Dear Members,

When I received the email from Jane Nimmo advertising Steve Martin’s talk on varroa, my first thought was “Oh no, not more about varroa, I know everything I need to know about this horrid little pest”.

How wrong could I be? Steve did not disappoint and I would recommend those who did not attend to take advantage of listening to this talk on the WBKA website.  

I always find I learn something new when listening to experienced beekeepers or researchers.  From Steve’s lecture I learnt that, along with all the other positive characteristics that we look to encourage in the bees we keep, like docility and productivity, it is the queen who is the key to the hygienic behaviour which leads to the bees being able to detect the odour of varroa in the sealed brood cells.

So we need to be identifying those colonies and breeding from those queens. We can only do that by closely monitoring our colonies and not just treating all colonies the same each year with our preferred varroa treatment. Of course, if a colony is heavily infested with varroa we need to treat, or manage the varroa load mechanically, or the colony will die, but to do that we need to know and understand what we are dealing with.

Our last Rugby Association meeting was held on Zoom, and Bob Smith, a very experienced and knowledgeable beekeeper gave an excellent talk on why, and how, to prepare our bees for winter and the next season. He in fact starts his new hive records after he removes his honey at the end of July and then in September records their preparedness for winter, measured against 5 factors: 

1. Queen - is she this year, or last years model?

2. Are the bees healthy - any evidence of Nosema, DWV, chalkbrood, sacbrood, bald brood etc?

3. Are there enough bees to get through the winter i.e. is the colony strong?

4. Are there adequate stores to get though the next 6 months ?

5. How well are they protected from pests - mice, woodpeckers , other mammals, including humans.

Once again this was an excellent talk and I was a little disappointed that it was not better attended given most of us have access to Zoom and didn’t need to venture away from our cosy homes. It is always useful to be reminded of the basics as this helps to cement the necessary information a bit more firmly in all our unreliable memories.

Do see the topic for November’s meeting at Sacred Heart Church Hall - David Bonner is a good speaker and will ensure an interesting evening and you will get a cup of tea or coffee and a biscuit, and have the chance to chat about bees, so do come along. 

Apparently this year Warwickshire’s Honey show was well attended, unfortunately Rugby was not very well represented in the Honey and Mead categories, but both Steve Brown and Maurice West from Rugby received prizes for beekeeping equipment and one of Rugby’s novice honey entries from Steve Hatcher was very highly commended! So well done these three and perhaps next year more people can be encouraged to enter. Preparing and entering honey for shows like this is good experience for producing a quality product, which hopefully we all want to provide to the public.

Regards, and stay safe and well.

Margaret Holdsworth  

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