Dear Members,

In beekeeping circles June is often referred to as the ’June Gap’. The gap referred to relates to the relative absence of forage at this time of the year as the Spring blossom and tree nectar and pollen has largely come to an end. 

For beekeepers, this means that with our hives fast approaching a maximum number of bees, a drop in availability of nectar, combined with the fact that we may have removed some of their reserves for extraction, we need to be especially vigilant when doing routine inspections, to ensure that there are sufficient stores to enable the bees to continue to feed their young, themselves and the queen. Finding combs with bees head down in the cells because they are starving, is not a pretty sight.

This Spring has been one of the sunniest and driest on record which has been good news for the bees as they have been able to be out and about foraging almost every day in April and May. The downside is that when there is no rain, nectar can be withheld by plants conserving their own liquid levels, the upside is that nectar which is produced is often higher in sugar levels, thus making every nectar trip more worthwhile for the bees.

Those of us with our hives in urban areas may find little evidence of the June Gap as gardens planted with a variety of flowers can fill the space, also most of us are still able to water plants (until a hosepipe ban is instituted!), but those whose hives are in rural areas may find the June Gap more of an issue. However, it does seem that more wildflower meadows are around, and currently fields of buttercups are a delight to the eye, and hopefully the bees.

With lockdown and social distancing many of us have become familiar with using social media to keep in touch and in May the Association held its first Zoom meeting on our regular third Wednesday of the month. Feedback from participants seemed to be positive and topics ranging from swarm prevention to storing supers to avoid them becoming mouldy or infested with wax moths were covered. It was great to see some of our newer beekeepers and even prospective beekeepers participating, and as a result I think one of the new beekeepers was later provided with a swarm to start beekeeping. If you can, please join us for another Zoom meeting on the third Wednesday of this month, either posing any questions you may have or just participating in the conversation.

One of our beekeepers in Brinklow, Tim Riggs, sent me a link to an online meeting of his sister’s beekeeping group in North Carolina, USA where a beekeeper and researcher, Anya McGuirk, was giving a lecture on her findings recording both temperature and bee sounds within the hive. Did you know that within 20 minutes of being made queenless bees will themselves start ‘piping’ at the same frequency that queens do when searching out a rival? Sound, as has been known for some time, can also indicate queenlessness, with the sound frequency going up when queenless, and returning to a steady hum when requeened.

Also, measuring hive temperatures gave a clue to why one hive was doing poorly in an apiary when another was thriving - robbing. The temperature in the poorly performing hive dropped at the same time as it rose in the strong hive. Perhaps this happens more frequently than we realize. Also, bees do seem to ‘sleep’ between about midnight and 6.00am….

If you are interested, this is the link  and look for the April meeting. It is quite long but contains some fascinating information. We know comparatively little about bees and this adds to our knowledge.

Despite requests, the only contribution I have had from anyone to liven up this newsletter has been from Maurice with this latest limerick:
A beekeeper who lives up in Settle,
Kept bees' in some hives made of metal;
He kept several stocks,
Near the canal by the locks,
But the only forage was nettle.

The treasurer of Rugby called Sam,
Moved hives to her apiary in a pram;
The bees' worked all night,
With head torches for light,
So Sam could have honey not jam.

I am sure some of you must have stories to tell, or want to challenge Maurice’s mastery of the limerick. Please don’t be shy, send me your contributions.

Regards,
Margaret Holdsworth


BeeBase

Beebase News Web feed
  • COVID-19 and Beekeeping update
    11 January 2021
    This is a re-issue of the guidance provided in October 2020:

    Please find the latest Covid-19 beekeeping guidance. The update includes separate links to the current Public Health Guidance for England, Wales and Scotland.

    Covid-19_and_Beekeeping_Update_v3

    COVID-19_and_Beekeeping_-_Welsh_Language_Version v3

    If you have any queries please contact:

    For England: BeeHealth.Info@defra.gov.uk
    For Wales: HoneyBeeHealth@gov.wales / GwenynMelIach@llyw.cymru
    For Scotland: Bees_Mailbox@gov.scot
  • Starvation and Varroa Alert
    04 December 2020
    Observations from beekeepers and Bee Inspectors across the UK suggest that some colonies of bees are becoming short of food.

    Please monitor your colonies throughout the coming months and feed as required to ensure your bees do not starve. A standard full size British National colony needs between 20-25 kg of stores to successfully overwinter. If they need feeding at this time then fondant should be used. This should be placed above the brood nest so that the bees are able to access it easily.

    For further information, please see the ‘Best Practice Guidance No. 7 - Feeding Bees Sugar’ on the following BeeBase Page: http://www.nationalbeeunit.com/index.cfm?pageid=167

    It has also been observed that Varroa levels in some hives are starting to increase again. This may be due to a number of factors, but the exceptionally mild weather this autumn has encouraged some colonies to produce more brood than usual which has allowed an increase in mite reproduction.

    Please monitor mite levels and treat accordingly.

    For further information, please see the’ Managing Varroa’ Advisory leaflet on the following BeeBase Page: http://www.nationalbeeunit.com/index.cfm?pageid=167
  • Julian Parker – Head of APHA’s National Bee Unit.
    23 November 2020
    Following a recent recruitment process Julian Parker has been appointed as Head of the National Bee Unit (NBU) within Defra’s Animal and Plant Health Agency. Within the NBU Julian has previously been Acting Head as well as National Bee Inspector and before that Regional Bee Inspector for Southern and South East Regions. Julian has over 12 years operational experience with the NBU including leading outbreak situations. Julian is also well known in the wider beekeeping community and his expertise is highly respected across Defra and Welsh Government as well as with Bee Health stakeholders. He has also played a key role in the review of the 2020 Healthy Bees Plan and will now play a significant role in delivering the Healthy Bee Plan 2030. Many congratulations Julian.