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November 2016 BBKA News highlights
As you will undoubtedly know, the Asian hornet has, at last, been spotted by beekeepers in several places around the country and we must now face the realisation that we have to deal with it. Recognition of both the hornet and its characteristic nest will be key in tracking its whereabouts. To help us with this the NBU has supplied an alert sheet, which you can read on pages 377-378. This illustrates the key features of the Asian hornet and compares it with the European hornet and the non-native Median wasp. Asian hornet nests may be spotted high up in trees - and they can be really quite large as you will see from an included photograph, but overwintering queens may be found in all sorts of places from plant pots to crevices in tree bark. So, leave no stone unturned so to speak, and continue to keep an eye out for these pests; the more sightings we report the better able we will be to map their distribution and take steps to eradicate them.
November temperatures are normally too low for us to open our hives and our bees will have begun to cluster, as Julian Routh says on page 375. If nighttime temperatures continue to drop, clusters will consolidate and the bees will rely upon the honey stores they have within their hives, but in some areas of the country warmer winters may mean that tight clustering does not happen and brood-rearing can continue instead. This will mean more pressure on the honey stores. Also, under these conditions, varroa can continue to reproduce, which, Julian explains, may be more of a problem later in the winter. Julian uses open mesh floors and he removes his varroa insert trays, so that any varroa that drop off the bees will fall out of the hive. He also urges visits to the apiary to check that hives have not been blown over by strong winter winds nor attacked by those clever woodpeckers or other pests.
Winter bees, of course, have longer lifespans than summer bees, but did you know that the temperature of pupal development is one crucial factor that influences this? Fiona Bock and the HOBOS team have looked at the effect of small temperature differences during pupal development on forager bee lifespan. As Jurgen Tautz reports on page 381, you may be surprised to discover just how small the temperature difference during pupal development needs to be to ‘change’ a summer bee into a winter bee.
By now, you will probably be enjoying your ‘2016 vintage’ honey on toast in the mornings, but perhaps you had a bumper crop this year or some honey that had more than 20% water content, which you are reluctant (quite rightly) to put into jars. Well, if you did, you might consider making some mead from this and increasing your repertoire of hive products. Roger Patterson, not one to waste any of his bees’ hard efforts, is a bit of a dab-hand at mead-making, and he describes a simple process of turning excess honey into a decent tasty drink on page 383. Who knows, if you try out his method you might find yourself showing your mead next year.
They say that many hands make light work, and this really does seem to be true, as Laney Birkhead discovered. Laney, an artist and beekeeper, decided to highlight bee decline in a creative way. Around eighteen months ago Laney began touring a print-making workshop with the theme of a ‘bee swarm’. She wanted to show the public the positive side of a bee swarm and to visually demonstrate what being within a swarm inside a beehive might feel like. She describes her creative journey on page 392 and it makes a fascinating read. If you would like to see Laney’s life-sized ‘beehive installation’ or indeed, get creative with her, turn to page 392 and see how you can become involved.
Our advertorial this month, written by Martin Tovey on page 396, focusses on beekeeping courses and books. With Christmas looming, this could be an excellent source of inspiration for gift ideas for your loved-ones - or as a treat for yourself! If you need an excuse, you could gain fresh insights about bees and beekeeping, and you could learn new techniques that will improve your beekeeping during next season.
We have all phoned ‘BBKA HQ’ to ask for help or information from time-to-time. Despite our enquiries spanning a vast range of topics, we have generally put the phone down knowing exactly how to resolve our particular problem. But have you ever wondered who these amazing ‘information fairies’ are beavering away in the office? Wonder no more, because in this issue Margaret Wilson ‘introduces’ us to our fabulous BBKA office staff, so when next you phone with a question you will be able to put a face to a name (see page 399).