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BBKA News - highlights of the next issue

June 2017 BBKA News highlights

This month we should see burgeoning hives, especially if there has been good forage in your region and if you have managed to avert swarming. However, expanding colonies make ‘prime real-estate’ for varroa, and, as Bridget Beattie reminds us on page 183, their levels will tend to rise too, so we must be sure to monitor varroa levels and be ready to respond appropriately if they rise above threshold limits. Bridget also reminds us that in early June we must keep a watchful eye on hive stores, because this is when the spring flowers fade and before the summer flowers are in full bloom, so a good, strong colony can find itself getting short of food now. If you need to feed your bees in this so-called ‘June gap’ Bridget provides the ideal syrup recipes for you - both in Imperial and metric measurements. She also addresses the conundrum of whether to add supers on top of the stack above the brood box or below the brood box, so turn to page 183 for all her excellent tips and guidance on jobs to do in the apiary this month.

Although adequate forage might be foremost in our minds during the June gap, planting for bee forage is often important for beekeepers who also like gardening. Rosi Rollings runs a plant nursery dedicated to growing plants for bees where she also conducts research to quantify which plants attract the most bees. If, like Rosi, you aim to prolong the available floral forage for your bees, turn to page 199 and read Rosi’s article where she presents her research findings gathered over the last three years.

For those of you who have been thinking about queen-rearing and comparing the various methods we have presented in BBKA News over the past couple of months Tony Harris describes how he teaches his students to rear queens in queenright colonies on page 186. Tony’s method involves grafting, which others in your association may already be using so this could be an opportunity for you to try this in collaboration with your apiary colleagues. 

In the UK we often yearn for those long, hot summer days, but in many countries the heat of the summer can lead to forest fires, although, of course, fires can occur at any time and in any country. But have you ever wondered how or even if bees manage to survive a fire?  We are used to smoking our bees to ‘calm’ them when we inspect our hives; we know this drives them to their honey stores and they take on honey, presumably in preparation to flee the fire, but, is this true? This is the question that Professor Jürgen Tautz and the HOBOS team at the University of Würzburg in Germany posed, and you can read all about their discovery of propolis ‘firewalls’ that bees build in nature on page 191. They really are clever little insects.

Another clever insect is the Asian hornet. Love them or hate them there is no denying their success as a species. Bridget Beattie has been living on the ‘front line’ of the Asian hornet invasion in France and she explains what this has been like as they have slowly begun to establish themselves as residents. She tells us the impact it has had on French beekeeping and the diversity of ways the French have tried to reduce the population on page 197. This article will heighten your awareness to the threat Asian hornets can pose, so do continue to look for Asian hornets and their nests; we cannot afford to be complacent.

There are photos of both Asian and European hornets as well as Asian hornet nests in Bridget’s article and Jason Learner from the APHA produced a pull-out sheet on Asian hornets in the March issue of BBKA News (page 93). Any suspected Asian hornet sightings should be reported to alertnonnative@ceh.ac.uk and you can download the app from Google Play or the App Store that was developed by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and is designed to help you report information to the GB non-native species secretariat, as an Campbell explained in May on page 144.

We have all been following the progress of the international meeting of young beekeepers (IMYB) with great interest, and Ian and Ruth Homer have given us an update on this imminent event on page 192. As they say, we need to embrace more new young beekeepers. Encouraging the young will, of course, help support future beekeeping in the UK, and this view is endorsed by Dylan Gussman who, last year at the age of 15, decided that he wanted to keep bees. He describes his exciting journey for us on page 205. Beekeeping, as Dylan emphasises, has no age barrier and should be encouraged in anyone who shows an interest in it. Peter Russell, another new beekeeper, attended beginners’ courses and local apiary meetings for one year before taking the plunge and setting up his own hive. On page 203, Peter takes us through his first year of beekeeping with all the questions he had to find answers to and decisions he faced. These accounts will not only be useful to beginner beekeepers though. Because they illustrate some common problems that newbies face, the more seasoned beekeepers will also be better aware of these and able to offer help and guidance to any struggling beginners. Experienced help is always appreciated and every month Wally Shaw, a very knowledgeable beekeeper, answers a selection of readers’ questions with tips and guidance that can help us all avoid potential pitfalls and allay our concerns, so they are well worth reading. This month, on page 207 Wally helps us understand why, how and when to replace old brood combs with foundation - a question that will undoubtedly have been on many beekeepers’ minds this season. Of course, you can always ‘ask the bees themselves’ and Ian Copinger, on page 211, tells us ‘the things his bees tell him’ in his 2016 National Honey Show entry, which was judged to be one of the best essays received for the 2016 competition.

In addition to these articles, we have all the regular favourites including a return of woodworking tips (page 215), two book reviews (pages 213 and 214) and you can catch up with progress of the Trustees on page 186. 

Also in this issue: the BBJ

This BBJ issue is dedicated to research that has been part-funded by Bee Diseases Insurance Ltd., which makes significant contributions to apicultural research. Research funding pots have been shrinking recently, but research has continued because interest in apicultural research is strong within the beekeeping community and the value of its funding contributions cannot be underestimated. Giles Budge explains some of the funding opportunities available to researchers that maximise apicultural investment and he illustrates this with some of the research areas that he and his collaborators have led. Nicola Burns and Georgia Drew, two PhD students who are both supervised by Giles, also give us an update on their research plans and progress.