As 2019 begins, our minds turn to the forthcoming beekeeping season, writes SBKA Asian Hornet Action Team Co-ordinator Lynne Ingram MB in the January issue of the newsletter.
At the moment we may be giving fondant to our bees, doing mid winter varroa treatments or perhaps planning our beekeeping goals for the year ahead. But, whatever else you are doing, you do need to be thinking about Asian Hornets.
Last year there were four nests found and destroyed in the UK, and nine confirmed sightings. As the numbers build up in Europe, and Northern France, the threat of Asian Hornets invading the UK increases, and we all need to be very vigilant in order to prevent/slow a major invasion. Asian hornets (Vespa velutina nigrithroax) are voracious predators of pollinators, and in particular honeybees, whose colonies contain a vast number of insects in one place – a veritable insect supermarket for the Asian Hornet!
So what are Asian Hornets doing this time of year?
Mated queens are now overwintering in cracks, crevices and sometimes underground. They can hibernate singly or in small groups. We don’t know as yet, if there are any hibernating in the UK. Like bees they feed well in the Autumn, in order to build up their fat bodies to sustain them during the long winter. Like other members of the wasp family, they overwinter with their wings, legs and antennae protectively tucked in underneath them. The rest of the colony would have died out in December.
As the days lengthen in March or April (depending on the weather), the queens start to come out of hibernation, and firstly search for nectar rich flowers, in order to build up their energy. In France and Jersey they are often seen on early Camellia flowers, so if you have any, it may be worth keeping an eye out for Asian Hornet queens. Queens search for a nest site, then start creating golf ball sized embryo nests, which are generally in sheltered spots such as sheds or garages. To start with the queen will be laying the eggs, foraging for food and feeding the larvae. She may curl herself around the pedicel of the nest to keep the larvae warm. Once the first workers emerge, they will take over many of these tasks, leaving the queen to lay eggs. If you see a nest, check for Asian hornet activity, then photograph it before reporting it.
This is the time of year when a monitoring trap can be invaluable, attracting the queens to a sugar rich bait. It is important though that beneficial insects, such as European hornets and wasp queens, can be released from these traps in order to protect our native pollinators. You can make a trap from a water bottle as illustrated below (instructions on Beebase) www.nationalbeeunit.com/downloadDocument.cfm?id=1056
or buy a commercially available trap, and instead of filling the bottom with liquid bait in which insects would drown, scrunch up some kitchen towel so that insects can suck the bait from the paper without drowning. Or place a yogurt pot full of bait inside the trap, with a mesh or net covering to prevent drowning. Don’t forget to inspect your traps regularly, and release anything else that has been captured.
If you find an Asian Hornet
If you do find an Asian hornet in your trap, the key is to get evidence so that you can report it. You could take a photo through the trap wall, or put the trap in a bag in the freezer, and then photograph the hornet once it is dead. Email your photo with details to: email@example.com or use the Asian Hornet Watch app.
Somerset Asian Hornet Action team
If you think you may have seen an Asian Hornet and are struggling to get evidence, or need some advice then contact the Somerset Action team on: firstname.lastname@example.org and someone will come and help with identification and getting evidence.
We've been contacted by the BBKA and asked to share a document written by Anne Rowberry, a BBKA Trustee and member of SBKA, regarding 'The Role of Associations and Beekeepers concerning Asian Hornets'.
She has attended meetings and had discussions with Nigel Semmence, Contingency Planning & Science Officer, Bee health advice service at the National Bee Unit. This document is the summary of the protocol that has been agreed.
The BBKA will post further information as it becomes available://www.bbka.org.uk/asian-hornet-action-teams
The BBKA is in the process of creating a map on its website, similar to the swarm map, to help the public find their local AHAT contacts.
Nigel Semmence's overview of how Defra and other organisations are operating in relation to Asian hornets is also published on the BBKA website.
Luke McEvoy-Hughes is a student studying Environmental Sciences at the University of Brighton and would like our help!
He writes: "As part of my final year I am carrying out an independent research project into beekeeping, aiming to explore the different issues encountered by beekeepers as well as the strategies and methods employed by beekeepers to ensure the health and prosperity of their colonies."
Anyone willing to answer a short survey should follow the link below:
The start of the New Year is an excellent time to look ahead to the coming season and plan what you'd like to achieve with your bees. Whether that's trying a new type of hive, creating more colonies or breeding your own queens (and this is the year to mark them green), then give it a go!
SBKA is focusing on helping all members recognise EFB through leaflets, new digital content and 'Read the Comb Day' on June 15.
Also, we want to alert everyone in Somerset (and beyond) to be on high alert for Asian hornets. We'll be running a publicity campaign via the press and our own social channels as well as working with organic, national dairy Yeo Valley to spread the message far and wide.
If you have connections with local gardening groups, garden centres, wildlife groups and trusts etc, please spread the word. [You can request laminated Asian hornet posters from the Non Native Species Secretariat (NNSS) to give to these groups].
Our Asian Hornet Action Team is getting prepared ahead of the Spring and we're printing new leaflets and ID cards for members ready for what we expect will be more sightings this year.
Here's hoping that 2019 brings us strong and healthy colonies supported by local people who, just like us, want to see honeybees and all pollinators flourish.
We are making EFB a focus for our work in 2019 through a series of activities to help everyone gain the knowledge, skills and confidence to recognise EFB.
Our Education Officer Richard Bache has written a SBKA EFB leaflet to put the disease in its Somerset context and explains through clear text and excellent photos how to prevent, spot and manage it.
At a time when there is a little active beekeeping to keep us busy, we hope everyone will have time to read up on EFB ahead of the coming season.
I’m delighted that in the coming year we’ll be working with Yeo Valley to raise awareness of Asian hornets with their customers and staff.
Yeo Valley is a national organic dairy company based in Blagdon and recently donated more than £3,600 to us which we’re using to fund our Asian hornet action teams across the county.
Our treasurer Christina Kennedy and I met Yeo Valley farmer Sarah Mead and Luke Bigwood, head of communications, at the farm to thank them for their generosity. And we took the opportunity to talk about the threat that Asian hornets pose to honeybees and pollinators.
We’ve just issued a joint press release in which Sarah said: “It is so important to raise awareness of the imminent danger to our bees and pollinators from the Asian Hornet. Until I met Anne Pike from Somerset Beekeepers’ Association I had no idea how serious the situation could become.”
Sarah’s comments should galvanise us all to tell everyone – family, friends, gardeners, wildlife watchers etc – about Asian hornets. Although there was publicity this year, a great deal more has to be done.
Incidentally, the money was donated by visitors to the company’s organic gardens where hundreds of crocheted bees made by the fabulous ‘Blagsaey’ yarn-bombers were displayed among the flowers. Thank you crocheters and garden visitors!
Anne Pike, SBKA Chairman
Bees for Development have written to ask for our help:
"This our only fund raising campaign in 2018 and we are asking you to support work in northern Ethiopia. The government in Amhara identifies people most in need, and we train those interested to learn beekeeping. We work with them for two years - it takes this long to learn new skills and build their own resilient income. We have trained over 800 people like this in the past two years.
We are not just interested in people - we are interested in bees too: to see them protected, and their habitat restored. We are rewilding areas of degraded forest, working with poor communities over many years to continue protecting forests as they regenerate.
Please help by donating here: https://secure.thebiggive.org.uk/donation/to/4665/30259/
You might like to visit our online shop for some inspirational do-good, feel-good, Christmas gifts.
Please give the gift of giving with our Good Bee Gift Cards. A perfect gift for those who 'already have everything'.
As I write this on Friday afternoon, we still have £4,000 of matching funds available to double your donation. By the time you reach our website - it might all have been used - or you might be lucky to have your donation doubled. Either way, please give whatever you can - every donation helps with this work.
We are a very small charity running on a shoestring, and we are extremely careful with how we use your funds. £35 supports one person to get started with bees, while £200 supports them for 2 years as they learn their way out of poverty.
You can gain a measure of how well your money is used, and how far it can reach, by watching this very brief interview (3 mins) with the Ethiopian girl Alemnesh http://beesfd.org/thebiggive/#video . Please enjoy the film, and then give what you can, so that next year we can help more young people out of crushing poverty.
Thank you for your interest and support, Nicola and the team at Bees for Development"
Last year the National Bee Unit (NBU) Inspectors saw an increase in cases of European Foulbrood (EFB) in Somerset taking us to the unenviable position at the top of the EFB county table.
The shocking statistics are a wake-up call for us all to be extra vigilant. As beekeepers we must be prepared to monitor our bees for disease and recognise when things are not right.
The NBU’s Read the Comb Day is designed to help us know what to look for - to know when all is well and, conversely, when it is not.
The day will be delivered by our Regional Bee Inspector Simon Jones and his team of Seasonal Bee Inspectors who will be joined by former National Bee Inspector Richard Ball. The focus will not be confined to EFB; other bee diseases will be in the mix.
South East Division is hosting this event at Ansford Academy, Maggs Lane, Castle Cary, BA7 7JJ.
The cost will be £5 per person with tea and coffee provided; bring your own lunch. More details about buying a ticket will be available nearer the time.
SBKA is making EFB a focus for our work in 2019 - we're planning a series of activities to help everyone to gain the knowledge, skills and confidence to recognise EFB.
Thanks go to South East Division for organising this event.
We hope to see you on June 15!
If you’re interested in honeybees - or know someone who is - then one of our beginners’ courses could be perfect for you.
Somerset Beekeepers are running courses around the county this winter which covers beekeeping basics followed by practical hands-on experience with live bees.
Beekeeping is a big commitment and requires a gentle hand, patience and on-going learning.
On the courses experienced beekeepers explain what’s involved in keeping a colony of bees through a series of lectures and practical sessions.
The craft spans lots of different elements including animal husbandry, environmental knowledge, woodwork and processing the products of the hive like honey and wax.
Find out more on this page of our website.
What people are saying:
“It was very informative and there was lots of support from expert beekeepers who were on hand to answer questions. The theory was well backed-up by the practical sessions in the apiary later in the season.”
“I find beekeeping very calming and I enjoy doing something very slowly and methodically and being surrounded by thousands of bees knowing they are unlikely to harm me.
“The course offers the opportunity to find out about something which at first seems fairly straightforward but, the more you learn, the more you see there is to learn and the amount of knowledge you can acquire seems never-ending.”
“Beekeeping is hugely rewarding; I’ve discovered these incredible creatures appear to operate at some higher level, living for the colony, and it is a joy to watch them at work.
“I’ve managed to do a bit of woodwork to build frames for the hive, have started gardening to encourage pollinators, harvested the most glorious honey I’ve ever tasted and have overcome my fear of stinging insects!”
Somerset Beekeepers Association has just been added to AmazonSmile’s charity list - and that means your purchases can support our work!
What is AmazonSmile?
It’s a website operated by Amazon with the same products, prices and shopping features. Your shopping experience stays the same, but every time you shop on AmazonSmile, Amazon donates to your chosen charity.
How much will we get?
If you select Somerset Beekeepers Association, Amazon will automatically donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to us. And it won’t cost you, or us, any extra.
How do you get AmazonSmile?
If you already have an Amazon account, you can begin shopping instantly. Simply visit smile.amazon.co.uk to get started.
Log onto to your Amazon account and search Somerset Beekeepers Association in the ‘pick your own charity’ search bar