Love Somerset – the online site celebrating Somerset’s people, places and products – is kindly supporting Somerset Beekeepers’ Association.
They’re donating 20 per cent of the sale price from a charming range of wildflower seed cards designed by Hannah Marchant of Long Sutton.
Each design has been printed onto paper embedded with wildflower seeds which will bloom when planted.
Check them out here!
Did you see a group of Somerset beekeepers in The Times and the Guardian earlier in the month? Photographer Zach Culpin went along to an apiary session for Somerton’s beginners' group and took a series of colourful photos which he kindly shared with us. Great work Joe King, Stewart Gould and the new beeks!
Congratulations to Joe King, this year’s winner of our Oscar for his outstanding contribution to beekeeping in Somerset.
The Westcountry Honey Farms Award was formally presented by Jackie Mosedale, President, at the Special Lecture on Wednesday evening.
She gave us a run through of some of his activities stretching back many years - from marching on Westminster, to protest against the government's stance on neonicitinoids in 2013, to his work for Somerton Division in a multitude of capacities, running the County Honey Show in 2014 and his role as Somerton delegate on SBKA Council.
The April newsletter is out now! If you haven't received your copy - emailed by your Division - you can take a look here.
Among the articles and notices is this update on Asian hornets by our AHAT coordinator Lynne Ingram:
By the time you read this, I hope that we will be experiencing warmer spring temperatures and longer days. As this happens, any hibernating Vespa velutina queens will emerge from their winter hiding places, and start rebuilding their strength by feeding on nectar and tree sap. In Jersey and France queens have been spotted feeding on tree sap from oak trees as well as beech, maple and willow, as well as on single open camellias, so keep an eye on those and other flowers open in your garden.
Feeding stimulates the queen’s ovaries to mature, and the nesting instinct increases. Before the foundress queen starts her nest however, research suggests that queens will migrate some distance away, as other species of Vespa are known to do – sometimes in large numbers. It is assumed therefore, that post hibernation migration may be occurring in Europe, which could explain the rapid spread of Vespa velutina across France. Research suggests that Vespa velutina queens are able to fly about 40 km per day.
Once the foundress queen has migrated, she will start making a small embryo nest from papier mache. These are generally in a sheltered low level site – in a shed, garage, loft or in a bramble patch. The queen is alone and vulnerable at this time and so conserves her resources. Keep an eye out for these nests – they will be much easier to remove than a large nest 50 foot up in a tree! If you see one, take some time to observe such a nest to make sure it contains Vespa velutina and not a wasp – take a photo of the queen on her nest as evidence, before reporting on Asian Hornet Watch.
At this stage it can take up to 50 days from eggs being laid to worker emergence. Once the workers emerge, they will gradually take over many of the roles of foraging, defence and nest building within the colony, leaving the queen to lay eggs. They will enlarge the nest around the embryo nest, as the numbers increase in the colony. This primary nest will continue to grow in size and numbers until mid July when 70% of these nests will relocate into a high tree. For about a month, however, both nests will remain active, until the brood in the primary nest has all emerged. This is when you may start seeing Asian Hornets preying on your bees, as the adults have many hungry larval mouths to feed.
The adult hornets hunt for protein for the larvae, and in return receive a sweet substance from the mouths of the older larvae. The adults also collect and eat nectar and tree sap. Remember to keep monitoring your traps daily, releasing any by-catch. At this time of year the queens will not be hawking for bees so traps should be hanging near your kitchen window or somewhere very easy to see. If you see an Asian hornet, the key is to get evidence so that you can report it. The easiest way is to take a photo or video, then email it with details to: firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com, and someone will come and help with identification and getting evidence. Further contact details for the Somerset AHAT teams are in the Somerset Beekeepers Association Year Book, and on the SBKA website.
We are hoping to provide all Divisions and AHAT team members with an Asian hornet (Vespa velutina nigrithorax) in acrylic to help with easy ID.
However, we are having issues with the consignment we've received as many don't have a distinctive yellow band on the abdomen and the eyes are light-coloured rather than brown.
We're in negotiations with the supplier who has subsequently added a disclaimer on their website.
Meanwhile, if you see an Asian hornet, the key is to get evidence so that you can report it. The easiest way is to take a photo or video, then email it with details to: firstname.lastname@example.org or use the Asian Hornet Watch app.
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: email@example.com, and someone will come and help with identification and getting evidence. Click here for further contact details for the Somerset AHAT teams.
I am delighted to announce that Jackie Mosedale is our new President! Jackie was elected at the AGM on Saturday and succeeds Ken Tredgett.
Jackie is well known to many Somerset beekeepers not least because she is a former SBKA Chairman, is active in Somerton Division where she is President and Secretary, is involved in the county’s display in the Bees & Honey feature at the Royal Bath and West Show, and is part of the team which stages the county’s annual Lecture Day.
Two years ago she was awarded our most prestigious honour, the Westcountry Honey Farms Award.
I hope Jackie will enjoy her term of office as she continues to champion honeybees and beekeepers.
Meanwhile, Ken is still very much a part of SBKA – he is a Vice President and continues to run the Lecture Day and Special Lecture.
Anne Pike, SBKA Chairman
If you're planning to take a BBKA exam or assessment this year, do check the closing dates - the bulk are fast approaching!
They're on page 11 of the 2019 Year Book together with the fees (and, of course, SBKA refunds fees to successful candidates).
SW Regional Bee Inspector Simon Jones writes about the last season in his annual report - the good, the bad and the ugly! It provides a fascinating snap-shot of what has happened in Somerset and the region.
There is some good news for our county beekeepers - the number of colonies affected by EFB fell last year to 26, but that is still more than Devon, Cornwall and Avon put together. However AFB was not reported in Somerset but it is just over the county border in Devon.
"The 2018 season started late after a cold winter and spring. However colonies that were healthy and strong coming out of the winter were able to take advantage of the good weather that followed and gathered a good crop of honey. From my own experience the honey has been of a good quality with most of the combs fully capped with the extracted honey having a low moisture content.
The Bee Inspectors have had another busy season. They have been carrying out their usual programme of risk based inspections for European Foulbrood (EFB) and American Foulbrood (AFB). There has been an increase in the levels of disease in Cornwall but the other counties which make up the South West Region (SW) have showed a significant decrease with Avon having no disease at all (see graphs further in the report).
In partnership with the local Beekeeping Associations we have continued to deliver our ‘Bee Health Days’. This season the North Somerset/Avon Bee Health Day took place at the Langford Veterinary College, the Cornwall Bee Health Day was in Lostwithiel at the local community centre and the Devon Bee Health Day was hosted by Exeter Branch at the Kenn Centre just outside of Exeter.
I would like to thank all of the local association secretaries/training officers who helped us to manage the programme of Bee Health Days across the SW. We are also very grateful to the local beekeepers who allowed us to use their nearby apiaries for demonstration purposes.
The Inspectors also had a presence at the Somerset Lecture Day in February and Cornwall’s ‘Bit of a Do’ (BOAD) in September.
We have again been carrying out Exotic Pest Surveillance (EPS) inspections around risk points such as ports and airports to check for incursions of Small Hive Beetle (SHB), Tropilaelaps and Asian Hornet. With local beekeepers help we set up four Enhanced Sentinel Apiaries, two are situated near Avonmouth Docks and two near Plymouth Docks, both are considered to be very high risk points. These apiaries are inspected three times a year by the local BeeInspector and floor samples are sent into the FERA laboratory for analysis.
In addition to these inspections there are 18 Sentinel Apiaries around the region. This is where beekeepers that have an apiary near a risk point assist the National Bee Unit (NBU) by regularly monitoring their colonies for Exotic Pests and twice a year they send in floor debris samples to be tested. I am very grateful to the South West Sentinel Apiary Beekeepers for all of their help this season, they are an important part of the NBU’s surveillance programme.
Part of our work each season is to monitor imports of queens and package bees from the European Union (EU) and Third Countries (Argentina, Australia and New Zealand). Again this year we saw a large number of packages imported from Italy, some of which were bought by beekeepers in the South West (SW) region. These were inspected for SHB as they were decanted into hives and fortunately nothing was found (SHB was found in Southern Italy in 2014).
Throughout the season the SW Inspectors carried out enhanced surveillance for Asian Hornet in the Woolacombe area of North Devon to ensure nothing had been overlooked from the nest that we found and destroyed in 2017.
We were also in the thick of it again when Asian Hornet was found to be predating bees in an apiary in Cornwall."
For more a detailed report, please download the file below.
All members of SBKA are to be given an Asian hornet trap and the attractant Suterra.
We anticipate starting to distribute the Veto Pharma traps at Lecture Day on February 16 in good time before any over-wintering queens start to emerge.
The remainder of the traps and the attractant will be available for members to collect from their Divisions.
We are determined to stop Asian hornets becoming established in the county and to that end AHATs (Asian Hornet Action Teams) have been set up, publicity materials produced and a PR-campaign started.
Last November Council set a £6,000 budget for our 2019 Asian hornet campaign and we subsequently received a £3,600 donation from Yeo Valley which Council decided to allocate to this work.
The costs of providing the traps and attractant will be £4,200; £3,400 being the cost of the traps supplied by Thornes at a slight discount and £800 for Suterra bought in bulk.
Members will receive Asian hornet fliers and identification cards, plus an EFB leaflet, with their 2019 year books. Pick up your year book at Lecture Day; the remainder will be posted.
As soon as day time temperatures reach 10-12 degrees C, any over-wintering queens will emerge. Time for super-vigilance to start!
It's worth checking your hives today and clearing the snow from landing boards to ensure entrances don’t get blocked up with snow or ice if there's a thaw followed by freezing temperatures. And don't worry if you see the odd dead bee which has been attracted by this morning's bright light and then succumbed to the cold.