The Newsletter of the North Devon Branch of the
British Beekeepers Association
It is a little bit strange to think that after all the events over the season, the busy
times with the bees, the tremendous interaction and cooperation between our large
bunch of beekeepers, the fun and the wrangling, the learning and the mistakes, the summer
is over and that's about it folks.
Well, not quite. Your Apiary manager will no doubt bring you up to date with the
state of the colonies, and the last few jobs to be done before we settle the bees down for
the winter. Meanwhile, our Tuesday afternoons will continue as usual. It is said
that the autumn is when the beekeepers' year begins, any time and effort put into
preparation for the next season will be well rewarded.
Our series of winter meetings at the Castle Centre has begun. It was great to see
such a large and enthusiastic gathering for Alicia Normand's Talk on Wax
Handling. Evening classes for beginners will be starting towards the end of
September, and another generation of students will be under way to strengthen our Branch
even further. So go for it friends, select the bee books you are
going to read this winter, come to all the meetings, enjoy the scene.
And don't forget to send me your entries for our Honey Show as soon as you can!
|From the Apiary:
Beekeeping year is now drawing to a close with all section leaders testing for diseases,
treating these and the ever present mites, and ensuring the colonies are adequately
provisioned and prepared for the winter. We hope that springtime finds us with hives that
are bursting with bees ready to take advantage of any early
Whilst the bees may be resting we, the team will be busier than
ever. We will be using this time gainfully to repair, refurbish and make new equipment.
Hopefully we can get the proposed shop up and running ready for the new season so that
members will no longer have to travel for, or pay delivery on consumables, hive parts,
tools, protective clothing or wax.
|May I, on behalf of this (and last) years students, offer a big vote of
thanks to Chris Utting for his devotion to teaching the skills of beekeeping to all
who attend his courses at Barnstaple college. For his hands on sessions at
Horestone, and more recently for organising and running the one day revision course for
members taking their basic examinations. I think the fact that all six people got through
speaks for itself, (thankfully I did the course on skep making).
Further, on behalf of
all members of the branch can I say thanks to Chris for all the work he put in behind the
scenes collecting, hiving, medicating, feeding, re-queening, and delivering the swarms to
members who will now, thanks to him, have bees to look after next year. Not to mention the
extra revenue generated for the branch.
Chris, taking a sample of bees for the
microscopist to examine.
|Hive Repair &
Sunday September 4th saw me rushing up the M5 for my
first visit to the Horestone Apiary. I do my beekeeping in Somerset but am also a
member of North Devon and jumped at the chance to take part in the hive repairing course.
It all started a few months ago when I was preparing to start on my third beekeeping
career, determined this time not to have a ramshackle collection of assorted, ill fitting
hive parts, I bought new but in the flat. Surely, even for me, it could not be that
difficult to put a few boxes together? I had very cleverly tracked down some
Belarusian hive parts at a fraction of the price of the main suppliers and was eager to
put them together. Having struggled through various floors and roofs, assembling,
taking apart, starting again, ending up with a product that looked well, decidedly
ramshackle, I started on a brood box. The most important bit I thought - got to get
this right. Well without any instructions at all, I did dry run after dry run,
getting more and more anxious about how I was going to get this thing together with enough
precision, the correct bee space and sufficient love and care to house my beloved bees,
and in the time I had available. Well the simple answer was that I couldnt.
Practically in tears I abandoned the project, called a supplier and ordered made up
boxes, next day delivery so much for my clever ideas. Then while struggling
away with warped wax sheets, and fancy frame pin gadgets, I thought, "there has got
to be an easier way and a course to give some tips for all this stuff would really be very
So there we are rushing up to Horestone having called
to book for the course as soon as it was announced, thinking that people like me would be
fighting each other to get on it. Well as it happened, there was only me and Chris
Utting man enough to admit that we are not man enough in the hammer wielding
department to do without a few pointers, but we were joined by a lovely bevy of ladies,
most of whom seemed to be called Flower. Although as I was referred to by
that name as well maybe it is a North Devon term for apprentice carpenter or novice
beekeeper. Perhaps when you have a bit more experience you can call yourself a
shrub? Anyway it was a very jolly bunch, keen to expose Chris Uttings
hammer technique (although he acquitted himself with style) and hanging on teacher Tony
Wrights every word.(and his assistant Chris Tozer). It really
was a lovely situation in which to learn and I was, of course, hugely impressed by the
whole set up there and the vibrant activity of North Devon Beekeepers.
We ran through the assembly of brood boxes and supers all being
encouraged to knock in a nail here and there. We fitted in a roof or two, and each made
our own frame feeder which we got to take home with us just like play school. Tony
even found time for a private frame assembly master class for me and a few thorny repair
problems which people had brought in, including my Belarusian brood box! Well I was
very relieved to discover that it was quite a struggle even for Tony, he assembled and
reassembled, knocked and sawed and eventually succeeded, he was true to his word when he
said I wont be beaten!
Here is a hopelessly incomplete list of Tonys Top Tips - at least the ones
that are simple enough for me to explain!
1. Get a short handled hammer as it gives you more control over its head and more
chance of hitting the nail straight.
2. Rub the head of the hammer with sand paper to help it stick to the nail.
3. Put the nails in diagonally and pointing inwards to give them greater purchase.
4. Nail sidebars from the inside.
5. Use a marking gauge to mark the space at the top of the brood box/super and use an
assembled frame to check you are getting it right.
6. Only worry about making boxes square once you have glued and nailed them together.
Measure diagonally across the top of the box to check that it is square - the
distance should be the same both ways (does not matter what the distance is as long as it
is the same) Then check this with a queen excluder, which you know is square
because it has been machine produced. If the box is not square push a little on one side
until it is.
7. Use galvanised nails and Fast Grab Waterproof Glue (soon to be available through the
association) and use surgical gloves whenusing it.
8. When assembling frames; assemble everything first, put in the wax sheet and only
then the nails. That way you know it is square, dont get warped wax sheets and can
work up to Tonys rate of sixty frames an hour. But only if you throw out your pin
pusher (Rampin) and your very expensive electric frame nailing gun that is supposed to
"make frame assembly a pleasure", and use your short handled hammer.
A few more things I learned: Belarusian brood boxes, not such a good idea. Years of
telling people to use surgical gloves when gluing but not doing it yourself will result in
your hands turning into concrete and you being able to throw out all your hammers and just
use your hands like Tony! Making copious notes on a course is tantamount to volunteering
to write a report for the newsletter I wondered why I was the only one!
It was a great day. Whens part two?
|Beeswax by Alicia
There was a very large turnout to see Alicia
explain some of her secrets in the craft of handling wax. She explained methods to
select and clean the best wax from cappings and how the darker wax containing propolis
from the brood frames can be used as dyed wax. Methods of filtering were
demonstrated using recycled tins and different filter materials. How to prepare and
clean the Pyrex bowl mould and release the set block utilising a hair dryer, Fairy liquid
and a freezer. The production of dipped or moulded candles and the different wicks
to use to avoid runs. How to make quality soap using lye or furniture polish
and when to use furniture cream were explained. The fascinating world of cosmetics and the
blending of various oils were discussed. There were many questions from the
|Apimondia in Dublin by
Kevin Stach and Chris Utting:
Our next event in the winter program is an illustrated
talk of the adventures and experiences of Kevin and Chris together with the 2,000
delegates (and a few more from North Devon) that attended the world beekeeping conference.
The Castle Centre on Tuesday 18th October at 7.30 p.m. Bring and share some
food. Be there!
Donated draw prizes are appreciated.
|Rosemoor Bees & Honey
Following hard on the heels of Rosemoor Family Weekend was their Plant
Centres' Bees & Honey Weekend (13/14 Aug) when the shop was rearranged to form a
lecture room with associated displays of honey and honey based products including samples
On Saturday Fred Rice from Tiverton Branch gave two
entertaining talks featuring the medicinal properties of honey and life within the
hive whilst literally spoon feeding pollen to the audience!! Sunday saw our
Branch Member Catherine Norman giving two informative talks on bees and other pollinating
insects illustrated by a wide variety of flowering plants and convincing her audience that
wasps aren't that bad after all. Needless to say the audiences were also subjected
to a handful of micro-slides.
|Buckfast Bee Day Saturday
29th October 10.00 to 4.30:
Due to popular demand Chris has organised a 24
seater coach to leave Gratton Way (the road by Sainsburys entrance) at 8.00 to pick up
along the A377. The tickets are £9.00 and we need a few to fill the coach - first
come first served.
Phone Chris Utting on 01237 474 500 to reserve your seat.
|Shop till You Drop:
North Devon Branch are about to break new ground and provide
members with a great shopping facility where they can buy beekeeping
consumables, hive parts, clothing, tools and much more without having to wait for
mail order and pay for postage or travel half way across the county to do it. We
have a manager, premises and will, with luck, be open for business from 1st
November. We hope to have a stock & price list available to be sent out
with the next newsletter but in the meantime if anyone has any special requests then
please call Tony Wright on 01271 865516. Watch this space.
|Branch Honey Show:
forget the branch honey show is now only a month away. We need as many entries as possible
to give those judges something to do!! There are honey classes for novices &
experienced beekeepers alike. Even if you cant spare any of your precious honey
stocks there are also the cookery and artistic classes and this year we have an exhibition
only class for those members who feel they dont like to compete. So there is no
excuse! Please dont leave it until the last minute to enter as it causes a major
headache for those of us that have to do the administration!
Click here for a look at the show
|Quiz Question for
October: Honey & Mead were known as what to the gods of Olympus?
answer was A Midsummer Nights Dream.
|Edited by Marnie Quy.
All contributions welcome, copy by 19th of month for publication in following