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March 2017 BBKA News highlights

In January the BBKA held its annual delegate meeting (ADM) where trustees were elected, activity reports given, finances discussed and future plans made. A summary report of the ADM is given by Diane Roberts, the BBKA press officer, on page 95. Here, Diane outlines the various debates that took place, outcomes of proposals and awards made. She also makes special mention of the important event in the 2017 BBKA calendar - the International Meeting of Young Beekeepers - and you can read more about this on page 100.  You can ‘meet’ some of the elected trustees, on page 99, where they tell us a little about themselves and their involvements with honey bees.

Now, in March, spring is ‘officially’ here and many of us are enjoying the colourful burst of pollen-laden spring flowers. Sadly, it is usually still too cold to open our hives for a full inspection, but we may see bees bringing pollen in on warmer days. Pollen collection often indicates that the brood population is expanding, but, as Bridget Beattie says on page 79, there is no nectar available at this time of year and so energy reserves may well become depleted, particularly if we experience further ‘cold snaps’. Bridget advises continued hefting to monitor hive weights and feeding syrup to colonies that are running short of stores using a contact feeder. And while you are out visiting your hives, it is now very important to take a careful look around for any signs of Asian hornet nests. 

Isolated Asian hornets were found in north Somerset and a nest was found and destroyed near Tetbury last year. Despite extensive field searches no further Asian hornets have been discovered during the winter, but this does not mean that there are none ‘laying low’ in the UK. As Jason Learner from the APHA explains on page 93, they are aggressive predators of the honey bee and we must increase our vigilance for them and, if possible, hang traps to capture any that are present or new arrivals. Jason has produced a handy Asian hornet identification sheet, which is reproduced on page 94, and he discusses traps and baits that have been found to be effective in France. Jason also emphasises the importance of looking in tree canopies for Asian hornet nests, which should be more obvious now, before the trees come into leaf. Any suspected Asian hornet sightings should be reported to alertnonnative@ceh.ac.uk; it is imperative that we work together to try to minimise any Asian hornet invasion and their impact on our bees.

Looking forward a little to warmer days we may well have to replace a queen, or, of course, our colony may decide to do that for us!  If you have wanted to try queen rearing, but felt that it is too great a challenge, you will find Jeroen Vorstman’s article on page 89 a good confidence booster. Jeroen rears queens as part of his normal beekeeping operation in full-sized standard hives and he shares his simple, efficient five-step method with us, from selecting a good breeder colony to establishing mating nuclei. As Jeroen says queen rearing is all about breeding the best quality queens, but the other ‘half of the equation’ is, of course, the drones who will mate with our carefully tended virgin queens.

Mating is the subject of an article by Jamie Ellis, on page 82, in which he gives us a taster of a talk he intends to present at this year’s BBKA Spring Convention (see page 96 for more of the planned highlights). Beginning with a description of rearing and sexual maturation of the queen and the drone honey bee, Jamie then gives some detail about the mating flight and process, which is a very speedy aerial achievement. After mating with a number of drones, you may have wondered what happens to the assortment of sperm the queen now possesses before she starts laying. Well, for the answer and some more interesting information about honey bee reproduction, you will need to turn to page 82.

Many of you attend local events, local schools and various shows during the summer months where you kindly give demonstrations of bees to non-beekeepers. This might seem a daunting, albeit exciting prospect for some, but it need not be. Graham Royle has wide experience of showing bees to the public, ensuring he gets his bees to the venues in good health, keeping everyone safe during the demonstrations and ensuring that he brings all his bees back home with him after the events. To help those planning to take bees to shows this summer, Graham describes some useful gadgets that he has devised or adapted specifically for showing bees on page 86, which help him to carry out this enjoyable task safely and efficiently. You may find that Graham’s tips and advice provide the solutions you have been seeking for your live bee demonstrations.

Finally, if you are going to this year’s 40th Spring Convention, turn to page 96 for more information about planning your visit. Remember that you will be able to purchase protective clothing as well as beekeeping equipment and books, among other things, in the bespoke Trade Show area. Some suppliers also offer a pre-show ordering service and will deliver your order to the venue. You may wish to research the protective beekeeping clothing options available before you go and some of these are outlined in our advertorial on page 102. Similarly, you may find it useful to take a look at our book review this month on page 101 as well as past book reviews, so you can go armed with a ‘wish list’. 

March is a good month to finalise your preparations for the season ahead and to catch up on some  essential beekeeping reading, so enjoy the beginning of spring and be inspired to do something different this year.