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December 2016 BBKA News highlights

By December you will have done all you can to ensure that your bees get off to a good start next year, so your ‘beekeeper duties’ now are really centred around ‘checking’.  As Julian Routh says on page 411, you will need to check the stores by hefting, check the mouseguards, badger and woodpecker protection are still in place, check the hives after stormy weather and keep the areas around your hives clean and tidy, so that tree branches do not break off and fall onto the hives. Julian Routh, who has done a fabulous job this year, helping us all to plan ahead, encouraging us to improve our beekeeping and reminding us of the ‘jobs’ we need to attend to both inside and outside the apiary each month, is now ‘passing the baton’ to Bridget Beattie for 2017. We wish to thank Julian for his efforts and welcome Bridget to the team. I am sure she will keep us all ‘on track’ next year.

On page 414, we start a new mini-series by Graham Royle, who discusses how to optimise your beekeeping equipment and gadgets so you get the best from them. Graham has a wealth of experience and has tried and tested many ways of adapting equipment so that he, as he puts it, has ‘evolved’ ways of working his bees with equipment that works for him. He uses National hives and, in his article, he shares his methods of adapting them to help him better manage swarm preparations and to mitigate burr comb production.  Whether you use a National hive or another type, you are likely to find some food for thought here. And for those who are following Don Honey’s WBC column, he imparts more tips for the WBC enthusiasts on page 436.

Tony Harris continues his series on all things bees with a fascinating article about bumblebees on page 419. He describes various native UK species, and contrasts their lifestyles to those of honey bees, so you will be able to spot local bumblebees in your allotments or while out on your walks next year. Also, this issue, the lovely Rowland Molony gives us an update on his news from his clifftop apiary on page 417; it seems to have been a busy year for Rowland his amusing anecdotes are sure to make you smile. Similarly, on  page 423, John Whitaker, who has moved house this year relates how he faced the reality of 24 years of accumulated beekeeping paraphernalia, which I am sure will raise a chuckle or two - even if poor John did not necessarily see the funny side of it earlier this year. Moving house is one of those ‘significant life changing’ moments, as is getting married. So when beekeeper Claire and Alex decided to tie the knot, she asked Canon apiarist, Adrian Rhodes, to conduct their ceremony in the local apiary. Well you would … wouldn’t you? As you can read on page 427, the ‘bee-themed’ wedding was a unique and wonderful occasion. Possible inspiration for anyone getting married in 2017? 

Ken Basterfield, on page 421, outlines a new initiative, aimed at providing support for training candidates at the level of the General Husbandry Assessment, which is funded through Defra’s Healthy Bees Plan and led by the BBKA’s Education and Husbandry Committee. If you have been keeping bees for at least five years, have taken your Basic and are interested in preparing to take the General Husbandry Assessment, this initiative might be for you. Continuing this theme of beekeeper education, Giles Budge and Kirsty Stainton, from the National Bee Unit, describe features of chronic bee paralysis on page 425. They detail the history and biology of this unpleasant condition, which can be confused with other bee afflictions, so do take a look at this article and familiarise yourself with the key symptoms, because it appears to be increasing in prevalence.  

With bee pests and diseases in mind, what are your feelings about treating your bees for varroa infestations? Does treating varroa have any effect on winter losses? Clive and Shân Hudson asked this very question of beekeepers in Wales over the past five years or so, and they present their survey findings on page 429. Honey bees do not only have to deal with pests and exposure to various human-delivered poisons, some plants that require pollination also produce substances that are poisonous to bees. So, how do honey bee cope with this? Jürgen Tautz, from the University of Würzburg, Germany decided to find out. A trip to China and collaboration with an international team allowed him to investigate how honey bees react to naturally occurring plant poisons, and you can read his conclusions on page 432. 

A monthly favourite is Readers’ Questions Answered, written this year for us by Gerry Collins. He has risen to the challenge of many a tricky question over the past months, but, he, like Julian Routh, will be handing the baton on for 2017. We have enjoyed his stimulating and thought-provoking answers and this month is no exception, as he tackles why some swarm stragglers stay behind for several weeks on page 437. We wish to thank Gerry for passing on his wealth of experience and expertise during 2016, and we welcome Wally Shaw into the ‘hot seat’ in 2017.

I am sure you will be aware that the BBKA annual delegate meeting (ADM) is being held on 14 January 2017. The nominations and propositions to be considered are detailed on page 433. If you are attending the ADM, or the Spring Convention during 7-9 April at Harper Adams University, you may meet our new General Manager, Leigh Sideway, who introduces herself on page 438. 

Finally, if you have still not dropped sufficient hints at what you would like for Xmas, leave this issue of BBKA News open at page 435, our book review ‘Heather Honey’ if you like a good read, or lay it open on page 434, where our advertorial on gifts for the beekeeper should help your loved-ones select your pressie. 

Also, with this issue of BBKA News: The British Bee Journal comprises reports on four areas of research, all supported by the CB Dennis British Beekeepers’ Research Trust.  From pollen diversity to pollinator pathogens before and after varroa, to foraging competition on wildflowers, and to neonicotinoids, farmer behaviour and pollinators, this issue makes an interesting read.

The only other thing is to wish you all a very happy and healthy Christmas!