As our Calendar year draws to a close this is a good time to do a little study to improve your beekeeping knowledge and practice. At our November meeting Jane Medway mentioned that a course is being organized to assist beekeepers who want to undertake the Basic Assessment in beekeeping.
If you are interested, please contact Sam Peckett who will give you more information. Doing the Assessment is a learning opportunity as your assessor will be prepared to talk to you about your beekeeping. If you read the November issue of BBKA news there is an amusing account of a Beekeeper taking the Basic Assessment.
Jane’s talk in November about uniting bees strayed into an interesting side issue when she spoke about why it was necessary to find means of gradually merging two colonies because each colony has its own unique colony odour. This odour is apparently produced through the gut bacteria of the bees in each individual hive. The gut bacteria is unique to that hive because the bees from different hives are foraging on different combinations of nectar and pollen, then these foraging bees transfer their forage to the house bees through trophallaxis, sharing some of their gut bacteria in the process. The bees cleaning the hive also imbibe and share some of the bacteria within the hive. In the process of grooming some of this odour is then spread over the exoskeleton of the bees, helping to produce this unique hive odour.
Gut bacteria is now seen as an important factor in human health with huge profits being made from the production and distribution of pro-biotics to encourage ‘good’ bacteria. Research into the role of individual’s differing gut bacteria in dealing with our obesity crisis is also underway.
So, it is not surprising that there is a current interest in the role of gut bacteria in the health of bees. The US Department of Agriculture has discovered that malnutrition in bees is related to habitat loss, climate change and the decrease in flowering plant diversity as well as monocrop agriculture. In addition, apparently microalgae are also important in honeybee diets and can be used instead of pollen substitutes, promoting more healthy gut bacteria!
I think we all know that, as with our good nutrition, it is variety and diversity that are key factors in promoting good gut bacteria and ultimately health. So make sure your bees have access to a variety of forage and think about planting sources of pollen and nectar for the Spring - there is still time. Crocuses, snowdrops and hellebores are all good, as are other Spring flowers like bluebells and trees like hazel and willow.
If you use poly or glass crown boards to overwinter - and they are useful when taking a quick peek to see where the cluster is during winter when you don’t want to break the propolis seal - be aware that condensation forms under glass/poly covers. The bees can use this moisture to dissolve crystalized stores, but too much can result in frames getting mouldy. The way to avoid this is to place insulation on top of the cover board. Make sure you cover the feed hole with something solid or the bees will chew away at the insulation - probably not very good for them.
Regards, and stay safe and well during this festive period and have an enjoyable Christmas and New Year,