekeepers have asked both Tony and myself why we didn't just destroy the colony? The answer is that other than the aggression which we had learnt to predict & live with, it was a particularly good colony. Lots of bees, lots of honey (2 crops per year - even last year) and never showed any inclination towards swarming - not even a single queen cell. Given all that it was decided to give them a second chance which we did by relocating them to a field on a farm with access only to beekeepers and a few sheep behind the hedge!

Two days after the move the bees were still strongly aggressive – stinging and following quite some distance. It was decided that more drastic measures were required and on a fine day a few days later the queen was removed to a
nuc with 3 frames of brood. A close watch was kept on the original colony which responded by clustering underneath the hive and producing wild comb.

Six weeks later the colony has settled down, has re-queened itself, the queen mated and is now laying what looks like good brood.  The hyper defensive behaviour is no longer a feature; they didn't get tetchy even when we took off two supers of honey. Incidentally the old queen is going great guns in the nuc and guess what - no defensive or following behaviour either!

They still have to make it through the winter but so far - all's well that ends well! What will be interesting next year is a comparison of the honey crop….to be continued!

Marnie Quy

The BBKA Basic Assessment:Basic Assesment

With the able support of Chris and Beryl, on the 15th August, 6 members of the Branch recently took the BBKA Basic Assessment at the Horestone Apiary. They had also attended a revision day the previous week at which Chris ran through the syllabus, ably assisted by Beryl and Peter Auger, and had tried to answer the varying questions posed by the students – including some completely unrelated to the assessment !

Anyway, results are not yet known but we are quietly confident that we will have all passed with flying colours.

As ever, our heartfelt thanks must go to Beryl, Peter and particularly Chris for organising for the necessary inspection hives to be available, arranging for the attendance of 2 assessors, providing hospitality for all who attended the sessions, running the refresher day with all its associated handouts and, finally, coping with the stressed examinees after their individual "inquisitions". You gave us every chance to succeed chaps. Any failure is down to us !

The Students

Quiz Question for September:

In which Shakespeare play would you find the following verse:

"The honey-bags steel from the humble bees,
And for night tapers crop their waxen thighs,
And light them at the fiery glow-worm's eyes,"

The answer to last month’s question was that famous honey addict, Winnie The Pooh!

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

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